Some Interesting Facts About the Luna Moth in the U.S.

Updated on February 27, 2020

Luna Moth - Actias luna

I think these are beautiful and so interesting!
I think these are beautiful and so interesting! | Source

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

The beautiful Luna Moth.  Not something you see everyday!
The beautiful Luna Moth. Not something you see everyday! | Source

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

A different angle
A different angle | Source

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.

Actias luna, Pancake Bay.
Actias luna, Pancake Bay. | Source

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?

See results

© 2010 Paula

Comments

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    • profile image

      Lynn G. 

      3 days ago

      Two of them on my deck, one on the grill cover and one on the door frame of the sliding door.

    • profile image

      Lori Robertson 

      3 days ago

      Beautiful Luna "Moon" Moth on our outside wall right now in Bow, NH.

    • profile image

      John D 

      5 days ago

      One on my screen right now in New Hampshire

    • profile image

      Jamie Sinn 

      7 days ago

      outside my door- fairfield iowa

    • profile image

      aaa 

      7 days ago

      Found one hanging out above my front door.

    • profile image

      Rick Philabaum 

      8 days ago

      Found a luna moth in my garage - Pataskala Ohio

    • profile image

      Tamika Hall 

      9 days ago

      One has been posted on my door for about 3 days now. It is sooooo beautiful!

    • profile image

      Duke 

      9 days ago

      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.

    • profile image

      13 days ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Rhonda Thomas 

      2 weeks ago

      Found on porch shutter this morning. Not sure, but it seems to be injured or dying??

      Raywick, Ky

    • profile image

      Dean 

      2 weeks ago

      In Ct. 110am rear porch screen, 5/23/20

    • profile image

      Patricia S. Lane 

      2 weeks ago

      my daughter just saw one in salisbury mills new york state.

    • profile image

      Brian Carter, Arlington TN 

      2 weeks ago

      One came in my house last night and I was amazed by its size and beauty. It wouldn’t leave until this morning.

    • profile image

      Shirley Richie pryor Ok 

      2 weeks ago

      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

    • profile image

      Bill. Madison ,Ct. 

      2 weeks ago

      Found one on my deck deceased , was taken back to its size and beauty. June of 2011

    • profile image

      Maxwell 

      3 weeks ago

      Found a beautiful on in Canton, Georgia.

    • profile image

      Diane 

      4 weeks ago

      On my back porch watching this beautiful creature in East Tennessee on 5/4/20

    • profile image

      Morgan 

      4 weeks ago

      I found a Luna moth with a broken wing, so sad:(

    • profile image

      Michael 

      5 weeks ago

      Currently on my porch 30 miles north of dallas

    • profile image

      Lorrie 

      6 weeks ago

      I’m watching a Luna moth on my porch Ferrum VA

    • profile image

      6 weeks ago

      Marian

      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.

    • profile image

      Johnny 

      6 weeks ago

      They are all over the place here in coastal North Carolina. We see 3 or 4 a day, easily.

    • profile image

      anitayuyu 

      6 weeks ago

      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

    • profile image

      Patty 

      6 weeks ago

      One is outside my house 4/20/2020 6pm

    • profile image

      Emma 

      7 weeks ago

      I saw 4 of them in right outside of my house. not too common to me.

    • profile image

      Donna 

      2 months ago

      Found one today under the deck. 04/4/2020

    • profile image

      sheri 

      2 months ago

      There is one on my back door right now. Amazingly beautiful.

    • profile image

      Cheryl 

      2 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Russ 

      5 months ago

      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.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      6 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      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

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      6 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      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.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      6 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      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?

    • profile image

      Jenny 

      8 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      James 

      8 months ago

      I just saw my first. I live in central Texas.

    • profile image

      Chris 

      8 months ago

      I had two Luna Moths on a Oak tree in my yard yesterday. I live in SE Kansas

    • profile image

      Sandy 

      9 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Sharon 

      9 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 

      9 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      gordon kohl 

      9 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Kevin 

      9 months ago

      Im 32. Saw my first one a year ago in woodbury heights nj... definitely amazing to see..

