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luna moth

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The luna moth (Actias luna) is large and green and native to North America. It is known for its long, curved tail and large, translucent wings. The luna moth is considered one of the most beautiful moths in North America. They are active at night and are often attracted to lights. It is a member of the Saturniidae family, and the concentric ring eyespots on its hind wings resemble Saturn's rings. Read on to learn more about Actias luna .

Five Fresh Facts About the Luna Moth

  • The Luna Moth is one of the largest moths in North America with a wingspan of up to 5 inches!
  • Adults have residual mouths. They can't eat. Their sole purpose is to mate. Then they die.
  • The luna moth got its own US postage in 1987.
  • They were originally known as phalena plumata daudata , which means gloriously feathered tail.
  • Moths smell with their feet.

Luna moth: scientific name

The scientific name of the luna moth is Actias luna . Its Latin name translates to active moon, and indeed they are most active at night. However, the luna moth is named for the moon-shaped spots on its hindwings. The surname Saturniidae refers to the false eyes or eyespots of concentric rings, similar to Saturn's rings.

Luna Moth: Appearance

The luna moth is a large green moth found in eastern North America. They usually weigh between 0.06 and 0.1 ounces (1.7 and 2.8 grams) and have a wingspan of up to 5 inches. Its wings are translucent pale green. The hind wings have long tail-like extensions. The body is also green with a small red head. They have false eyes on their hind wings. These false eyes, also known as ocelli (individually ocellus), deter predators by making moths appear larger and more intimidating. The ocelli are usually round with a black center, mimicking the appearance of a real eye. These ocelli are also the reason this moth is called the luna moth. Their monocular eyes are thought to resemble satellites.

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Macro of a bright green luna moth perched on a branch, it's mostly bright green and reddish brown pruning - upper-wings-its-hindwingsfeature-eyespots
The luna moth's wings are a translucent pale green.

©Amy C Anderson/Shutterstock.com


Luna moths are so short-lived that they cannot do anything but mate. Females lay eggs and then die. That's it. To attract a mate, females release pheromones from specialized structures called scent glands located on the sides of the abdomen. These pheromones can attract males up to 6 miles away! Males also have scent glands, which detect pheromones from females. These scent glands are located on the antennae of males. Moths tend to mate after midnight. The female lays her eggs the next night, and several nights thereafter. Females lay 200-400 eggs under the leaves of walnut, sweet gum, persimmon and birch trees.


The luna moth lives in deciduous woodlands and forests in North America, especially in the eastern regions. They also live in Canada and Mexico. Adult worms usually live about a week and do not eat during this time because they have small vestigial or underdeveloped mouths. In the larval stage, they feed on the leaves of trees such as hickory, walnut, and sweetgum, but as adults, they survive on the energy reserves of the caterpillar stage.


As mentioned earlier, luna moths don't eat. Instead, they rely on energy stores in the larval stage.


The luna moth has many natural enemies. No. 1 of these, however, is the bat. Primarily due to their nocturnal nature, luna moths encountered more bats. Evening birds, such as house sparrows and robins, will eat adult moths. Small mammals, such as squirrels and mice, may also eat them in the larval stage.

A bright green luna moth caterpillar on a tree branch. The luna moth is on the right side of the frame. It appears to be crawling on tree branches, and is vertical, at an angle to the left frame. It has spiky hairs running the length of its segmented body.
Small mammals, such as squirrels and mice, may eat luna moths in their larval stages.


Luna Moth: The Menace

The main threat to the luna moth is habitat loss. They survive on specific types of trees, such as sweet gums and persimmons. As these trees are felled for development or other human activities, the moths lose places to breed and feed.
The use of pesticides and herbicides can also negatively affect these fascinating creatures. Insecticides designed to control other insect populations can also kill caterpillars, adults and their food source!
Preserving habitat and reducing pesticide use are critical to ensuring the luna moth's survival.

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conservation status

The Luna moth is not currently listed as endangered or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, populations of this species have been declining in recent years. Some states list them as species of special concern or designate them as protected species. Efforts to protect and protect the Luna moth include habitat restoration, pesticide/herbicide reduction, and public education about the importance of these moths in the ecosystem.

Luna Moth: Life Cycle

Luna moths go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult.
1. The female lays eggs on the leaves of the host plant.
2. The eggs hatch into small green caterpillars that feed on the leaves of the host plant.
3. Caterpillars go through several molts (molting) as they grow.
4. The caterpillar completes its growth and forms a cocoon, usually attached to a branch or leaf, where it pupates.
5. After about three weeks, the deformed moth emerges from the cocoon. This usually happens in the morning to give the moth's wings time to dry before making their first night flight. Adults live a week or less.

luna moth in literature

Luna moths have been depicted in various genres, often as symbols of beauty, mystery, and transformation. In literary works, it is also often used to reflect the fleetingness of life. In Emily Dickinson's poem The Luna Moth , it is described as a winged prophet of the air , flitting around like shards of the moon. In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a scene in which the character Scout Finch looks at a moth on her Flying under the porch light, she reflects on the transience of all things. In Margaret Atwood's poem "The Moths," the creature is the central figure, representing the transience of life and the inevitability of death.

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Luna Moth Movie Night

Interested in seeing a luna moth? They only come out at night – and relatively late, for that matter. Grab a coffee, as the best time to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures is between midnight and 1:00 am! Best viewing requires a few sheets of white paper and a few bright lights. Hang a sheet on a clothesline or similar structure. Place the second sheet on the ground under the first sheet. This is to make it easier to see any moths that land on the ground, and to avoid accidentally stepping on them. Shine a light on the sheets. look! You can now see these fascinating moths.


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No, adult luna moths have vestigial mouths. However, degenerate means underdeveloped or nonfunctional. So, while luna moths do have mouths, they cannot use them to eat. In contrast, adult luna moths rely on energy stores in the larval (caterpillar) stage.

The luna moth is named for the false eyes on its hindwings, which are thought to look like Earth's moon. Known as ocelli (individually ocellus) , these false eyes are used to deter predators by making moths appear larger and more intimidating.

The Luna moth is not currently listed as endangered or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, populations of this species have been declining in recent years. Some states have listed the Luna moth as a species of special concern or designated it as a protected species.

Grab a coffee because the best time to see luna moths is from midnight to 1:00 am! For best results, hang a sheet of white paper and shine a bright light on it.

Due to their nocturnal nature, luna moths are often preyed upon by bats. Their long hind wings are thought to be an adaptation to get rid of the bat's sense of echolocation.