Luna Moths

If you have seen a luna moth recently in Headwaters please let us know.

June 8, 2011 | | Notes from the Wild

There is, in the pantheon of remarkable native animals, an insect whose beauty is so arresting that once seen it is never forgotten. This is the luna moth. Its gossamer wings are green with pink edging. It appears cut from the template of a master fashion designer.

Sadly, this lovely moth may no longer inhabit the Headwaters. Though formerly common, I am not aware of any recent sightings.

At this time of year luna moths emerge from tightly spun cocoons and dry their wings to prepare for flight. Time is of the essence. They have only a week or two to live. Finding a mate is their sole objective.

Luna moths are aptly named, for they use the moon to help guide their nocturnal travels. Pity then the moths that find themselves orbiting the false moons of our driveways and porches. Artificial lights capture them and hold them in thrall until, tattered and confused, they simply die.

The retreat of the luna is probably due to other factors as well. Parasitic flies introduced in an effort to control gypsy moths have almost certainly taken a toll.

Like the voracious cane toads introduced to Australia to control insect pests, these flies have amply demonstrated that they enjoy variety in their diet. They do feed on gypsy moth caterpillars, but find the caterpillars of our native moths equally appetizing.

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  • A species of bird declining as dramatically as the luna moth would become the focus of concern — and rightly so. Research would be conducted, papers would be written, recovery strategies proposed.

    The decline of the beautiful luna, though, seems to have evoked nary a whisper.

    If you have seen a luna moth recently please please comment below. It would be wonderful to discover that some do still inhabit this area.

    lunaMoth02 LunaMothJennifer BowmanIMG_20150703_004542 lunaMothwithFriend LunaMothSusieJune2017 lunaMoth03 LunaMothSusieJune20172 lunaMoth01
    The Luna is still there, and this time the lower spots are showing.

    About the Author More by Don Scallen

    Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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    1. I love nature of any kind and came across your article on Luna Moths. Lived in Severn with Birch, Desiduous trees and Pine, 25 years ago. We has a mosquito lantern, with screening to prevent any size moth getting in. Before bed, we went outside to see six luna moths. Quite unusual. In the morning all were gone but two, who had perched on my pink geranium basket. They left in PM.

      JO LITTLE from orillia ontario L3V 7T2 on May 10, 2021 at 4:16 pm | Reply

      • Wow! That is terribly impressive Jo! I’ve never seen more than a single specimen at once in the wild. The appeal of your light, I’m afraid, is one of the reasons lunas are no longer common in built up areas. Among the big silk moths they appear to be more drawn to light than others. Severn has the dark forest that allows lunas to thrive and one of the favourite food plants of their caterpillars is birch.

        Don Scallen on May 10, 2021 at 8:50 pm | Reply

    2. Nice sighting Delaney! Interesting that you saw the luna in August. Further south in Ontario, the lunas fly earlier – in June or early July.

      Don Scallen on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:10 am | Reply

    3. Hi there!

      I spotted a beautiful Luna Moth on Horn Lake, Ontario during the beginning of August 2020! I’ve never seen one before so this posting confirmed it was infact a Luna Moth that was hanging outside of our cottage one warm evening.

      Delaney Power on Aug 15, 2020 at 8:31 pm | Reply

    4. Hi Matt,
      Good to hear they’re alive and well in Fingal! (Had to look it up on a map… sorry!) I think this is an especially important sighting because of the lack of forest cover in southwestern Ontario. There is a relationship between luna abundance and forest cover. Simply put, more forest equals more lunas.
      Nice sighting!
      Don Scallen

      Don Scallen on Jul 6, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Reply

    5. Matt here, I was out for a hike west of Fingal, Ontario on June 24, 2020 when I almost stepped on what at first I thought was a leaf, good thing I was watching where I was walking. I thought it was really cool looking and had to find out what the name of this beauty is. Really cool looking, best looking moth that I have seen, really colorful.

      Matt from Fingal, Ontario on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:22 pm | Reply

    6. Ah you’re lucky Suzanne! These moths are really rare in the GTA where I am. It’s curious though. I have some naturalist friends in Norfolk who until recently, considered them rare or even absent there as well. But in recent years they’ve reported sightings. Perhaps they are on the increase in your part of Ontario. That would be welcome news.

      Don Scallen on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:18 am | Reply

    7. Have one at my house in Norfolk County, Ontario

      Suzanne Karnes from Norfolk County, Ontario on Jun 16, 2020 at 1:49 am | Reply

    8. Great sighting Anne! The Bruce Penninsula with its extensive forest cover is a stronghold for many rare plants and animals. May we have the wisdom to protect its natural wonders!

