Where Do Luna Moths Live: Exploring Their Natural Habitat

Luna moths are a fascinating species that can be found in various regions of North America. Known for their large size, bright green color, and unique tail-like structures on their hindwings, these nocturnal creatures are a wonder to behold in their natural habitat. Their mesmerizing appearance has made them a popular topic of interest for those who appreciate the beauty of insects in the wild.

You may be curious to learn more about where luna moths live to better understand their habitat preferences. These captivating creatures are primarily found in deciduous hardwood forests, where they lay their eggs on a variety of host plants. Their range stretches from Canada to northern Mexico, and eastward from the Great Plains to the Atlantic coast. They typically prefer temperate environments, making it possible to spot them in the wooded areas of the eastern United States.

Throughout their life, luna moths navigate through different generations, known as voltinism. Depending on their location and local climate, they can have one to three generations annually. This adaptability allows these enchanting creatures to thrive in various regions, ensuring that their presence can be enjoyed by nature enthusiasts of all kinds.

Geographical Distribution

Luna moths, known for their stunning size and color, are native to North America. They have a vast range, extending from Canada in the north to Florida and Texas in the south.

You can also find them across the eastern United States, from Maine all the way to Texas. However, their presence becomes less common in the western parts, such as the Great Plains.

These captivating moths inhabit various habitats, including deciduous forests and mixed woodlands. They prefer areas with an abundance of their preferred host plants, such as walnut, hickory, and sweetgum trees.

Interestingly, the number of generations produced each year varies depending on the geographical location. In the colder regions like Michigan, luna moths typically have one generation per year, known as univoltine. As you move south to the Ohio Valley region, they become bivoltine, having two generations in a year. In the southern states, luna moths can have up to three generations annually, called trivoltine.

So, if you’re exploring the various regions of North America, keep an eye out for these beautiful creatures, especially in the wooded areas of the eastern part of the continent.

Habitat and Host Trees

Luna moths (Actias luna) are known for their striking appearance and can be found in a variety of forested areas across North America. Their habitats can range from deciduous forests, mixed forests, and even suburban areas where their preferred host trees reside.

These magnificent creatures rely on specific trees for their survival. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of certain tree species, which are crucial for their development. Some of the most common host trees include:

  • Walnut
  • Birch
  • Persimmon
  • Hickory
  • Sweet gum
  • White oak

In addition to the trees mentioned above, luna moth caterpillars have also been known to feed on leaves from the white birch and sweetgum trees. These host trees provide essential nutrients for the caterpillar’s growth and eventual transformation into a beautiful adult moth.

As you explore forested areas, keep an eye out for these host trees as they could be home to luna moths. Not only do these trees provide sustenance for the caterpillars, but they also serve as a place for adult moths to lay their eggs. So, the next time you find yourself in a wooded area with an abundance of the trees listed above, remember that you may be sharing the space with these magnificent creatures.

Physiological Features

As someone with an interest in Luna moths (Actias luna), it’s helpful to know about their physiological features. These beautiful insects have some unique characteristics which make them stand out from other moths.

Luna moths have an impressive size, with a wingspan ranging from 3 to 4.5 inches. Their striking green color and long tails on their hind wings contribute to their distinctive appearance. You can also find eyespots on both their forewings and hind wings, which can serve as a deterrent to predators. Another interesting feature is the feathery antennae on the males, which help them detect pheromones released by females during mating season.

  • Wings: large, green, with long tails on hind wings
  • Eyespots: present on forewings and hind wings
  • Antennae: feathery on males

In addition to the green color, Luna moths also have yellow lines running along the edges of their wings, adding to their striking appearance.

These are some of the prominent physiological features that make Luna moths stand out:

  • Size: 3-4.5 inch wingspan
  • Green color with yellow lines
  • Long tails on hind wings
  • Eyespots on forewings and hind wings
  • Feathery antennae on males

Understanding the unique features of Luna moths can help you appreciate their beauty and also aid in identifying them in the wild. Remember to always observe these delicate creatures with care and respect for their habitat.

Luna Moth Life Cycle

The life cycle of the Luna Moth (Actias luna) begins with eggs laid by the female on host plant leaves, either singly or in clusters1. As they hatch, vibrant green larvae emerge, each segment convex with yellow bands1. Like many other caterpillars, Luna Moth larvae will molt multiple times to grow2.

During its larval stage, the Luna Moth feeds on a variety of deciduous tree species2. When it reaches maturity, the caterpillar forms a cocoon where it undergoes a metamorphosis into a pupa2. It remains in this state for a few weeks, allowing its body to transform2.

Upon emerging as an adult, the Luna Moth displays a stunning pale green color, with eyespots on all four wings and delicate feather-like antennae1. Males possess thicker antennae which they use to smell for females during the night3. Interestingly, adult Luna Moths have a relatively short lifespan, as they only live for about a week4.

In this brief period, the main goal of the adult Luna Moth is to mate3. Adults do not feed, and their primary purpose is reproduction2. Depending on the location, Luna Moths can have one to three generations per year2.

In summary, the life cycle of the Luna Moth consists of four main stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult2. Each stage has a specific role to play in the moth’s growth and reproduction, making the Luna Moth a fascinating species to observe.

Behavior and Survival Tactics

Luna moths are nocturnal creatures that have evolved various ways to survive against predators like bats, owls, and insects. They use unique strategies to evade these threats, making theirbehavior truly fascinating.

For example, luna moths can confuse bat echolocation by using their elongated hindwing tails. Their tails twirl in a way that can throw off a bat’s sonar detection. This adaptation gives them an advantage in avoiding one of their primary predators.

Apart from their physical adaptations, luna moths also use auditory signals to deter predators. When threatened, they produce clicking noises. This clicking is believed to distract or startle predators, giving the moth a chance to escape.

