Mastering Luna Moth Attraction: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Luna moths are stunning creatures, known for their large size and unique, seafoam green to yellow color. Attracting these beautiful insects to your garden can be a rewarding experience, as they contribute to the overall beauty and ecosystem of your outdoor space.

In order to attract luna moths to your garden, it’s essential to create the right environment for these nocturnal insects. By providing a range of host plants for the moth caterpillars and ensuring proper conditions for mating, you can increase the chances of having these mesmerizing visitors grace your garden.

Understanding Luna Moths

Luna Moth Life Cycle

The Luna Moth (Actias luna) is a beautiful large moth found in North America, particularly in Canada and Saskatchewan. Its life cycle comprises four stages:

  1. Eggs: Female moths lay eggs on host plants.
  2. Larvae: Bright green caterpillars hatch and feed on leaves.
  3. Pupae: After molting, the caterpillars form cocoons inside which they pupate.
  4. Adults: Adult moths emerge and mate, living only for a few days.

The number of generations varies, with one generation in the north, two in the Ohio Valley, and three in the south.

Identifying Male and Female Luna Moths

Male Luna Moths:

  • Have larger, feathery antennae
  • Smaller than females

Female Luna Moths:

  • Have smaller, less feathery antennae
  • Larger than males

Habitat and Distribution

Luna Moths are members of the Saturniidae family and thrive in a variety of habitats ranging from forests to suburban areas. Here’s an overview of their distribution:

  • Found primarily in North America
  • Common in Canada and the United States
  • Occur across eastern North America from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia in Canada, south to east Texas and northern Florida in the United States

To attract Luna Moths, planting host plants such as walnut, hickory, or sweet gum trees can help. Also, reducing outdoor lighting can make your area more appealing to these nocturnal moths.

Attracting Luna Moths

Creating the Ideal Habitat

To attract luna moths, you need to create a habitat that supports their needs. Luna moths mate and lay eggs, which hatch into caterpillars in about 10 days1. The caterpillars then feed on leaves, grow, and molt1.

To support the moths’ lifecycle:

  • Provide a variety of host plants for caterpillars to feed on
  • Plant flowering plants that adult moths can use as a source of nectar

Host Plant Options2

Common Name Benefits
Birch provides leaves for caterpillars
Walnut nourishes caterpillars with leaves
Sweetgum supports caterpillars’ growth
Hickory suitable for feeding caterpillars
Beech provide leaves for caterpillars

Plants for Attracting Luna Moths

To attract adult luna moths, planting specific flowering plants provide a food source for moths with a proboscis3. Offer a variety of options to increase the chances of moths visiting your garden:

  • Lilac – fragrant and appealing to moths
  • Fuchsia – provides nectar that adult moths prefer
  • Phlox – flowers at night, making it a good attraction for nocturnal moths

Dangers and Survival

Protecting Luna Moths from Predators

Luna moths are large green moths with discal eyespots on their wings and long tails on their hind wings ^. The tailed wings help distract nocturnal predators such as bats, letting the moth escape. Moths use their unique features to camouflage in their surroundings; hence, it’s essential to provide ideal habitat conditions to support their survival:

  • Natural foliage
  • Dimly lit areas
  • Safety from pesticides

Conservation and Threats

Luna moth populations face threats due to habitat destruction, pollution, and pesticides. Human activities have resulted in the loss of essential host plants and natural environments, reducing their breeding and feeding grounds. To conserve the species, conscious efforts should be made to:

  • Plant native host trees like sweet gum and hickories
  • Reduce pollution and light disturbance in their habitat
  • Minimize pesticide usage, especially on host plants

Importance to the Ecosystem

Luna moths play a vital role in their ecosystem, serving as a food source for predators and contributing to the pollination process. Their unique features also make them excellent bioindicators for assessing the ecosystem’s health. However, their exceptional beauty also makes them susceptible to collection by enthusiasts.

Comparison of Luna Moths and other insects

Features Luna Moths Other Insects
Eyespots Present on wings Varies
Long tails On hind wings Rarely found
Nocturnal lifestyle Yes Varies
Role in the ecosystem Pollination and food source Varies (pollination, pest control, etc.)

Preserving luna moths is essential for supporting biodiversity and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. By understanding their dangers and ways to ensure their survival, we can contribute to their conservation and promote a balanced environment for all species.

