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

Updated on June 8, 2016

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

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Paula

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      • profile image

        Announamu 

        11 days ago

        They eat grass or bark but there adults have no mouth

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        Ellie 

        3 weeks ago

        I saw a luna moth for the first time last night in Crystal River, Fl. It was so beautiful.

      • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

        Paula 

        2 months ago from The Midwest, USA

        Melissa, I think it is great that Luna Moths are so common in your area! I too think they are beautiful creatures, worthy of protecting even from curious kitties. Thanks for sharing, Paula

      • Melissa Meadow profile image

        Melissa Meadow 

        2 months ago from United States

        Luna Moths are very common in my area (Tennessee). I love them and feel such a thrill when they start to appear every spring. I become a "moth police" because my cats love to try and catch/kill them. I'm often seen out quite late observing these amazing creatures and keeping them safe from my curious kitties.

        They are absolutely beautiful creatures. I've even considered a Luna Moth tattoo!

        Great read!

      • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

        Paula 

        2 months ago from The Midwest, USA

        Thank you all for sharing how the Luna Moth is appearing in your area and your experiences with them! I think it is wonderful that so many people love spotting these beautiful creatures.

        To Kelli, thank you for sharing how your family has done so much with the Luna Moths in your area. I too would be so happy to see such activity in my area with Luna Moths. You are creating wonderful memories for your family across multiple generations. Thank you for sharing.

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        Kelli Bramlett 

        2 months ago

        I love the Luna Moth. I have hatched out several and released, only to be shocked when a day or so later, after release, 2 returned and appeared to be mating. That is what began our family researching details of the biology. Last night we had 6 of them here. What a joy for me, my daughters, and granddaughter.

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        C.m 

        3 months ago

        We have had them at our home all summer long, beautiful to see, have a photo

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        Nancy 

        3 months ago

        My husband and I saw one yesterday on a brick pillar in front of a store in New Bern, NC. Neither one of us had seen one before. I'm going to check for a kite made in its image. Beautiful.

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        Paul 

        3 months ago

        I had one fly in my window this evening , i live around houston

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        Me 

        3 months ago

        I've seen two in the last couple months. I had no idea what it was and it totally freaked me out. I'm from CT, but I live in GA now and have never experienced a bug that size before. Those two were good enough for me. I hope to never see one again. Not a nature fan.

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        dale 

        3 months ago

        just saw one im 55 and i have not saw one since i was 10

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        Tina 

        3 months ago

        I was able to take a picture of a Luna moth sitting on the front of my sister's brick house last night! Beautiful!

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        Meg 

        3 months ago

        I have one living in my jalapeno plant!!!!

      • profile image

        Wendy Abrams 

        3 months ago

        A beautiful Luna moth just landed on my front porch in Cordova, TN.

      • profile image

        angela 

        3 months ago

        I just saw one in Atlanta Georgia wow

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        Donna 

        4 months ago

        Have had a couple of them visit my kitchen window . BEAUTIFUL!! This last one is missing it’s hind wings like something bit or ripped half off. Sad

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        Frank viton 

        4 months ago

        I saw one last night around 4 in the morning struggling the fly, I think it's going to die it's struggling but it is a beautiful moth

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        Lea Ashley 

        4 months ago

        We have one today that has landed on our brick building wall. Amazingly beautiful!

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        Mona 

        4 months ago

        I saw a Luna caterpillar yesterday here in Colorado, my co-worker and I put it in a tank and this morning when we came in he was in a cocoon. We are excited to see him emerge from it.

      • profile image

        Jeff 

        4 months ago

        Just saw one here in North Central Kentucky. I usually see one or two a year

      • profile image

        Kbug 

        4 months ago

        Just saw one today in Missouri Valley, Iowa

      • profile image

        Pojo 

        4 months ago

        South central PA we have had one on our porch for two days now.

      • profile image

        Deanna 

        4 months ago

        Found one tonight on my screen around 11 at night in Annapolis. so beautiful.

