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You put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, wash your face, and jump into bed. Nighttime has come once again and you’re ready to catch some zzzzz’s. But if you were a Luna Moth, your day would would be just beginning.
One BIG Moth!
The Luna Moth is one of the largest moths in North America with a wingspan of 3.4 to 5 inches long. Its green-yellow color and nocturnal (active at night) behavior is perhaps why it’s commonly known as the Moon Moth.
It Grows and…GROWS!
This moth spends most of its life as a caterpillar. It eats several leaves every day. As a result, it grows very quickly. Soon its skin becomes so tight that it actually splits. But not to worry, there’s a a new skin underneath. It just wiggles out of the old one and leaves it behind.
The caterpillar does this over and over until its about 2.5 inches long. Its now considered fully grown and its time for it to build a cocoon.
Wind That Thread!
With a sticky thread-like substance that comes from below its mouth, the caterpillar winds the thread around itself. It then adds the final touch – a leaf. With more sticky thread, it secures the leaf snuggly in place. This acts as extra protection for the growing moth.
From Caterpillar to Luna Moth!
Three weeks later, in the early morning, the adult moth emerges from the cocoon. At first the moth is very weak. The wings are small and crumpled, so it has to crawl to a safe place. It then rests and allows its bodily fluids to pump into its wings. This process is known as drying.
Once the wings are fully expanded, the moth is ready to find a mate. They must do this quickly, because the adult moth doesn’t eat and will only live for about a week.
Is That Pheromone I Smell?
In the late evening, the female Moon Moth will give off a scent or pheromone that only the male moth can smell. He is able to do this because his big, bushy antennae’s hold thousands of tiny scent receptors. It would be like having thousands of noses on only one face!
After the male Moon Moth finds a female, they attach themselves together and stay this way until the next evening.
The female must then lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs. She knows the types of leaves that her babies will like to eat. These include hickory, birch, walnut, and persimmon.
She lays only 4 to 6 eggs on the underside of each leaf. Then in about 8 to 13 days, the baby Lunas will hatch and begin their own lives under the moon.
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