Luna Moth Sightings

How to Photograph Luna Moths

Luna moths, part of the Saturniidae family, are great subjects for photography due to their beauty. They have a wingspan of 4-5 inches and display vibrant green coloration; they can be found in forested areas with plenty of alder, red maple, white oak, wild cherry, and hickories.

To photograph Luna moths:

  • Be prepared for their active hours, typically at night since they’re nocturnal insects.
  • Attract moths by setting up a white sheet and illuminating it with a porch light or other artificial lights.
  • Use a tripod and a macro lens to capture stunning close-ups of their unique features like antenna, eyespots, and those impressive, papery wings.

Be mindful not to disturb any Luna moth caterpillars in the area while you’re photographing the adult moths.

Setting Up a Moth Trap

Finding Luna moths can be a bit tricky because of habitat loss, but you can increase your chances by creating a moth garden or setting up a moth trap in your backyard. To set up a moth trap:

  1. Choose an area with plenty of their favorite food plants—they particularly love sumac, pecan, and persimmon.
  2. Get a light trap—this can be a commercially available moth trap or a DIY setup using a bright light and a white sheet.
  3. Secure the trap—if you decide to use a sheet as the base, hang it on a rope between two trees or poles. This makes it easier for moths to land and for you to observe them.


  • Easy to set up, even as a DIY project
  • Can attract a variety of moths, not just Luna moths
  • Not harmful to moths or other insects


  • Might not work well without the right host plants nearby or in heavily urbanized areas
  • Can attract more common, less vibrant moths like sphinx moths, cecropia moths, and silk moths
Species Wingspan Active Hours Distinct Features
Luna Moth 4-5 inches Night Green wings, eyespots, delicate antennae
Hummingbird Moth 1.5-2 inches Day and Night Resembles a hummingbird, clear wings
Cecropia Moth 6-7 inches Night Huge, with reddish-brown wings and crescent-shaped white spots

Remember that Luna moths are not pests, so enjoy their presence and encourage others, especially children, to appreciate these fascinating creatures. By doing so, you’re contributing to the conservation of the Luna moth population and the incredible biodiversity of Florida and the broader U.S.


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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Newly Metamorphosed Luna Moth


My sister found this in her yard today. She lives in New Smyrna Beach, FL. Do you know what it is? Looks like an alien! Thanks so much,

Hi Joanie,
This is a newly metamorphosed Luna Moth whose wings will soon expand to their full size. We have two pages on our site devoted to this etherial beauty.

Letter 2 – Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar


October 24, 2011 5:08 pm
Signature: ERIC BATES

Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar

Hi Eric,
Many caterpillars change from green to orange, brown or even pink just prior to pupation.  This is a Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar.  Here is a similar photo from BugGuide.  In the spring it will emerge into an adult Luna Moth, a beautiful pale green moth with long tails.

Letter 3 – Newly Eclosed Male Luna Moth


Subject:  Deformed Luna Moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  High Springs, Fl.
Date: 09/21/2017
Time: 07:05 PM EDT
I’m still not sure what I was seeing here but it looks to me like a Luna moth that didn’t enclose completely. It was crawling but obviously couldn’t fly. It kept falling over weeds and flipping onto It’s back so I put it on my oak tree and it energetically crawled far up the trunk.
How you want your letter signed:  Elizabeth C.

Newly Eclosed Male Luna Moth

Dear Elizabeth,
This is a newly eclosed male Luna Moth, but we do not believe it is deformed.  Metamorphosis is a process that takes time.  After the adult Luna Moth emerges from the cocoon, it might take several hours for the wings to expand fully and harden.  We suspect your individual eventually flew away to mate.  Because of your kindness, you may have helped this guy survive, so we are tagging your submission with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Letter 4 – Luna Moths Mating


Luna Moths (again!)
My apologies. I inserted the photo instead of attaching it. Hope it finds you this time. Thanx again,
R.G. Marion

Ed. Note: R.G. sent us a very nice letter and no image was attached. We requested that she resend the letter and attach the image as we really wanted to post the mating Luna Moth photo she described. She resent the image, but not with the original letter which has vanished into the black hole of our mailbox system. We are now posting her wonderful photo and are awaiting her to resend her great letter. Sadly, it is nearly impossible, with the the mail volume we receive, to put things together piecemeal. In most cases, we would give up and not make additional requests, but the nature of this particular image warrents the time, frustration, and multiple posting requirements that the piecemeal sending necessitates. Sadly, it now limits the number of letters that will get a response today.

