Some Interesting Facts About the Luna Moth in the U.S.
Luna Moth - Actias luna
Luna Moths, Actias Luna
I recall the first time I saw a Luna Moth, and I was so amazed. It was such an interesting color, and had such unique markings, and the size alone was eyecatching. I was able to capture it in a picture, and I was so glad. It got me curious to learn more about the Luna moth, which is also known as the American Moon Moth.
This beautiful and exotic moth is large. It ranges from 3 to 4.5 inches and the name is technically Actias Luna (Linnaeus). Its wings are a pale green, and has delicate tail streamers. The wings are broad, and have a reddish rust color along the edges of both the fore wings and hind wings. Depending on the region, the colors can vary from more bluish green to a yellow in the background coloring. Along the fore wings in the very front you will see a darker purplish gray color. From a distance however, it is primarily a beautiful lime green, and the very distinctive "eye spots" are just fascinating to observe. This surely helps to protect from would be predators, that would rather move on than mess around with something that has eyes that appear to be that big!
In the United States, these moths are actually fairly common in the Eastern United States, and some states, like Missouri, Arkansas and others. You can sometimes see them in Southern Canada. Luna moths are large enough, that you would see the shadow of them flying by, or could darken a room if they landed on a light bulb!
The Beautiful, Green, Luna Moth
Luna Moth Larva and Life Cycle
The larva of the Luna moth are bright green (see video below) and have narrow yellow lines on them. There is a band of yellowish spiracles, and some reddish colored tubercles on each side. some have observed raised pink spots, and this can vary from region to region. The head of the caterpillar is a brownish color. When the time comes for it to spin its cocoon it will do so in areas where there is a lot of leaves on the ground, among the leaves. Its cocoon is thin and silken.
The habitat you will most often find the Luna moth is deciduous woodland in North America, although there are fewer in Canada. The foliage of trees like birch, willow and alder, walnut (or juglans nigra), persimmon (or diospyros virginiana), and sweet gum (liquidambar stryaciflua) are the food the larva feed off of. Luna Moths like broad leaved forests, including ones with hickory trees. So if you hope to attract these beauties to your area, those would be good choices to plant. The adults will be attracted to areas with these trees, so their young have the right food to eat when they "hatch" from their eggs.
The adults will emerge from their cocoons in April, usually. Their cocoon is often found in leaf litter. The eggs will be laid on hickory, walnut, and possibly a few other trees, as was covered before. When the caterpillar is ready to make its cocoon, it uses silk and leaves to do so. It emerges as a second generation adult in late July, and may even have a third generation.
As far as the second or third generation possibility, this is the case for the United States, more than it is true for the more Northern areas like in Canada. In those areas, it is usually just one generation. The more southern the area, you can move up to a third generation. Maybe that is why I got lucky and saw one in Arkansas. It was the first time I saw one in person.
Basically, for the multiple generations, they are spaced every eight to ten weeks apart, and often start in March.
The female lays 4-600 eggs on the underside of leaves. These incubate for 8-13 days.
Front View of the Luna Moth
I just love the distinctive color of the luna moth, along with its long tails. It definitely stand out among other moths, especially for North American Moths. In the Midwest states, the luna moth flies from early April, to the end of August.
Both of the sexes of the Lunar moth look very similar, though the males antennae are more "feathered" looking.
They have their "calling time" around the midnight hour. The calling time for the luna moth (and for many moths) is when pheromones are released. The time frame for luna moths is two to three hours long. This is the time that most males are active. In the Saturniidae family, you will see the pheromone activity the most active compared to the other "families" of butterflies and moths. Once in a mating position, they can stay there for up to 20 hours.
The life span is fairly short for these moths, about two weeks or less. They overwinter in the pupal stage.
I wish you could see the one picture more close up, as it shows the luna moths feathery antennae. These moths are just amazing creatures to behold, and I felt very lucky that day in Arkansas when I saw the moth. It was just resting among the rocks as you can see in my picture.
Seeing Less and Less of the Luna Moths
In some areas where there has been a lot of spraying with pesticides, it could be very rare you see one of these beautiful Luna Moths. They are simply becoming harder and harder to find. Evidently, even in the best of conditions, the number of Luna Moths are rather small. A single planeload of pesticides can supposedly wipe out the species for decades! When I heard this, I was so sad. I understand the need for pesticides, but if this species was totally wiped out, I think I may have rather gone with the lack of pesticides. I suppose it depends on the survival of humanity, but we are not at a point where this seems to be a critical concern. So it is something worth thinking about, or possibly limiting.
Luna Moth Poll
Have you ever seen a luna moth in the wild?
© 2010 Paula