WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – LOPATCONG, NJ
This photograph is of a Luna Moth captured by Donna A. Fiore in Lopatcong, New Jersey. The camera used to photograph this Luna Moth was a Canon PowerShot A710 IS. Actias luna, commonly known as the Luna Moth, is a lime-green, Nearctic Saturniid moth in the family Saturniidae, subfamily Saturniinae. It has a wingspan of up to 4.5 inches (114mm), making it one of the largest moths in North America.
The Luna Moth is identified by hindwings having long curving tails. Wings are pale green, each with a transparent eyespot. Outer margins are pink in the southern spring brood, yellow in the southern summer brood and in northern populations.
Adult Luna Moths emerge from their cocoons in the morning. Their wings are very small when they first emerge and they must enlarge them by pumping bodily fluids through them. During this time, their wings will be soft and they must climb somewhere safe to wait for their wings to harden before they can fly away. This process takes about 2 hours to complete. The Luna Moth typically has a wingspan of 8–11.5 cm (3.1–4.5 in), rarely exceeding 17.78 cm (7.00 in) with long, tapering hindwings, which have eyespots on them in order to confuse potential predators. Although rarely seen due to their very brief (1 week) adult lives, Luna Moths are considered common. As with all Saturniidae, the adults do not eat or have mouths. They emerge as adults solely to mate, and as such, only live approximately one week. They are more commonly seen at night.
The adults are strongly attracted to light – particularly UV wavelengths. There has been some concern that light pollution from man-made sources (particularly mercury vapor street lights) may deter lunas and other silk moths from mating and have a negative impact on their populations in urban areas .
Males are strong fliers and may disperse over relatively long distances. Females release a sex-attractant pheromone and may attract males from a distance. Mating usually takes place during the first couple of hours after midnight. Adults have vestigial mouthparts and do not feed. Therefore, they are short-lived. Females begin laying eggs the following evening after mating and continue for several nights (Tuskes et al. 1996). At least in captivity and probably also in nature, the eggs may be laid either singly or in small clusters.