Insects like luna moths have also developed the ability to regurgitate a distasteful substance as a defense mechanism. When confronted with danger, they can use this repulsive liquid to deter predators from trying to eat them.

Pheromones play a significant role in luna moth behavior, particularly when it comes to communication and reproduction. The females release these chemical signals to attract the males, who can detect the pheromones from miles away using their highly specialized antennae.

Here are some key features of luna moth survival tactics:

  • Elongated tails to confuse echolocation
  • Clicking noises to distract predators
  • Regurgitation of a distasteful substance for defense
  • Use of pheromones for communication and reproduction

However, luna moths face challenges caused by human activity, such as light pollution. Artificial lights can disorient them, making it challenging to navigate and find suitable mates. As a result, their survival in certain areas can be negatively impacted.

To recap, luna moths employ various tactics, such as confusing echolocation, emitting audible signals, defensive regurgitation, and communication through pheromones, to protect themselves and ensure the continuation of their species. However, human-caused factors like light pollution can pose a threat to their survival.

Reproduction of Luna Moths

Luna Moths, also known as the American Moon Moth, are fascinating creatures with their large wings and unique coloration. In this section, you’ll learn about the reproduction of these moths.

When it comes to mating, Luna moths have a brief window of time to reproduce. Adult moths only live for about a week, just enough duration for them to mate and lay eggs. The mating process typically takes place at night, with males and females seeking each other out.

The antennae of male Luna Moths are feathery, which helps them locate females by detecting the scent released by the females. Once males find their partners, they mate with the females to ensure the continuation of their species.

After mating, the female Luna Moths begin laying eggs. They usually lay their eggs on various surfaces like the tops and bottoms of leaves, and sometimes deposit them singly or in clusters depending on the host plant. In a few days, these eggs hatch into bright green caterpillars that begin the next stage of the Luna Moth lifecycle.

Quick Facts:

  • Adult Luna Moths live for only about a week.
  • Mating usually takes place at night.
  • Male Luna Moths have feathery antennae to locate females.
  • Female Luna Moths lay eggs on leaves, either singly or in clusters.

While the adult life of a Luna Moth is brief, the process of reproduction is vital for the survival of the species. The beauty of the Luna Moth reproduction cycle ensures the continuation of this magnificent insect in the ecosystems it inhabits.

Threats and Conservation

Luna moths are not considered endangered or rare, but they may face various threats that affect their populations. Some key challenges they face are:

  • Habitat loss: Due to deforestation and urbanization, these moths may find it difficult to locate suitable host plants for their larvae.
  • Light pollution: Bright artificial lights can disorient luna moths, leading to exhaustion or predation.
  • Pesticide exposure: Chemicals used to control pest insects may also harm the luna moth population.

Conservation efforts should focus on these factors to maintain healthy populations of luna moths. Here are some ways to support their survival:

  • Preserve and restore native forests to give them a suitable habitat.
  • Reduce light pollution by turning off unnecessary outdoor lights during their active months.
  • Limit the use of chemical pesticides, opting for eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible.

By taking these steps, you can contribute to the preservation of luna moths and the overall biodiversity of your local ecosystem.

Miscellaneous Facts about Luna Moths

Luna moths, also known as moon moths, belong to the Saturniidae family of moths. They can be easily recognized by their large size and distinct lime-green color. Let’s dive into some more interesting facts about these fascinating creatures.

The beautiful, mesmerizing tails on their hindwings are not just for show. Scientists believe these tails serve as a defense mechanism to confuse predators like bats. In fact, some research suggests that the tails create a false target for attacking bats.

During their short lifespan, Luna moths go through several instar stages as caterpillars. They feast on a variety of host plants, such as sumacs, birches, and willows. Some examples of host plants include the paper birch and the smooth sumac.

One big difference between butterflies and moths, including Luna moths, is their digestive system. While butterflies have a functioning proboscis to feed on nectar, adult Luna moths lack a digestive system altogether. As a result, they don’t eat during their adult stage, relying on the energy reserves from their caterpillar period.

Luna moth populations can be found in various US states. According to the University of Florida, they have different life cycles depending on their location:

  • Univoltine: One generation per year in Michigan and northern regions
  • Bivoltine: Two generations per year throughout the Ohio Valley
  • Trivoltine: Three generations per year in southern states

The enchanting Luna moths you encounter are mostly active during the spring and summer months. In some regions, their peak activity coincides with the blooming of certain host plants.

So next time you see a Luna moth, admire their unique beauty and remember the fascinating facts you’ve learned about these remarkable creatures.

Footnotes

  1. Missouri Department of Conservation 2 3

  2. Entomology and Nematology Department 2 3 4 5 6 7

  3. Bug Week 2023 – University of Connecticut 2

  4. Mountain Lake Biological Station, U.Va.

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 Cocoon

 

what is this cocoon?
Hi I came across this cocoon about 2 weeks ago on the ground. It has been scratching on the inside ever since. I’ve determined it might be a polymorphous moth. Any thoughts? Also how long will it take before it will hatch? Thanks,
Ryan

Hi Ryan,
We are nearly positive that this is a Luna Moth Cocoon, but it might be a Polyphemus Moth. Without meaning to sound smug, it will hatch when it is ready. The complexity of insect metamorphosis is not like a three minute egg. Some combination of time, temperature, humidity, length of day, and perhaps airborn pheromones will trigger the hatching.

Letter 2 – Luna Moth Headshot

 

Luna Moth
My son took this picture of a Luna Moth while he was filling out his wings. It is special because of the detail and color of it’s furry body and legs. We have others and I can re-size it for your website, but thought you’d appreciate the full detail. Note also his antennae detail. Marc

Hi Marc,
Your Luna Moth headshot is a welcome addition to our site. It is a view that we have not yet seen.

