What Eats Luna Moths? Discover Their Surprising Predators

Luna moths, with their vibrant green color and elegant long tails, are undoubtedly one of the most visually striking insects found in North America. You might be wondering, as beautiful as these moths are, what creatures would naturally prey on them?

During their short lifespan, luna moths face various predators that are eager to take advantage of this sizable moth as a tasty meal. From their early life stages as caterpillars to their transition into full-grown moths, these intriguing insects must navigate the perils of survival in the natural world.

It’s essential for you to keep in mind that even the most stunning creatures in nature participate in a complex food chain that contributes to maintaining the balance and health of their ecosystem. Recognizing the predators of luna moths can provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of the world around you and the fascinating roles that these animals play.

The Luna Moth: Actias Luna

The Luna Moth (Actias luna) is a lime-green marvel among moth species, gracing the forests and woodlands of North America with its dazzling presence. You’ll find these large, distinctive moths with a wingspan of 3 to 4.5 inches from Maine to Canada, spotting them in the cover of night thanks to their stunning green color. Their beauty is truly a sight to behold.

Luna Moths face threats from various predators seeking to make a meal out of them. Some of their most notable predators include:

  • Bats
  • Birds
  • Spiders
  • Mantises
  • Rodents
  • Wasps (parasitic)

Each predator poses a unique danger to the Luna Moth population, but these captivating creatures have adapted ways to ward off attacks. For example, their green color and long tails help camouflage them against lurking threats. Meanwhile, the large eyespots on their wings can confuse and intimidate potential predators.

In conclusion, the Luna Moth (Actias luna) is a striking species that adds a touch of magic to North American woodlands. Despite being a target for various predators, this majestic moth has adapted effective methods of survival, ensuring we can continue to enjoy their enchanting presence for years to come.

Physical Characteristics

The Luna Moth (Actias luna) is a truly remarkable creature with distinct features that make it stand out from other moth species. You will notice that their wings are broad, triangular, and come in a captivating sea-foam green to yellow color. The wingspan of an adult Luna Moth can range from 3 to 4.5 inches, making it one of the largest moths in North America.

One striking characteristic you’ll notice on the Luna Moth’s wings are the eyespots – these are round, transparent spots bordered by an outer ring. These eyespots serve as an effective defense mechanism against predators by diverting their attack from the moth’s vulnerable body.

Their coloration and eyespots aren’t the only unique characteristics of Luna Moths. Another prominent feature is the long tail on each hind wing, which adds to their overall captivating appearance. In addition to their appearance, male Luna Moths have feathery antennae, which help them locate females for mating by detecting the female’s pheromones.

To sum up, here are the main physical characteristics of the Luna Moth:

  • Broad, triangular wings
  • Sea-foam green to yellow color
  • Wingspan ranging from 3-4.5 inches
  • Prominent round eyespots on all wings
  • Long tail on each hind wing
  • Feathery antennae (especially on males)

With these unique features, it’s no wonder the Luna Moth is considered one of the most beautiful and fascinating moth species found in North America.

The Life Cycle of Luna Moths

The Egg Stage

During the egg stage, adult female luna moths lay their eggs on host plants. These eggs are usually laid in clusters and they hatch in around a week. As a result, you’ll find small, green caterpillars emerging to begin the next stage in their life cycle.

The Larva Stage

The larva stage of a luna moth primarily consists of caterpillars feeding on host plants. During this time, they go through a series of growth stages called instars, where they molt and grow in size. Here are few things to know about luna moth caterpillars:

  • They are bright green in color with a pattern of yellow bands.
  • Caterpillars can reach up to 3 inches in length before they’re ready to pupate.

The Pupa Stage

When caterpillars have reached their maximum size, they spin a silk cocoon and enter the pupa stage. Inside the cocoon, they transform into an adult luna moth. This process typically lasts for 2 to 3 weeks. Some factors that affect the pupa duration include temperature and humidity.

The Adult Stage

Upon emerging from the cocoon, adult luna moths are attracted to light and begin their search for a mate. Male luna moths have feathery antennae that help them recognize the pheromones emitted by the female moths.

After mating, the cycle starts anew with the female laying eggs to ensure the next generation of luna moths thrives. Adult moths have short lifespans, commonly living for only about a week, as they do not feed and rely solely on the energy reserves from their larval stage.

