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Luna Moth

Actias lunias

Description

The luna moth is one of the largest moths in North America, with a wingspan of up to 4 inches. Its wings are lime green in color, with prominent eyespots on the long, tapering hindwings, with a characteristic hint of purple on the leading edges. The body is white, the legs pinkish. Males can be distinguished from females by their larger, bushier antennae.

Luna Moth

Distribution and Habitat

Luna moths are found throughout North America, from east of the Great Plains into northern Mexico and from Manitoba eastward through central Quebec into Nova Scotia. They inhabit areas with plenty of the hardwood deciduous trees upon which the caterpillars feed.

Life Cycle

The number of generations of luna moths per year varies depending on prevailing climate, with only one generation reaching maturity per year in the north (between early June and early July) to as many as three generations reaching maturity in one year in the south (one about every eight to ten weeks beginning in March). 100-300 eggs are laid four to seven at a time on the undersides of leaves; they are incubated by both parents for eight to thirteen days.

Luna Moth eggs

The luna moth caterpillar goes through five separate growth stages, each of which lasts about five days. At the end of each stage the caterpillar deposits a small amount of silk in leaf litter, usually at the base of a food tree, and remains there while it molts its old skin and "grows into" the next stage. Coloration and markings vary slightly between each stage, but the caterpillar is always green; the caterpillar is about three inches long in the final stage.

fourth stage Luna Moth caterpillar

At the end of its final caterpillar stage, the luna moth spins a thin, papery silk cocoon, in which it pupates for about five weeks. The adult luna moth emerges from its cocoon in the morning and will spend about two hours allowing its wings to harden so it can fly away and find a mate. Adult luna moths do not eat (they don't even have a mouth), and only live long enough to mate (about a week). As adults, they are only seen at night.

pupal stage of the luna moth

Diet

Luna moth caterpillars feed on birch, alder, persimmon, sweetgum, hickory, walnut and sumac trees.

Scientific Classification

phylum Arthropoda
class Insecta
order Lepidoptera
family Saturniidae
genus & species Acias lunias

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This page was last updated on June 20, 2017.