Letter 3 – Luna Moth from Canada

 

Subject: Luna Moth Siting, 19.May.2012
Location: Healey Lake, Mactier (Parry Sound), Ontario
May 23, 2012 8:35 am
Thanks to your website I was able to identify this Luna Moth – a beautiful little creature.
We found it on the side of our cottage in the morning around 8am. It stayed there until around noon or 1pm when the wall began to get bathed in (direct) sunlight.
Signature: Saul Family

Luna Moth

Dear Saul Family,
Thanks for sending us this lovely photo of a Luna Moth.  We have not received as many Luna Moth submissions this year as we have in past years and this is our most northern sighting thusfar this year.  We expect the earlier than normal warm weather this year caused an earlier emergence.

You’re welcome Daniel!
And thanks for your efforts in having and maintaining this website!
Stephan Saul

Letter 4 – Luna Moth in Connecticut

 

large moth
Location: NE CT
May 26, 2011 6:02 am
My wife found this in the garage last night. Appx 4 inches wide and 4 inches long.
Signature: Kim & Tom

Luna Moth

Dear Kim & Tom,
Thanks for reporting that Luna Moth sightings have reached more northern states.

Letter 5 – Luna Moth from Tennessee

 

Luna Moth
Hi my name is Kacie.
I am in Tennessee and I found this bug on my window. I found out what it was thanks to you guys.

Hi Kacie,
Your Luna Moth from Tennessee is our northernmost report this year.

Letter 6 – Luna Moth Cocoon

 

big pupa
Hi there?
Got any ideas about the identity of this pupa? I found it on the ground outside of my house in mid coast Maine on March 31st. It’s alive, that is, when I move it, it scratches around inside and actually will roll across the table top like a Mexican Jumping Bean. The husk is papery and there are tiny pin holes all through it, like breathing holes. It feels quite heavy and as you can see, is almost 2 inches long. That’s a big pupa for Maine where most stuff is pretty small in the insect world. I’ve been a gardener for 25 years and have never seen anything like it. I didn’t find anything in my garden insect references. Thanks in advance for your time,
Robin Robinson

Hi Robin,
If you don’t want this Luna Moth Cocoon to hatch too early, you need to keep it outside. If you have an old birdcage, that would be perfect. You should check daily to see if it has hatched. In Maine, we get most of our Luna Moth photos in May. Right now, we are getting photos from the Southern portion of the range, including Louisiana and Georgia. The Luna Moth is our featured Bug of the Month for April.

Letter 7 – Luna Moth Cocoon

 

Cocoon in Maryland
Please see attached photos! I would like to find out what’s inside the cocoon.
Thanks,
Jeff

Hi Jeff,
We believe this is a Luna Moth Cocoon, but it might be a Polyphemus Moth Cocoon. Both are Giant Silk Moths and form cocoon around leaves that dry and drop to the ground where they remain in the leaf litter until they hatch.

Letter 8 – Luna Moth from Louisana

 

Luna Moth
I found this moth on my deck last week-end(4-5-08) south of Shreveport,La…Found your site to learn what type this was…Thought I would write and send in the picture I took of it…Thanks
Darrell

Hi Darrel,
Your photo of a Luna Moth is quite beautiful. We are getting many excellent Luna Moth photos this year and are changing the image on our homepage several times a week.

Letter 9 – Luna Moth from Oklahoma

 

Luna Moth
Hello Bugman,
Thank you for your wonderful website. I found a match for identifying a moth that my sister and nephews found in their backyard in Norman, Oklahoma. Sincerely,
Penny Andrews

Hi Penny,
Thank you for adding to our collection of beautiful Luna Moth images.

Letter 10 – Luna Moth emerges from Cocoon

 

Emerging Luna Moth
Hi Lisa Anne and Daniel.
I see you love Luna Moths as much as I do. Here is an emerging male I was fortunate enough to photograph. He climbed the stick, expanded his wings and was released into the WI woods. Peace,
Dwaine

Thanks Dwaine,
Your Luna Moth emergence image fills a significant void in our Luna Moth documentation.

Letter 11 – Luna Moth Eggs

 

Do you have any pics of Luna Moth eggs? I just shot these….
Hey Bugman,
Caught a (evidently female) Luna Moth the other night. I put it in my daughters butterfly cage so she could see it in the morning. Low and behold, it laid eggs. You have plenty of moth pics on your sight, but I didn’t see any egg pics. Please feel free to use these, if they suit you. Love the sight!
Dave Schloat

Hi Dave,
Rarely do we get egg photos where they are documented as to their identification. These are the first Luna Moth Egg photos we have received.

Letter 12 – Luna Moth from Canada

 

big green moth
Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 7:01 AM
We’re in Petawawa, Onatario and recently have had several of these beautiful moths visit us. The smallest one we saw was bigger than any moth we’ve ever seen, and the largest spanned the palm of my hand.
Anderson Family
Petawawa, Ontario, Canada

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Anderson Family,
Congratulations on your Luna Moth sightings. The Luna Moth, which is native to eastern North America from Florida to Canada, is probably the most distinctive North American Moth. It is unlikely that it could be confused with any other species. The Luna Moth is one of the Giant Silk Moths that only lives a few days as an adult, long enough to mate and lay eggs. It has no functional mouth parts and it cannot eat as an adult. Your sighting is our northernmost report this year. Florida sightings generally begin in February and as mild weather moves north, so do the Luna Moth emergences. The moth has spent its metamorphosis period in a pupa encased in a cocoon loosely spun around a leaf that falls to the ground and is buried in leaf litter.

