Luna Moth Metamorphosis: Raised in Captivity

Sat, Jan 24, 2009 at 7:31 PM
These are just a few pictures I took of the numerous Luna moths I raised!
My daughter and husband found a “white butterfly” on the outside doorjamb in the morning when they left for school/work. She mentioned that the ‘butterfly’ was still there when they came home that evening. It was then that I HAD to go look – I don’t know of a ‘white butterfly’ that would have received THAT much attention from my daughter. I gasped, “It’s a LUNA MOTH!” I was stumbling thru my words as I tried to explain how few people even get to SEE a REAL Luna! I noticed she was laying eggs on the woodwork and she was exhausted, hence the pale coloring. I carefully placed her on a Sweet Gum leaf that was attached to a branch (in a small cup of water) and let her lay the rest of her eggs in peace. Within 3 days she had passed away and I was now a “grandMOTHer” expecting zillions of babies! It was an exciting process keeping the leaves alive and fresh for the emerging little ‘kits.’ (I know, officially it’s not the correct term, but since I was soon going to have CATerpilla rs running around, KITTENS naturally come first!) I made several trips outside, picking leaves off the trees in our yard, each day. They grew so FAT, so quickly that I HAD to name most of them GARFIELD. I might also mention that this happened LAST YR when North Carolina was experiencing a severe DROUGHT! The neighbors probably thought I was nutz! (And we just moved in THAT summer!) Next thing, I was outside collecting ‘leaf litter’ so they could make their cocoons. All this was done in my ‘quilt room’ in plastic tubs of different sizes because the CATS were in different phases of growth. When things FINALLY settled down and everyone was snug and quiet, I went outside again to collect branches and nailed them to the walls in the room. (Now everyone KNEW I was nutz!) I carefully attached tiny wires to the stems of the leaves used to make the cocoons and hung them on the branches. I know in the wild, the cocoons would be hidden in leaf litter. When the moths emerged they woul d need a safe place to expand their wings to dry, so I hung them on the branches. And then I waited….and waited….and waited…
One day I walked into the room and I saw my FIRST MOTH clinging to her branch! Now I was a REAL GRANDMOTHER and things were going to get hectic again!

Luna Moth Metamorphosis
Luna Moth Metamorphosis

In the first picture you can see an emerging moth; the 2nd picture shows the same moth several minutes later with her wings slightly larger. Gnomes were watching closely the entire time and I managed to take a picture of one before he ran off! The last picture shows another moth drying his wings on his cocoon. By this time I made up several ribbons announcing which moths were “boys” or “girls.” I placed the ‘teenagers’ in a mesh laundry bag to rest and fully dry their wings before I released them the following day. Well, one morning I woke to find 1 of the 2 ‘teen dudes’ mating with the ‘teen girl,’ I knew I shouldn’t have left them alone 😉 I know they have a very short lifespan and most of the females were already pregnant when they were released. Our neighborhood adjoins a park and groups of 2-4 moths were released eit her in my neighborhood or the nearby park every couple of nights. Just their ‘baby cocoons’ and ribbons remain. And the room is quiet again….
…and I’m waiting!
Cathy- a proud grandMOTHer “Who wants to see pictures?”
Cathryn B.
Matthews, North Carolina

Luna Moth Metamorphosis
Luna Moth Metamorphosis

Hi Cathy,
This is just about the most charming letter we have ever received, or at least that we have received in a long time. You are our kind of kook. What a wonderful lesson in metamorphosis you have provided for your daughter. Since we are currently putting together some initial materials for a book we are going to attempt to write, and our agent has suggested the “moth chapter” as something that will interest the publishers, we are taking a cue from your letter to include a section on raising caterpillars. Thanks so much for your wonderful letter and accompanying photos. This is the first Luna Moth of 2009 for our site, and we expect to be getting many photos from the southern portions of the Luna Moth range in the next two months. Luna Moth sightings from Maine don’t generally occur until May. We are greatly amused that your quilting room has become a multipurpose hobby room for the raising of caterpillars, and we hope a Luna Moth inspired quilt is on the horizon.

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Another Luna Moth
…and another Luna Moth appears to the grandMOTHer!
August 20, 2009
Hello all!
Just a short note to say I am learning so much from your site and the BugGuide site also! I challenge myself to identify mysterous ‘creepy crawlers’ before I write to you – so far, so good! I am still puzzled by a ‘string/line’ of eggs I’m finding on our screens, but I’m determined to do it on my own — I get stubborn like that sometimes 😉
OH! Last week, another Luna Moth showed up at our front porch light! I didn’t take any pictures this time, I just enjoyed her presence! Was it just last year that I raised the “kits” to caterpillars,nailed branches on the walls in my quilt room, hung the cocoons and took pictures of the emerging baby moths – all fat and plump, waited until their wings expanded and released them at midnight? Then, I LOVED it when you called me your “kind of kook!” (I’m 50 yrs old now and my daughters wish I would act my age — but that’s no fun! I STILL “play” and don’t plan to stop any time soon!) So, if you need pictures of the “kits, cats, (co)coons or moths for your book, you know where to reach me.
Today I was telling my next-door neighbor about the luna moths I raised and she asked if a ‘luna” is a big, green butterfly with long tails? I said ‘yes’ and she said she thinks she saw one last week. I told her it was one that was on my front porch light and I watched it until it disappeared, heading toward her home. She mentioned that it flew past so quickly, she thought she saw a ‘fairy!’ I told her she DID !!!
…and “sew” on,
Cathryn “the grandMOTHer!”
PS. i tried to send this letter without an image cuz this letter is mostly a ‘thank-you’ note, but it wouldn’t send without a picture…so you get a picture of my Border Collie “Shep” — he is a bit ‘buggy’ 😉
Cathryn B., Matthews, NC
Matthews, NC 28105

Hi again Cathryn,
Luckily you provided us with enough information for us to easily find your original posting and to attach this new letter to that posting.  You can provide comments and updates to your own posting easily by attaching a comment.  Once we have approved a reader once, they may continue to provide comments without us having to create a posting.  We will attach a link to your January letter so you may easily locate it in the confusing archive that is our web site.  They sound like True Bug eggs.

3 thoughts on “Luna Moth Metamorphosis: Raised in Captivity”

  1. I can see it now, telling my teenage daughter that we have “true bug” eggs on the screens. “Mom, I know they are real bugs, but….” “Emily, They are not ‘real’ bugs, they’re TRUE BUGS! 😉 (…and then she’ll walk away shaking her head as I laugh 😉 )
    WOW! You guys ARE good! Without even a picture, detail description and ‘asking’, you IDed the eggs! I forgot to mention that I did once see little ‘bugs’ that had just emerged and they looked like the Hemipterans crawling on a cicada shell in another posting. Now I know what the adults look like! Thanks!

  2. Hello again! I thought this year would be quiet, and yet once again I’m raising baby ‘kits’ into Luna Moths! During July 2010, another exhausted Luna was laying her eggs on the wood railing. I left some eggs there and allowed the moth to lay the rest of her eggs on Sweet Gum leaves in a protected location. I now have ZILLIONS if 1/4″ ‘kits!’ This year I will release the caterpillars in different stages of developement on the Sweet Gum trees in our yard, while allowing others to morph into moths.
    In 2011, early January, I will be a ‘real’ Grandmother as we expect our first grandchild! I’m working on the baby’s quilt…and the quilt room is once again very busy!
    I am VERY surprised that I am able to see at least one Luna Moth each year since we moved here. And


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