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Luna Moth (Actias luna)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Luna Moth



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Image Credit: Laura A., taken at the summit of Mt. Monadnock, Marlboro, NH
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Lori E.
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Image Credit: Louis D. from Bridgewater, CT
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Lisa F. from Park Hill, OK
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Image Credit: Darren H.
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Image Credit: Paul M. from North Adams, MA
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Image Credit: Ray L.
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Image Credit: Crystal P. from Quinton, AL
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Image Credit: Joe V. from AR
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Image Credit: Joe V. from AR
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Image Credit: Terri
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Image Credit: Carolyn F., taken near Plain, WI
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Sightings of the green and purple, long-tailed Luna Moth send many North Americans over the moon.



Updated: 02/19/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Saturniidae
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          Genus: Actias
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            Species: luna
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Actias luna
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 75mm to 105mm (2.95" to 4.13")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green; yellow; white; pink; purple
Descriptors: hairy, downy, fuzzy, flying, endangered
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 75mm and 105mm
Lo: 75mm
Md: 90mm
Hi: 105mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Luna Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Luna Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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