Letter 13 – Luna Moth: Dead of Old Age

 

Beautiful green moth
August 21, 2009
I found this unusually large moth in July. It was 4 inches from tip to tip with green wings and gold antenna. Unfortunately, it was barely alive and died shortly after.
Peter
Central Virginia

Luna Moth:  Dead of Natural Causes
Luna Moth: Dead of Natural Causes

Hi Peter,
This is a Luna Moth, what most people consider to be the most beautiful North American moth.  At any rate, it is the most distinctive North American moth, and is not likely to be confused with any other native species by even the least observant individual.  Luna Moths do not feed as adults and only live a few days, long enough to mate and lay eggs.  Thanks for providing us with a view of the underside of the moth, a vantage we rarely receive.

Luna Moth:  Dead of Old Age
Luna Moth: Dead of Old Age

Letter 14 – Luna Moth from Oklahoma

 

Mothra??
Location: Oklahoma
April 30, 2011 8:31 pm
This GINORMOUS moth is sitting on the edge of our house! Do you know what kind it is?
Signature: Elizabeth

Luna Moth

Hi Elizabeth,
At the end of February, we received our first report this season of a Luna Moth sighting, and the letter indicated there was a swarm in Texas.  That prompted us to name the Luna Moth the Bug of the Month for March.  Other reports followed from the southern most portion of the range of the Luna Moth.  As the weather warms in the northern climes, Luna Moth sightings will begin to come to us, generally culminating in reports from Maine and Canada in May and June.  Sightings from later in the season will then come from the southern portion of the range as there are two broods in the South.  It is highly unlikely that the Luna Moth would be confused with any other North American species.

Letter 15 – Luna Moth from Canada

 

Luna Moth – New Brunswick, Canada
Location: Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick, Canada
July 7, 2011 11:36 pm
While my husband was locking the garage late tonight (12:30 am)he saw what he thought was a green bird. It flew past him and landed on our window ledge.
When he got closer he realized it was a moth, one he had never seen before. He grabbed the camera and took the attached photos.
I did an internet search to try to identify the moth and came across your website. Based on the information we see on your site, we believe this is a Luna Moth.
This is the largest moth either of us has seen before. It is also the most beautiful shade of green. We hope it will still be there in the morning when we might get better photos.
We wanted to share this with you.
Signature: Two Canucks

Luna Moth

Dear Two Canucks,
The Luna Moth is surely a glorious creature.  Now that it is July, we can expect to begin receiving reports of the second generation of Luna Moths from the southern portion of the range.

Letter 16 – Luna Moth in Canada

 

Subject: FIRST LUNA MOTH ENCOUNTER
Location: Haileybury, Ontario, Canada
June 1, 2012 9:29 am
I found this strange moth this morning on the 1st of June just outside our door. I absolutely had to take pictures! Having found your site it didn’t take very long to identify this very distinguished creature. What a gorgeous oddity!
Signature: Northern Ontarian

Luna Moth

Dear Northern Ontarian,
We are quite envious that you have had the good fortune to observe a Luna Moth in its natural state.  Perhaps our editorial staff will be lucky as we are headed to Northeast Ohio for a week and despite growing up there, we have never seen a living Luna Moth in the wild.  We also hope our visit will coincide with the annual appearance of Fireflies.

Letter 17 – Luna Moth Dies in Virginia

 

Subject: Luna moth
Location: Wytheville VA mountains
August 31, 2015 2:59 pm
This beauty was on our car bumper when we overnighted in Wytheville VA in early August. I thought it was so beautiful. I’d never seen one before. Unfortunately it was injured, missing 1 antenna. It was barely moving when I placed it on the ground. FB friends identified it for me.
Signature: Jane Price

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Jane,
The remaining plumose antenna indicates that this is a male Luna Moth.  Luna Moths do not eat as adults, and they live solely to reproduce.  The male spends his adult life searching for a mate, and once mated, he has fulfilled his purpose.  The mated female Luna Moth’s sole purpose is to search for the appropriate food for her brood and to lay her eggs on, according to BugGuide, leaves from trees:  “including white birch (
Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), pecans, and sumacs (Rhus).”  We would like to think that your male Luna Moth fulfilled his purpose.

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 Cocoon

 

what is this cocoon?
Hi I came across this cocoon about 2 weeks ago on the ground. It has been scratching on the inside ever since. I’ve determined it might be a polymorphous moth. Any thoughts? Also how long will it take before it will hatch? Thanks,
Ryan

Hi Ryan,
We are nearly positive that this is a Luna Moth Cocoon, but it might be a Polyphemus Moth. Without meaning to sound smug, it will hatch when it is ready. The complexity of insect metamorphosis is not like a three minute egg. Some combination of time, temperature, humidity, length of day, and perhaps airborn pheromones will trigger the hatching.

Letter 2 – Luna Moth Headshot

 

Luna Moth
My son took this picture of a Luna Moth while he was filling out his wings. It is special because of the detail and color of it’s furry body and legs. We have others and I can re-size it for your website, but thought you’d appreciate the full detail. Note also his antennae detail. Marc

Hi Marc,
Your Luna Moth headshot is a welcome addition to our site. It is a view that we have not yet seen.

Letter 3 – Luna Moth from Canada

 

Subject: Luna Moth Siting, 19.May.2012
Location: Healey Lake, Mactier (Parry Sound), Ontario
May 23, 2012 8:35 am
Thanks to your website I was able to identify this Luna Moth – a beautiful little creature.
We found it on the side of our cottage in the morning around 8am. It stayed there until around noon or 1pm when the wall began to get bathed in (direct) sunlight.
Signature: Saul Family

Luna Moth

Dear Saul Family,
Thanks for sending us this lovely photo of a Luna Moth.  We have not received as many Luna Moth submissions this year as we have in past years and this is our most northern sighting thusfar this year.  We expect the earlier than normal warm weather this year caused an earlier emergence.