    • profile image

      Joan 

      9 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Wendy 

      10 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Judy 

      10 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Ann 

      10 months ago

      I saw one and photographed it! Very beautiful!

    • profile image

      Chelsea 

      10 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Amy Stone 

      10 months ago

      I just found 5 of them in my front yard

    • profile image

      Robin 

      10 months ago

      We had one land on our door under our large front porch. It's been there for two days. What a beauty!

    • profile image

      LeAnn 

      10 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Alisa Pisarski 

      10 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Margo s 

      10 months ago

      Just saw a Luna Moth on the kitchen window. Came calling just after midnight 19 July 2019 in Big Pond, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

    • profile image

      Diane 

      10 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Becca 

      10 months ago

      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 !

    • profile image

      Angela Berry 

      10 months ago

      Just saw one outside my apartment..i had to find out what is was..its huge..very warm tonight..i live in yukon oklahoma..

    • profile image

      Cheryl 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Jett Scarlett 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Linda 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Carla 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      11 months ago

      I have one on my kitchen window right now in Glenfield NY.

      Violet Colwell

    • profile image

      Matt 

      11 months ago

      Saw one today in hollis, maine

    • profile image

      Kevin Patrick 

      11 months ago

      I saw one in early July in Hunter, NY

    • profile image

      Susan 

      11 months ago

      I just found one today on a palm tree. We live in north alabama. This is the first one I've ever saw.

    • profile image

      Brian Gifford 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Cheryl 

      11 months ago

      I saw a luna moth July 3rd at 4 a.m. in the morning out on my deck in Minnesota

    • profile image

      Teri 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Lilly 

      11 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Viola KetchI 

      11 months ago

      I just found one what Beauty Nature is so wonderful . I feel So Blessed

    • profile image

      Nik 

      11 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Kathy 

      11 months ago

      Saw a luna moth this morning in South Rockwood, Michigan. So beautiful.

    • profile image

      kion 

      11 months ago

      I found a Injured female luna moth in the daytime

    • profile image

      Susanne 

      11 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Annette K 

      11 months ago

      We are staying at a hotel in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Saw our first Luna Moth sitting on a wall. She has been there for 3 days now. She is alive & seems to have an egg sack attached to her. Yesterday, her beautiful tail seemed to shed off. Something doesn't seem right, but not sure how to help her.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 

      11 months ago

      Found one on my lawn in northern Nova Scotia (Cumberland County) today. Unfortunately was injured with one wing almost severed.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 

      11 months ago

      Saw one tonight in Northeastern Pennsylvania

    • profile image

      S. Brault 

      11 months ago

      Had two of them on my garage on the weekend in Buckhorn, Ontario.

      they were there for two days.

    • profile image

      J Brundage 

      11 months ago

      On the eve of our hotel in Waymart PA.

    • profile image

      P. Thelen 

      11 months ago

      Spotted a Luna moth today in lakeville mn

    • profile image

      Beegee 

      11 months ago

      I was worried about a Luna moth when I noticed it was In my mail basket not moving. I thought it was injured and dying. I put the basket on my lap while reading info. I blew on it very, very gently. Suddenly, after 45 minutes it flew out of the basket and landed on the house under the porch light! I was so very happy!!

    • profile image

      Terry C Schindler 

      11 months ago

      Found a freshly emerged Luna Moth this morning near Janesville Wisconsin. Been hanging around all day slowly flexing it’s wings getting ready to fly off tonight. This is the first one I’ve seen in the wild.

    • profile image

      Debbi 

      11 months ago

      I just found one on the front porch near the light. I, too had to look it up as this is the first one I have ever seen. Love the markings on the wings!

    • profile image

      Anna Sims 

      11 months ago

      I saw my first one hanging on the outside of our bathroom window.

      Beautiful. Had it's wings all opened up. Looked like he was sleeping.

      This was in south eastern New Brunswick.