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        David D 

        4 months ago

        Found a Luna moth today near Hartford CT. I believe it was a mail because it had large antennae. It wasn’t moving around a lot and so I gently put it in a quiet landscaped area under the shade of a tree for the day.

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        Dan Webstet 

        4 months ago

        Just saved a Luna moth from certain death in the road. Beautiful

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        Julie L 

        4 months ago

        Just had one on the interior wall of my front porch in Tulsa OK several days ago.

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        Ken 

        4 months ago

        Greated by one this evening at my door step. Pretty cool. Wish I could post the photo.

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        Francine 

        4 months ago

        Have seen one for two days in Waxhaw, NC....only my second sighting in seventy years!

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        Barrie 

        4 months ago

        Saw one in Greenville, SC yesterday

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        Dee 

        4 months ago

        We saw one today on the shore of Lake Michigan (Michigan side) in a wooded area next to our beach house.

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        Emily 

        4 months ago

        We saw one in Nantahala Gorge, NC!

      • profile image

        David Cole 

        4 months ago

        Saw one tonight in Hendersonville, NC

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        Elizabeth NJ 

        4 months ago

        Saw a Luna moth for the first time today in New Jersey

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        Shaun in MD 

        4 months ago

        I just my second Luna moth on the screen of one of my windows. That’s pretty sad I’ve only seen two in 58 years, but I suppose if they weren’t rare, it wouldn’t be so special to see one.

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        Cheryl Powell 

        4 months ago

        I recently moved to Arkansas and saw my first Luna moth. It is beautiful and I feel blessed to have seen it. Wish I could share a photo

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        Jeannine 

        4 months ago

        I have two Luna Moths on my carport wall right now! They are so beautiful! I saw two Luna Moths a couple of years ago mating and did not know how special they were until I researched them. We have a hickory tree nearby, and apparently the caterpillars feast on the leaves.

        Knoxville, TN

      • profile image

        Joan cohen 

        4 months ago

        A few years ago I spotted a nesting catbird trying to wrestle a luna back to its nest. The moth managed to break free several times and got away as I got closer and the bird took cover.

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        lori 

        4 months ago

        A luna moth visited me for two days in hot springs ar. Just beautiful ! Took 3 pics with my hand in photo id like to share pics

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        Jennifer 

        5 months ago

        I rescued a Luna moth that had become disoriented after getting inside my closed garage in Shelbyville, KY. The moth was so large, i heard its wings flapping before I saw the moth itself.

      • profile image

        Marde 

        5 months ago

        I found your site by researching “moths with green wings” after my cat brought one in the house last night! Unfortunately, my cat used the beautiful creature as a toy

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        Kathy 

        5 months ago

        I saw a Luna moth clinging to a trash bin which was located next to the door of a grocery store! I live in St. Louis and never expected to see such a beautiful product of nature.

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        Bill 

        5 months ago

        I am in Nova Scotia and have one on my screen door. I almost fainted at the size of it. Wonderful colour.

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        Lcagee 

        5 months ago

        Northern Vermont. I have seen one 5 different nights. July 2018. The first one I've seen in 10 years.

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        Mrs. Weston 

        5 months ago

        We have a Luna Moth on our cabin balcony in Ryegate, Vermont. I’m a New Yorker and have never seen one before. It is stunning! What a wonderful treat for my husband, kids and I!

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        Judy Tharp 

        5 months ago

        July 8, 2018 Luna Moth on our deck in Vermont, it doesn't have the second set of "eye spots". The one I saw 4 weeks ago had great big Eye Spots

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        Jason 

        5 months ago

        There is a Luna Moth on my back door now. It has been there for the last couple of days. (Nova Scotia, Canada)

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        Marsha 

        5 months ago

        I found a catapillar in September. A Luna, when will it hatch?

      • profile image

        Lorna Penner 

        5 months ago

        What do they eat?? clothing or food or what else?

