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
© 2010 Paula
judy harney on August 20, 2020:
Wish I had taken picture it was fluttering then landed on window
Gregory on August 20, 2020:
Found 3 on my back porch a few years ago. 2 were mating the 3rd was trying to get in on the action! That seemed to be all they cared about nothing fazed them even when i moved them so my dogs wouldn't eat them. They are really beautiful to see glowing in the night. I still have pictures on my phone.
william R. Sims on August 06, 2020:
Saw non on my lavender last night.
Mark Earnhart on August 05, 2020:
Easley s c looking at Luna in back yard seen several over the years Use to see in Urbana Ohio at house 2-3 times a year cool what our great mother has given to us need to be more respectful of her
Teresa on July 26, 2020:
I saw a luna caterpillar on the street pavement today. I should have moved it to the grass. I feel sad that I did not. I saw a luna moth the last time 50 years ago. I live in Canada.
Rick Kirgis on July 12, 2020:
Michigan - spotted yesterday on the underside of our roof overhang, west side of house. Stayed for a day/night.
Jessie8709 on July 11, 2020:
I found a Luna moth tonight (in CT 7/11/20 10:40pm) in my driveway. It has lost a wing and can’t fly. So I brought it in my house. It’s so beautiful I can’t leave it out there to be eaten. I let it crawl up onto my finger and it’s just been sitting here for the past hour. Idk what to do, I don’t want to release it. I’m sure it’ll die. But I’m not sure how to care for it. Wish I could add photos, it’s stunning.
Amanda Benedict on July 10, 2020:
I spotted on this afternoon in Glen Burnie Maryland. It was absolutely beautiful, especially in flight. Stopped me in my tracks.
Thomas on July 06, 2020:
Just seen one at the window it was huge,thought it was a small bat..
Donkin Nova Scotia.
Diane on July 06, 2020:
Found a luna moth on our front house wall shaded by the overhanging porch roof. I've never seen anything like it. It is beautiful.
Evey on June 30, 2020:
Found a Luna Moth floating on our pool. ( I didn’t know what it was) I called it the Fairy butterfly it was beautiful glistening in the sunlight we have never seen anything like it here just magical !!!
Maureen on June 21, 2020:
Found one very large one, in my house this morning!! Thought the dogs had brought in a garden ornament, but no, it was alive. Was able to grab it by the hind wings and bring outside. I flew away after about a minute or two on the deck!!
marty on June 19, 2020:
I saw one earlyyesterday morning in the Berkshires wiggling into a vertical
position face down on about 4 inch high grass so that it was the same height as the grass. Looking down at the grass you could only see its
edge. It looked just like the recently cut field grass. I thought it had left
but then it started to shake vigorously. Above another moth flew from
a nearby eave to a yound branch directly overhead
Lynn Reid on June 17, 2020:
I saw one today on a window screen, Pictou Nova Scotia. It was about 2-3 inches.
Lynne Thies on June 16, 2020:
I saw 2 this past weekend. One was clinging to the outside of the screen for the sliding glass door to my deck and the other was above it on the exterior wood siding. Beautiful! The house is in the Berkshires of Western MA.
Denyse Lamb on June 16, 2020:
I saw a beautiful green month (but did not know it was a Luna moth) on the wall of a Wawa‘s in Fredericksburg Virginia on June 15, 2020 around 11:15 PM.
Christie Riley on June 16, 2020:
Spotted one early this morning (3:40am on 6-16-20) in Pittsfield Maine
Marie T on June 15, 2020:
At 9:00AM 6/15/2020, in Highlands NC, I saw three Luna Moths in a pile on the Window sill about 8ft from the ground. Suddenly, one was thrown off the pile. He landed on his back at my feet. He tried and tried to flip over I used a leaf to flip him and I moved away. When I came back he was getting very weak and small flies were settling on him. I used a clear dish to move him into the sun and covered him with the plate Five minutes later he was trying to fly. I removed the plate and put him on my fist and threw him into the air At first he struggled, then he caught a breeze and went off above the tree line. Amazing.
I saw two Luna Moths in separate gardens in Augusta GA in 2018
Columbia maryland on June 15, 2020:
Moth sighted 6-13-2020 just before midnight.
Shannon Stoughton on June 14, 2020:
My husband and I found 2 caterpillars yesterday (6-13-20) within the first 30mins of the find they had started to cocoon. We are in Everetts, NC. We currently have then set up in a 20gal tank. I’m hoping we’re south enough that I have a 2nd gen, otherwise they’ll be cocooned for 9mons
Tiffany Seifert on June 13, 2020:
I found one floating on the water, I thought it was dead. I brought it back to the cabin and it is starting to move . I am not sure but it may be drying it’s wings. One of his front legs is either missing or hasn’t come out yet. She or he is resting here on my arm right now.
