Luna Moth


male luna in loveplusfemale in loveequalslove


     Luna moths are dioecious (have separate male and female organisms), can reproduce both sexually and asexually, and  specifically use a pheromone mating system for sexual reproduction (Kumpulainen, et al., 2004). All females have a chemical that they release to attract distant males. When ready to mate, the female moth stays completely still for a few nights with unfertile eggs already in her body. When she is ready, usually after midnight, she releases the chemical form the tip of her abdomen by extending a scent gland, almost like a wick. male and female copulatingThis chemical scent travels through the air, possibly reaching miles away. Male luna moths fly in a zig-zag pattern until they pick up on a scent and track down the female who is ready to mate. The female moth mates with the first male that reaches her, almost like a "first come, first serve" basis. Once the pair makes contact, they form a copula. This copula must be undisturbed for about twenty-four hours, otherwise the couple could separate and fertilization may not be complete After the full day of copulation, the male and female luna moth separate and ovipositing begins and lasts for several nights. The female finds a host plant to oviposit (deposit her eggs on). pregnant femaleFinding the right host plant is very important because this is what the caterpillar will be feeding on when it hatches. Weirdly enough, the oviposit stage is when fertilization of the eggs actually occurs, NOT copulation. When the female is depositing her eggs on the plant leaves, the eggs pass through a mix of sperm, "glue", and seminal fluids that are stored in the female from when she was attached to the male. Most females lay approximately two hundred and fifty eggs during her seven to ten day adult life stage. Obviously all eggs are not laid at the same time, and not even the same day. Eggs deposited "x" amount of days before other eggs will end up hatching "x" amount of days earlier. "The eggs are medium sized and very dark brown in color" (

     Once these eggs hatch, they are considered to be first instar caterpillars. There are five total instar stages. Each time a caterpillar moves on to the next instar, it has to molt (shed its old skin) to accommodate its growing body.5th instar caterpillar The first four instar stages last about three to seven days each, and then the fifth and final instar lasts about six to fourteen days. Each instar stage has its own unique characteristics to tell how old the caterpillar is. The second instar for example has very prominent spiny tubercules. The fifth instar is characterized by its very chubby appearance. The caterpillar has stored a very large amount of food to last it through its cocoon stage. All stages of caterpillar have a bright green colored body, hair like projections, spiny tubercules, and a signature yellow stripe going along both sides of its body. After the fifth instar, the caterpillar is ready to spin its cocoon so it can transform into a green, gorgeous luna moth (http://www.silkmoths.bizland). "The caterpillars spin their cocoons at the base of theLuna caterpillar spinning a cocoon tree they were hatched on" ( This cocoon stage is the only place silk is created in this organism's entire life, even though it is considered to be in the silk moth family. There is not nearly enough silk produced to be used for commercial purposes!

The life stages of a luna moth caterpillar and adult are so different, from reproduction, to eating habits, to what time of day they are most active. This insect is, by far, one of the most interesting to learn about in its family.

For more information on nutrition, click here.
For more information on where you can find the luna moth, click here.
To view the gallery, click here.