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What Time is it in Nature: Luna Moth

July 25, 2012

Luna Moth, Actius luna

Nighttime is a great time at Prairie Ridge!  Many nocturnal animals make an appearance on the grounds after dark, including this spectacular insect, the Luna Moth.

Luna moth

What is a Luna Moth?  Luna Moths are large, lime green moths in the Giant Silkworm Moth family, Saturniidae.  Look for long tails trailing off the hind wings and eye spots on all four wings.  With wingspans that can exceed 4 inches, Luna Moths are one of the largest moth species in the United States.

What do Luna Moths eat?  Luna Moth caterpillars eat a variety of trees, including White Birch, Persimmon, and Sweet Gum.  They don’t feed at all as adults and instead depend on food they store as caterpillars to survive.

How long do Luna Moths live?  Because Luna Moths do not feed as adults, they have a very short adult lifespan and typically live less than a week.  During that time, the females will release a chemical that attracts male moths, pairs of moths will mate after midnight, and the females will lay about 200 eggs in small groups of 4-6 eggs.  The bright green caterpillars will hatch and begin a new generation in about a week.

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation.  Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photo by Chris Goforth)

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