Keep in mind that the life cycle of luna moths can vary depending on factors like location, weather, and availability of host plants.

Habitats and Distribution

Luna moths, characterized by their stunning green color and distinctive tails, are native to most of the Eastern United States1. They prefer deciduous forests and can be found from Florida2 up to Canada3.

In Florida, the University of Florida explains that luna moths are part of the area’s diverse ecosystem. They go through multiple generations in a year, depending on the region: one generation in colder regions, two in the Ohio Valley, and up to three generations in the South, like Florida4.

Luna moth caterpillars feed on a variety of trees. Some examples include:

  • Sweetgum
  • Persimmon
  • Hickory
  • Walnut5

As you can see, these moths are not limited to specific tree types, which contributes to their widespread distribution. Luna moths are truly fascinating, and understanding their habitats and distribution can inspire a deeper appreciation for the beauty of nature.

Luna Moth Diet

Luna Moth Caterpillars

Luna moth caterpillars have a more diverse diet than their adult counterparts. They feed on the leaves of various host trees, such as sweetgum, white birch, pecan, sumac, and hickories1. In the south, their preferred host plants are typically sweet gum, hickory, walnut, and persimmon trees2. As they grow, the larvae will feed on the leaves, deriving their needed nutrients from them. Some of the key features of luna moth caterpillar feeding include:

  • Feeding on host plants’ leaves
  • Preference for specific trees depending on geographical location

Adult Luna Moths

In contrast to their caterpillar stage, adult luna moths primarily focus on reproduction, with feeding becoming less of a priority. Their mouthparts are vestigial, making it impossible for them to eat3. Their short lifespan (only about a week) allows the adult luna moths to invest their energy in mating and laying eggs rather than finding food.

To summarize, here’s a comparison table of the feeding habits of different stages of luna moths:

Luna Moth Caterpillars Adult Luna Moths
Diet Leaves of host trees Do not eat
Host Trees Sweetgum, white birch, pecan, etc. N/A

It’s important to remember that luna moth caterpillars and adult luna moths have very different diets and feeding habits. The caterpillars focus on consuming leaves from various host trees, while the adults do not eat.

Threats and Predators

Birds and Bats

Luna moths, with their captivating green color and impressive size, face various threats in their natural habitat. Among the most common predators of these delicate creatures are birds and bats.

Birds, particularly during daylight hours, prey on luna moths in various stages of their life cycle. For instance, your backyard songbirds may feed on luna moth caterpillars. During their adult stage, moths can fall victim to larger birds such as owls and hawks.

Bats, on the other hand, are nighttime predators. They take advantage of the darkness to hunt luna moths, utilizing echolocation to navigate and detect their prey. Despite the moth’s impressive size and eyespots that deter predators, there’s no guarantee of escaping a determined bat seeking its next meal.

Comparison Table: Birds vs. Bats as Luna Moth Predators

Birds Bats
Active during the day Active at night
Prey on caterpillars and adult moths Primarily prey on adult moths
Examples: songbirds, owls, hawks Example: Little brown bat

In conclusion, it’s apparent that luna moths face significant threats from both birds and bats, illustrating the challenges these beautiful creatures must overcome to survive in their environment.

Unique Luna Moth Behaviors

Luna moths are known for their stunning appearance, featuring large wings spanning 3-4.5 inches with long, tapering tails on the hindwings. They come in a pale or lime-green color, with dark leading edge on the forewings, and an eyespot on each wing. These striking features can mystify you, but it’s their unique behaviors that truly set them apart.

Adult Luna moths only have a brief lifespan, just a matter of days. During this time, their primary goal is to reproduce. Males focus on detecting pheromones released by females. Their feathery antennae play a crucial role in this process, helping them sense even the faintest whiff of a pheromone to locate their mate.

Female moths, on the other hand, are busy laying eggs. They can deposit them either singly or in clusters, on the tops and bottoms of host plant leaves, as seen at Mountain Lake Biological Station. This ensures that their caterpillar offspring will have immediate access to food once they hatch.

Two key hindwing and forewing features enable Luna moths to evade predators. Their eyespots help create the illusion of a larger, more threatening creature, while their long wing tails can confuse bat echolocation signals, giving them a higher chance of survival. These fascinating adaptations make Luna moths truly unique in the world of moths and butterflies.