You’re welcome Daniel!
And thanks for your efforts in having and maintaining this website!
Stephan Saul

Letter 4 – Luna Moth in Connecticut

 

large moth
Location: NE CT
May 26, 2011 6:02 am
My wife found this in the garage last night. Appx 4 inches wide and 4 inches long.
Signature: Kim & Tom

Luna Moth

Dear Kim & Tom,
Thanks for reporting that Luna Moth sightings have reached more northern states.

Letter 5 – Luna Moth from Tennessee

 

Luna Moth
Hi my name is Kacie.
I am in Tennessee and I found this bug on my window. I found out what it was thanks to you guys.

Hi Kacie,
Your Luna Moth from Tennessee is our northernmost report this year.

Letter 6 – Luna Moth Cocoon

 

big pupa
Hi there?
Got any ideas about the identity of this pupa? I found it on the ground outside of my house in mid coast Maine on March 31st. It’s alive, that is, when I move it, it scratches around inside and actually will roll across the table top like a Mexican Jumping Bean. The husk is papery and there are tiny pin holes all through it, like breathing holes. It feels quite heavy and as you can see, is almost 2 inches long. That’s a big pupa for Maine where most stuff is pretty small in the insect world. I’ve been a gardener for 25 years and have never seen anything like it. I didn’t find anything in my garden insect references. Thanks in advance for your time,
Robin Robinson

Hi Robin,
If you don’t want this Luna Moth Cocoon to hatch too early, you need to keep it outside. If you have an old birdcage, that would be perfect. You should check daily to see if it has hatched. In Maine, we get most of our Luna Moth photos in May. Right now, we are getting photos from the Southern portion of the range, including Louisiana and Georgia. The Luna Moth is our featured Bug of the Month for April.

Letter 7 – Luna Moth Cocoon

 

Cocoon in Maryland
Please see attached photos! I would like to find out what’s inside the cocoon.
Thanks,
Jeff

Hi Jeff,
We believe this is a Luna Moth Cocoon, but it might be a Polyphemus Moth Cocoon. Both are Giant Silk Moths and form cocoon around leaves that dry and drop to the ground where they remain in the leaf litter until they hatch.

Letter 8 – Luna Moth from Louisana

 

Luna Moth
I found this moth on my deck last week-end(4-5-08) south of Shreveport,La…Found your site to learn what type this was…Thought I would write and send in the picture I took of it…Thanks
Darrell

Hi Darrel,
Your photo of a Luna Moth is quite beautiful. We are getting many excellent Luna Moth photos this year and are changing the image on our homepage several times a week.

Letter 9 – Luna Moth from Oklahoma

 

Luna Moth
Hello Bugman,
Thank you for your wonderful website. I found a match for identifying a moth that my sister and nephews found in their backyard in Norman, Oklahoma. Sincerely,
Penny Andrews

Hi Penny,
Thank you for adding to our collection of beautiful Luna Moth images.

Letter 10 – Luna Moth emerges from Cocoon

 

Emerging Luna Moth
Hi Lisa Anne and Daniel.
I see you love Luna Moths as much as I do. Here is an emerging male I was fortunate enough to photograph. He climbed the stick, expanded his wings and was released into the WI woods. Peace,
Dwaine

Thanks Dwaine,
Your Luna Moth emergence image fills a significant void in our Luna Moth documentation.

Letter 11 – Luna Moth Eggs

 

Do you have any pics of Luna Moth eggs? I just shot these….
Hey Bugman,
Caught a (evidently female) Luna Moth the other night. I put it in my daughters butterfly cage so she could see it in the morning. Low and behold, it laid eggs. You have plenty of moth pics on your sight, but I didn’t see any egg pics. Please feel free to use these, if they suit you. Love the sight!
Dave Schloat

Hi Dave,
Rarely do we get egg photos where they are documented as to their identification. These are the first Luna Moth Egg photos we have received.

Letter 12 – Luna Moth from Canada

 

big green moth
Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 7:01 AM
We’re in Petawawa, Onatario and recently have had several of these beautiful moths visit us. The smallest one we saw was bigger than any moth we’ve ever seen, and the largest spanned the palm of my hand.
Anderson Family
Petawawa, Ontario, Canada

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Anderson Family,
Congratulations on your Luna Moth sightings. The Luna Moth, which is native to eastern North America from Florida to Canada, is probably the most distinctive North American Moth. It is unlikely that it could be confused with any other species. The Luna Moth is one of the Giant Silk Moths that only lives a few days as an adult, long enough to mate and lay eggs. It has no functional mouth parts and it cannot eat as an adult. Your sighting is our northernmost report this year. Florida sightings generally begin in February and as mild weather moves north, so do the Luna Moth emergences. The moth has spent its metamorphosis period in a pupa encased in a cocoon loosely spun around a leaf that falls to the ground and is buried in leaf litter.

Letter 13 – Luna Moth: Dead of Old Age

 

Beautiful green moth
August 21, 2009
I found this unusually large moth in July. It was 4 inches from tip to tip with green wings and gold antenna. Unfortunately, it was barely alive and died shortly after.
Peter
Central Virginia

Luna Moth:  Dead of Natural Causes
Luna Moth: Dead of Natural Causes

Hi Peter,
This is a Luna Moth, what most people consider to be the most beautiful North American moth.  At any rate, it is the most distinctive North American moth, and is not likely to be confused with any other native species by even the least observant individual.  Luna Moths do not feed as adults and only live a few days, long enough to mate and lay eggs.  Thanks for providing us with a view of the underside of the moth, a vantage we rarely receive.