Linda Pepin on June 12, 2020:
I found one clinging to the siding of my house yesterday (June 11, 2020). This is the first time I have ever seen one. I live in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Chris L on June 11, 2020:
5 years ago was my first experience seeing a Luna Moth. I had dozens around my house and even 3 dead I picked up and saved as you would a butterfly. The last 5 years has been filled with tragedy, trauma and much craziness and emotions.
Today I looked up and in a rather odd location, on a rainy day, there is a huge male Luna on my window!! I cannot take another 5 years like the past! Anybody have any experience with multiple sightings over the years?
Sungsook Yang on June 11, 2020:
I saw a male Luna moth in May 2019 and June 2020 on a different hike trail. - What a delightful treat!
Elisa on June 11, 2020:
I have one on my kitchen screen. Bolton, MA 06.11.2020
Jeff M on June 10, 2020:
Belchertown MA 6-10-20..Luna on my deck. It’s massive! I thought it was a bat at first.
Tom Kaiser on June 10, 2020:
Was fortunate to discover one on the front porch of our home this afternoon. Incredibly beautiful, actually thought it was a few bright green leaves until I got a closer look. Wing tip to wing tip it is every bit of 4” wide. Never saw one before, but very glad I did. Actually got a few pic’s with my iPad that I would be more than happy to post. Toms River, NJ 6/10/20
Terry Theriault on June 10, 2020:
I have one in my tree one one my outside light and the rest on my backdoor screen which are by the way all together .
Don Anderson on June 09, 2020:
One is behind the garden hose on the side of the house,first one I’ve ever seen.Geauga County in Ohio.
Rebecca McLain on June 07, 2020:
Hi .I live in Millinocket maine and today I saw 5 Lunar moths on the side of my house ,They are bautiful
Lynn G. on June 02, 2020:
Two of them on my deck, one on the grill cover and one on the door frame of the sliding door.
Lori Robertson on June 02, 2020:
Beautiful Luna "Moon" Moth on our outside wall right now in Bow, NH.
John D on May 31, 2020:
One on my screen right now in New Hampshire
Jamie Sinn on May 29, 2020:
outside my door- fairfield iowa
aaa on May 29, 2020:
Found one hanging out above my front door.
Rick Philabaum on May 28, 2020:
Found a luna moth in my garage - Pataskala Ohio
Tamika Hall on May 27, 2020:
One has been posted on my door for about 3 days now. It is sooooo beautiful!
Duke on May 27, 2020:
Was going into work this morning saw a sitting on the brick wall by the front door. 40 miles west of downtown Chicago I’ll.
a on May 23, 2020:
I thought it was a burger creeping outside near my porch. instead it was a bright green creature flying around and tapping my window.
thank you for making me pause and gawk in amazement. reminder to go slow, repair, listen harder. I here u beautiful creature.
Rhonda Thomas on May 23, 2020:
Found on porch shutter this morning. Not sure, but it seems to be injured or dying??
Dean on May 22, 2020:
In Ct. 110am rear porch screen, 5/23/20
Patricia S. Lane on May 22, 2020:
my daughter just saw one in salisbury mills new york state.
Brian Carter, Arlington TN on May 19, 2020:
One came in my house last night and I was amazed by its size and beauty. It wouldn’t leave until this morning.
Shirley Richie pryor Ok on May 17, 2020:
There is a large luna moth in my house right now and it is beautiful it just flies around and lands on different things like the curtains and cabinets or picture frames I have the door open for it but it does not appear to be in hurry to leave
Bill. Madison ,Ct. on May 16, 2020:
Found one on my deck deceased , was taken back to its size and beauty. June of 2011
Maxwell on May 12, 2020:
Found a beautiful on in Canton, Georgia.
Diane on May 05, 2020:
On my back porch watching this beautiful creature in East Tennessee on 5/4/20
Morgan on May 02, 2020:
I found a Luna moth with a broken wing, so sad:(
Michael on April 26, 2020:
Currently on my porch 30 miles north of dallas
Lorrie on April 25, 2020:
I’m watching a Luna moth on my porch Ferrum VA
M on April 24, 2020:
I am looking at A BEAUTIFUL LUNA MOTH, in Smyrna, DE, it is on a screen, at 7 pm, 4/24/20. I consider myself lucky.
Johnny on April 21, 2020:
They are all over the place here in coastal North Carolina. We see 3 or 4 a day, easily.
anitayuyu on April 20, 2020:
In Northern Shenandoah Valley, rural, a Luna moth was flitting at my kitchen window! So beautiful! It didn't stay long fortunately (and injure itself), but I am so thrilled to see one around here where there's more pasture than trees. At 8pm 4-20-20
Patty on April 20, 2020:
One is outside my house 4/20/2020 6pm
Emma on April 14, 2020:
I saw 4 of them in right outside of my house. not too common to me.
