Actias luna, the Luna moth, is one of the most beautiful and popular species of silk moth. Here you can find a guide for our customers and readers.
Actias luna, morphology and distribution
Actias luna is native to the northern-western USA and southern-western Canada. It’s a widespread species that can live in a multiple types of Habitat, from subtropical sweetgum forests of central USA to birch forest in Canada. This makes this species very versatile and easy to breed.
Caterpillars are greenish with black bands. Growing they become green (from the second instar), some may show reddish spot (last instar). These different markings aren’t indicative of gender or adult coloration.
Adults have green wings, with eyespots on both hind wings and fore wings. Actias luna adults have long tails that they probably use as “deflector” from bat’s sonar.
Rearing Actias luna, from egg to cocoon!
Rearing this species is easy but you need to pay attention on humidity, quality of food and temperature.
Like the eggs of the other saturniids, you can keep Actias luna eggs in a Petri dish, until they hatch.
- Do not place leaves in Petri dish until caterpillars have hatched
- Do not keep the Petri dish with eggs to direct sunlight
- Do not warm up them artificially
Once hatched, larvae will walk around until they find a good place (usually underneath or in between the leaves) to eat. We suggest to keep Luna moth larvae in small plastic containers untill L2. Plastic rearing box are available in our shop, about 15-20 larvae till the second instar can be reared in there. These containers have little air holes to increase the humidity: high humidity is required (especially in the firsts instars) for Actias luna catrpillars.
Once L3, we use to keep most Saturniidae as Actias luna in rearing cages ( available in our shop) to increase the air flow and avoid fungal disease. Is also possible to rear them in larger plastic boxes, especially if kept indoor, where the air is usually dry.
In the bottom of the butterfly rearing cage we put a paper towel to absorb any liquids, it’s important to replace it everyday. The tree branches that we use as host plant need to be cut and put into bottles, perforated containers or cans, with fresh water needs to be replaced everyday or every two days.
Leaves and branches needs to be replaced frequently though they appear still fresh: once cutted, they keep using their nutrients becoming not very nutritious.
Actias luna caterplillars grow through 4 instars before papation, they spin their cocoons between the foliage or branches, sometimes on the ground between the paper towel and the bottom of the cage. They need few hours to spin it.
From cocoon to adult
Generally luna moths pass from 2 to 4 (depending on the temperatures) generations before hibernate. The white-golden cocoon should be placed in the bottom of the cage, outdoor (not to direct sunlight) or indoor and you have to pay attention to that the moth that will emerge should have enough space to climb on the netting walls to extend its wings freely.
They spend 18-30 days in cocoon. The hibernate stage show a golden-thicker cocoon, that will spend winter waiting for spring to emerge. During the fall, we place the cocoons in the fridge into an air-tight plastic box with a paper towel on the bottom to absorb any liquids. It’s important to keep a high level of humidity (the frigde’s air is very dry). In spring, we pick out the cocoons and put them outside, waiting for the Luna moths to emerge!
Mating Luna moth!
Mating the Luna moth it’s very easy to achieve if we have 2-3 males per each female. The night after emerging, the female will “call” males with the secreted pheromones. To let the males find her, provide them a good ventilation. Putting them outside in rearing cage is generally enough to achieve a couple. The female and the male will remain in copula for a maximum of 24 hours, then the female lays from 150 to 250 eggs. We can assure you that Actias luna is a very versatile species to rear. They will give you a lot of satisfaction if you will pay attention to some little important things.
Host plants of Actias luna
The best host plants that will 100% work with this speices are the following:
- Liquidambar styraciflua
- Juglans regia
- Juglans nigra
- Betula sp.
- Carpinus betulus
All the host plants recorded are on this website