Raising Luna Moth – How to Care for a Luna Caterpillar

Luna Moth known by its scientific name, Actias Luna is a green colored moth which belongs to the subfamily of Saturniidae. According to research, it is one of the largest moths in North America. The specific distribution of the area in which this moth inhabits is from the east of Great Plains in the US to northern part of Mexico. Again, it dwells from Saskatchewan eastward via the central part of Quebec heading towards Canada. Apart from these, it is also found in southern parts of Central Florida. The lifespan of the moth depends on the weather in which the moth inhibits.

There are different variations in the same such that they can live only for seven days in parts of Canada and its northern parts and it is known that they will produce only for one generation in particular year. Under this category, the moths reach adulthood from early June to July. On a different note, the moths living in the northern parts of United States near to New Jersey, they produce two generations in a single year. Here, the moths start to appear from April or May and its second generation appears after a minimum of nine weeks later.

How does the moth take its shape?

Usually, it is seen that the Luna moth rests on a leaf when it suddenly spreads its wings to expand in its size. After the birth of the moth, it munches on leaves of hickory, sweet gum and paper birch trees. It stays on these plants for about a month after which the caterpillar builds a shell. The caterpillar lives inside the shell or covering for three weeks and then comes out as a moth. The creature is easily recognisable for its big and green coloured wings. Among the interesting facts about the creature, it does not have a mouth and a digestive system. The lack of the digestive system does not affect the creature because it lives only for a week after coming out of the cocoon.

While knowing about how to care for a Luna Caterpillar, it is necessary to know about their predators – the bats. The Luna moth lives for a short time and does not have any appetite, but unfortunately, they contribute as a good source of snacks for the bats. They tactfully prevent themselves from being eaten up by the bats by wrapping the tails in circles. It helps the moths to escape the predators easily.

Watching a caterpillar growing to a moth could be fun, but the process should be undertaken carefully. If you are still wondering about how to care for a Luna Caterpillar, then you should follow some of the steps such as food, shelter, handling, adult care etc.

Basic necessity of Luna Moth 

It is important to know about the basic necessity of the moth if you wish to take proper care of the moth. Food and watering is the basic necessity if you wish to raise Luna caterpillar at home. You have to set a proper place for the eggs to hatch such a black walnut. In addition to this, it is advantageous to add some other plant leaves, and in this way, you should also provide them with their preferred leaf. Also, you should add many leaves as the caterpillars hatch the eggs and soon after this they start to eat the leaves. The primary nutrition and the water supply are provided from the leaves, and therefore, it is of utmost importance to change the leaves on a daily basis. It is further seen that the caterpillars shed their skin over four weeks when they are fully grown.

After providing them with food and shelter, it is necessary to develop some regular interaction with the moth. It should take place in the form of cleaning the shelter frequently. Likewise, soon after they hatch the eggs, you should line the bottom of the shelter with cloths in order to catch the droppings, and the cloth should be changed at the end of the day that shall keep the shelter clean.

If you choose to take care of the moth shelter by yourself, then you have to be careful about doing the task, and you have to be gentle enough while doing the same. Washing your hands before and after the procedure is highly recommended to keep away from the reaction of any bacteria. You should remember not to pull out the caterpillar forcefully. Instead, you should allow them to slide on to your hands easily. If you try to pull the caterpillars forcefully, then it can result in damage to their limbs. Therefore, for raising the caterpillar it is necessary to know about how to care for a Luna Caterpillar.

When you have decided to raise a caterpillar, then you have to go through the following steps to keep the insects in good condition.

*  Providing suitable shelter to moths 

After the moths lay the eggs, it is necessary to relocate the eggs to a suitable shelter. To carry out the same, you might arrange for a clean milk jug or a plastic fish tank. Ensure that you cover up the vessel with the help of a clean cloth and you avoid taking shelters that are too small in size. Also, the breathing holes on the vessel should be smooth enough to make it easier for the moths. In order to maintain the humidity inside the vessel, you should use a spray bottle. The shelter should be made such that the Luna moth can stay in the shelter for more than 10 days. It is the normal duration for the moth to completely hatch their eggs.

