The Luna Moth

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Have you ever seen a Luna Moth? Heard of one? Even though I have lived in the same general area for the past 37 years, and these moths are indigenous to this area, I had never seen or heard of one before. That is, until my 8 year old called from the back yard one afternoon, "Hey mom, come look at this huge caterpillar!"

I grabbed my camera, as per my usual M.O., and took a few shots so that we could research this species on the internet. Fortunately I had recently purchased a butterfly cage for the kids, so we put our caterpillar in the cage with some leaves and sticks from a gum tree and waited to see what would happen. The kids affectionately named her Coconut (though we're not sure if it was a male or female). Within two days she had cocooned and about three weeks later she came out and flew away.

This is what we found from the Butterflies and Moths of North America website. You can also find out more by watching this youtube video.

Attributes of Actias luna
Family: Wild Silk Moths (Saturniidae)

Subfamily: Giant Silkworm Moths (Saturniinae)

Identification: Hindwings have long curving tails. Wings are pale green, each with a transparent eyespot. Outer margins are pink in the southern spring brood, yellow in the southern summer brood and in northern populations.

Life history: Adults are nocturnal and very strong fliers. Mating takes place after midnight, and egg-laying begins that evening. Females lay eggs in small groups or singly on both surfaces of host plant leaves. The eggs hatch in about one week and the caterpillars are sedentary and solitary feeders. Leaves and silk are used to spin papery brown cocoons in litter under the host plant.

Flight: One brood from May-July in the north, two to three broods from March-September in the south.

Wing span: 2 15/16 - 4 1/8 inches (7.5 - 10.5 cm)!

Caterpillar hosts: A variety of trees including white birch (Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), and sumacs (Rhus).

Adult food: Adults do not feed. After hatching from their cocoon they live for about 5 days, with the sole purpose of mating. Mature moths do not even have a mouth.

Habitat: Deciduous hardwood forests.

Range: Common. Nova Scotia west to Saskatchewan and eastern North Dakota; south to central Florida, the Gulf Coast, and eastern Texas.

I'm so thankful we had the opportunity to experience this wonder of nature. These moths are bigger than any I've ever seen and are simply beautiful! We have since found two adult moths in out back yard.

Shana Putnam said...

We have those here and I didn't know so much about them. But this part I copied has to suck lol.
Adult food: Adults do not feed. After hatching from their cocoon they live for about 5 days, with the sole purpose of mating. Mature moths do not even have a mouth.

Jennifer-Eighty MPH Mom said...

How fun to watch him/her turn into a butterfly. I love the name too :) We had a butterfly "cage" thing, which reminds me of a post I need to write LOL.

Thanks for sharing!

Bibi @ Bibi's Culinary Journey said...

That is so cool.Great pictures.

My older son studies bugs and other creatures around him. He would love to experience that.

sandy said...

Nice post, and thanks for the memory. Growing my brother collected all kinds of moths, and butterflies, had cocoons hatch out so we could watch and learn; then he'd let them loose.
Aug Chall

Liz Mays said...

I've never seen one in person, just in books. Really pretty!


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