Luna Moths and Humans

Luna Moths as Pets

Luna moths, belonging to the order Lepidoptera, can be fascinating creatures to observe and care for. If you’re considering keeping them as pets, it’s important to understand their unique needs. They go through different stages in their lives in various populations and generations. From egg to caterpillar, to pupa, and finally as an adult moth, each stage requires specific care.

For example, as a caterpillar, a luna moth needs a food supply from their host plants which include walnut, hickory, and sweet gum trees. You should ensure it has access to enough food to cater to its fast growth rate during this stage. Raising them as pets can be a rewarding experience as it allows you to witness their incredible transformation, but it also requires dedication and attentiveness to cater to their specific needs.

Role in Scientific Research

Luna moths have also played a role in scientific research and are studied by various universities, such as the University of Florida. Researchers often focus on their life cycle, morphology, and populations. Their distinct life cycle characteristics make them an interesting subject for study and observation.

Some of the features that make researchers interested in studying luna moths are:

  • Their striking appearance with the green color and long tails
  • They belong to the family of giant silk moths
  • Variations in voltinism (number of generations per year) depending on their geographic location

By studying these aspects, scientists can gain valuable insights into Lepidoptera taxonomy, behavior, and ecology. This research also helps in understanding the potential threats faced by luna moth populations and how to contribute to their conservation.

In summary, luna moths hold a unique place in human fascination, both as pets and subjects of scientific research. Whether you’re an enthusiast looking to keep them at home, or a researcher studying their behavior, these captivating creatures are undoubtedly worthy of attention and admiration.

Conservation Status

Luna moths, also known as American Moon Moths, are a species of giant silk moths belonging to the Saturniidae family. With their unique appearance, these moths have a special place in the North American ecosystem.

Their populations are not currently threatened, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe. Luna moths face natural predators in their environment. For example, birds are known to prey on the moths, leading to a decline in their numbers, especially during daylight hours.

In comparison to other members of the silk moth family, such as the Giant Silkworm Moth, Luna moths have some interesting traits which help keep their populations stable:

  • Color: Their seafoam green to yellow coloration acts as camouflage against tree leaves.
  • Tails: The long, tapering tail on their hindwings can distract or deter bats, giving Luna moths a better chance of survival during nighttime foraging.

These traits combined give Luna moths better protection against predators, but other factors such as habitat loss and pesticide use could impact their populations. To ensure their continued survival, you can take small steps to support conservation, including:

  • Planting native trees and plants that serve as host species for Luna moth caterpillars.
  • Reducing pesticide use in your garden, allowing moths and other beneficial insects to thrive.
  • Creating moth-friendly spaces in outdoor areas, like using soft outdoor lighting or leaving dead leaves for caterpillar habitat.

By supporting conservation efforts, you can help ensure that Luna moths and other species in the Saturniidae family continue to enchant future generations with their distinctive beauty.

Footnotes

  1. https://bugs.uconn.edu/luna-moths/ 2

  2. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/luna-moth/ 2

  3. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/luna-moth 2

  4. https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/moths/luna_moth.htm

  5. https://mlbs.virginia.edu/organism/actias_luna

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Luna Moth in Maine

 

Subject: Luna Moth
Location: Bridgeton, Maine
June 21, 2016 4:36 pm
Found this guy on the cement next to a gas pump. Was still alive thankfully. He or she also did not judge me for pumping $40.01…
Signature: Dave

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Dave,
We suspect this Luna Moth was probably attracted to the lights at the all night gas station, and then remained after the sunrise.

Letter 2 – Luna Moth Siting

 

I was hiking on the Zaleski Backpacking trail in Ohio today andmiraculously saw one of these hanging upside down under a twig. I can’t beleive I saw it given it looked almost exactly like a leaf…unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me so no pictures. I was trying to find out what it was and came across your page…I know it’s a page about pictures of them and not stories about sitings but I just wanted to let you know and thanks for the web page…google is the best. Next time I go hiking I’m definitely bringing the camera. oops! I guess I should have mentioned that I was talking about a luna moth.