      • profile image

        Pamela Hanny 

        5 months ago

        I saw one on my cypress tree in June. Just magical

        I don’t use any pesticides in my gardens or on the lawn

        Sad they only live a short time. They are magnificent

      • profile image

        Joanne 

        5 months ago

        Saw one in our yard on June 23 in Nova Scotia Canada! We almost ran over it with the lawn mower, thought it was a leaf!! So pretty

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        Gene 

        6 months ago

        We've had a Luna moth hanging on one of the screens on our screened in porch since this morning, it's the first one I've ever seen.

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        Nancy 

        6 months ago

        Just this morning one was resting on the wall by my front door. Beautiful creature!

      • profile image

        Brenda 

        6 months ago

        One is currently at our window in the NH White Mountains (11pm). Gorgeous!

      • profile image

        Deb 

        6 months ago

        Saw one 6:30ish on my morning walk today (6-17-18) here near Myrtle Beach, SC. Amazing.

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        S. Fierro 

        6 months ago

        Saw my first Luna Moth on Thursday night, June 14, 2018. The beautiful moth was on the mud room back door and flew into the garage when we opened the door. We left the garage door open for quite a while and then closed it. Our son took a picture of it the next day hanging off the light fixture. We live in Mid-coast Maine.

      • profile image

        K Faucher 

        6 months ago

        I saw one on my outside door in Central Mass yesterday and again this morning, although this morning it looked like he was having difficulties trying to walk (leaning to one side) I put him in my green garden in hopes he will recover and fly away. He is absolutely beautiful.

      • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

        Paula 

        6 months ago from The Midwest, USA

        Hi Peggy, Absolutely! I love nature so much and find these creatures simply amazing. I don't see them often, and hardly ever lately. Your thought is similar to one I have had before, with the pesticides. I hope they always thrive. Paula

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        6 months ago from Houston, Texas

        I have never personally spotted a luna moth but thanks for introducing me to it. Hopefully it will survive pesticides and continue to flourish in the wild.

      • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

        Paula 

        6 months ago from The Midwest, USA

        Hello Alexandra, thanks for sharing! I hope to see one here yet! I agree Luna Moths are enchanted little beings. Paula

      • profile image

        Alexandra 

        6 months ago

        First sighting this year in PA … they are enchanted little Beings!

      • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

        Paula 

        6 months ago from The Midwest, USA

        Hi Linda, Luna moths are such amazing creatures, and I love that you thought it was a decoration even! They look just amazing, and I find them fascinating. Thanks for sharing here! Paula

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        Linda K 

        6 months ago

        Saw my first one this morning on the door of the apartment we are moving into! Thought it was a decoration from the people who had moved out, until I picked it up and one of its wings moved.

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        KayKay 

        6 months ago

        5/24/18...Tennessee...I was walking up the steps and saw this big green creature...I took it for a leaf or something so I ignored it...got to my door and there was one on the wall of house...I have never seen this thing before so it scared me...1st one male (I Googled it) couldn't tell of second one (rushing to get in house)...if not for my daughter, (who seems to know everything) I was heading straight for the bug killer cause I didn't want it getting in the house...since I know a little more about it and the life span is not that long...I will let them be...unless it gets in the house...

      • profile image

        Roro 

        6 months ago

        I forgot to add to my comment it was May 22, 2018

      • profile image

        Roro 

        6 months ago

        Saw this beautiful species in Lawrence, Long island New York

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        B DeStefano 

        6 months ago

        Saw one on 5-22-18 on my back deck, freaked me out at first but then I realized it was some kind of moth. Litchfield county CT

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        Jam 

        6 months ago

        I saw a luna moth, and it laid eggs on a chain link fence. Is that normal?

      • profile image

        Tina L 

        6 months ago

        We have a beautiful one at our front door today!

        Athens, Georgia

      • profile image

        T. Moore 

        7 months ago

        Greensboro , North Carolina near Lake Townsend- had a Luna Moth this morning on my house under patio light.

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        Barb 

        7 months ago

        We had two flying around outside are patio door. It was around 10:30 pm and we took picture of it. My cat was after them and knock one down,but both of them were gone in morning.We live near Morgantown,Pa.

