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31 May 2012

Tierra de los Sueños / TdS·Posta / 1st Day Issue: Luna Moth (Actias luna)

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Tierra de los Sueños / TdS·Posta
1st Day Issue: Luna Moth


Actias luna
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Luna Moth
Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Arthropoda
Class:     Insecta
Order:     Lepidoptera
Family:     Saturniidae
Genus:     Actias
Species:     A. luna
Binomial name
Actias luna (Linnaeus, 1758)

Actias luna, commonly known as the Luna Moth, is a lime-green, Nearctic Saturniid moth in the family Saturniidae, subfamily Saturniinae.[1] It has a wingspan of up to 4.5 inches (114mm),[2] making it one of the largest moths in North America.


This moth is found in North America from east of the Great Plains in the United States to northern Mexico and from Manitoba eastward through central Quebec to Nova Scotia in Canada.[3]
Life cycle

Based on the climate in which they live, the Luna Moths produce differing numbers of generations. In Canada and northern regions, they can live up to 7 days and will produce only one generation per year. These reach adulthood from early June to early July. In the northeastern United States around New Jersey or New York, the moths produce two generations each year. The first of these appear in April and May, and the second group can be seen approximately nine to eleven weeks later. In the southern United States, there can be as many as three generations. These are spaced every eight to ten weeks beginning in March.


Female Luna Moths lay 100–300 eggs, 4–7 eggs at a time, on the underside of leaves, and they incubate for eight to thirteen days. The moths will lay more eggs in a favorable climate.


Each instar generally takes about five days to a week to complete. After hatching, the caterpillars tend to wander around before finally settling on eating the particular plant they are on. These caterpillars tend to be gregarious for the first two to three instars, but separate and live independently after that. As with all Saturniids, these caterpillars go through five instars before cocooning. At the end of each instar, a small amount of silk is placed on the major vein of a leaf and the larva then undergoes apolysis. The caterpillar then undergoes ecdysis, or molts from that position leaving the old exoskeleton behind. Sometimes the shed exoskeleton is eaten. Each instar is green, though the first two instars do have some variation in which some caterpillars will have black underlying splotches on their dorsal side. Variation after the second instar is still noticeable, but slight. The dots that run along the dorsal side of the caterpillars vary from a light yellow to a dark magenta. The final instar grows to approximately nine centimeters in length.


Scales of Luna Moth eye spot
Eclosion of A. luna. Time elapse: ±45 sec.

The Luna Moth pupates after spinning a cocoon. The cocoon is thin and single layered. Shortly before pupation, the final, fifth instar caterpillar will engage in a "gut dump" where any excess water, food, feces, and fluids are expelled. The caterpillar will also have an underlying golden reddish‐brown color and become less active. As a pupa, this species is particularly active. When disturbed, if it feels threatened the moth will wiggle within its pupal case, producing a noise. Pupation takes approximately two weeks unless the individual is diapausing. The mechanisms for diapause are generally a mixture of genetic triggers, duration of sunlight or direct light during the day, and temperature.


Adults eclose, or 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)[4], rarely exceeding 17.78 cm (7.00 in)[5] 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.[4] They emerge as adults solely to mate, and as such, only live approximately one week. They are more commonly seen at night.

Host plants

The caterpillars feed on the following host plants:

    Betula (Birch)
    Alnus (Alder)
    Diospyros (Persimmon)
    Liquidambar (Sweetgum)
    Carya and Annamocarya (Hickory)
    Juglans (Walnut)
    Rhus (Sumac)

Popular culture

    The pharmaceutical company Sepracor markets its sleep medication Lunesta using a logo that incorporates the Luna moth.

    British electronic musician Jon Hopkins released a 2004 album called "Contact Note" whose front cover features a cropped image of a Luna Moth. The album's final track is entitled "Luna Moth".

    Michael Stipe, the lead singer and lyricist from American alternative rock band R.E.M. has referenced luna moths in song lyrics on two separate occasions. First on "You", the closing track on 1994’s Monster, Stipe sang, “Did I dream you were a tourist in the Arizona sun? I can see you there with luna moths and watermelon gum”. Secondly, on "Boy in the Well" from 2004’s Around the Sun Stipe sang, “The track mall gang went off on the Tennessee goth – a luna moth, you chrysalis and flail”.

    Luna Moth appear in the fifth installment of the The Elder Scrolls series: Skyrim. In-game Luna Moth appear only during the nighttime and can be caught by the player either in air or when they land, their wings can be used to create various potions using Alchemy.

    In the middle grade novel Stranger Moon by Heather Zydek, a 12-year-old girl spends her summer hunting for Luna moths.[6]

    In the children's book The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle, the Luna moth appears near the end of the narrative, where the eponymous cricket "enjoyed the silence" of the moth's passing.

    A Luna moth is displayed of the front cover of Changeling: The Lost, a roleplaying source book by White Wolf.

    In the Pathfinder tabletop role-playing game, luna moths are a symbol of the goddess Desna.

    In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, the Luna moth serves as partial inspiration for Joe Kavalier to create the Mistress of the Night character

    The lunamoth's name was used to create the name Luminoth a species of advanced, humanoid moth in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes


    ^ A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America, Special Publication 12, Virginia Museum of Natural History, 2005.
    ^ "Luna Moth". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
    ^ "luna moth - Actias luna (Linnaeus)". 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
    ^ a b "Species Detail: Luna moth – Actias luna (Linnaeus, 1758)".
    ^ "Species Detail: Largest and smallest butterfly and moth".
    ^ Stranger Moon

Media related to Actias luna at Wikimedia Commons

    Luna moth info
    Step by step development of Luna life cycle (Caution: high bandwidth usage, many pictures)
    luna moth on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site
    Luna Moth page from checklist form on UGA / John Pickering's Discover Life Web Site
    Butterflies and, formerly on USGS site / Butterflies and

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