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

Updated on June 08, 2016

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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


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    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

      Awesome Hub!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you Phoenix, aren't they amazing creatures?

    • PADDYBOY60 profile image

      PADDYBOY60 5 years ago from Centreville Michigan

      Very interesting hub. I have only seen one in my 60 years on Mother Earth.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Paddyboy, for the visit and comment. I wish I saw these beauties more often in nature. I enjoy seeing them whenever I can though.

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      I want to see one of the gorgeous moths.....of course I would have to visit the US....

      voted up and beautiful...I love anything to do with nature.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Natures47friend, I wish you could see them too, they are very beautiful, these luna moths! Thanks so much for your visit, comment and vote. :) I also, love anything to do with nature, I can't seem to get enough of it.

    • Ivory L. 4 years ago

      My dad found this cocoon and we did not know what it was turns out tat it is a luna moth I'm still waiting for it to hatch it cocoon for winter we never that there was so much information about these beautiful creatures I' glad we saved this one it was nested on the side of an old barn that my dad was dismantling so at least this one is safe. Now iwill keep my eye out for more of them. thanks for the information

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Ivory, what a neat story! I am so glad that your dad saved the cocoon so it could finish letting its miracle grow inside! I would be so excited if I were you! Wow, they are just so amazing and beautiful, and I hope maybe you can be there when it does emerge from its chrysalis and maybe get some photos of it.

      Its a great thing too, that you are going to keep your eyes out for more. They go through so much to come that far along in their life cycle. Thanks for saving him or her! Wishing you the best and thanks again for commenting.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I have seen these in Eastern Maine, sometimes early in the day, sometimes later. Some were rather good sized, too. The don't fly away easily.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Aviannovice, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. How wonderful that you have seen these a few or several times even! They are huge, to me! It is good to know they don't fly away easily, as I wondered if the one I photographed was alright or not. Such beautiful creatures! I would love to see them in Maine as well.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      If you go to Maine, let me know, and I will direct you to some good areas to see birds, at least my little neck of the woods. Also, visit Grand Manan Island, which has puffins! I have never been, but had a friend that would go to the area for birding. Most of your gulls and other sea birds breed on the islands off the coast of ME, so those islands are closed to the public during breeding season.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Aviannovice, as your name suggests, you would know about such things as the best places to go see birds there! I sure would love to go and see the puffins, and love all birds but especially coastal birds! Thank you for the suggestion to contact you, I would be happy to take you up on that, as I have never been to Maine or that part of the country.

      Have a great week.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      All along that beautiful, rocky coast is a plethora of places that would surely whet your appetite.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Well, count me in! I will put it on my bucket list, and wish list. Take care, Avian

    • Kimberly Doucet 4 years ago

      I am from Bathurst NB Canada and my son recently found one...they are's the first time I've actually seen this type of moth around here..

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Kimberly, these are more and more rare, with the spraying of pesticides, I recently heard. It said that one plane dropping pesticides can wipe out whole colonies of Luna Moths. That is so sad, but all the more special when you do see one! What you described was how I felt when I saw these and got their picture. They are just so beautiful.

      Thank you for commenting.

    • Christine 4 years ago

      I live in upstate New York and I saw my first Luna Moth in June 2012. It flew by me during the night while I was taking my dog outside. I thought it was a bat. Then, I noticed something on my front window screen. It was the Luna!! I have never seen one before. Three days later, there was another one that landed on my front window screen. So, I had two Luna's at my house. I was so sad when they left. I then found one of them in my had died and it was all white, like a skelton. They are so beautiful & I hope they will continue to survive in our world. I am so fortunate to to have seen two Luna's!!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Christine, that is a wonderful story about Luna Moths! I love that you got those special visits from them, and I would have been equally excited. Don't you love it when life shares little gifts like that with us?