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        Jamie 

        7 months ago

        On 8/31/17 my daughter found a Luna Moth worm. So we took it home and put it in a big open glass bowl. I have documented it with photos. What an amazing sight so far. Found out with the help of google, that it didn’t like apple trees but loves diamond willow. We placed the willow branches in the bowl and it immediately started its cocoon. On 9/1/17 at 6:00am it started its silk and finished on 9/2/17 at 3:30pm. Been waiting all winter for it to hatch. I thought maybe it had died but now know it can take until July for it to become a Moth. Wish I could share the photos! I will update when it turns to a beautiful Luna Moth :) Hope you all are enjoying nature’s beauty!

      • profile image

        Chris 

        7 months ago

        I just saw a Luna moth in Columbus Ohio sitting next to my front door at 12 am. He had to be every bit of 5 inches. I didn't know what it was and it kind of freaked me out.

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        Karen Piczkur 

        7 months ago

        I saw a Luna Moth for the first time ever on 05/14/18. It was sitting in the grass outside Magna Seating South Carolina in Moore, SC. It appeared to be a leaf.

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        Charles Meriweath 

        7 months ago

        I had a Luna moth land on my back at work last night. I was able to get a picture of it greenwood, sc

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        James 

        7 months ago

        Just saw my first Luna moth next to my sweetgum tree here in Tampa. Beautiful.

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        Diane 

        7 months ago

        A beautiful Luna Moth is clinging to door jamb outside on my deck this morning, May 12 in Suwanee, GA. I've never seen one before. We have a sweet gum tree that overhangs the deck, and while sweeping those annoying spiky balls off the deck every day is a pain, (I was even thinking of cutting the tree down...oh no!!) now I know that the tree attracts this gorgeous critter!!

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        Kay 

        7 months ago

        Spotted one for the first time this morning clinging to the patio door screen. It startled me for a moment as it was so huge!

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        Alice 

        7 months ago

        My husband spotted the beautiful Luna moth early this morning, May 8, 2018 above the garage door. It is very near to the sweetgum tree in the yard. Eastern Indiana

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        D Demarest 

        7 months ago

        Beautiful Luna Moth was on the siding of my house yesterday afternoon, May 6, 2018. My husband noticed around 10:30 PM it had obviously been active and was now clinging to the sunroom window screen. Trussville, Alabama.

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        Susan 

        7 months ago

        We have two luna moths on our downspout today in the north Georgia mountains.Sosad that they live such short lives.

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        Lauren 

        8 months ago

        Was on the side of my house in cape cod ma

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        Evelyn Todd 

        8 months ago

        Lovely Luna on back screen porch this morning. North Texas

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        Sis 

        8 months ago

        Have a Luna Moth on my Sweet gum tree every year (today) TX. Beautiful!!

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        Rosie 

        8 months ago

        Luna Moth was on wall in TX - also a full moon too

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        happy 

        9 months ago

        This helped me identify a Luna Month on my window! Spotted in Texas.

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        Debbie 

        13 months ago

        I'm in Smithfield VA and each year we see at least one Luna Moth on our Moon Flower vine. We plant Moon Flower every year just to see these moths although the flowers are beautiful and smell so sweet!

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        Rosemary 

        14 months ago

        We saw a Luna Moth flying around on our back deck around 8:00 pm. St Louis, MO!

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        kris 

        14 months ago

        My daughter had this beautiful catapillar on her shoe.we researched and found out it was the Luna moth.that same night I made a home for it in An old fish tank with birch leaves.the very next day it was completely cocooned up.very sad I missed the process.however she (Luna) is being well watched until she turns into her beautiful new self.i live in Eastern ny so this is the last cycle.very sad really.we plan on letting her out at night n having a nice fire.its only been 2 weeks so a few more to go..

      • profile image

        Donna 

        14 months ago

        We saw a Luna this morning in our garage. We live in Texas. 9/28/2017

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        holly 

        15 months ago

        One was on my little sisters head when she was a baby!!