      Don Scallen on Jul 26, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Reply

    9. We saw one in Stokes Bay this weekend July 20th.

      Anne gaukroger on Jul 22, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Reply

    10. Dear In The Hills, I live in a forested location, just South of Guelph. My property is in mixed woodland, Evergreen, Firs, Birch, Walnut, Beech, Oaks and of course Maple with a large spring fed pond. I am enjoying the Fire Fly displays, I have Northern River Otter, usually Muskrat but they are no where to be seen, an Osprey who visits to feed on Cat Fish, Snapping Turtles arrived today to lay a billion eggs in my gardens, not to mention the Deer who eat everything else. But I wouldn’t change a thing! Other than the darn mosquitoes!

      I have a beautiful Luna Moth resting on the Kitchen window sill. It looks healthy.
      I know that this is 2017, and your last post was years ago… but I was so excited to see it, and photograph it!!
      Second photo is about an hour later and lower spots are showing.

      Luna Moth

      Luna Moth

      Susie from Nassagaweya, Ontario L0P 1J0 on Jun 14, 2017 at 7:19 pm | Reply

      • Hi Susie,

        Great photos of a rare moth! This is a male and by its pristine condition it looks like it has just emerged from its cocoon. A male will wait until dusk and then take flight in the hopes of finding a female. She lures him with her pheromones that drift on the nighttime breezes.
        So glad to know lunas are still found in your area. Last year was momentous for me when, near Speyside in Halton Region, I saw my first wild luna moth since I was a child. (A span of a mere 50 years or so!) So they are still around in small numbers at least.
        Luna moths and most other “giant silkworm moths” are active only for a brief window in late spring or early summer. I hope you are graced with sightings of these beautiful creatures in future years.

        Don Scallen

        Don Scallen on Jun 15, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Reply

    11. Hello Billy,
      Must admit I’m jealous – we had snow last night in Ontario and our Luna Moths won’t be flying before late May! Yes the Luna Moths are truly wonderful but like so many other creatures they have suffered from our activities. Artificial lighting almost certainly plays havoc with their breeding cycles.
      On the other hand, their presence in your neighborhood tells me that you must have lots of native trees for their caterpillars to feed on and that is all to the good.
      Hope your spring is filled with the wonders of nature!

      Don Scallen

      Don Scallen on Apr 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Reply

    12. We’ve had two Luna Moths visit our home in Branson, Missouri this week (April 5th and 7th, 2016) They both selected the brick of the house to cling to, in the back, where the night light is located. Poor things, attracted by false lighting. One was over 5 inches wide (wings spread) the other over 6 inches. They are so beautiful, one of our Lord’s finest creations, I believe.

      Billy Arr from Branson, Missouri on Apr 8, 2016 at 11:48 am | Reply

    13. Mr Don Scallen. This past Monday, June 29,2015, I was in Sturgeon Falls Ontario. While getting gas, I noticed a very beautiful Luna moth. I did get a picture of it, but was captivated by the fantastic color, size, and beauty of it. I had never seen a Luna Moth before, and was wishing I had my camera instead of my phone camera. But none the less, I have the memory and a fairly decent picture of this magnificent beauty.
      Luna Moth

      Jennifer Bowman from Powassan, Ontario on Jul 3, 2015 at 1:03 am | Reply

      • A siting of this extraordinary moth is always exciting Jennifer. Especially so now, because they seem to be much rarer (in some parts of the province) than they once were. Great to hear they still fly in Sturgeon Falls!

        Don Scallen on Jul 6, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Reply

    14. I have not seen the moth, but Last year I saw the caterpillar in Buckhorn Ontario at my sister’s farm. The caterpillar is scary but the moth is beautiful.

      Amanda from Buckhorn Ontario on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:30 am | Reply

    15. We had one beautiful luna moth visit this morning, I have pictures also, 2 July 2011

      chris Fullam from Richmond ontario near Tilsonburg on Jul 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Reply

      • Hi Chris, where did you see the moth? And if you want to email me a shot I’ll post it on the web site,
        [email protected]

        Valerie on Jul 4, 2011 at 5:52 am | Reply

      • Another encouraging sighting, adding to our understanding of where this lovely moth still exists.


        Don Scallen

        Don Scallen on Jul 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Reply

    16. Hi Don,

      A little dated, I know, but for what it’s worth I saw one four or five years ago at G & G Greenhouses in Amaranth

      Jeff Rollings on Jun 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply

      • Thanks for this Jeff – hey, four or five years ago is recent! The luna lives! I hope others share their observations.

        Don Scallen

        Don Scallen on Jul 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Reply

    17. There was one at the Alton Mill this past weekend! Absolutely amazing!

      Bridget Wilson from The Alton Mill on Jun 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Reply

      • Thanks Bridget. Hopefully we’ll get more sightings of this beautiful moth.

        Valerie on Jun 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Reply

        • Can’t tell you how excited I am that this moth still calls this area home! I will try to do some mothing in the Alton area next year to see if I can find one.

          Don Scallen

          Don Scallen on Jul 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm

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