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Luna Moth Fact File

Appearance

The luna moth has a pair of large green wings which rest on either side of the large furry body. These wings have a dark border across the forewing.

Each wing features an eyespot which look like the sleeping eyes of an animal and helps to scare away predators. Their is an eyespot on the hind and forewings. At the end of the wings are long yellow-green tails with a red border.

On top of the furry body is a pair of feathery antennae. These are used to detect pheromones emitted by other moths.

They have a wingspan of between 7.6 and 10.1cm (3-4in) across. Animals in the south of the range tend to be smaller.

Diet

Luna moths do not eat as adults and only live for a single week. They do not have a digestive system and only vestigial mouth parts.

Caterpillars will feed on the leaves of the tree on which they were laid.

luna moth

Scientific Name

Actias luna

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Length

7.6-10.1cm (3-4in)

Lifespan

One Week as an Adult

Diet

Herbivorous

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Range

North America is the native home of the luna moth. They can be found from Mexico to the Canadian border. In the United States they are found in all states east of the Great Plains.

Habitat

Luna moths can be found in forested areas such as deciduous woodlands with the required trees for the caterpillars to eat such as walnut, persimmon and hickory.

luna moth

Reproduction

Females emit pheromones when they are ready to mate which attract a male. Their sensitive antennae are used to detect these signals.

Following a successful mating the female will lay 200 eggs on to the underside of leaves. These will hatch after eight to thirteen days.

The caterpillar has a bright green body with a yellow stripe down the side.

These caterpillars will eat leaves from the tree on which they hatched. As they grow they will shed their skin five times before they form a cocoon. Their cocoon is formed from silk and leaf pieces with a thin, papery appearance. It takes 2-3 weeks to spin in the tree and falls to the floor after a few weeks where it is camouflaged and protected.

When they emerge from the cocoon they will hang on a branch and dry out their wings which are filled with fluid. They will fly away once night falls.

Behavior

The atlas moth is nocturnal resting during the day before moving around at night.

They use the moon to navigate. The expansion of artificial light has affected their ability to navigate which reduces their chances of finding a mate.

luna moth

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the luna moth include bats, birds, insects, spiders and toads. Much of their time is spent avoiding these predators.

Luna moths will flutter their tail which distracts the predator. The predator may bite off parts of the wings but this protects the rest of the body. Researchers from the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University determined that the tail shifts the locations of bats echoes and helps to keep them safe.

Humans have reduced their population through habitat destruction through the removal of their food plants and poisoning of the leaves on which caterpillars feed.

Quick facts

The name luna moth comes from Roman goddess of the moon Luna in reference to the moth's distinctive spots of the hindwings.

They are otherwise known as the American moon moth.

A luna moth was featured on a postage stamp issued in 1987.

luna moth

Photo Credits

Top

By NCBioTeacher – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98161779

Middle One and Two

Kugamazog, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=889889

Bottom

Public Domain. USFWS.

References

Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Patlan, L. 2000. "Actias luna" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 26, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Actias_luna/

Sparks, S., Benson, E., Culin, J. and Burgess, L., 2021. Luna Moth. [online] Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina. Available at: <https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/luna-moth/> [Accessed 28 January 2021].

Chao, M., 2021. Goddess of the Moon: the life history of the Luna Moth. [online] Finger Lakes Land Trust. Available at: <https://www.fllt.org/goddess-of-the-moon-the-life-history-of-the-luna-moth/> [Accessed 28 January 2021].

Entnemdept.ufl.edu. 2021. luna moth – Actias luna (Linnaeus). [online] Available at: <http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/moths/luna_moth.htm> [Accessed 28 January 2021].

Kids. 2021. Luna Moth. [online] Available at: <https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/insects/luna-moth/> [Accessed 28 January 2021].

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