As per your request ~ don’t mean to waste your time!
Hello Bugman,
This photo is a couple of years old, but I still find it intriguing. Not only would it make a nice addition to your “BUG LOVE” page, but I have a nagging question about the photo itself: It looks as if there’s more than one connection between the two moths. Could you tell me if there is actually something, visible, passing between the them? There appears to be… just my imagination? These beauties were suspended over the entrance to my garage (with spider passing by) in Cosby, TN ~ The Great Smoky Mountains. With thanx for your time,
R.G. Marion

Letter 5 – Luna Moths Mating


moth sex?
Thought you might enjoy these pictures of a pair of luna moths that spent Saturday afternoon snogging on our house. Weirdly, I had just been looking at the many beautiful luna moth pictures on your site last week, and wishing I could see one in person. Someone must have been listening. Great site btw.

After all these years running this website, we are thrilled to finally have photos of North America’s lovliest insects mating.

Letter 6 – Mating Luna Moths


Luna Moths Mating
Hello! I was just scrolling the Luna Moth page on your website and saw that you have a couple of pictures of Luna Moths mating. Today we have a pair on our fence and they have been there all day. We saw one on the fence last night by himself and today he was joined by his mate. I have been outside several times to take pictures and thought you might enjoy a few to post on your website if you’d like. I was saddened to read that the Lunas only live a few days. No wonder these two are spending so much time together! Enjoy!
Shelly W.
Near Winston-Salem, NC

Since I sent these, we have also located the chrysalis/cocoon of what we assume to be the female who was originally on the fence the day beflor, as the females apparently do not fly until after mating.

Hi Shelly,
Thank you for taking the time to resend your gorgeous image of mating Luna Moths.

Letter 7 – Mating Luna Moths


Luna Moths Mating
I got this great shot of two luna moths mating at work today. They stayed together for a very long time. Thought you’d enjoy it. Love your website! It’s always the first place I go to when I’m researching bugs.
Sheila Bragg
Rincon, GA

Hi Sheila,
What a positively beautiful image of mating Luna Moths. Thanks for sending it to us.

Letter 8 – Mating Luna Moths in Arkansas


Mating Lunas
I Live in Northwest Arkansas and these mating Luna moths were on my deck this morning thought you might want to add to your collection.
Tony Powell

Hi Tony,
The progeny of these mating Luna Moths will pass the winter as pupae and emerge in the spring.

Letter 9 – Newly Metamorphosed Luna Moth


Mutant Bug-Leaf hybrid
This critter has my family back in Indianapolis all worked up. Any info we could get would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,

Hi Sean,
This is a newly metamorphosed Luna Moth. Its wings will continue to expand and harden and soon it will fly off to its nuptial flight.

Letter 10 – Mating Luna Moths


mating Luna Moths
Hello again! I saw these beauties outside today, in Nottingham, Pa. I have seen many lunas over the years, and even found an egg case, but never have seen 2 mating. I hope this means more moths for me in near future. Enjoy,
Lee Weber

Hi Lee,
Thanks so much for sending the most romantic photo we have seen in a long time.

Letter 11 – NOT Luna Moth Caterpillar but Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar


Luna moth larva this far north?
Hello Bugman…
You have a wonderful site here and I’m hoping you can help with identifying a bug for me. It is about 2 1/2 inches long and as thick as well… my thumb comes to mind but a tube of lipstick is about right. I discovered a very large caterpillar marching across my front lawn this afternoon. (September 3 2007) I took about 25 pictures of it and came to the conclusion it is a luna moth larva….BUT I cannot find anywhere that they live this far north. I live in central British Columbia, Canada. Prince George, to be precise. I found that they eat paper birch so I deposited it there. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my paper birch but it looked like it needed a tree and had it succeeded in getting over to the neighbors it probably wouldn’t have made it to the end of its already, too short, natural life. Long story short…. it seems to be spinning a cocoon. I’d like to see the results and take a bunch of pictures. How can I do that without buying the bird cage? Also, will this larva live inside the cocoon all winter? Even if it’s -25 or -35 celsius and has a mountain of snow heaped on it for 5 months? Maybe I will buy the cage…. I have bird feeders out but that’s no guarantee they won’t eat the big green bug. I’ll attach a couple of pictures (I resized them to 1/3rd their original size) and maybe you’ll be able to identify it as something other than a Luna. (I really hope it is a Luna and that I’ll get to see the final results next spring) Thanks in advance for your expertise. Sincerely;

Hi Heather,
This is a Luna Moth Caterpillar and they do live in the extreme North. They spin a cocoon around a dried leaf and pupage inside. The leaf remains on the ground among leaf litter. The blanket of snow actually helps keep the pupa from freezins as it acts as insulation with the decaying leaves providing additional heat.

