Saturday night, as we were heading out to have dinner with my sisters and nieces, something caught my eye...
Dangling from a small branch...
...a just-hatched Luna moth.
We've seen several Luna moths (Actias Luna) in our area, particularly by our back porch door, as they are attracted to light. However, we've never encountered one drying its wings, preparing for its first flight.
Each pale green wing sports a translucent eyespot. You can see the spots on the bottom wings faintly through the unfurled top wings.
Adult Luna moths fly at night. Mating occurs after midnight, and egg laying begins that evening. Females lay eggs on host plant leaves, and the caterpillars emerge in a week, feasting on a variety of leaves: white birch, persimmon, sweet gum, hickories, walnuts, and sumacs.
Our home is tucked into a forest, surrounded by white birch, hickories, and sweet gum.
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate sweet gums? I've been known to roll down the driveway and land on my rear due to the carpet of sweet gum balls. I suppose now that I know itty bitty baby Luna moth caterpillars are eating the leaves, I might curse our sweet gum trees a bit less.
Adult Luna moths don't feed--they don't even have mouths. For their short lives, their only job is to reproduce.
And, after about a week of hard work, the adult Luna moth dies.
But what a way to go...
The adults may live for only a week, but we Southerners are fortunate. Our warm climate allows for two to three broods of Luna moths from March through September. Any caterpillars hatched now will most likely feed and then spin a cocoon, where they will remain until spring.
Although we were running late for dinner, we all took turns photographing our rare visitor: Kristen with my old phone, Mikey with his Nintendo ds, Peter with his phone, and, of course, me...who hasn't mastered the macro lense yet. It's on my to-do list.
Here's hoping for lots of Luna moth sex in our yard this week.
I'll be glad to feed those babies plenty of sweet gum leaves!