Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Luna!

I love late spring. It seems that the earth has awakened from a long slumber and new life begins to appear. Baby birds are being taught to fly. The bullfrog in the pond is calling for a mate until 2:00 a.m. And, the graceful Luna Moth clings to the kitchen window by the porch light.

The Luna moth (Actias luna), or moon moth, is one of the giant silk moths. Their pale green color and swallowtail-shaped wings, with eye spots, are unique and beautiful. Enjoy each on as they appear because the adults only live about 10 days. Having no mouth parts, they do not eat and must survive on stored energy reserves. Their sole job is to mate. The moths only fly at night and are attracted to large lights.

Luna moth females lay their eggs on several different kinds of tree leaves including our native Walnut, Sweetgum, Hickory, Persimmon and the flower moonflower. A healthy female can lay 100 – 300 eggs which she divides into small batches of 3 – 12 eggs per leaf.

After hatching, the caterpillars wander around before finally finding a particular plant to eat. The caterpillars, which are eating machines, go through five instars (a developmental stage of molting), and shed their skin as it gets too tight. When their skin is pinkish and tight, they are mature. At this time, they do something quite unique. They have a ‘gut dump’ where they get rid of fluid, food and feces and begin spinning a cocoon. Using their silk, which is very strong, they wrap leaves around themselves before entering the pupa stage. The pupa in the cocoon is very active. When disturbed, it will wiggle inside the cocoon and emit a noise. The moth will emerge in two weeks.


When they emerge, their wings are very small and they must enlarge them by pumping bodily fluids through them. During this time, their wings will be soft and they must climb somewhere safe to wait for their wings to harden before they can fly away. This process takes about 2 hours to complete. The Luna Moth typically has a wingspan of 3 to 4.5 inches.

Luna moths are considered common but due to their short life spans are rarely seen. Enjoy them while you can!

“Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures," replied Estella, with a glance towards him, "hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?” 


  1. They certainly are beautiful.
    Thanks for all the good info.

  2. Now I know the name of this lovely moth! I took a photo of a Luna, it came to Katie's Birthday Slumber Party when she was 10. It was bigger than my hand, with fingers spread wide! I enjoy reading your stories, You are my favorite teacher! Eva

  3. I love the Luna's. We had several last summer but haven't seen one yet this season. Learned some things I didn't know from your blog -thanks for sharing this info!!

  4. Everyone loves the butterflys, but the luna moths are spectacular.