The Luna Moth (Actias luna) is a large lime-green saturniid moth found in North America from east of the Great Plains in the United States to northern Mexico and from Ontario eastward through central Quebec to Nova Scotia in Canada.
The caterpillar of this moth feeds on the leaves of birch, alder, persimmon, sweet gum, hickory, walnut, and sumac trees. The adults do not eat or have mouths, they only mate and reproduce – because of this they only live about a week.
The Luna moths produce differing numbers of generations based on the climate in which they live. In Canada and northern regions they will produce only one generation per year. They reach adulthood from early June to early July. In the north eastern United States around New Jersey or New York, the moths produce two generations each year. The first of these appear in April and May, and the second group can be seen approximately nine to eleven weeks later. In the southern United States, there can be as many as three generations. These are spaced every eight to ten weeks beginning in March.
Adults emerge from their cocoons in the morning. Their wings are very small when they first emerge and they must enlarge them by pumping bodily fluids through them. During this time, their wings are very soft and fragile and they must climb somewhere safe to wait for their wings to harden before they can fly away. This process takes about 2 hours to complete. Female Luna moths lay roughly 100-300 eggs, 4-6 eggs at a time, on the underside of leaves. These eggs incubate for eight to thirteen days, depending on climate. Larvae grow to approximately nine centimeters in length, and spend approximately one week each in the five stages of its development.
The Luna moth has a wingspan of between 8-11.5 cm. It has long, tapering hindwings that have eyespots on them in order to confuse potential predators. Although rarely seen due to their very brief (1 week) adult lives, Luna moths are considered common.
Luna moths can be a valued learning opportunity for kids and families. Luna moth cocoons can be suspended from a cage. At times, the Luna moth will move in its cocoon and make sounds like a fidgeting mouse. When the moth emerges it will hold nicely to its old cocoon and show off its beauty.