One of my favorite insects is the Luna Moth. One day last year I had the joy of seeing one on the brick of my home right beside my front door. It actually stayed there resting for a day or two, and then it was gone. Luna moths are usually a rare sight to see. They spend the majority of their time in forests, and are active at night adding to their elusiveness. Another aspect that adds to their elusiveness is their life cycle. The adult stage of a Luna Moth lasts for about a week. During this time they do not eat, because they do not have a proboscis (mouthpart).
Luna moths lay their eggs on broadleaf host plants such as walnuts, hickories, sumacs, sweet gum, and persimmons. They can be found within a large range in the United States. They are located as far north as Maine and North Dakota, and as far south as Florida and Texas. They have differing numbers of generations within this range. Here in Kentucky we usually have about two generations each year. The larva will feed for about a month, then create a cocoon while wrapping itself in leaves.
When adults emerge from their pupa, they are strongly attracted to light sources. This may result in low populations in urban areas, due to the moths going to the lights instead of mating. If the female has mated, she will begin to lay eggs the next evening after, and continue for several nights.
Luna moths have a lot of predators to watch out for. They are a host for parasitoids, and are a food source for bats, owls, etc. As caterpillars, they do have a defense. When threatened they will make a clicking sound to warn predators before they regurgitate distasteful fluids, which may cause predators to think twice. As adults their twisted tails may interfere with echolocation of bats.
Without a doubt, the Luna Moth is one of the most beautiful members of the family Saturniidae. The next time you see one take a moment to admire it, because sadly you will not have much time to view its beauty.
Submitted by Kara Back, Agent for Horticulture, Taylor Co. Cooperative Extension Service