Moths

The Luna moths (Actias luna) are now present in Frederick County. Luna moths are one of the largest moths in America, with wingspans up to 4.5 inches. The adult has a beautiful light green color with two round “eye spot” marks on the body. This color scheme helps camouflage and acts as a defense mechanism, confusing predators. The Luna moth inhabits most of America and Canada east of the Great Plains. In Maryland there are two annual generations of the moth. The first generation hatches from overwintering eggs in April, and the second generation develops about 12 weeks later. Once the eggs hatch, the immature caterpillar (larvae) goes through five stages of development before it enters its pupae stage. The caterpillars feed on tree leaves; they prefer hickory, walnut, persimmon, red maple, and smooth sumac. The adults usually emerge in late April and early July with the sole purpose of reproducing.

Luna Moth

Credit: frederick.forestryboard.org - Mike Kay

This year the first hatch has been delayed due to the late spring. The adults are more active in the evenings or early morning, live for about one week, and do not feed: they don’t even have mouthparts.

After mating the female will lay eggs on the underside of leaves, then perish. The image of beautiful Luna moth was used for a postage stamp in 1987 and it can be seen in a commercial for “Lunestra” sleep aids.

Article by FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 6/8/14