Donna on April 04, 2020:
Found one today under the deck. 04/4/2020
sheri on April 01, 2020:
There is one on my back door right now. Amazingly beautiful.
Cheryl on March 30, 2020:
I'm looking at one right now, on my front porch. It was attracted to the light in my DynaTrap insect trap. I turned off my trap, and the gorgeous luna moth is resting on the ceiling of our porch. I'm not sure if its a male or female, but one of its long tails is torn. I'm praying that it has a chance to mate, so I will wait. This moth is stunning! Thank you for posting this information.
Russ on December 31, 2019:
I was fortunate enough to have seen a Luna Moth once when i was 14, which was 30 years ago! I'm hoping that this is because of their rarity and not from pesticides. Unfortunately i havent seen one since and their sea foam coloring is a favorite of mine too.
Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on November 11, 2019:
Luna Moths are so lovely to see, aren't they? They are big enough to be noticed as well, so I am not too surprised your dog was curious. At least you got to see it's beauty before it flew away! Paula
Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on November 11, 2019:
Hello Jenny, I am so glad you found the information helpful! As for leaving the cocoon alone, you may have saved it's life! Many people are beginning to take caterpillars and cocoons indoors in an effort to save the moth or butterfly from the elements. Sadly, what often happens is they emerge indoors and die anyway because they are now confused with the sunlight and temperature changes. Nature's way is best, and these critters are tough little guys! Thank you for sharing.
Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on November 11, 2019:
Thanks for sharing! Sometimes they do that if they are cold. I learned that about moths from one of my favorite entomologists. Was it a bit chilly or cold by chance?
Jenny on October 08, 2019:
We have a Luna caterpillar cocooned above our front door in Newburgh, IN. We first saw the beautiful lime green (huge!) caterpillar on Sept 6 as it was beginning to spin it's cocoon. It was fully cocooned by Sept 8th. We had read where they only cocoon for 3 weeks and I was beginning to get nervous that it had died in the cocoon. Thank you for setting my mind at ease with this article (it says they can overwinter in the cocoon- whew!) We are so blessed to have this beautiful creature cocooned on our front door and my family and our friends are looking forward to watching it emerge! Thank you for the helpful information!
James on September 21, 2019:
I just saw my first. I live in central Texas.
Chris on September 10, 2019:
I had two Luna Moths on a Oak tree in my yard yesterday. I live in SE Kansas
Sandy on September 06, 2019:
I actually found the luna moth in its caterpillar state-and I took him to a nature center- where 2 weeks later he is in his cocoon. So neat to have found him and I am excited to see him emerge in the Spring into a luna moth!
Sharon on September 01, 2019:
I found my first Luna Moth . It was so beautiful. I thought it was a big green butterfly. I live in Tyler Texas. Wow it was so beautiful. My friends told me it was rare to see them. It only stayed about a day.
Anonymous on August 24, 2019:
Saw my first Luna moth two years ago, shortly followed by my second a few days later. I was surprised at how fast they flew! Knocking around into my porch light like a madman before whizzing off before I could get a real good look at them.
gordon kohl on August 22, 2019:
I have had a luna moth here for several days, however it appears to be dying. It keeps flipping on it's back and can't move it's legs. It just flops around. Can anyone tell me what is going on?
Kevin on August 20, 2019:
Im 32. Saw my first one a year ago in woodbury heights nj... definitely amazing to see..
Joan on August 17, 2019:
I have a large Luna Moth on an outside wall near my front door, it arrived 3 days ago and is still there. First time to ever see a Luna Moth and was in awe of the size and color and took pictures of it to show my family. A beautiful moth with a pretty color. I live in Millville, NJ
Wendy on August 09, 2019:
I just brought one in that was lying on the grass, in full shape. Will it
come to life sometime thru the day, or once it's in the grass it's life
is over? Judy, I'm in Maryland, too, Gaithersburg.
Judy on August 08, 2019:
I have one taking a break near my garage door. It has been there for 2 days. I think it laid eggs last night. It's August in Maryland. It is a lovely color.
Ann on August 06, 2019:
I saw one and photographed it! Very beautiful!
Chelsea on August 02, 2019:
I live in central Michigan a Luna moth caterpillar was in my yard, it has now turned into a cacoon. Just waiting for it to emerge from that stage to see it. I'm so excited! This is my first time seeing one.
Amy Stone on July 31, 2019:
I just found 5 of them in my front yard
Robin on July 26, 2019:
We had one land on our door under our large front porch. It's been there for two days. What a beauty!