Letter 3 – Luna Moth Story

 

Luna Moth
I was so excited to see this beautiful moth on Manitoulin Island. As a child growing up, I used to raise (for lack of a better word) cecropia moths, much to my mother’s dismay since the caterpillars have voracious appetites and make short work of the tree they develop in. You can immagine my excitement when I saw this huge beauty just sitting on a door frame more than happy to pose for the camera. I have included a close-up of the head and shoulder area that nicely picks up the detail of the hairs and feathery antanae. I had never seen one of these before and later found out it was a Luna moth. I also found out that they are not common in Ontario. Fortunately for me, they are plentiful on Manitoulin Island, according to the locals. Hopefully they will continue to thrive on this Island for future generations to enjoy
Nadjia

Hi Nadjia,
Thanks for the touching letter.
.

Letter 4 – Luna Moth: Second Generation in South

 

Can you identify this bug??
Hello! I found this bug on my screen door — it stayed there for three days and then it was gone — do you by chance know what it is? I live in Virginia if that is of any help. Thank you,
Terri

Hi Terri,
This etherial beauty is a Luna Moth. We started to get photos from the South this year in early March, and by late May we were getting sightings from Maine and Canada. Your photos represent a second generation in the South. Where warm weather prevails for longer periods, the Luna Moth has a second generation that will overwinter as a pupa inside a cocoon wrapped in a leaf that falls to the ground and remains under the snow buried in the fallen leaves.

Letter 5 – Luna Moth Metamorphosis: Raised in Captivity

 

NEWBORN LUNA MOTH – IT’S A BOY !
Sat, Jan 24, 2009 at 7:31 PM
Hello!
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.

Letter 6 – Luna Moth: wipes feet before entering home!!!

 

Luna Moth?
Fri, May 22, 2009 at 6:43 PM
Hello! We are living in Northwest Florida now. Originally from Southern California. Lived In Hawaii for a total of 12 years. We thought we had seen a lot of amazing creatures, but this one was so beautiful! Wasn’t sure if it was a Luna Moth, but we looked at your website, and hoped we had narrowed it down. It didn’t seem to be as big as some people stated, but maybe it was young! I love your site, and refer to it for all the new things we encounter here! I found it on the back door mat.
Sheryl R.
Pensacola, Florida

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Sheryl,
Your moth is indeed a Luna Moth.  There is little likelihood that the Luna Moth would be confused with any other North American species.  Since Luna Moths have an adult life of only a few days, and since the size of a Luna Moth is determined by the growth of the caterpillar and not the adult form, this moth has reached its maximum size.  Not all Luna Moths are the same size and your specimen is just a smaller individual.

Letter 7 – Luna Moth newly metamorphosed

 

Large, furry, moth with leaf like wings?
April 19, 2010
My bug loving children squealed for me to grab my camera when they spotted this beautiful gal in the driveway just now. She’s so brightly colored and furry. I’ve never seen anything like this and would love to know if she is a moth. She’s about two inches long. Her wings look like leaves. Her beige antennae are an amazing feathery detail. Her legs are furry and red while her body is white. Any help is appreciated. I tried to get detailed photos to fully capture her beauty.
Resa in Atlanta
Atlanta, GA

Luna Moth

Furry Moth…one more thing…
April 19, 2010
Whoa! I just noticed in my photos that the moth’s wings changed colors from the yellowish on the ground to a bright green when she walked onto the stick. Are they still developing or do they have ninja skills?
Sorry for duping the pics. Seems I can’t just send a whoa revelation without a pic.

Luna Moth

Hi Resa,
Your Luna Moth is freshly metamorphosed, having just emerged from its cocoon.  Its wings are not yet expanded for flight.  That should take a few additional hours, and it should be ready to fly after sunset.

Letter 8 – Luna moth sighted in Virginia

 

BIG green flying insect
Location: South, west Virginia
May 9, 2011 3:09 pm
Found this hanging on the porch the other night, HELP please should we move? Thank you, Tim
Signature: however you like

Luna Moth

Dear Tim,
This gorgeous creature is a Luna Moth and we have been tracking the emergence of Luna Moths in the more northern latitudes as the weather warms and spring conditions come to the higher latitudes.  There is no need to move.  The Luna Moth is perfectly harmless.

