Luna Moth Discovery

One unusually chilly May morning, J and I were out for a jaunt when we nearly stumbled (literally) upon two big old green moths- complete with beautiful sweeping tails and “eyes” in the wings. I quickly snapped a picture on my phone and we ran back inside to tell Dada to come look.

Luna Moth Discovery“I wonder if they’re Luna moths,” I pondered, thinking of the only large green moth I knew. At first we thought that they were supposed to be more luminescent than the examples we found, but a quick Bing search confirmed these fine specimens as genuine Luna moths.

One of the moths flew off, but this one was happy to sit on our hands and pose for pictures.

lunamoth2 lunamoth3 lunamoth4Since it’s getting to the time of year again when Luna spottings are more common, I thought I’d do some research on them and share it with you. Here are some quick facts for you budding lepidopterologists (and your kids too):

  • They are properly known as Actias luna, are members of the Saturniidae family, subfamily Saturniinae. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
  • They are nicknamed the Giant Silkworm Moth.
  • They can have wing spans of up to 4.5.” That’s one massive moth!
  • They fly in spring and summer, and mostly at night.
  • There are several varieties of Luna moths, apparently divided by southern and northern regions. We haven’t made it as far as deciding exactly which variety our Lunas are.
  • According to one source, Luna Moths lay eggs on the leaves of black walnut trees. Makes sense, since we have a big old black walnut in the front yard.
  • Adult moths only live about a week, and do not eat during that time! They only mate and lay eggs before dying.

Homeschoolers, here’s an opportunity to talk about the differences between butterflies and moths, as well as the characteristics of this particular moth. For my then 2 year old, that meant colors, patterns, body, antennae, and wing descriptions. In his terms, it was more like, “It’s a big green moth, mama! Look at those fuzzy antennae!” Etc, etc. Older kids may enjoy more in-depth study. 🙂

And of course, we had to let him get a hands-on experience:

lunamoth5Allowing the moth to crawl on his hand, and reminding him not to grab or touch.

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Rockin’ his sweatpants tucked into his socks! (That’s part of tick bite prevention. 😉 )

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I love that toothy smile he gets when he’s really enjoying something.

After photos had been snapped and ample time was taken to enjoy our mothy friend, my hubby gently put the moth back into the shrub we found him near. Do you find these great green beauties in your area?

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