Nfld. & Labrador

Rare stowaway turns into spectacular moth

A cecropia moth caterpillar which hitched a ride from Ontario to St. John's in a shipment of dogwood shrubs has developed into a spectacular moth.

Cecropia moth arrived in Newfoundland as a caterpillar in a box of shrubs

Submitted by Chris Swyers. A rare moth has emerged after its cocoon came is with a shipment of dogwood shrubs last winter 0:50

A cecropia moth caterpillar, which hitched a ride from Ontario to St. John's in a shipment of dogwood shrubs, has turned into a spectacular moth.

Chris Swyers, the owner of C.D.'s Trees in Logy Bay, said the giant silk moth emerged from its cocoon on Wednesday.

The moth has a black body, red furry head, black wings with orange and tan markings, and a wingspan of about 20 centimetres. 

"It's quite interesting to look at," said Swyers.

The insect arrived as a caterpillar at Swyers' business in August 2012. Within two days, it started wrapping itself in a cocoon.

Cecropia moths do not live on the island of Newfoundland, although limited numbers of them do live in most Canadian provinces.

Swyers transferred the insect to the federal Agriculture and Agrifoods research facility in St. John's where it remained all winter. 

Visited moth at agriculture centre

Swyers said staff at the centre gave him a call as soon as it hatched. On Thursday, he went to visit the new arrival, which staff have determined is a female.

"The females apparently, constantly move their wings because they emit a perfume that attracts the male," said Swyers. "So they want to fan that and get it out there so they bring in the right guy."

The moth named Georgina has a lifespan of just a few days, during which time the moth is focused almost exclusively on mating.

Swyers said, "There won't be any of that happening," since Georgina is the only cecropia moth in Newfoundland.

Swyers said agricultural staff are hoping to keep Georgina as calm as possible during her short life to preserve the quality of her wings.

After she completes her natural lifespan, she will be pinned and preserved for future study.