    • profile image

      Juanita Payton 

      11 months ago

      Wow! I just saw one nestled along my fence that is covered with green leaves. When I first saw it I though it was a large leaf but it was shaped like butterfly wings. As I got closer to this Luna Moth that I just found that’s what it was called by reading this article I then saw the beautiful intricate details of this large insect. It appeared lifeless and as I was taking pictures of it with my cell phone it still wouldn’t move. I got so close to it that I was able to slightly touch its head with a stick but yet it still would not move. Amazing I thought to myself. I was afraid to touch it’s wing because I know butterflies wings are very fragile and I did not wan to harm this beautiful creature that God had created for me to appreciate. So after taking three pictures of it I went back in my house and googled search this insect.

      Today I cam across this article and when I saw the images of the Luna Moth and compared it to my photos I was elated! Wow right in my own back yard I have a Luna Moth. A treasure worth saving! I love animals and insects and I am so blessed to have land that I inherited that is giving me the joy of enjoying God’s creations!

      Thank you for enlightening me on the Luna Moth!

    • profile image

      Brenda 

      11 months ago

      I live in western Michigan & while sitting on my deck around midnight I had one land on my arm for a very brief moment & then straight to my deck light. Absolutely beautiful, I have lived here at the same house 30 years & any nice night I enjoy just listening to the sounds of the woods & creek & this is the first one I have ever seen

    • profile image

      debbie anstett 

      11 months ago

      I have one by my porch light, by Buffalo, NY I have never seen one before.

    • profile image

      Bon 

      12 months ago

      There has been a Luna moth on my sliding door looking in for @ 24 hours...now it’s sill there but Now’s it’s vibrating and shaking...What’s happening ?

    • profile image

      Christine M. 

      12 months ago

      I had one in my garden this morning. Massapequa Park, New York

    • profile image

      Joey 

      12 months ago

      I had 2 show up today under our Pecan trees in the back yard here in Mt.Vernon Texas.

    • profile image

      L.Stewart 

      12 months ago

      Surprisingly we have one on Carlton, Tx, definitely not a everyday occurrence, The Luna Moth has been at our home for 2 days now.

    • profile image

      Dee 

      12 months ago

      We have one on our garage door today. I won't let hubby open the garage until it's gone. Niles, Michigan. Last August we had one on our bug zapper screen in Holland, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. I'm 65 and these 2 are the only ones I've ever seen.

    • profile image

      Willie Mae German 

      12 months ago

      I saw one outside the door of my apartment. It was beautiful. I took a.picture. Would love to share.

    • profile image

      Pcshel 

      12 months ago

      Saw my first Luna tonight pittsylvania county VA I took a ton of pics

    • Lvshorses777 profile image

      Lvshorses777 

      12 months ago

      Update on Luna, She laid a ton of eggs before she passed. They hatched but sadly didn’t make it. I couldn’t find any food they liked, I tried all kinds of other leaves but it didn’t work. I’m sad, I wanted them to make it, at least I tried.

    • profile image

      Arlene Johnson 

      12 months ago

      walking out of Shaws in Hillsboro New Hampshire 6/01/19 My first one it was amazing took a pic.

    • profile image

      lia 

      12 months ago

      They are attracted to my costco bug lamp trap, but are too big to be caught. I'm happy they can not be trapped, as they are so beautiful. They are destructive if they get over populated, but this seems not to be the case in Missouri, as they have many predators.

    • profile image

      Kelly 

      12 months ago

      There are 8 luna moths on my front porch right now. And have been there for about a day and half right now.

    • profile image

      Vickie 

      12 months ago

      We came across one this morning out on our deck. We were so amazed by it’s color and markings!

      — Hallettsville Tx

    • profile image

      Mary 

      12 months ago

      It's been on my deck all day.

    • profile image

      Destiny 

      12 months ago

      I found one on my patio yesterday and two minutes after I put it in the box it made a cocoon in leaves. So rare in Brady Tx.

    • profile image

      Ellie 

      12 months ago

      We were staying with good friends at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Albert, our friend spotted the moth on a large picture window . When I first saw it, I said, “it looks like a flying frog”. A fun moment with friends we won’t forget.

    • profile image

      Patty Duke 

      12 months ago

      It was one my porch. Brush Creek, TN.

    • profile image

      Di 

      12 months ago

      I found one on my window this morning, too! - Rhode Island

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