We have been black lighting at night in our back yard. If you are not familiar with black lighting, it is basically placing a really bright light bulb in front of a white sheet to attract all sorts of different insects. Well, at our house in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, we have started getting the beautiful and unmistakable luna moths arriving!!
We got our first luna moth (Actias luna) about a week and a half ago. It was still getting pretty cold at night and this little guy was pretty cold in the morning so he let me gently pick him up and get a selfie with him! You have to be careful so you don't remove any of the scales on their wings.
Last week it got REALLY cold, below freezing, and I was a bit worried about the luna's that we had seen the week before. Normally luna moths overwinter as a a pupa wrapped up in dead leaves. You can sometimes see the pupae hanging from trees or if you are really lucky among other dead leaves under trees like sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). This is one of the food plants for the caterpillars.
Luna moth larva on sweetgum
Throughout summer you can find these little critters on several different host plants other than sweetgum. Like white birch (Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), hickories (Carya spp.), walnuts (Juglans spp.), and sumacs (Rhus spp.). If you have any of these trees in your yard or near your house you may also have luna moths! As the caterpillars grow, they change color a bit and get larger. Below is a larger adult that has a little bit of sweetgum leaf on the side of its mouth.
Luna moth in flight
We have all summer with this amazing moth. I hope you get to see one!
Keep your eyes out for all sorts of cool insects in your back yard!!