Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Luna Moth (Actias luna)

On our scouting trips, we often see things that are ‘out of place.’ On most occasions, it’s a shape that ‘doesn’t belong.’ On this occasion, I yelled, ‘Stop!’ In the instant I saw it, I knew what it was. As we backed up, I was able to follow up with, ‘Luna moth!’

Usually, our only sightings of Luna Moths (Actias luna) occur when they land on our windows in the evening. The windows are high that we can’t get up to photograph them. Seeing one, accessible in the woods, was a real treat.

From a distance.

About the actual size I saw as we drove down the road.

Much closer. At first I lay on the ground a little distance away but then moved up to it.

W saw flex in the legs. This was probably a newly emerged moth which hadn’t yet developed full strength in its legs.

A close view of the ‘eye’ on the front wing. The ‘eye’ on the rear wing wasn’t visible in this pose.

A view of the head and antennae from above

A view of the body from underneath. This moth has a large body. It will have to lose much of the fluid before it can fly. The ‘eye’ on the rear wing is visible from underneath

The moth took off but didn’t make it too far. Another sign that it had probably emerged recently.

A closer view. The ‘eyes’ on both sets of wings are clearly visible.

A close up of the ‘eyes’ on the rear wings.

This one is a female; see the difference in antennae between males and females.

We relocated the moth to the trunk of a nearby pine tree.

Another close view of the head and body, and…

... the head and antennae.

We left it basking in the late afternoon sun. Farewell…

See more information on the life cycle of the Luna Moth here and here.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- BugGuide: Luna Moth (Actias luna)


Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

What a lucky find! You happened upon it at just the right moment - with light and with it too new to fly away. Such a nice study.

JSK said...

Thanks. So many finds are serendipitous. Right place, right time.