Luna moths are great big moth full of beauty! The luna moths scientific name is Saturniinae. Adults are very strong fliers and are attracted to lights. Females lay eggs in small groups or singly on both surfaces of host plant leaves. Mating takes place after midnight, and egg-laying begins that evening. The eggs hatch in about one week and the caterpillars are sedentary and solitary feeders. Leaves and silk are used to spin papery brown cocoons in litter under the host plant.
A variety of trees including white birch (Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), and sumacs (Rhus). This moth is often mistakenly referred to as the Lunar Moth, instead of the Luna Moth. It is also sometimes referred to as the American Moon Moth.
They live in Common places, Nova Scotia west to Saskatchewan and eastern North Dakota; south to central Florida, the Gulf Coast, and eastern Texas. The adults don’t feed, and their habitat is deciduous hardwood forests. They fly from May-July in the north, and from March-September in the south.
Their wing span is 2 15/16 – 4 1/8 inches, and adults can fit right in your hand! Each instar generally takes about five days to a week to complete. After hatching, the caterpillars tend to wander around before finally settling on eating the particular plant they are on. These caterpillars tend to be gregarious for the first two to three instars, but separate and live independently after that. These caterpillars go through five instars before cocooning.
At the end of each instar, a small amount of silk is placed on the major vein of a leaf and the larva then undergoes apolysis. The caterpillar then undergoes ecdysis, or molts from that position leaving the old exoskeleton behind. Sometimes the shed exoskeleton is eaten. Each instar is green, though the first two instars do have some variation in which some caterpillars will have black underlying splotches on their dorsal side. Variation after the second instar is still noticeable, but slight. The dots that run along the dorsal side of the caterpillars vary from a light yellow to a dark magenta. The final instar grows to approximately nine centimeters in length.
The Luna Moth pupates after spinning a cocoon. The cocoon is thin and single layered. Shortly before pupation, the final, fifth instar caterpillar will engage in a “gut dump” where any excess water, food, feces, and fluids are expelled. The caterpillar will also have an underlying golden reddish‐brown color and become less active. As a pupa, this species is particularly active. When disturbed, if it feels threatened the moth will wiggle within its pupal case, producing a noise. Pupation takes approximately two weeks unless the individual is diapausing. The mechanisms for diapause are generally a mixture of genetic triggers, duration of sunlight or direct light during the day, and temperature.