Did You Know? Moth Facts

Facts about Moths

The Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

If you’ve ever walked out your door in the morning and encountered a Luna Moth clinging to the underside of a light or on the screen door, you know what a delight it is to see these large, lime green moths. The Luna, known as the “moon moth,” is perhaps the most famous among giant silkworm moths. Its 4 ½-inch wingspan, together with the delicate wing coloration and the added grace of its tails, make it a striking creature to see. It ranges east of the Great Plains.

  • When the Luna hatches its first instar is 6 – 8 mm (.23inches) and grows to 65mm (2.5 inches) before pupating.
  • Luna Moths are endangered due to deforestation and pesticides.
  • Female Luna’s release a potent perfume by contracting muscles in the abdomen.  It is almost undetectable to humans, but the scent is detected by a male Luna up to a half a mile away.
  • Female Lunas prefer to deposit their fertilized eggs on hickory, birch, sweet gum or persimmon trees.
  • Luna’s deposit their eggs on trees where other species of moths have laid their eggs, making stiff competition for the caterpillars.

Giant silkworm moths are hard to spot because they prefer to fly high in the trees. The caterpillars are lime green with yellow bands, and red and silver tubercles (small, knob-like or rounded protuberances that sometimes bear a spine).

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Tiger Moths

The Rattlebox Moth is one of the few moths active during daylight hours.

Rattlebox Moth

Rattlebox Moth © James H. Robinson

  • They can be found in the American Southeast and Texas.
  • They are brightly colored with pink hind wings bordered by black, and orange-yellow forewings, which have white accents speckled with black.
  • The Rattlebox got its name because the caterpillar feeds on rattlebox, a genus of herbaceous plants, as well as sweet clover and sweet fern.
  • The caterpillar has a red head, yellow body, white side stripes, and alternating black and white stripes on its back.
  • The Lichen caterpillar feeds on lichens, which are usually shunned by insects.
    • Lichen Moths are often mistaken for netwing beetles because of their similar color, pattern, size and tendency to be found on the same flowers.
  • The caterpillar of the Woolly Bear is said in folklore to predict the severity of the winter based on the number of black hairs, rather than red ones, on the species.
    • This myth does actually have a bit of truth to it: Cold weather in early autumn causes a Woolly Bear to seek shelter sooner, and at this time, their black hairs are more grown in than their red hairs.

Facts on Other Moths:

  •  The pupas of Polyphemus Moths emerge from the cocoon as brownish-yellow with an eyespot on each hind wing and without any tails.
Polyphemus Moth

Polyphemus Moth showing eyespots © Tom Vezo

  • Cecropia caterpillars spend their lives on ash, elm, willow, and lilac trees.
    • These caterpillars are green with blue side shading and red, yellow, and blue tubercles.
    • This pupa spins a cocoon along a twig that must hold up all winter long.
    • The Io Moth is known for its small size, with a wingspan three inches or less, which still enables the moth to flash a warning to predators.
        • The Io caterpillar has venomous spines
  • The White-lined Sphinx Moth whir like hummingbirds and is found in meadows and gardens especially where portulaca grows.
  • The Hummingbird Moth is often mistaken for a hummingbird because of its soft buzzing and outstretched wings while sipping nectar.
  • The Lappet Moth, commonly found in Michigan, is named after its caterpillar that has small lobes, or “lappets,” on the sides of its body.

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