by Ciara Cooney, 15
Did you know the luna moth, one of the giant silk moths in the family Saturniidae, lives right here at Choctaw Lake? This particular luna moth was found by the Lohrer family at a neighbor’s house on West Choctaw.
The luna moth is a large light green colored moth, with a ruffled swallow tail, pink legs, bushy antennae, bullseye spots on their wings, and a reputation for shimmering when the light strikes its wings at night. Luna moths are so large that one can see their shadow flit across the room when they fly past a light at night. Like most moths, the luna moth is strongly attracted to light. They may even delay their journey to a mate for hours, basking in the incandescent glow of a lighted gas station.
Luna moths start their life cycle as an egg like most moths, and once they eat through the wall of the egg which holds them, they do nothing but eat until they build their cocoons. The larvae’s diet varies in different parts of the country. In this part of North America the larvae prefer to eat white birch leaves. Once a larvae is secure in its cocoon, it never eats again. When it first emerges, the newly hatched moth will let its wings dry, and then fly away, off to find a mate. Luna moths only live for one week, time just sufficient to mate and lay eggs. A female lays about four to six hundred eggs on the underside of leaves where they will take eight to thirteen days to hatch.
Since luna moths have such a short lifespan they typically appear in generations, the number of generations depending on the warmth of the area. Warmer areas can have up to three generations of luna moths each summer, while cooler climates may only have one. They are typically spaced about every eight to ten weeks, usually starting in March. Experts say the only way to tell male and females apart is by their antennae, males usually have larger and bushier ones.
If you want to attract luna moths to your yard, experts suggest planting, walnut, birch, hickory, and large leaf trees.
Overall, the Luna Moth is one of the most beautiful and delicate moths in The United States. If you are lucky, you might even see one in your own backyard.
This post is part of a regular feature on Choctaw Lake Weekly. Every Tuesday we hope to feature an article of local interest, preferably written by children here at the lake, but we are accepting articles from any lake residents. Do you have a child who loves to write or do you have a local interest article you’d like to write? Check out our submission guidelines, here.