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        Mary 

        15 months ago

        9/10/2017. Sunday

        We hang up our shoes the our garage on an old shoe hanger that goes on your door. Anyway, he got his flip flops down and put them on and saw a big green caterpillar had started a cocoon on the side of one!!

        He told me about it and I find the poor little guy. We put him in a large clean jar. I found a hickory tree and grabbed some nice leaves and a couple of sticks. Then placed him in there.

        About an hour later it started to remake it's cocoon on one of the leaves! SO COOL!!!! Such a busy little thing!

        I just hope that it really will winter inside it's safe haven until the spring!!!

        My hubby named him Henry! LOL

      • profile image

        Darleen 

        15 months ago

        I have one on my door & Iam so fascinated

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        Johnny Riggs 

        15 months ago

        I've seen a few of them in the last decade, mostly in West Virginia, though I did see one in Maryland as well. They are one of the most spectacular creatures you'll see in the United States. We don't have a lot of giant flying things here, and rarely anything this beautiful, so seeing one always feels like a treat.

        The last one I saw was injured and flapping around with a wounded wing on the ground at a gas station. I tried to help it, but realized it was fairly useless to try.

        It kept knocking its wounded wing against the box I placed it in. After a couple of minutes I realized it was Morse Code!

        It tapped out S-O-S a couple of times, and then wrote a short note to its wife and daughter. I think the names were Melanie and Krista. I couldn't find them, so if anyone out there knows them, tell them that Ogbert has passed on.

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        bev 

        15 months ago

        have had one on porch for 3 days. I'm in southern Texas

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        Ann 

        15 months ago

        A male found me two days ago. It had a old injury, a roughed up right wing. I took pictures of it. Then, I invited it to come for a ride on my iPhone and it did. I got to look it in the eye and look all around it. When I let it back down, it did a "trauma shake." I apologized for scaring it. Then, I realized it had pooped on my phone, so we were even.

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        Eleanor Sprague 

        15 months ago

        I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. On July 27/17 I noticed a large lime green caterpillar moving back and forth making silk to climb up to the corner of my window. It took a couple of hours to reach the top, and then it cocooned at the top of the window.My husband saw the caterpillar and knew it was a Lunar Moth. It is now August 26 and we are waiting to see the moth emerge. I am so hoping I am not away and miss this.

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        Laura 

        15 months ago

        I woke up this morning to find a Luna moth just testing on the bricks! I'm in Charleston s.c. my 5 and 6 year I'll came out and we were looking at the amazing creature that came to visit!

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        BJ 

        15 months ago

        I have a luna moth, a walking stick and a St Andrews spider all taking up residency on my back deck. They must know it's a safe place to hang out!

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        Maryann Farrell 

        15 months ago

        Hi, I stumbled upon this amazing caterpillar trying to take a photo of another caterpillar, but since I am so light footed, observant and careful I didn't. I thought at first it was some kind of weird seed pod until I saw it eating. The caterpillar I spotted looks very close to yours, but my caterpillars seem a little larger. I hope I'm accurate on the Luna moth if not it's something almost identical.

        (- I'd like to submit a photo, but don't see a place-)

        I'm in the suburbs and let a part of my yard 100% natural. I never spray pesticides ever!!! I have so many amazing moths, butterflies and insects in my yard. So please everyone don't spray pesticide. Enjoy the wildlife and see the beauty in nature. It's much more fascinating for kids as well as adults to experience these rare kind of sightings as the Luna moth. I stopped my young kid neighbor passing by and within in an hour he had all his friends looking at the caterpillar and they were amazed and fascinated. Letting your yard grow natural while keeping some tidy flower gardens on the outskirts looks beautiful and helps our wildlife. Thank you for the great post!

      • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

        Paula 

        16 months ago from The Midwest, USA

        Hi Carrol, it is a very special thing to see a Luna Moth like that in your backyard! Thank you for sharing. I hope you get to see more.

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