Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Actias Luna

Geographic Range

The luna moth occurs widespread in the forested areas of North America. In Canada the species has been found from Nova Scotia through central Quebec and Ontario. In the United States the species has been found in every state east of the Great Plains all the way south to northern Mexico.


The luna moth occurs in the forested areas of North America. They seem to prefer decidous woodlands, with trees such as the hickory, walnut, sumacs, and persimmon.

Physical Description

The luna moth is an easily distinguishable species with long sweeping hindwing tails and varying in color from yellowish green to pale bluish green. Both sexes are similar in size, but males have a more strongly feathered antennae. The wingspan ranges from 80mm-115mm. This species also exhibits both polyphenism and regional phenotypic variation. In its early stages the luna moth is a green caterpillar that has hair, spiny tubercles, and a yellow stripe on each side.


The luna moth is a nocturnal species, and is not often seen in the daytime. As do many saturniids, the luna moth uses wing patterns as a defense against predators. The luna moth can mimic living and dead leaves on the ground by remaining motionless when not involved in reproductive behavior. The moths will also dramatically flutter their wings when attacked.


The luna moth exhibits a pheromone mating system. This ability to attract distant males via chemical communication is found in all female saturniids. Undeterred by obstacles such as leaves and branches, the male moths will persistently follow the scent trail of a female. Then the female will typically mate with the first male to reach her. Since the luna moth is a nocturnal species, mating usually occurs in the first hours after midnight. If the pair is undisturbed then they will remain in copula until the next evening, but the slightest disturbance can cause separation. After the separation of the pair, then ovipostion will begin and continue for several nights. A female luna moth will seek a host plant in which to oviposit. Some populations of luna moths complete more than one generation in a year.

Food Habits

The luna moth is an insect herbivore. As a caterpillar it feeds on the foliage of various species of hickory, walnut, sweet-gum, persimmon, and birch trees. It has been reported that it is particularly fond of the persimmon.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Luna moths have often been used in classrooms to help teach insect life cycles. They have also proven good subjects in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects contributed by luna moths.

Animal Diversity Web: Actias Luna (Luna Moth)

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