Luna Moth:  Dead of Old Age
Luna Moth: Dead of Old Age

Letter 14 – Luna Moth from Oklahoma

 

Mothra??
Location: Oklahoma
April 30, 2011 8:31 pm
This GINORMOUS moth is sitting on the edge of our house! Do you know what kind it is?
Signature: Elizabeth

Luna Moth

Hi Elizabeth,
At the end of February, we received our first report this season of a Luna Moth sighting, and the letter indicated there was a swarm in Texas.  That prompted us to name the Luna Moth the Bug of the Month for March.  Other reports followed from the southern most portion of the range of the Luna Moth.  As the weather warms in the northern climes, Luna Moth sightings will begin to come to us, generally culminating in reports from Maine and Canada in May and June.  Sightings from later in the season will then come from the southern portion of the range as there are two broods in the South.  It is highly unlikely that the Luna Moth would be confused with any other North American species.

Letter 15 – Luna Moth from Canada

 

Luna Moth – New Brunswick, Canada
Location: Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick, Canada
July 7, 2011 11:36 pm
While my husband was locking the garage late tonight (12:30 am)he saw what he thought was a green bird. It flew past him and landed on our window ledge.
When he got closer he realized it was a moth, one he had never seen before. He grabbed the camera and took the attached photos.
I did an internet search to try to identify the moth and came across your website. Based on the information we see on your site, we believe this is a Luna Moth.
This is the largest moth either of us has seen before. It is also the most beautiful shade of green. We hope it will still be there in the morning when we might get better photos.
We wanted to share this with you.
Signature: Two Canucks

Luna Moth

Dear Two Canucks,
The Luna Moth is surely a glorious creature.  Now that it is July, we can expect to begin receiving reports of the second generation of Luna Moths from the southern portion of the range.

Letter 16 – Luna Moth in Canada

 

Subject: FIRST LUNA MOTH ENCOUNTER
Location: Haileybury, Ontario, Canada
June 1, 2012 9:29 am
I found this strange moth this morning on the 1st of June just outside our door. I absolutely had to take pictures! Having found your site it didn’t take very long to identify this very distinguished creature. What a gorgeous oddity!
Signature: Northern Ontarian

Luna Moth

Dear Northern Ontarian,
We are quite envious that you have had the good fortune to observe a Luna Moth in its natural state.  Perhaps our editorial staff will be lucky as we are headed to Northeast Ohio for a week and despite growing up there, we have never seen a living Luna Moth in the wild.  We also hope our visit will coincide with the annual appearance of Fireflies.

Letter 17 – Luna Moth Dies in Virginia

 

Subject: Luna moth
Location: Wytheville VA mountains
August 31, 2015 2:59 pm
This beauty was on our car bumper when we overnighted in Wytheville VA in early August. I thought it was so beautiful. I’d never seen one before. Unfortunately it was injured, missing 1 antenna. It was barely moving when I placed it on the ground. FB friends identified it for me.
Signature: Jane Price

Luna Moth
Luna Moth

Dear Jane,
The remaining plumose antenna indicates that this is a male Luna Moth.  Luna Moths do not eat as adults, and they live solely to reproduce.  The male spends his adult life searching for a mate, and once mated, he has fulfilled his purpose.  The mated female Luna Moth’s sole purpose is to search for the appropriate food for her brood and to lay her eggs on, according to BugGuide, leaves from trees:  “including white birch (
Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), pecans, and sumacs (Rhus).”  We would like to think that your male Luna Moth fulfilled his purpose.

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.

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.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    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.

88 thoughts on “Where Do Luna Moths Live: Exploring Their Natural Habitat”

  1. I too live in Central Virginia but have seen only one Luna Moth since moving here in 1989. About 4 years ago I was preparing to pump gas and saw the beautiful green moth, that I had seen so frequently during my childhood in Alabama, on the side of the gas pump. I was elated to see, once again, this visitor from my childhood.

    Reply
  2. A buddy of mine showed me a picture of a Luna moth he had snapped with his cell phone. I had never seen one before (New York). Not 10 minutes after seeing that picture on his phone, I see one myself. I saw Alfryed wrote he saw one at a gas station, which is also a strange coincidence as the one I spotted was also at a station, hanging out on the underside of the roof covering the pumps. Maybe these things are attracted to gas stations for one reason or another. It was broad daylight, so I doubt it had anything to do with lighting, unless it was there from the night before.

    Reply
  3. I grew up in rural southeastern Ontario and saw a few of these — one or two every summer, maybe — when I was a kid. This would have been about thirty years ago. We would also see Io moths frequently, and the occasional Polyphemus. Sadly, leaving the indoor light on at my dad’s place no longer attracts big beautiful moths to the screen door.

    Reply
  4. From south Louisiana, I was visited early this morning by this Luna Moth fluttering on my window. When landed on my screen door, I got a chance to get a photo. Sandy

    Reply
  5. I have several luna moth cocoons and am waiting for them to hatch in my netted butterfly holder. During the winter, I kepted them in sealed containers in the bottom of my husband’s wine refrigerator to be sure that they stayed dormant. Once taken out of the frig. I was told to mist them with water everyday and keep them in the basement. However, now that it’s getting warmer, I was wandering if I should just place them in the garage and wait till they are ready to hatch. If anyone has any advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Reply
  6. At the end of last summer, my 7 year old daughter convinced me that she found a luna moth caterpillar. I wasn’t sure and didn’t give it much thought after it adhered itself to leave in my daughter’s terrarium. Nothing was happening for weeks so she put the terrarium in the garage. She’d check on it daily…for months. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, she shows me a cocoon with contents moving around briskly inside. Crazy. So we have it indoors waiting for it to emerge..it continues to be quite active every day if repositioned. My concern is that the coccoon seems so “sturdy” and hard, I wonder how it’s ever going to get out. Probably a crazy question, but should I be doing something …or putting it somewhere…to help it along? We hate to miss it emerge.

