Cecropia moths are native to the US and are found throughout New England but are rare in densely settled areas like Newton, probably because the adults require large tracts of dark forest to fly normally while seeking mates or host plants. In places with lots of houses they tend to get "stuck" at a porch light or street light. They are still around though -- a cecropia cocoon was found along the Charles River during last winter's Christmas Bird Count, and another was found in the same area several years ago.
Cecropia moth caterpillars feed on a variety of trees and shrubs, and grow especially well on black cherry. The caterpillars are raised for fun by members of Newton's Green Decade and are regular attractions at the Green Decade table at the Newton Farmer's Market in Cold Spring Park -- look for them there during your next visit to the Market.
--Eric Olson, July 2011
Cecropia caterpillar in cocoon
Cecropia caterpillar on hosta leaf
Caterpillar photos taken in August 2010 by Jane Sender