The luna moth is a light green, giant silk moth that lives only one week in their adult stage.
Larvae are light green caterpillars with yellow lines down its sides and rows of small red spots. Adult luna moths have thick bodies and green wings with a dark border on their forewings. They have an eyespot on each wing to help scare predators and have long curving hindwing “tails.”
As a caterpillar, the luna moth feeds on the leaves from many types of trees including walnut, sweet gum, persimmon and white birch. In its adult form, the luna moth does not eat which is common for silk moths. Their mouthpart, called the proboscis, is vestigial, which means it has become functionless in the course of evolution.
Bats are one of the main predators but others include owls, birds and parasitic flies. Luna moth caterpillars rear up the front of their body and make clicking noises as a defense. On the adult moth, the four eyespots confuse predators. The long tails of the moth can also disrupt echolocation that a bat uses for hunting.
Luna moths normally emerge from their cocoon in the morning and are able to fly by night. Males are able to fly long distances in search of a female to mate with.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
In northern regions the luna moth reproduces once a year, but in a warmer climate further South they can have two or three generations in a year. They go through four stages of metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa and winged moth.
Females lay between 200 and 400 eggs on the underside of leaves and they incubate for 7-13 days. The larvae molt multiple times over the span of 3-4 weeks and then spin a cocoon. Once in its adult phase, the luna moth lives for less than 10 days.
Did You Know?
- Luna moths are attracted to light and are often found near houses and buildings with the increase of bright lights at night.
- With light pollution disrupting their mating cycle and habitat destruction, populations have declined but they are still considered common.
- In populations that have two or more generations a year, the spring broods are normally a darker green color while second and third generations are yellowish.
- Southern populations tend to be smaller than Northern populations.
Sources and Additional Information
- Featured Critters: Luna Moth - University of Florida
- Actias luna - NatureServe Explorer
- Luna Moth - Clemson University
- Luna Moth - Missouri Department of Conservation