    Reply
  7. Luna moth sighting in Perth, Ontario, Canada.
    July 12 2013 — 2 pm
    My granddaughter saw this big fellow in our screen shelter which is not likely a big surprise (other than they are rare these days) considering it is at the base of a very large black walnut tree. I presume its a female who has just laid her eggs.
    Hopefully this is the right forum for this report.

    Reply
  8. Luna moth sighting in Perth, Ontario, Canada.
    July 12 2013 — 2 pm
    My granddaughter saw this big fellow in our screen shelter which is not likely a big surprise (other than they are rare these days) considering it is at the base of a very large black walnut tree. I presume its a female who has just laid her eggs.
    Hopefully this is the right forum for this report.

    Reply
  9. Sited an Actias luna 4th instar caterpillar yesterday on an outer island in Georgian Bay north of Parry Sound yesterday. Absolutely spectacular!

    Reply
  10. Hi there,
    Wonderous fortune haha,
    I found a luna moth caterpillar the other day. It was green huge about 4 inches long and pretty thick round beautiful colors on the little raised dots. Anyway I made it a cage stitched from cloth screening it climbed to the top and It has started to build a coccoon. It has begun to get chilly here and I am not sure if I should bring it inside or leave him be on the screened in porch. I am in Massachusetts near Plymouth, if this information helps can you help me with what to do (if anything) to keep it safe until it hatches?

    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  11. Hi there,
    Wonderous fortune haha,
    I found a luna moth caterpillar the other day. It was green huge about 4 inches long and pretty thick round beautiful colors on the little raised dots. Anyway I made it a cage stitched from cloth screening it climbed to the top and It has started to build a coccoon. It has begun to get chilly here and I am not sure if I should bring it inside or leave him be on the screened in porch. I am in Massachusetts near Plymouth, if this information helps can you help me with what to do (if anything) to keep it safe until it hatches?

    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  12. I went out to put the film in my trailcam at 10 pm on 1 June and one of these, or something shaped like it, but white, with a long swallowtail, swooped around my flashlight. It wad bigger than my hand. Was it a luna moth?

    Reply
  13. I have just spotted a Luna Moth in Muskoka near MacTier, Ontario. It is beautiful. The Audobon book of Insects says they’re unique to North America and endangered so hopefully they’re making a comeback.

    Reply
  14. June 15 2014 – Selwyn Road, Lakefield Ontario
    Found a luna moth in a pole barn on our property this afternoon
    First time I have ever seen one.

    Reply
  15. June 15 2014 – Selwyn Road, Lakefield Ontario
    Found a luna moth in a pole barn on our property this afternoon
    First time I have ever seen one.

    Reply
  16. We were at a friends cottage on Kushog Lake, Algonquin Highlands county when we spotted the moth just sitting on the side wall of the cottage. We were amazed by this beautiful bug and left it alone. It was on the deck the next morning but was gone in the afternoon. It was a beautiful site to see. Cheers 🙂

    Reply
  17. from Kingston, ON: awoke this morning to find the FOURTH – yes 4th – Luna moth on our screen door this season. The first was May 30, then June 4 [stayed 4 nights], June 28 and Jul 6. We are always so happy to see one – and not every year – but to see 4 in one season is truly wonderful.

    Reply
  18. Kanata, Ontario. Luna Moth on our yard, never seen one before. Spent 1 day in our front yard grass was gone by morning. About 4 1/2 maybe 5 inches long from antennae to tip of bottom wings.

    Reply
  19. Hello there! My son found a luna moth on Manitoulin island July 1 2015. Hope this helps you track their migratory patterns.

    Reply
  20. I found one on the hood of my car in Dartmouth Nova scotia ..It was Huge … Wider the my hand ..I was completely amazed !!!!! Absolutely Beautiful !!!

    Reply
  21. I just spotted a Luna Moth in Athens, Ohio. I was not sure what it was at first sight but with a picture and your website I can say for certain that it indeed was a Luna Moth.

    Reply
  22. Saw a huge Luna Moth today in a large area of Skunk’s Cabbage in the Dundas Valley outside of Hamilton. It was on the underside of a leaf close to the ground, camouflaged very well. Although it was only 4pm and the sun was still shining, I watched as the moth spread its wings and flew up through the trees. Rather a spiritual moment as I had just moments before been notified of the passing of a friend’s child after a prolonged illness. A sign, perhaps? It was beautiful and brought great peace to me.

    Reply
  23. I took pictures of a Luna Moth on my white door frame this morning.
    It is a beautiful moth. Sad it will only live a week.

    Reply
  24. I took pictures of a Luna Moth on my white door frame this morning.
    It is a beautiful moth. Sad it will only live a week.

    Reply
  25. Have a beautiful Luna Moth on my patio,, here in Yarmouth Nova Scotia ,,,, always heard of them ,, beautiful

    Reply
  26. We just found a Luna moth on our front door yesterday, hung around all afternoon and evening. First time we have ever seen one of these guys! Kids were quite shocked by it, never mind, I was quite impressed by it. We are in Trenton Ontario.

    Reply
  27. I am in bailiboro Ontario and I woke up this mprning to find a luna moth attatched to my screen door its still here.

    Reply
  28. Does the Luna Moth chrysalis sometimes stay white for weeks? I’ve heard that it was supposed to turn brown. But we found a Luna caterpillar 3 weeks ago. It formed it’s cocoon the night we found it. It only halfway wrapped itself in a leaf and it’s cocoon has remained white ever since! I hope it’s ok! Suggestions?

    Reply
  29. My husband and I saved a Luna caterpillar about 4 weeks ago. It made its cocoon the same night but hasn’t hatched yet. I thought maybe it died but It was scratching again. Will it hatch soon?

    Reply
    • Though in many locations, the Luna Moth overwinters as a cocoon, it is early in the season to have a Luna Moth cocoon that waits until next spring to “hatch” so we suspect you live in an area where there are multiple generations (southern portion of the range) of Luna Moths in a given season. That stated, we suspect you will have an emergence soon, especially if you heard a scratching sound.

