Luna Moth

Actias luna

Luna Moths are members of the Saturniidae family, also known as the "Giant Silkworm Moths."

Luna Moths are huge moths, with a wingspan of four and a half inches. They have a white body, pinkish legs, and huge pale green wings. The hindwings have eyespots and long tails.

They fly, only at night, in Spring and early Summer.

The female Luna Moth lays eggs on the bottom of Black Walnut leaves. She lays about 200 eggs in small groups.

You can tell a male from a female, because males have larger, bushier antennae.

William Welch ©a natural selection

Once the eggs are laid, it takes about 10 days for them to hatch. Caterpillars begin eating as soon as they leave the egg.

They eat leaves from many different trees and shrubs, including: Sweetgum, American Beech, Red Maple, hickories, White Oak, Black Cherry, willows, American Chestnut, and Smooth Sumac.

Mark Moran

The caterpillars will continue to eat and grow, molting their skins as they grow. They will do this five times over a period of three to four weeks.

When the caterpillar is fully grown, it will be 2 1/2 inches long and ready to become a pupa. It will spin silk from near its mouth and wrap itself in a leaf. The caterpillar will usually stay in this cocoon for two to three weeks. If it is near winter, the caterpillar will wait until Spring to hatch.

William Welch ©a natural selection

Copyright, Roberta Gray

When the adult Luna Moth leaves its coccoon, it is not ready to fly. Its wings are short and stumpy and the insect needs to rest. It usually hatches in mid-morning and climbs a tree trunk to hang its wings, so they can fill with blood. Once the wings are inflated, the adult moth will wait until nightfall to fly off to find a mate.

Adult Luna Moths don't eat; in fact, they don't even have a mouth. They only live for about a week, and their only purpose is to mate.

Female Luna Moths release a chemical at night which attracts males. Adults die shortly after mating or laying eggs. Usually, two generations are born each year (that means that moths that spent the winter in a coccoon will hatch, mate, and lay eggs; then their children will hatch, mate, and lay eggs which will hatch and make cocoons for the Winter).

Luna Moths were once very common, but are now considered an endangered species in some areas.

Mark Moran

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Luna Moth Coloring Page
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Luna Moth's Head Under a Microscope
Link to Image
Uglybug.org

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Sweetgum

Barred Owl

Sweetgum

Black Walnut H

Mockernut Hickory

Great Horned Owl

Mockernut Hickory

American Beech H

Red Maple

Big Brown Bat

Red Maple

Sweetgum H

White Oak

Fiery Searcher

White Oak

Red Maple H

American Beech

Bald-faced Hornet

American Beech

Mockernut Hickory H

Black Cherry

Black Cherry

Black Cherry H

Black Willow

Black Willow

Black Willow H

Black Walnut

Black Walnut

Smooth Sumac H

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Sumac

White Oak H

Relationship to Humans:

People rarely see Luna Moths, mostly because they fly late at night. It is a treat to see one, because they are very beautiful insects. Humans have caused Luna Moths to become endangered by pollution and loss of habitat. Luna Moth caterpillars do not do much damage to trees.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Lepidoptera
FAMILY
Saturniidae
GENUS
Actias
SPECIES
Actias luna

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