Letter 9 – Luna Moth sighting in Florida

 

Luna Moth
Location: Tarpon Springs, Florida
October 28, 2011 8:58 am
Dear bugman,
We had a visit from a luna month this morning. Is it common to see them in Tarpon Springs, Florida? I live in Tampa but work here and I have never seen one of these before!
Signature: Amber

Luna Moth

Hi Amber,
The thing about Luna Moths is that they are quite common in parts of their range and noticeably absent from other parts of their range.  We don’t know how frequently they are sighted in Tarpon Springs.

Letter 10 – Luna Moth rescued from Spider Web

 

Beautiful Luna Moth
Location: Boyce, Virginia
May 4, 2012 5:10 pm
I submitted a beetle for identification but I also wanted to share you my special visit from a Luna moth! I was honored it rested upon my hand for a moment after I saved it from a spider web. 🙂
Signature: Admin of Plants, Fungus & Bugs…Oh My!

Luna Moth

Dear Admin of Plants, …
The Luna Moth is surely the most distinctive of all North American Moths and many folks consider it to be the prettiest North American moth.  Though you deprived a spider of a healthy meal, we have to honor you with our Bug Humanitarian Award tag.

Letter 11 – Luna Moth: sighting several years old

 

Subject: Luna moth
Location: Ypsilanti Michigan
February 17, 2013 1:28 pm
Just wanted to share this bc I think they are beautiful and only ever seen this one in real life. Taken in June 2010 I believe :))
Signature: Rachel R

Luna Moth

Hi Rachel,
We were excited to see your subject line because we generally get our first reported sightings of Luna Moths in the southern portion of their range in February, and sometimes as early as January, but we have yet to receive a photo from a 2013 sighting this year.

Letter 12 – Luna Moth sighted several years ago

 

Subject: Luna Moth
Location: Smyrna, Tennessee
March 3, 2013 9:27 pm
Hello Bugman,
I stumbled across your site and LOVE it!! In my garage in April 2008, I saw a beautiful moth and just had to take a photo (well several photos actually) because of how stunning it was. I had never seen one like it before. I have since identified it as a Luna Moth, however I am unsure of the sex or how you can tell the sex, if you could possibly clarify that for me I’d be grateful. After reading a bit on your site, I learned that it was in it’s final life stage at the time I saw it in my garage. I am hoping it was able to find a mate and reproduce as it was such a beautiful specimen! I am sending in one photo in particular because of how clear the photo turned out, and it is a fairly close photo too, you can see a lot of detail on the wings. I hope you can share the photo on your site as an aid in identification for other people. I am one of those who catch spiders in the house, or wherever, and release them back outdoors, much to my husband’s dism ay! Thank you for your site! I can see it being a big help in the future as I am always trying to figure out what this is or what that was :-).
Signature: Elizabeth

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Hi Elizabeth,
We are thrilled to hear how you are enjoying our site.  We just reported our first Luna Moth of 2013 last week, and we expect to begin posting new photos on a regular basis as winter transitions to spring.  This is a male Luna Moth and you can recognize that because of his antennae.  Male Giant Silkmoths have more developed antennae than females because they locate females through the pheromones they release.  Here is an image of a female Luna Moth from our archives for comparison.

Letter 13 – Luna Moth in Pulaski Township

 

Subject: Luna Moth
Location: Pulaski Twp Pa
June 1, 2014 6:56 pm
Hi..
This beauty was on my screen door in the morning 6/1/2014. We live in Western PA (Pulaski Twp). One of my friends told me it’s a luna moth. I have never seen anything like this before.
Signature: CeeJay

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear CeeJay,
Is there still a Flea Market in Pulaski on Thursday mornings?  You were correctly informed.  This is a male Luna Moth.  His feathery antennae help him to scent out the pheromones of a prospective mate withing at least a mile.  We believe it is that ability that has allowed the Luna Moth to survive habitat loss.  This guy may have difficulty flying to a mate he is able to sense because he appears to have lost a rear wing, perhaps to a bird that went for the fluttering tail.
  We are featuring your submission as our favorite images of a Luna Moth yet this year.  You should check out these images of mating Luna Moths from our archive.

