This beautiful pale green moth appeared on the trunk of a neighbor’s tree Sunday. She knew exactly what it was, having seen them during her childhood.
“I have a luna moth!” she emailed me.
We were both excited – we don’t see many in Forest Hills. The woods are their usual habitat and when they are around, they are active only at night.
This particular moth had emerged from its cocoon earlier in the day with its wings crumpled and wet. When this photo was taken it had already pumped and expanded its wings, and it was letting them dry. It was a large moth, with a wing span of three to four inches.
The moth has only one mission in mind – to mate. It will live only seven days and it will not eat – it has no mouth parts.
Night is mating time. If this is a female it will probably stay close by, and in the evening it will emit a pheromone (odor) from the bottom tip of its abdomen. This odor will attract the males.
Once mated, the female will lay 200 or eggs on leaves of local trees. Hickory, sweet gum, walnut, birch and a few others are host plants in our area. The caterpillars will spend their time eating for about five weeks, then make a cocoon and pupate. This three-minute video has more information about the life cycle of a luna moth.
Luna moths have two generations in our area – April/May and again two months later – and my guess is that this cocoon will be the one to winter over. So, next spring we will be watching to see if the cycle repeats!