      I think they are beautiful creatures, and am so happy that other people like Luna Moths like I do. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Lynn 4 years ago

      These are absolutely beautiful. I saw my first one today I got a nice picture of it.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Lynn, I totally agree with you that these Luna moths are so beautiful. What a great thing that you saw your first one! I remember that feeling very well, and would probably be just as excited to run across another one some day. Thanks for your comment.

    • Bill File 3 years ago

      Saw my 1st back in early 50"s. Last year I was on pourch at lake house & saw this large green shaped tonado go by front of dock about 30' high. Thought Id taken too many pills from VA. Went back out next night and saw same thing for about 30 min. Went down to dock next morning and there were dead Luna's in water on the dock,everywhere. Looked like a 30'/40' green cone. Very Nice. Will have camera with me this year. Abbeville, SC

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Bill, I wonder what that phenomenon was exactly? I mean, why did that happen like that, and why did the Luna moths die? Wow, what a fascinating thing to view and experience, I can see why you thought you had taken too many medications! Thanks so much for sharing about the 30 foot green shaped cone, how incredibly strange!

    • Veronica 3 years ago

      Saw my first Luna Moth last night. It was attracted to the porch light and landed in the White Birch in my backyard. I have never seen such a beautiful moth and immediately began taking pictures. Thanks for this hub very informative because I had no idea Luna moth's existed. At first it looked like a giant insect, then I realized how exquisite its markings were; and after a little research I realized what I was looking at and what a treat to have seen one.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Veronica, I am so glad you got to see one of these beautiful creatures in person. I consider it a special treat if any butterfly or moth comes to my yard, but this would be extra special! I am so glad you captured some photos of it, they are so beautiful and interesting when you take a closer look. Exquisite, is a great word for what you see when you look more closely at a Luna Moth. Thank you for your comment here. I hope we both see more Luna Moths in the future!

    • ellen 21 months ago

      had one last night in the house

    • janet james 20 months ago

      My Pre-K class had the great fortune to find a caterpillar ready to spin. We let it over winter in a sheltered spot outside; brought it in a month ago and wondrous joy this morning the moth had emerged. We released the beautiful creature after taking it's photo.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 20 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Ellen, wow, you had one in the house? I would have been so amazed. Did you end up putting it outside?

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 20 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Janet, wow, that is very good fortune! I am glad that it all worked out to the point that the moth emerged and was released! That is a great story and thing to observe. You are very lucky. Thank you for sharing.

    • Christine 20 months ago

      Hi! I live in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh. I walked out on my porch this evening and this big beautiful moth bumped into me. I called for my son and we stood watching it, mesmerized, flutter around for a few minutes. We figured it was attracted to the porch light, so we turned it off and went back inside. Half an hour later, we went out to see if it was still there. It was; still fluttering around. We went out again a little later, and found it laying by the front door. It is still just laying there. I walked past it to see if it would stir, but, it did not. Is it alright? We are grateful and honored to have had it visit us; and we are equally grateful and honored to have seen it dance through the air. However, we are very sad to see it just laying there not moving. My son, who usually pays no attention to the insects in my garden, is feeling very sad about this beautiful and noble creature who is no longer dancing!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 20 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Christine, I am glad also for the visit from the Luna Moth to your house. Its very possible that the Luna moth was toward the end of its life. They are so beautiful, that it is hard to miss them. It could have been injured, or stunned for some reason. They can have close calls with birds and other things. I am not one of those people against pesticides, but I do know I found a beautiful moth once around my parents house, soon after it was sprayed with pesticides. Since moths are attracted to the lights, they are attracted to areas that are sometimes recently sprayed. (Not your house necessarily, but any other number of places, etc.) I am trying to think of any reason that might have happened. It could just be like I said initially, that it was toward the end of its life. They are really relatively short, and it had possibly lived that out. We tend to only think of butterflies and moth's lives as having begun when they have wings, but really they lived much longer than that as caterpillars. Hope this might help.

      Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing your experience. Perhaps it is a newer one, and the wings are still filling up, or drying out, so they can soon fly.

    • April 19 months ago

      I just had a conversation with my boyfriend 2 days ago about the luna moth, they are his favorite and i had never heard anout them. This morning i came home and found one on my door! Amazing

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 19 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello April, how neat that Luna Moths are your boyfriends favorite, and that you found one on your door. I agree, it is amazing. I know I would love that. They are simply beautiful creatures. Thanks for sharing.

    • Carol Heaton 17 months ago

      Seen a big light green moth in Pittsboro,Indiana. Which i have never seen just beautiful. It's out here on my steps.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 10 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Carol, if it was a light green, beautiful moth, then I wonder if it wasn't a luna moth! If I saw one again out in my yard, I would feel so lucky. It has been a while now for me to see one.

    • Jody 7 months ago

      We had 2 last year and they were such a beautiful sight, they lived on our property, unfortunately I found one dead in the yard about 3 weeks after it arrived here, and we never saw the mate again. We are lucky again this year, I call them a married couple, the 2 of them showed up tonight and they are hanging out in the same area on our deck where we first saw last years couple. The female came right in the house, my husband carefully caught her and put her back out and before he could get in she was back in. Our 6 year old is just loving watching them fly around together. We are hoping they mate, last year we never got a 2nd generation. We are in Clinton Ct.

    • Diane 7 months ago

      I was sitting in my home office today and glanced out the front screen door and saw this beautiful, green moth on the screen! I took pictures from inside and from outside and then googled to see what it is! I have never seen a Luna Moth and feel honored that I have had the opportunity to stare and be in awe over this stunning moth! We live an hour north of Philadelphia. Bucks County. So much wildlife & beauty here! Now I have something else to add to the list of what I've seen on our property. Blessed.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Jody, thanks for sharing your experiences with these beautiful moths in your area. I love that you are so observant and care about them so much. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Diane, it sounds like you live in a very interesting area, and I am so glad you to see a Luna Moth on your property. They are very beautiful creatures, and it warms my heart that there are others out there that love these as much as I do. Thank you for your comment.

    • Liz 6 months ago

      My daughter (7yrs old) found one of these beauties the other night while helping my husband out in the kennel with his dogs, she stopped what she was doing and ran to the house and had me get pictures! It's very beautiful and I didn't know what type of moth it was until I found the link to you. Glad to have found your page so her and I could understand what a gem we found a bit more. Haven't seen one in a long time but living in Ohio I find a lot of beautiful and strange creatures :-)

    • Lynn Cottreau 6 months ago

      Found one of these beauties on my patio tonight ,, took some pictures ,, I have always heard of them ,,but I'm so happy to have seen one ,, not sure if they are popular in Yarmouth Nova Scotia ,, I do know that they have a short life ,,, so I'm keeping a eye on her ,,

    • Judy Holmes 5 months ago

      hello- I saw my first green luna moth last week. We had stop in Allegan, Mic. at a McDonalds. My husband saw it on the ground in the parking lot. This was 2:30 in the afternoon. he picked it up & put it on the side of the building. When I came out it was still there. i was concern it might die from being picked up. I got 2 large maple leaves & was going to move it to a wooded area. once on the leaf it flew away. i relieved it wasn't dead. Most beautiful moth I've ever seen. The pure white body looked soft & fluffy. The top was a very bright light green. Amazing

    • Kathleen Gillespie 5 months ago


      Yes, it was a Luna Moth (Actias Luna) that I saw last night. Breathtaking to see ! I witnessed this beautiful bright yellow-green, virtually translucent moth flying at 10:00pmCT at 80'F temp on Aug 3, 2016, in our woodland here in northwestern Indiana, a few miles south of Lake Michigan's shoreline. Illuminated by my car headlights as I returned home, this creature flew in a narrow area along our woods and above our gravel driveway at high speed, up and down and side to side,.. since the moth's only mission is to find a mate, this was it's mission that night. I took many photos of the Luna Moth with my mobile phone, strobe flashing, and then suddenly the moth lay motionless on our gravel driveway,..... had I done something harmful to this incredible moth? Had the the light from my picture-taking startled it, or worse, killed it?