Male Luna Moth
Male Luna Moth

Hi Daniel,
Yes the flea market is still held on Thursdays no too far from my home!  Sounds like you know the area well.  Thanks for the info on the Luna Moth.  I did some reading after seeing him and was actually sad to read of their short life span.  On the other hand I am happy that I had the opportunity to see him up close!  I will definitely check out the images at the link in your email.
Regards,
Cathy

Hi Cathy,
I grew up just the other side of the Ohio State Line and I spent much of the 1970s at the Pulaski Flea Market in the summer.

 

Letter 14 – About our Advertisers and Luna Moth sighted in Virginia

 

Subject: Luna Moth in Virginia
Location: Midlothian, VA
July 31, 2015 8:34 am
This was a luna moth I spotted yesterday in Midlothian, VA. I had never seen one before! It is amazing! I put my finger up to it to try to show how large it is. All I really accomplished was to show how much I need a manicure! 🙂
Also, just an FYI – your site has really tacky ads with very inappropriate content. I won’t recommend children to visit this site because of that. I closed it out and commented that it was inappropriate. Just wanted to let you know so you could contact your provider or something.
Signature: Nancy Morin

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Nancy,
Thanks for sending in your image of a gorgeous Luna Moth.  We did not receive as many submissions of Luna Moths this year as we have in the past.  Thanks for expressing your concern regarding “tacky ads with very inappropriate content” but the fact is that we cannot afford to run our site without Google ads.  Out of curiosity, we viewed our homepage just prior to crafting our response to you, and we found ads for Solar Energy, Dresses and a Flea and Tick Collar on our own computer.  A few minutes later those were replaced by a popular car company, a medical condition with unsavory symptoms and extreme urban stunts.  Because of the preponderance of exterminators that use Google Ads, and because we cannot control the advertisers, many years ago we added the disclaimer on our site above the first ad that “What’s That Bug? does not endorse extermination” to distance our actual content from the advertisements.  It is our understanding that Google ads are also very specific to the personal computer upon which they appear.  According to Wikipedia, the advertisements :  “are targeted to site content and audience,” meaning that the activity on your own computer has some effect on the ads that are generated.  So, if someone using your computer did research on buying a new car, when you later visit What’s That Bug? you might see car ads appear.  You were not very specific about the content you observed, but at least we have never seen a Google ad for pornography crop up on our site.  In a perfect world, we could operate without any advertisements, but that time has not yet come.  We are sorry that you cannot recommend the site to children because we believe our actual content is very PG rated, and when we do address adult themes, we resort to wit before vulgarity.

More on our Google Ads
Your Page Ads
August 5, 2015 4:25 pm
OK…I love butterflies but your ads like the one below “lengthen Your Healthspan” with the naked woman with black thin leather straps around her “flesh” is unexceptible for your PG site.  The other person commenting recently was correct.
Signature: Lee

Thanks for your concern Lee, but as we stated previously, we cannot control the content of the google ads and we cannot run our site without advertisers.  We will copy our technical staff to further investigate.

Letter 15 – Luna Moth Saga: Story of the Year 2015

 

Subject: Luna Moth
Location: Indianapolis
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

Luna Moth Caterpillar
Luna Moth Caterpillar

Dear Ellen,
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.

Mating Luna Moths
Mating Luna Moths

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.

The Next Generation: Hatchling Luna Moth Caterpillars
The Next Generation: Hatchling Luna Moth Caterpillars

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!!
Ellen

You can try refrigerating the remaining cocoons to prevent them from hatching until spring.

 

Letter 16 – Luna Moth and Polyphemus Moth

 

Subject: This guy is near my Luna moth.
Location: Reston virginia.
May 14, 2016 6:51 pm
I have a beautiful Luna moth at my front door and another large brown moth I can’t identify on my outdoor light.
Questions.
1 are Luna moths endangered by weather in th 30’s?
2 his wings are quivering. What does that mean?
3 what is the brown moth on my lamp?
4 there’s a toad hanging out near the Luna. Will he eat him/her?
Thank you. So happy I found your website.
Signature: Love nature.

