Sightings of the green and purple, long-tailed Luna Moth send many North Americans over the moon.
This large, pale green Giant Silkmoth can be found in hardwood forests. Luna Moths are unique to North America. Their bright green wings extend into long, thin tails. A purple or pink 'bumper' at the front edges of the wings is hard to miss. A downy coating covers the forewings and hindwings. Four distinctive eyespots adorn their wings and their antennae are very feathery. This particular species has become quite recognizable thanks to its adoption as a spokesmodel by a popular sleeping medication.
Luna Moths are greatly attracted to lights at night, so leaving a porch light on will increase the likelihood of spotting one. They are sensitive to the environment. Light pollution (constant light at night), pesticides, and parasitic flies all harm this delicate species. They are only found in North America and wild populations are threatened due to these sensitivities. Unfortunately, they are not listed as endangered by the IUCN or the EPA, so restrictions on light pollution and pesticide use in their habitats are unlikely. To conserve and educate the public, populations of Luna Moths are being bred in captivity and are often used in classrooms to teach about butterfly life cycles and their role in the environment.
As a member of the Silkmoth family, the larvae (caterpillar) of the Luna moth spins a silky cocoon. The plump green body is covered with small red spots and fine light bristles. Larvae eat the leaves on birch, sweetgum, hickory, and walnut trees.
Scientific Name: Actias luna
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 75mm to 105mm (2.93in to 4.10in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.