Correction(09/04/2007) “luna” from BC, damsel drowning
A couple of questions regarding recent postings: Are you certain the Luna Moth caterpillar from British Columbia is in fact a Luna? I’ve raised Polyphemus for a number of years, and it sure looks like a “Poly” to me. The white bars on the sides are key. As for the damselfly drowning during mating, it seems to me I’ve read the males sometimes do this to prevent other males from mating with “their” females. Anything to that? Cheers!
Don Dinndorf
St. Augusta, MN

Thanks Don,
We stand corrected.

Letter 12 – Our first Canadian Luna Moth sighting for 2011


LUNA MOTH in fredericton, new brunswick, Canada
Location: Fredericton, New brunswick, Canada
June 6, 2011 5:00 pm
Dear Bugman,
I found this BEAUTIFUL specimen the other day on my way to work here up IN Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I have NEVER seen such BEAUTIFUL MOTH AROUND HERE BEFORE. I believe it to be a LUNA MOTH if i am not mistaken? are these perdy fellows supposed to be this far up north? is it true they only live SEVEN days?
wow, i count myself blessed to have seen and held such a perdy specimen! I couldn’t help but smile as it flew off my hand and away.
Signature: Facinated in Canada

Luna Moth in Canada

Good morning Fa[s]cinated in Canada,
Thanks so much for reporting your Canadian sighting of a Luna Moth.  Each year, we enjoy tracking the appearances of Luna Moths beginning with the Southernmost reaches of the range in Texas and Florida, generally in February.  As spring weather conditions move north, the Luna Moth sightings come in subsequent months until they culminate with sightings in Maine and Canada in late May and early June.  In the south, a second generation often flies in the late summer or early autumn with the second generation passing the winter as a pupa.  The individuals from the north also pass the winter as a pupa after the caterpillar forms a cocoon using a leaf that usually falls to the ground where it is covered in fallen leaves and eventually snow.

Letter 13 – Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar


Location: Clarks Summit,Pennsylvania
August 3, 2011 11:00 am
one of my friends found this at their house.I think it’s a luna moth caterpillar,but they are green not red.
Signature: Joey M

Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar

Hi Joey,
You are correct that this is a Luna Moth Caterpillar.  Many caterpillars change color, often darkening, just prior to pupation.  This is a pre-pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar.

Letter 14 – Male Luna Moth


Subject: What’s my monster green kite
Location: Eastern PA, USA
July 12, 2013 5:29 pm
Please help me identify this most unusual bug which appeared on the meter of my house in eastern PA
Signature: Chris

Male Luna Moth
Male Luna Moth

Hi Chris,
Your colorful subject line caught our attention.  This is a male Luna Moth, and it is most likely a second generation that eclosed from a caterpillar that was produced by Luna Moths that emerged from their cocoons earlier this past spring.  Luna Moths do not feed as adults, and they only survive a few days, long enough to mate and lay eggs for a future generation. 

Letter 15 – Male Luna Moth: sidewalk rescue


Subject: Luna Moth
Location: 26 State St., Montpelier VT
June 8, 2014 5:26 am
I live in downtown Montpelier, VT. Returning from walking the dog at about 8 AM today (6/8/14), I found this guy resting on the sidewalk right in front of my door. At first I thought it was a leaf, but when I realized it was a moth I figured I had to move it before someone stepped on it (or my dog tried to eat it). After nudging it a bit, it flapped around for a few feet, but seemed to have trouble flying. It ended up in the well of tree planted in the sidewalk. I thought it might be injured. I gently nudged it a bit more, and it managed to get enough air to clumsily climb into the sky, and then it flapped off above the surrounding buildings. It was quite a sight!
Signature: Ryan Kriger

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Hi Ryan,
For your noble efforts regarding the safety of this male (feathery antennae) Luna Moth, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.  Since Luna Moths do not eat and only live a few days, we hope he successfully locates a mate so he can help perpetuate the species.