Polyphemus Moth
Polyphemus Moth

Dear Love nature,
All of the preserved native open space in Reston is obviously having a positive impact on wildlife.  Adult Giant Silkmoths, including Luna Moths, emerge from the cocoon when conditions, including temperature, are conducive to reproduction.  If temperatures dip to the low 30s, the moths will likely not fly and await a warming trend, but if they are sheltered, they will most likely survive.  Quivering wings are sometimes evident just prior to a moth beginning to fly, and the phenomenon is explained on BugGuide:  “The shaking behavior is a method of regulating body temperature, similar to shivering in humans. Though these are ‘cold-blooded’ animals, their nocturnal nature forces them to be active in lower temperatures, so the shivering heats up the flight muscles enough to expend the massive amounts of energy required to take off.”  Your brown moth is a male Polyphemus Moth, a species with pronounced eyespots on the ventral surface.  Regarding your final question, we believe you are mistaken.  That appears to be a cat and not a toad that is checking out your Luna Moth.  A cat can do considerable damage to a Luna Moth, including mortally wounding it. 

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Thank you for your quick response.  That was my cat wishing she were on the other side of the door (which will NEVER happen). The toad was out of sight of my camera.  My husband moved him down the porch for the evening.  The Luna was gone this morning so I hope he/she is ok.  These beautiful moths come to my home annually.
Love your website.  Thank you so much.
Debi

Letter 17 – Luna Moth Sighting in Arkansas

 

Subject:  Winged insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Arkansas
Date: 04/22/2019
Time: 08:01 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Can you tell me what this is ?
How you want your letter signed:  Terri

Luna Moth

Dear Terri,
This beautiful Moth, quite unique among North American species, is a Luna Moth, and we really enjoy posting images of Luna Moths from throughout its range in the eastern part of the continent.

Luna Moth

Letter 18 – Luna Moths in Ohio

 

Subject:  It’s a Luna
Geographic location of the bug:  Woodsfield Ohio
Date: 08/02/2021
Time: 12:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I already identified these two, but I wanted to share them as we recently purchased the property where I saw them.
How you want your letter signed:  Xero

Luna Moths

Dear Xero,
You are so fortunate to have purchased a property that is home to Luna Moths.  According to BugGuide:  “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).”  We suspect one or more of those trees are growing on your property.  Daniel is in Ohio for two more weeks and he is hoping he will have the opportunity to finally witness a Luna Moth in the wild.  There is a persimmon tree on the property that was planted long after Daniel moved away in 1979, so perhaps this year he will get lucky,

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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.

  • 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.

23 thoughts on “What Eats Luna Moths? Discover Their Surprising Predators”

  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!

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  3. I have today seen my first Luna moth, had to come in and look it up!! it was on 1 of many flowers I have planted in my yard!

    Reply
    • How thrilling. For the record, Luna Moths do not feed as adults, so it was not nectaring. It was most likely just resting on the plant.

      Reply
  4. I ran into one of these guys at my bank, all wings intact. What an awesome looking moth. My bank is in Hackettstown New Jersey, so a ways off from Pulaski. The woman who worked at the bank pointed it out to me when she went to get the mail. I took a couple of pictures and they are fun to show at work.

    Reply
  5. Found one of these beauties hanging around on our back porch tonight. Poor thing was missing the right bottom portion of his wing, but he was still amazing. 🙂 – Colonial Heights, VA

    Reply
    • It sounds like a predator made the mistake of striking at the wing instead of the body, which would have likely been a deadly strike. At least your individual has the opportunity to mate and reproduce.

      Reply
  6. Wonderful! The trick to keeping them in pupation may be to stick the container they’re in in a cold part of the house or the fridge. I’ve had luck doing so w/ Isabella Tiger moth pupa (Wooly Bears) and am trying to pupate what I think is a Harnessed Tiger Moth. We’ll take the container out of the fridge in the spring to allow it to hatch and confirm species ID. 🙂

    Reply
  7. I live in Oklahoma and have a large Luna under my eave. As large as a bird. Just beautiful. Unless I could get a tall ladder I can’t get close enough for a photo.

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  8. I had 2 Luna moths on my front deck,both on my water fountain. One fell into the water, but I got it out in time..They stayed the day, the next morning they were both gone. Also had one fly into my garage last summer. It was about 1″ bigger wingspan and stayed for 3 days. Even left the garage door open all night in case it wanted to leave.
    Weirdest moth I ever saw looked like a dried leave from a tree. 4″ wingspan and dark green..

    Reply

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