My First Luna Moth Sighting

Actias luna (Luna Moth).

Hello folks! I hope this post finds you all well. A few weeks ago my son showed me a photo of a Luna Moth that he, and many others, spotted at a convenience store one night. It was on a brick wall and was almost as wide as the brick. Over the years several people have told me about seeing them at night, usually being attracted to porch lights, street lights, and yard lights. I had never seen one in person until a few nights ago.

 

Actias luna (Luna Moth).

I had got up at about 3:30 AM and walked into the living room. The yard light shines through the house at night and I could see from the shadow that something fairly large was flying around the light. I looked out the back door and saw it was a Luna Moth. It flew around the light, banging itself on the light and the pole then landed on the grass. I grabbed the camera and went outside to see if I could find it. I thought something that big surely wouldn’t be that hard to find.

 

Actias luna (Luna Moth).

It wasn’t too happy about being picked up at first and got away twice. The third time I picked it up, I assured it I meant it no harm and it completely calmed down. After that, it seemed perfectly happy to be resting on my hand.

They are quite easily identified. It is large, light green, normally with four “eyes” on their wings, have a pinkish-purple bumper along the front of their wings, have feathery antennae, and normally have a long tail…

The Wikipedia says, “There are some sex-determined and regional differences in appearance. Females will have a larger abdomen compared to males because it contains 200–400 eggs. Both sexes have antennae, but on the male, much longer and wider. Wing color is blue-green in the north and for the over-wintering generation in the central and southern states; second and third generation wing color has more of a yellow-green tint.”

“Based on the climate in which they live, Luna moths produce different numbers of generations per year. In Canada and northern regions of the United States, they are univoltine, meaning one generation per year. Life stages are approximately two weeks as eggs, 6–7 weeks as larvae, nine months as pupae, finishing with one week as winged adults appearing in late May or early June. In the mid-Atlantic states the species is bivoltine, and farther south trivoltine, meaning respectively two and three generations per year. In the central states, the first generation appears in April, second in July. Even farther south, the first generation appears as early as March, with second and third spaced eight to ten weeks later.”

 

Actias luna (Luna Moth).

This Luna Moth looks a bit ragged and even its long “tail” is missing. The average Luna Moth wingspan is 4 1/2″ wide, but can be up to 7″. The long tails of their hindwings are thought to confuse the echolocation detection used by predatory bats.

 

Actias luna (Luna Moth).

InsectIdentification.org says the Luna Moth is only found in North America and their population is on the decline. They are very sensitive to light pollution (such as yard and street lights that are constantly on), pesticides and parasitic flies (a parasitic fly that was introduced to the U.S. to control the Gypsy Moth…).

It was interesting to read the Luna Moth is being bred in captivity and is used in classrooms to teach about the lifecycle of butterflies and their role in the environment.

Many years ago I was told the Tomato Hornworm was the caterpillar for the Luna Moth but that is untrue. The Tomato Hornworm is the caterpillar for the Five-Spotted Hawkmoth. Luna Moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of certain trees. Strangely, the adults do not feed.

You can read more about the Luna Moth on Butterflies and Moths of North America.

I am thankful I finally got to see a Luna Moth in person for the first time and hope to see more.

Thanks for reading this post. Until next time, be safe, stay positive, stay well, and always be thankful!