Callosamia promethea – Promethea Moth

Caterpillar foods: apple, ash, basswood, birch, cherry lilac, maple, and other trees

I've raised these moths for several years now.  They're large, beautifully patterned moths, and they're easy to raise in cages.  I keep just enough eggs to keep my population going, and release the females to lay the rest of their eggs in the wild.  I'm hoping I'm helping to increase the population a little.

Since I've been raising them for several years, these photos are not in sequence - I've picked out the best photos to show what the moths and caterpillars look like, and their life cycle.

Prometheas spend the winter as cocoons, dangling from a branch of either their food tree, or a nearby tree or shrub.

Here are two that I found in March, in a small Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), which was probably their food tree.

I brought them back and put them in a cage, to join some other cocoons I had gotten from Ian (collected in Eau Claire County - about 30 miles from here.)

The cocoons started hatching in late May.

Males and females have different coloring and patterns on their wings. Males are black, with patterning around the edges of the wings.  Females are reddish brown with more all-over patterns.



This is a mated pair - the female was one of the ones I reared; she called in a wild male.  Unlike many of the other Giant Silk Moths, Prometheas mate in the daytime - in the late afternoon.  I've had some males show up as early as 4:00pm, and as late as 8:30.

This is a video of the mating "dance" they do.  The males fly in, sometimes more than one, and flutter around the female for a while, flapping their wings and flying up and down, in and out.  Finally one comes in closer and begins to mate, and the unsuccessful males fly away.

Promethea mating

They stay mated overnight, and then the male is ready to go.  I release him, and keep the female for at least a few hours, until she lays some eggs.   Sometimes the eggs are very white, and other times they have brownish markings.

The eggs hatch after 4 or 5 days.  This is a brand new, first instar caterpillar.

I'm feeding the caterpillars Wild Black Cherry leaves.

These first instar larvae stay together for a while, feeding from the same leaf.

This larva has just shed its skin.

Each instar looks a little different.  The later ones are bluer and have fewer yellow knobs.

This is the last instar - with bright red projections on the head.  The larvae grow fairly slowly - they hatch in late May, and the larvae aren't ready to pupate until mid-September.

Finally, they spin a cocoon.  They first make a web attachment at the stem, so the leaf won't fall off the tree.

Then they build the cocoon wrapped in the leaf.

Now they'll spend the winter inside the cocoon, until May of next year.

One of the females that hatched in May of 2010


Marcie O'Connor
Buffalo County, Wisconsin

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