      Reply
  30. Hi Bugman…..I found a Luna Caterpillar on Aug 8th, it cocooned on the 10th. It’s still cocooned and doesn’t make much noise/scratching unless I touched. Do you think it will come out soon or overwinter? It’s been indoors since our temps (i’m near Chicago) have been all over the place….put it back outside? Any help is appreciated….ty!

    Reply
  31. We had this beautiful huge light green moth fluttering outside our deck glass doors tonight at 11:30 pm and it kept trying to go towards a lamp inside the house. That was the coolest moth we’ve ever seen. It made the small moths on the window look like ants compared to its size. I really hope he comes back to visit. What an interesting insect! East Hartland CT

    Reply
    • It had the wings similar to an angel and so far has not returned. I think a bat may have spotted it fluttering as we do have bats near my deck.?

      Reply
  32. We saw a beautiful Luna Moth at the Georgian College in Orillia Ontario, Canada while dropping off our granddaughter there on Tuesday, 19th June 2018 at about 3:00Pm. I think it was trying to go to it’s dorm room at the college.

    Reply
  33. Had a huge luna moth on my back deck this morning. I am in Lisbon CT. The wingspan had to be well over 4”. Is this native to the area?

    Reply
  34. We have a luma moth on our stone just at out front door. That was 6:45am and I expected to see it gone by noon, but it still in his/her place at 6:13 this evening. I subspect his flight will be in the dark purhapes. Guessing it’s tired & resting up! Or waiting for a mate?

    Reply
    • Since Luna Moths don’t eat as adults, they save their flying energy. Males will fly to seek mates. We are not certain if females wait for mates or if they also fly prior to mating. A mated female will fly to lay eggs.

      Reply
  35. Found a Luna moth on our cabin this morning at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park, Mattawa, On.

    Reply
  36. My daughter and I found a Luna Moth on the shores of the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia yesterday. It was water logged. We let it crawl on a stick and moved it to higher, safer ground . Amazing to see.

    Reply
  37. Found one on my evergreen early am. It stayed there to almost 4:30p
    I took pictures it was so pretty
    Madison Ct.

    Reply
  38. Found one on my evergreen early am. It stayed there to almost 4:30p
    I took pictures it was so pretty
    Madison Ct.

    Reply
  39. My Wife and I found a Luna Moth in the Car park of a Brantford Ontario Walmart shopping center.
    It was on the tarmacfighting the wind.
    I allowed it to climb onto my hand and placed it in a garden bed where it crawled into the shade of a flower.
    This is at 9 am in the morning.
    Seemed strange to see on in such a built up area.
    Sat July 13 2019

    Reply
  40. My Wife and I found a Luna Moth in the Car park of a Brantford Ontario Walmart shopping center.
    It was on the tarmacfighting the wind.
    I allowed it to climb onto my hand and placed it in a garden bed where it crawled into the shade of a flower.
    This is at 9 am in the morning.
    Seemed strange to see on in such a built up area.
    Sat July 13 2019

    Reply
  41. Luna moth spotted Guelph ontario early this morrning. was flying at reflections on the ground in our factory, caught it and put it outside.

    Reply
  42. Hi I found a Luna moth caterpillar last night walking on the sidewalk I have photographs not sure how to load him what a beautiful insect!

    Reply
  43. I feel so bad. We found a Luna Moth caterpillar last fall, that night it made it’s cocoon, hooked itself to the side of the container. The next morning we were so surprised to see it. Well, the container it was in was way to small so I wanted to put it in something larger and gently took it off the wall of the plastic container and put it in something bigger. Well that was last Sept. After all this time I though it had died, I didn’t feel it moving and just felt it rolling around inside. That was a couple of weeks ago, so just left it alone. Well I explained to my son that it had more than likely died and he asked if he could open it up, well you guessed it, is was still alive. We carefully put it back into the cocoon, placed it into the terrarium with some grass over it, I did spritzed it with some water, the terrarium not the cocoon. Is there any chance it will live?

    Reply
  44. Mountsberg,Ontario 9:30am
    (between Hamilton & Guelph)
    My daycare and I saw the most amazing Luna Moth
    We looked in our butterfly book, then the internet to learn more.
    Wow, the kids really enjoyed watching it.
    Next day, gone
    What a nice experience for all

    Reply
  45. I live in Thunder Bay Ontario and have many Luna moth sightings since I was a child. I now have a cocoon in my house to winter and hoping it will emerge in the spring. They like to be in the yard light area and land on a rough surface such as a door screen, cement wall or wood exterior. The birds eat them first thing in the morning leaving evidence behind such as wing remains. It common to have 3 or 4 each day that I would see. Also is the humming bird moth which we have plenty.

    Reply
  46. I came home this evening, i am in Thunder Bay ontario, to find a beautiful, quite large Luna moth on my back screen door, i took pictures of it, front side and back. it was a male, by his furry antenna. i have never seen one before, so i researched it.. this sighting happened on canada day evening. i am now quite sad to learn that he will die soon. but he was mesmerizing.

    Reply
  47. Hello,
    I live in the midwest in Mpls, MN.
    I found a large 4” thick neon-green caterpillar high-tailing it down my river birch tree on July 19, 2023. I put it with tree leaves inside my butterfly net enclosure and it immediately became a white leaf-wrapped cocoon. Today August 16 is 4 weeks from that day and I am wondering if it will emerge yet this summer, or overwinter? Should it be spritzed with a
    mist of water as I’ve read here and there, or simply be left alone. If it doesn’t emerge in coming weeks, when would it come out, late spring? Winter is brutal up here in the Midwest.
    Thanks for any help.
    Jan

    Reply

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