Luna moths are members of the Saturniidae family and often referred to as the giant silkworm moth. They are found in forests throughout North America which in turn can lead to them coming into contact with humans and gardens if certain trees like the walnut tree are found nearby. Like other types of moths and butterflies they divide opinion, with some seeing them as pests and others seeing them as beautiful creatures.
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Luna moths are fairly large, with typical full grown moths having a wingspan that can reach 5 inches (12.7cm). According to Agri Life Extension, luna moth “wings are light green, marked with transparent spots and a pink-purple or yellow forewing margins and hind wings bearing long twisted tails.” When caterpillars, luna moths can be between 2 and 4 inches (5 to 10cm) long and are light green with a pale yellow horizontal line running along it.
Adults will begin to emerge in March in order to find a mate and lay eggs, which are oval in shape. A female luna moth can lay up to 200 eggs in her life and are usually laid on leaves of trees that include persimmon, sweet gum, hickory and walnut. After around 10 days, the eggs hatch and will eventually cocoon and turn into luna moths. There are two of these cycles per year.
These moths are fairly common across the U.S. and can are regularly found in states such as Missouri and Arkansas. As they lay their eggs in trees they can be found in tress, bushes and leaves where this plant life can be found. According to Agri Life Extension, luna moth “caterpillars feed on leaves of walnut, hickory, sweetgum, maple, oak, persimmon, willow and other trees,” so if these trees and plants are nearby you may be able to spot them.
Luna moth caterpillars have chewing mouth parts, whereas adult full-grown moths have siphoning mouths, meaning they can eat a range of leaves previously outlined. In some states, different food seems to be more appealing to luna moths. In Connecticut, black walnut seems to be the favorite food plant of lunas as reported by Claire Hagen Dole in Butterfly Gardeners' Quarterly.