Luna Moth

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Luna Moth

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Actias luna
Saturniidae (saturniid moths)

On adults, the overall color is a pale or lime green, with a dark leading edge on the forewings, and a long, tapering tail on the hindwings; each of the four wings has an eyespot. Antennae, particularly on males, are feathery. Larvae are bright green, the segments convex with narrow yellow lines between, a yellowish lateral band below the spiracles, and three lateral rows of reddish tubercles on each side; the head is brownish.

Wingspan: 3–4¼ inches; larvae can grow up to 3½ inches long.
Habitat and conservation: 
Luna moths are usually found in and near deciduous woodlands, where their larval food plants occur: walnut, hickory, persimmon and sweet gum. In some areas, populations have declined due to habitat destruction and increased use of bright lights at night, which can disrupt mating cycles.
Luna moth larvae feed on the foliage of walnut, hickory, persimmon and sweet gum trees. Adults don’t eat at all and only live about a week.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common throughout the state.
Life cycle: 
Eggs incubate for 8–13 days before hatching. The larvae (caterpillars) feed and grow larger, then pupate in a thin, silken cocoon spun among leaf litter on the ground, and emerge as winged adults. There are three broods in Missouri, with adults flying from early April through August. Around midnight, females “call” males by emitting pheromones, which the male’s highly sensitive, featherlike antennae can pick up.
Human connections: 
Luna moths are often used in classrooms to teach insect life cycles. Their beauty is appreciated as well by those lucky enough to spot them.
Ecosystem connections: 
Luna moth caterpillars are herbivores that graze on the vegetation of trees. All stages provide food for predators.
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