      I was heartbroken that I might have done something to hurt or destroy this beautiful creature.

      I placed a few twigs next to the moth to mark the spot where it was laying, placed a large rock next to the moth to protect it & deter anyone driving up our gravel driveway from crushing it,....and went into our home for the night, hoping I hadn't done something that permanently harmed the Luna Moth.

      This morning (8.04.16), I went to the spot on the gravel driveway where this creature had lain, and discovered that the beautiful Luna Moth happily was gone!

    • Tom Star 5 months ago

      Louisville, KY

      Saw 1 for the first time on my deck railing. Took 2 pictures,

      but don't know how to share them.

    • Shirley 4 months ago

      I saw a huge whitish green moth land in my garage last night. I was awed by the size of this moth. It had to be at least five inches across. I wanted to try to get it to leave the garage safely. When I went to find something it was gone, so I continued reading. When I looked down at where it landed before it was there. I went to get my husband so he could see this moth as he would not believed me. He was going to harm it and I told him absolutely NO. He went to get a broom and our big dustpan to see if he could sweep it onto it, but it stated flying all around the garage and finally landed on the broom. My husband then walked it out and let it fly off into the night. We shut the garage so he couldn't come back. What an experience! Such a beautiful creature. I wonder what else flies in the night.

    • Victoria 4 months ago

      I saw one on my back patio at the end of June this year. I had never seen one so I took a picture. Today as I was taking a picture of a rare frog, I happened to see the moth's picture once again and decided to research what kind it was. It is a very beautiful and distinct moth!

    • Ken 4 months ago

      Hi all. I saw one in the mid eighties at St. Juliens Creek Annex by the Norfolk Naval shipyard. I was working 3rd shift and it was about 2am. The annex has a lot of trees (kind of like a small forest) and it was on the side of our building above one of the doors. I had to get some of my coworkers so they could see it too. All were impressed and the fact that I knew what it was. I am in my 50s and it is the only one I have ever seen. Very cool moth.

    • Jared Eggo 4 months ago

      Great article! I was very fortunate to find three lunas in one hike in the Missouri Ozarks. Here is one photo if you want to check it out And I actually did get some macro photos of their antennae that I have not yet posted.

    • Lisa james 3 months ago

      I woke this morning and found a luna moth on my back patio. What an amazing insect.

    • hugh rennie 3 months ago

      the one flew up to my porch in central fl almost let me touch it i was that close didn't touch only took photo did not want to harm it wing was damaged but it was still able to fly

    • Tanner 3 months ago

      I found one the other day when i was working on my school bug project but i didnt want to kill it so i left it.

    • mothluver 3 months ago

      I like them. they are pretty

    • 3 months ago

      I have found a caterpillar on a sidewalk and put it in a brown paper bag with some oak leaves and it made its cocoon. I want to put it somewhere safe for the winter and am not sure whats the best place to put it .

    • Trish 2 months ago

      I appear to have a breeding ground for Luna moths in my NC garage, I had seen one a year for several years in my garage on a window screen, this years I have seen 4. Just beautiful! I have to add that I have a sweet gum tree outside the door, so Im sure that is the more likely breeding place.

    • Darlene 8 weeks ago

      I have a Luna moth that cocooned on my porch between the house and rail. I took pictures of the stages and fell in love. I'm worried because it's been dipping below freezing. I've put some leaves over top of her but I want her to make it through winter. What should I do? Where should she be put when it's close to her coming out? We have oak, Holly and cedar trees mostly! It's sad they only live such a short time but I really want her to have the chance! PLEASE let me know what I should do!

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