LeAnn on July 24, 2019:
Had one land on me last night and stay for a half hour. He was so cool. Beautiful! I wish I could post pictures because I was able to get some really nice ones!! I live in central Alabama. They are everywhere here!
Alisa Pisarski on July 19, 2019:
I live in south west Michigan and had never seen a Luna moth until the 7 th of July. Crazy story! That morning while mowing I had hit small rock that went straight through my living room window leaving a 3-4 inch hole. Later that night about 11pm my 2 granddaughters and I heard somthing behind the blinds I had pulled down over the unfortunate hole in the window. To our amazement a Luna moth had come through the hole and began to fly around the room! at first the size startled us and we ran for cover
Margo s on July 18, 2019:
Just saw a Luna Moth on the kitchen window. Came calling just after midnight 19 July 2019 in Big Pond, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Diane on July 16, 2019:
I get a Luna Moth almost every year on the building where I work, in Maryland. I always thought it was the same moth coming back year after year, not knowing the life span. I look forward to seeing this moth! I also have a pretty large brown and yellow one, along with a yellow and pink one and a brown smaller brown & yellow one each year. The larger brown & yellow one is here now along with the yellow and pink one. They are on the office window. The yellow and pink one has been here since Friday and the other one came yesterday. Your article was very informative. Thank you!
Becca on July 16, 2019:
I saw a huge Luna Moth at our boat dock in KY last month (June). I often wonder how they get so large, so fast.... And it is so sad that they only live a few weeks before dying. It seems like such a cruel existence after all the effort and struggle they go thru to be the beautiful amazing thing that they are !
Angela Berry on July 15, 2019:
Just saw one outside my apartment..i had to find out what is was..its huge..very warm tonight..i live in yukon oklahoma..
Cheryl on July 11, 2019:
We have a cabin in Murphy, North Carolina. We were there in April of this year and I have 3 Luna Moths on our covered deck. They hung out there most of the day. From what I have read, we were fortunate to see them.
Jett Scarlett on July 11, 2019:
I've seen a Luna moth 3 times that I can remember. All were in the city or suburbs in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first time was during the day. The moth was resting in the corner of a concrete window outside a record store in downtown Cincinnati, and I inadvertently disturbed it. The second time was about 6 years later. I was in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati, sitting at a table with friends in a well-lit room, and a Luna Moth flew in the open window and landed on me. The third time was shortly after I moved back to Cincinnati. I was taking out the trash. There was a Luna Moth on the foundation of our house right behind the trash cans. The last time I saw a Luna Moth was over 30 years ago, and I would love to see another one. Like Eastern Bluebirds, Luna Moths seem to have gotten very rare.
Linda on July 10, 2019:
I just saw one on the side walk in Hampton, NB Canada I didn't want to see it get walked on so I took it over to the bushes and put it on the ground. Beautiful species.
Carla on July 09, 2019:
I had a few around my porch every summer until I accidently killed one and none have returned since. Luckily, I took some beautiful pictures of them while they were still visiting.
I on July 09, 2019:
I have one on my kitchen window right now in Glenfield NY.
Matt on July 08, 2019:
Saw one today in hollis, maine
Kevin Patrick on July 08, 2019:
I saw one in early July in Hunter, NY
Susan on July 07, 2019:
I just found one today on a palm tree. We live in north alabama. This is the first one I've ever saw.
Brian Gifford on July 07, 2019:
We have a Luna Moth on one of our window screens near New Ross, Nova Scotia. It’s gorgeous. Thanks for the help identifying it.
Cheryl on July 06, 2019:
I saw a luna moth July 3rd at 4 a.m. in the morning out on my deck in Minnesota
Teri on July 03, 2019:
I just saw a luna here in Minnesota. I am in my 50s and this is the first time i have ever seen one and i grew up on a farm.
Lilly on July 03, 2019:
I had a luna moth fly into my house and i picked it up and it crawled up my arm and then went on my face and neck and then my back and flew off! It was one of the most wonderful experiences in my life
Viola KetchI on July 02, 2019:
I just found one what Beauty Nature is so wonderful . I feel So Blessed
Nik on June 30, 2019:
Saw one today in Montpelier Vt. I have grown up in Vermont, lived in every state on the east coat, and this was the first I have ever seen. I had a friend from Arkansas with me who identified it on the spot and couldn't understand why I was so fascinated. lol
Kathy on June 30, 2019:
Saw a luna moth this morning in South Rockwood, Michigan. So beautiful.
kion on June 29, 2019:
I found a Injured female luna moth in the daytime
Susanne on June 28, 2019:
Just saw my first ever Luna Moth at 10:30 this morning on the side of one of our sheds, just beautiful. Just amazing, I will watch it and see what happens. Never seen one before. I always believe that my sister who passed 10 years ago this year comes to me as butterflies