Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFSaturniidae Members: 485 NC Records

Actias luna (Linnaeus, 1758) - Luna Moth


Taxonomy
Superfamily: Bombycoidea Family: SaturniidaeSubfamily: SaturniinaeTribe: AttaciniP3 Number: 890072.00 MONA Number: 7758.00
Comments: This is the only member of its genus found north of Mexico. A painting of this species was done by Mark Catesby, dated 1743, possibly from specimens collected in the Carolinas. According to Ferguson (1972), Linnaeus mentioned this painting in his description of the species, although the actual type material may have been collected in the Northeast.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BAMONATechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1923), Ferguson (1972), Tuskes et al. (1996)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1923), Ferguson (1972), Tuskes et al. (1996); Covell (1984), Wagner (2005)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: Adults are unmistakable: no other large moth in our area is pale green in color and has long "tails" on its hindwings. Spring individuals typically have narrow red or purplish bands along the outer margins of both wings. In summer individuals, these areas are yellowish.
Wingspan: 100 mm (Forbes, 1923)
Adult ID Requirements: Unmistakable and widely known.
Immatures and Development: The large, lime-green larvae are also quite distinctive. Although similar to the larvae of the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), they possess a light yellow lateral stripe that is missing in that species (see Wagner, 2005 for more details).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Occurs state-wide (Brimley, 1938)
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Immature Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Has two distinct broods over most of the state (Brimley, 1938). The pattern is less clear in the high mountains.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Occurs in virtually all types of hardwood forests in the state, from barrier islands (e.g., Fort Macon) to the high mountains (e.g., Great Smoky Mountains National Park). It is also frequently encountered in wooded residential areas.
Larval Host Plants: Feeds on many species of hardwood trees and shrubs but not on conifers or herbs (Covell, 1984; Wagner, 2005). Brimley (1938) reported it feeding on the following species in North Carolina: Sweet gum, Persimmon, hickory, and Black walnut (also on Pecan, a non-native species). Other host plants include alder, birch, hazel, beech, cherry, willow, and Black gum (Covell, 1984; Wagner, 2005).
Observation Methods: Comes well to 15 watt UV lights and also to incandescent light to some extent. Adults do not feed and consequently are not attracted by bait. Adult females can be tethered in order to attract males via the pheromones they release. Larvae can be detected in low trees and shrubs through their droppings. Like other Saturniids, larvae can be successfully raised in captivity from eggs obtained from captured females (see Tuskes et al., 1996 and Wagner, 2005).
Wikipedia
See also Habitat Account for General Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S5]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands
Comments: Populations are locally vulnerable to the effects of weather, outbreaks of disease, parasites, and predators, and to the effects of pesticides. However, given the commonness of their host plants, wide habitat range -- including suburban areas -- and statewide distribution, this species can easily recover from localized losses. In the Northeast, Luna Moths apparently escaped the declines shown in other species of Saturniids and Wagner (2012) considers them to be stable or becoming more frequent. On the other hand, Kellogg et al. (2003) found that Luna Moth caterpillars in central Virginia are parasitized by a Tachinid fly, Compsilura concinnata, that was widely introduced in the Northeast to control Gypsy Moths and other pest Lepidoptera. While the rate of parasitism in Virginia was found to be much lower than in other species studied farther north (see Boettner et al., 2000), this fly represents a serious and pervasive threat for many species of moths and is suspected to be responsible for the marked declines in Saturniids, in particular, farther north. While such impacts have not yet been documented in North Carolina, Compsilura will probably continue to expand its range southward and the situation needs to be monitored.

 Photo Gallery for Actias luna - Luna Moth

145 photos are available. Only the most recent 30 are shown.

Recorded by: Caleb Garner on 2021-09-24
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: C. Teague on 2021-09-10
Beaufort Co.
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Recorded by: JAMES R BURKE on 2021-08-12
Gaston Co.
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Recorded by: JAMES R BURKE on 2021-08-12
Gaston Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2021-08-10
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Bo Sullivan on 2021-08-09
Moore Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-08-05
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2021-08-04
Transylvania Co.
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Recorded by: Owen McConnell on 2021-07-26
Graham Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Becky Elkin on 2021-07-22
Graham Co.
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Recorded by: K. Bischof on 2021-07-11
Transylvania Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-07-06
Madison Co.
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Recorded by: Colleen Hudak-Wise on 2021-06-21
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Colleen Hudak-Wise on 2021-06-21
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Colleen Hudak-Wise on 2021-06-21
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Sasha on 2021-06-01
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-06-01
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-05-31
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: David Margolis, JoAnna Barnes on 2021-05-24
Orange Co.
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Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-05-17
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: tom ward on 2021-05-17
Buncombe Co.
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Recorded by: Owen McConnell on 2021-05-16
Graham Co.
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Recorded by: Preston Barker on 2021-05-01
Rockingham Co.
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Recorded by: Preston Barker on 2021-05-01
Rockingham Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-04-30
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-04-29
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2021-04-27
Guilford Co.
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Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-04-14
Wake Co.
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Recorded by: Simpson Eason on 2021-04-10
Durham Co.
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Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2021-04-05
Madison Co.
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