Letter 16 – Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar


Subject: Orange Grub in woodsy area
Location: Woods in Adirondack Mtns. near Saranac Lake, NY
September 1, 2014 9:50 am
This grub was found while camping in the woods near a pond in the Adirondacks in northern New York a few days ago. It’s color was what stood out the most. Its legs had super suction capabilities and it crawled around the ground at a very fast paced. I almost think it’s a Scarab Beetle Grub but the color doesn’t match most. We watched the grub crawl across the ground, up a dead tree stump and come down the other side. It found it’s way to an area of the ground covered in pine needles, dead leaves, twigs. It looked like it was going into some sleep mode where it began to coil into itself, covering itself with the surroundings on the ground. As time went on it looked as if it cacooned itself in a hard sticky shell covered by the leaves, twigs, and pine needles. Left before seeing what happened after. Thought it was a very interesting little bug.
Signature: Lauren

Luna Caterpillar ready to Pupate
Luna Caterpillar ready to Pupate

Hi Lauren,
This is a Luna Moth Caterpillar, and it has turned from green to orange as it is ready to pupate, a transformation that you observed.  Many people agree that the Luna Moth is one of the loveliest North American moths.

Letter 17 – Male Luna Moth


Subject: luna moth
Location: nc
May 3, 2016 5:54 am
hello, please help !
I have (what I believe is a male) luna moth by my front door for several days now. I was hoping it would have flown away at night but it hasn’t and now its at the bottom of the door step and does not look like its in a comfortable spot his wings tip bent as he is long. I have read a previous post that someone had moved one to a tree , I would do that but its pouring out and he is currently sheltered from my porch. please advise what I should do as I do not want to see it die
Signature: thanks

Male Luna Moth
Male Luna Moth

Like other Giant Silkmoths, Luna Moths do not feed as adults, meaning they must survive off of energy in the form of fat stored while the caterpillar was feeding.  Flying takes tremendous energy.  The female Luna Moth lives as an adult to mate and then lay her eggs.  The male Luna Moth flies to locate a female when he senses her pheromones.  He does not fly around needlessly.  If there is no female nearby, your male Luna may be waiting until he catches the scent of a female before he flies off.  In a previous Cecropia Moth posting, we recommended relocating the female so that she might lay eggs.  There would be no purpose to relocate this male unless it is to place him nearer to a mate.  Adult Giant Silkmoths, including the Luna Moth, only live a few days, perhaps a week at most.  Sadly, if this male does not sense a female soon and fly to mate with her, he may die at your front door.  Our advice is to wait and let nature take its course.

thank you so much for responding , I did relocate him to a tree in my front yard so no stray cats in the area will eat him as a previous posting on your website had mentioned. Im so happy I found your website and was educated about these beautiful moths.

Letter 18 – Male Luna Moth


Subject: Luna Moth
Location: Rockford, Mi
June 17, 2016 8:43 am
I have never seen this one before but when a co worker informed me I had to identify it! It’s a Luna Moth resting on the wall outside the back door.
Signature: LisaM

Male Luna Moth
Male Luna Moth

Dear LisaM,
Congratulations on your wonderful sighting.  The more feathery antennae indicate this Luna Moth is a male.

Letter 19 – Mating Luna Moths


Subject: plant-like creature
Location: Swarthmore, PA
August 5, 2016 4:51 am
This, which I took at first to be a plant, was clinging to a lamp post this morning. What is it please?
Signature: talluncle31

Mating Luna Moths
Mating Luna Moths

Dear talluncle31,
Though we have already received several images of Luna Moths this year, we are especially thrilled to post and feature your mating pair of Luna Moths, arguably the most distinctive looking North American moth species.  The male in the pair has the more feathery antennae, which he uses to sense the pheromones of the female, who is full of eggs and has the fatter abdomen.  Luna Moths do not eat as adults, and they live only long enough to mate and procreate.

Mating Luna Moths
Mating Luna Moths

Thank you very much for the identification of the Luna Moths. They were still there as it got dark last evening, but no longer in contact. This morning they were gone.

