For kids: Look at that moth!
Meet a man who raises cecropia moths, one of the largest species in North America.
Have you ever experienced a very special moment that you still remember? Art Good has, and it changed his life. It happened when he was 6 years old – the day he discovered a big, beautiful cecropia moth.Skip to next paragraph
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As he was poking around in a wooded area behind his family's house, Mr. Good found the cocoon containing what would become a stunning creature.
"I didn't know what would emerge," he says. "I took it home out of pure curiosity. I put it in a desk drawer and kind of forgot about it." A month later, he discovered the just-emerged cecropia moth in that drawer.
"I opened this drawer and here was the most beautiful thing I ever did see," he says. "I remember it. It was after supper, and I had to go out and get something out of the drawer. That was just one of those moments."
More than 50 years have passed since then, and Mr. Good is still awed by cecropia moths. In fact, his interest in the insects is so great that he has spent more than 20 years raising and selling cecropia cocoons through his business, Cocoons for Kids.
He started his Cleveland-area company so that young people would have the same opportunity that he had to experience the wonder of nature.
More recently, he has explored how silk from the moth cocoons could be spun into thread for weaving.
It took Mr. Good 15 years to figure out how to raise cecropias through their four-stage metamorphosis – egg, larva, pupa, and adult – and keep them safe, but he finally did it.
Cocoons in the classroom
Marie Romano, an elementary-school science teacher in West New York, N.J., ordered cecropia moth cocoons so that her fifth-graders could learn about the moth's life cycle. Ms. Romano assumed moth cocoons would be as attractive as the monarch butterfly's chrysalis, another exhibit in her classroom. Instead, she says, the cocoons looked like dead leaves.
Inside the brown cocoons were pupae that had once been caterpillars. For more than six months, cecropia pupae remain in a resting state. Then, in their final four weeks late in spring, they transform into stunning moths. When the temperature has been warm long enough, the adult moths emerge.
And one day – voilà! – Ms. Romano and her students arrived at school and discovered that one of their cecropia moths had emerged in the classroom's container. The next day, another moth appeared, and then another, all boasting five- to seven-inch wingspans.
As word traveled, other students, teachers, and parents came to see the large, colorful moths in Ms. Romano's classroom.
"They said, 'Are you sure these are moths?' I said, 'Yeah, this is a moth.' They're just not used to it," Ms. Romano says.
The cecropias help connect children with their natural environment, says Charlene Ackerman. For 10 years, she and the teachers at the Paul K. Kennedy Child Care Center in North Chicago, Ill., have stored moth cocoons in insect cages.
"We've never seen it emerge," says Ms. Ackerman, who is the center's past executive director. "We watch and we watch and we wait and we hope and, then, all of sudden, there he is."
The 4- and 5-year-old children handle the moth at special times in the classroom and on the playground. They are fearless, Ms. Ackerman says.
That fearlessness would make Mr. Good proud. "I like to see the kids touch a cecropia," he says. "It's important that they get this physical attachment to it, to make it climb on their finger."
Ten-year-old Leah Benes has held the cecropia. "The feet stuck on to me," she says. "It kind of freaked me out at first, but I got used to it. It was heavy and a lot bigger than a butterfly."
Life and times of cecropias