Luna Moth Life Cycle and Biology Explained

Like other Lepidoptera species, the Luna moths life cycle includes 4 stages, egg, larva, pupa, and adulthood. The 4 stages are known as a complete metamorphosis, and this moth lives about 72 days in total unless it happens to overwinter.

Luna Moth Life Cycle Stages

The Luna moth has 4 life stages — egg, larva (chrysalis) or pupa, and adulthood. Therefore, it goes through a process called complete metamorphosis.

Luna Moth Eggs Appearance

Luna moth eggs
Luna moth eggs

The eggs of the Luna moth eggs are dark with gold, yellow, and orange shades with a hint of red and white round markings in the middle. They are oval and can measure just a little over 0.04 inches (1 mm) each.

How many eggs does a Luna moth produce?

The female Luna moth can produce about 200 to 400 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch in approximately a week to 13 days and are hidden among the host plant’s leaves.

Where are Luna moth eggs often found?

Luna moths pick the host plants depending on their location. Still, most will choose host plants native to North America (Florida in the US, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan in Canada).

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Some of the host plants they prefer include:

  • Sweetgum
  • Sumac
  • White birch
  • Walnut
  • Persimmon
  • Hickory

Luna Moth Caterpillar Stage

Luna moth caterpillar
Luna moth caterpillar

After hatching from the eggs, this moth transitions to the next phase — the larval stage. In this stage, Luna caterpillars eat and molt through 5 instars in 3 to 4 weeks. 

How many instars does the Luna moth have?

There are 5 instars of the Luna moth caterpillar stage:

First instarThe larva appears bright green with tufts of hair all over the thorax and black feathery antennae over their heads.
Second instarIt’s still a similar shade of green, but the base of the tufts is yellowish.
Third instarThe base color is the same as the first and second instars, and the base of the tufts turns a deeper brownish-orange hue. 
Fourth instarThe main difference during this phase is the longer tufts of hair and the larger size of the larva in relation to the previous instars.
Fifth instar:Each segment is defined with white lines, and the tufts of hair disappear.

Is the luna moth caterpillar poisonous?

The Luna moth larva is not poisonous. However, due to their vivid colors and hairy bodies, Luna moths can be mistaken for poisonous insects. 

Moreover, the hairs on the Luna moth are not spiky enough to pierce human flesh like those of other hairy poisonous species. They do not carry any toxins either. 

As a result, you can’t have adverse reactions to Luna moths even if you touch them with your bare hands. The Luna moth merely uses its vivid green color as camouflage to hide among the foliage.

Luna Moth Cocoon and Pupa

The cocoons of Luna moths are either brown or green. They have a hard outer shell and can grow to 2 inches long. The chrysalis shields the moth throughout the entire pupal phase. 

As the moths emerge, they fold their wings close to their bodies. They will gradually expand to their full size after a few hours.

The Luna moth will have a bloated abdomen as it breaks out of the cocoon. This is a result of built-up hemolymph in its belly. 

This blood-and-fluid combo is pushed to various bodily areas during the first several hours. The Luna moth should wait about 2 to 3 hours for the wings to dry and solidify before flying. 

Adult Luna Moth Description

Adult luna moth
Adult luna moth

On average, its wingspan is roughly 3 to 4 inches. The caudal part of the hindwings has long curved structures that look like tails. The base color of the wings is pale green with some transparent eyespots. The Luna moth also has two spots on its forewings and hindwings and a greyish line on the top of its forewings.

Adult Luna Moth Behavior

Adult Luna moths have reduced mouthparts, so they don’t eat. This results in a short lifespan of only 10 days. During this time, the main goal of the Luna moth is to mate and lay eggs. To do this, females will release sex pheromones, and males will detect them via large antennae.

They’ll fly toward the female, and she will mate with the first male that approaches. The mating ritual occurs after midnight and lasts for several hours.

The Luna moth is a strong flyer and is usually active during the night, but you may spot it around during the daytime.

What is the Life Span of a Luna Moth?

The egg hatches after 7 to 13 days following successful mating during the day. Oviposition of these moths of North America begins that same evening and lasts for several days. The larvae will emerge from the eggs after approximately a week.

The larva period lasts about 3 weeks, as well as the pupa stage (unless overwintering). As adults, they lack mouths, so their life span in only 10 days.

  • Egg: 7 to 13 days
  • Larva: about 3 weeks
  • Pupa: 3 weeks to 9 months when overwintering
  • Imago (adult): 10 days

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