Who among us hasn’t marveled at the Luna moth? “Actias Luna” is the lime-green, large, eye-catching moth which we can hardly confuse with any other. They are found only on this continent and mainly in our Eastern United States.
There are reasons for their distribution, just as there are for us all. Everyone has to be somewhere and the Luna moth likes the eastern forest trees. The hungry caterpillar stage spends a month of eating hickory, birch, sumac, walnut and sweet gum leaves. This is also a good place to find the cocoon which lasts another three weeks.
The metamorphosis completes with the 3 – 4 inch lime-green moth emerging from the cocoon. This usually happens in the morning and gives them all day to dry before flying that night. Several interesting facts of the adult Luna moth would be diet, name, sex, color, and longevity.
The moth stage doesn’t eat for two reasons: (1) It has no mouth or digestive system (2) It spends its adult life lookin’ for love and that’s about a week.
As a Luna moth looks for a mate, one key ingredient is the strong sex-attracting pheromone released by the female. The male travels some distance looking for this and when found – it’s party time and this usually takes place about midnight. Couldn’t you really factor names like “Este Lauder” and “Scioto Breeze” into the equation for other species?
With moths, the following night 4 – 600 eggs will be laid on the underside of leaves. The eggs incubate in 8 – 13 days and this takes us back to the caterpillar stage again.
Before, we mentioned unique differences. The Luna moth of Canada and Northern states will only go through one cycle or generation of mating and eggs, while in the South, the Luna may do 3 – 4 cycles per year.
Another unique trait of the Luna is, of course, its markings. We can assume the Luna name comes from the “moon-like” round white dots on its green wings. If you look closely, you can see more than lime green in the wings. There will be a tan edge on the front of the wing and yellow on the side edge of the wing.
The hairy antennae are quadripectinate on the Luna. This means comb-like or on four sides. The male antennae will be wider and more feathery with a yellow-green color, The female Luna antennae will be smaller and blue-green. Transgenders will be in drag and use either bathroom. May the forest be with you.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.