Silkmoth showdown – Winter Moth Cocoons

We had our first snowfall this past week.


I knooooooow we need the snowpack for the good of the plants (and the snowshoe hare). However, I pretty happy with no snow until now!

There is not much too see this time of year in terms of flowers.  Obviously.  However, no leaves on the trees means the giant silk moth cocoons are going to be visible! And if you are out in the woods this time of year, you should probably have a GIANT SILK MOTH COCOON HUNT SHOWDOWN.

We are competitive like that.

The giant silk moths of New England – so called “silk moths” because they spin a silk for their cocoons – include Antheraea polyphemus (the Polyphemus moth), Hyalophora cecropia (the Cecropia moth), Actias luna (the Luna moth), and Callosamia promethea (the Promethea moth).  We find Cecropia and Promethea moths fairly regularly.   Luna cocoons are notoriously difficult to find since they usually burrow under leaf litter to spin theirs, which does seem like an inherently smarter choice than hanging your plump deliciousness out there all to see, but who am I to judge!

Hyalophora cecropia moth cocoon


This was one of two Cecropia cocoons we found! This one was actually quite high up, about eight feet up a little fir tree.  Most times they are more at eye level…. it was completely shit luck that I happened to look up at the right time!

Callosamia promethea moth winter cocoon

Promethea moth cocoons look like a dead curled leaf hanging down from a branch. Once you see a few, they it becomes easier to differentiate between dead leaf and alive pupae. Also, if you find one, look around for another! Last year there were a dozen on a forsythia bush in my yard!  The moth will lay all it’s eggs in one spot; usually the caterpillars spread out as they wander and eat, but if the food is good on the tree they are on, why leave, really.

Promethea and Cecropia moth winter cocoons

Guess who won? This girl!

Not only did I win, but I pretty much whooped Keith’s ass,  4-0!!

Man, was that backpack heavy with all those cocoons strapped to the back ;).

I’m still unsure how I’ll keep these safe over the winter. Decision TBD.

Hunting Winter Moth Cocoons


the dirty girl at dirty botany
Head dirty girl at!
Bug worshiper.
Slime mold fanatic.
Macrophotographer in training.

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1 thought on “Silkmoth showdown – Winter Moth Cocoons

  1. Robert Van Loon Reply

    Ever since I was a young boy I loved to hunt down silk moths. Either it be larvea, or winter walks looking for cocoons. Here in N. W. INDIANA. there was always a plenty. But in recent years. I have watched there decline. This year to my delight I noticed as was looking for ,as a young boy would. Promethea cocoons presant in my woodland acerage. In the usual suspect Tulip poplar. And quite a few!. Now I will continue my search of others. Makes for a great cold winters walks. Keep up the good work. Keeping there numbers up. I let them remain in hopes they will proliferate. Bobby.

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