Letter 20 – PrePupal Luna Moth Caterpillar


Subject: What’s this caterpillar?
Location: South central Wisconsin
September 10, 2016 6:15 am
Found this 3 to 4 inch long, 1 inch wide caterpillar crawling out of the grass and onto the driveway. We live in south central Wisconsin. What is it?
Signature: Brandy

Prepupal Luna Moth Caterpillar
Prepupal Luna Moth Caterpillar

Dear Brandy,
The orange color of this Luna Moth Caterpillar indicates it is prepupal.  You can verify our identification by comparing your image to this BugGuide image.

Thanks! I think you are right. It has cocooned now.
Brandy Wasvick

Letter 21 – Madagascar Moon Moth in Captivity


Subject: Giant Silkmoth
Location: captivity
January 8, 2017 10:03 am
I saw a FB Post saying you didn’t have a photo of the Giant Silkmoth. The drawing is so spot on, I don’t think you need one, but here it is – from the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, AZ
Signature: Ranger Dan

Madagascar Moon Moth

Dear Ranger Dan,
Thanks so much for sending in your gorgeous image of a Madagascar Moon Moth,
Argema mittrei, in captivity.

Letter 22 – Newly Eclosed Luna Moth


Subject: Moth maybe?
Location: Texas
August 21, 2017 8:28 pm
Saw this side climbing on my porch
Signature: Mp

Newly Eclosed Luna Moth

Dear Mp,
This is a freshly eclosed Luna Moth, meaning it has just emerged from its pupal stage and its wings have not yet expanded in functional wings that allow adult Luna Moths to fly.

Letter 23 – Pre-pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar


Subject:  is this a luna caterpillar?
Geographic location of the bug:  Athens, Georgia
Your letter to the bugman:  This looks like a luna moth caterpillar but it’s orange, not green ?? Found crawling up my window screen Sept 2017, in wooded suburban-rural area.
How you want your letter signed:  curious about color

Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar

Dear curious about color,
Many caterpillars change color just prior to pupation.  We agree that this is a Luna Moth Caterpillar and it is about to spin a cocoon and pupate.  See this BugGuide image.

Letter 24 – Newly Eclosed Luna Moth


Subject:  White insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Marietta, GA
Date: 07/30/2018
Time: 07:50 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found this in backyard. It has 6 legs, white and fuzzy with green sections on its tail. It resembles a catapilar, but it’s legs are more roach-like and thick.  It has small wings that look almost useless.
How you want your letter signed:  Brian

Freshly Eclosed Luna Moth

Dear Brian,
This is a newly eclosed Luna Moth, meaning it has just emerged from its cocoon, and because its wings have not yet fully expanded and hardened, allowing it to fly, it still maintains the appearance of a caterpillar, somewhat.  A mature Luna Moth is arguably the loveliest North American moth.

Letter 25 – Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar


Subject:  big silkmoth caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Bangor, Maine
Date: 08/14/2019
Time: 03:47 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi! We rescued this caterpillar who was crossing the highway.  I’ve seen photos of it online with people saying it’s a Luna, but I’m thinking maybe Polyphemus?
How you want your letter signed:  Ryan and Emily

Pre-Pupal Luna Moth Caterpillar

Dear Ryan and Emily,
Distinguishing a Luna Caterpillar from a Polyphemus Caterpillar can be challenging, but we believe your caterpillar is a Luna Caterpillar.  The pink coloration is due to it being pre-pupal, and we have seen numerous images of pink pre-pupal Luna Caterpillars.  Luna Moth caterpillars, according to BugGuide, are:  “Larva lime-green with pink spots and weak subspiracular stripe on abdomen. Yellow lines cross the larva’s back near the back end of each segment (compare Polyphemus moth caterpillars, which have yellow lines crossing at spiracles). Anal proleg edged in yellow. Sparse hairs.”  Your individual is lacking the “yellow lines crossing at spiracles” that are present in Polyphemus Caterpillars.

Thank you so much Daniel.  What a tricky ID!  Much appreciated.
Update:  August 17, 2019
Bugman (Daniel)– our strangely-colored Luna caterpillar has made a cocoon by folding up some birch leaves in its fish tank terrarium.  I’m aware that it should be misted periodically so it doesn’t dry out…how often is that necessary?  How many days can you skip the misting, without it drying out to death?
Thank you again so much for the ID of this creature.  –Ryan
Hi again Ryan,
We do not raise caterpillars in captivity, but the problem with a terrarium is that it is cut off from external conditions.  Outdoors, the cocoon would be exposed to rain and other precipitation.  Another problem with raising caterpillars indoors is the stable temperature that occurs in modern homes, and this can effect emergence time which presents problems when adults emerge at a time of year that prevents release back into the wild (like an indoor emergence in the dead of winter).  The important consideration is not how often you mist, but when you mist.  If the captive conditions get too dry, the pupa might desiccate.  Trying to duplicate outdoor conditions in a protected environment is a goal.  Good luck.  

