Subject: Luna Moth
October 10, 2015 6:50 pm
We have had such an amazing journey with the Luna Moth this summer … starting with the large green caterpillar stowing away in a bag in early June, later to be found as a cocoon inside the bag, which when placed on our screened in porch … emerged as the beautiful moth several weeks later. Upon attempting to set it free (by opening the screened door at night in hopes that it would fly out during the night), she instead attracted her mate to the porch, and 250 eggs later … we soon found ourselves providing walnut leaves for a large sum of caterpillars for about 40 days. They all cocooned and we were banking on them overwintering in their cocoons, when to our surprise … two have emerged … and they have already attracted a mate (from beyond the screened porch) who found the screened in porch last night. I fear that we will start the cycle again, and there won’t be enough leaves still on the trees (Indiana) to keep them fed until they pupate. Plus, its getting cold outside. Should I bring them inside, or let nature take its course?
Signature: Ellen in Indiana
We are speechless about your submission, but at least we have the wherewithal to title it the “Story of the Year for 2015” and to post your three gorgeous images, which we took the liberty of cropping and formatting for web.
Good Morning Ellen,
We believe you should try to raise some of the caterpillars in captivity and release the others into the wild. According the BugGuide, the caterpillars will feed upon the leaves of: “The caterpillars eat a variety of trees including white birch (Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), pecans, and sumacs (Rhus).” Thankfully you have choices other than walnut for feeding the caterpillars. You can also turn to Bill Oehlke’s magnificent site on Silkmoths for instructions on raising Luna Moth Caterpillars, though it sounds like you don’t have much need for that information. Not all adults emerge at the same time and having generations of moths mature at different times is undoubtedly a benefit to the species. Thanks again for your thrilling account of raising Luna Moths.
Update: October 12, 2015
Thank you so much for your reply and advice. I had another female emerge today and have attached a short video. This is before her wings dried and expanded. The male who showed up on Sat., I think must have been close to his last days. There has been no pairing activity and pretty sure that he will expire soon. Planning to leave the porch door open tonight to let the females fly off if they wish, or attract another male to the porch if there are any in the vicinity. Really hoping that the remainder of the pupae remain cocooned for the winter! Again, thank you for the reply. I have had fun sharing the link to the Story of the Year!!
You can try refrigerating the remaining cocoons to prevent them from hatching until spring.