Letter 26 – Bug of the Month November 2019: Possibly Lunate Zale


Subject:  moth in Halloween costume
Geographic location of the bug:  Washington, DC, USA
Date: 10/30/2019
Time: 05:39 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi! I scared up this beauty amid fallen red oak leaves on 10/30/19. I was admiring its leaf camouflage, then I turned it to another angle and realized that it was dressed, one day early, in its Halloween costume of cat-owl-fighter jet. Can you identify it?
How you want your letter signed:  Rachel B

Possibly Lunate Zale

Dear Rachel,
We are confident your Owlet Moth is in the genus
Zale which is represented on the Moth Photographers Group.  Perhaps it is the Lunate Zale, Zale lunata, which is pictured on BugGuide.  Daniel is leaving Los Angeles tonight to fly to your fair city with a group of Journalism students tonight.  He’s hoping it isn’t too cold and rainy.  We are going to tag your posting as the Bug of the Month for November 2019.

Lunate Zale

Update:  November 8, 2019
Daniel rushed to post this submission live the day he left town to travel to Washington DC where his LACC students won both the CMA Pinnacle and the ACP Pacemaker Award for best magazine from a two year school.  He decided in the time crunch to only post the image where the Lunate Zale could be identified.  Now that time permits, he has added this additional image with its interesting and unusual angle.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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  • Just wanted to report another luna moth in Moncton, just southeast of Fredericton, NB.

  • I wanted to post that had a luna moth under my deck today.I live in Lincoln N.B which is just outside of Fredericton N.B. I thought it was a big leaf at first. I don’t know how long it was there but when I checked this evening, it was gone. I have never seen one before.

  • June 25/11 We saw a luna moth north of Parry Sound in the Franklin Island area washed up on the beach covered in sand. We cleaned it off and put it in a safe place to recover, however the wings were damaged, so it may not have survived.

  • we saw one of these today

  • nathan stewart
    July 13, 2013 10:54 am

    I just found one on my screen window in saint john new Brunswick

  • Rich Carroll
    April 27, 2014 6:29 am

    Today, April 27, 2014, at about 8 AM, on the Eastern Shore of MD., I observed a pair of these moths, side by side, on a support post for one of my trees. They were about 3′ off the ground I photographed them as best I could.

    Perhaps they were mating??? Are they rare in my area? Any other information??

    Regards, Rich

    • They are found in your area. Though they are not considered rare, population numbers may vary from location to location. More information is available on BugGuide.

  • Rich Carroll
    April 27, 2014 6:29 am

    Today, April 27, 2014, at about 8 AM, on the Eastern Shore of MD., I observed a pair of these moths, side by side, on a support post for one of my trees. They were about 3′ off the ground I photographed them as best I could.

    Perhaps they were mating??? Are they rare in my area? Any other information??

    Regards, Rich

  • i found a caterpillar today 8/4/2018.. he isturning orange . will he pupate for me indoors?

    • When a Luna Moth Caterpillar changes from green to orange in color, it is nearing pupation. If you provide favorable conditions, it should pupate indoors, but we would urge you to try to duplicate outdoor temperatures and conditions so it emerges on schedule and can be permitted to mate and reproduce.

  • hi, I took a picture of one on the wall. same month day just different year…lol.. beautiful. Fredericton NB Canada

  • Dear Sheila,
    I love your picture of the mating Luna Moths.
    I would like your permission to make a painting using the photo as inspiration- I don’t know how it will turn out!
    Best wishes, Jilly.

  • Dear Sheila,
    I love your picture of the mating Luna Moths.
    I would like your permission to make a painting using the photo as inspiration- I don’t know how it will turn out!
    Best wishes, Jilly.

  • Ruth Preston
    July 8, 2023 1:04 pm

    Luna Moth found clinging to the door of my shed in Pocologan, NB. It may be nearing the end of it’s life cycle, as it is not inclined to move, no matter how often I approach it.


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