*  Process of egg replacement

It is known that the female Luna moths drop the eggs on food sources that might vary one region in which it inhibits to other. While the Luna moths are about to hatch the eggs, they are covered with a brown coloured substance that helps them to secure the surface of the egg. Following this, you should carefully remove them from the leaf without causing any injury to the moths.  

Details about the larva of Luna moths 

It is usually seen that each instar takes approximately a week to complete the cycle. It is further seen that the caterpillars roam around before they finally settle down to eat the particular leaves of the host plant. Before cocoon comes out, the caterpillars take up five instars, and at the end of each instar, a small amount of a silk-like material is left on the leaf surface. Soon after this, the larva goes through the process of apolysis. It is the process of separation of the cuticle from the body of the insect. In addition to this, it also undergoes another process before it turns into a matured Luna moth. The final instar grows to nine centimeters in length.

The Luna moth should be kept in safe plastic bags that should have 38-40 degree temperature and the rest inside the bag until the outside temperature is suitable enough for them to come out. Also, as they come out, they will mate, and the new life cycle will begin.

*  How do the caterpillars start to eat ?

Knowing about the eating habit of the caterpillar would help you to take better care of the moth. After few weeks of hatching the larvae, they are very small in size and thus should be kept in a tight container such as sandwich tubs. Following this, the remaining eggs should be shifted to another container until they hatch. Ensure that the lid of the tub is kept tight since the larvae might get affected by dehydration. It does not require any ventilation. Instead of eating the shells of the eggs, the caterpillars start to eat the leaves of the host plant soon after it comes out. As an example of the insect excreta, you will notice small black dost at the bottom of the tub in which it is kept. Owing to this, it is necessary to clean the containers on a regular basis. As they continue to grow, it is required to provide larger space for the Luna moth. In case of overcrowding, it might result in stress and lower prevention of disease. The shelter should be such that until the next generation of the caterpillar starts to come up, space should be spacious enough and cleaned.

The caterpillars might look ferocious, but they are completely innocent. They have spikes, hair, bumps and other ornaments. Though they are harmless, but the larvae are mildly toxic and might cause irritation when the spine is touched.

*  Additional facts about Luna moth 

The Luna moth has not yet been officially declared as endangered but it is has become rare. As already mentioned, it belongs to the Saturniidae family. Besides, it is also known as the American moon moth or giant silkworm moth. If you think about how harmful the Luna moth might be, then it should be known to you that the Luna moth does not grow large enough to result in any destruction or damage. More interestingly, once the moth grows into an adult, it does not feed anymore. The adulthood of the moth lasts only for a week during which it mates and then the female moths lay eggs. It counts to almost 200 eggs in one batch that is kept below the surface of the leaves.  

Adding more to your surprise, you will not be able to see to insect during the daytime. It is a nocturnal insect. The name Luna itself denotes moon. Besides, the crescent in the eyespot of the moth resembles a crescent moon. Due to this features of the Luna moth, it is not considered as a pest. The Luna moth is becoming endangered due to the pesticides, pollution and loss of habitat. Since the moth is never found in sufficient numbers, there is no need for pest control.

The Luna moth is commonly found in parts of northern America along with Canada. Also, it is found in dense forest areas from eastern Canada to parts of Florida and also from Texas through its western and eastern parts to North Dakota. The Luna moth is also found in areas of United States in the eastern part. It also includes other states like Arkansas, Missouri etc.

If you wish to attract Luna moth in your garden, then you should have growth of birch, willow and alder, sum gum and wide leaves of trees including the hickory trees. These are the right food for the Luna moth to eat soon after they hatch from the eggs.

When a male Luna moth is compared with a female Luna moth, the former can be easily identified by the business of its antenna. The female has a thinner antenna as compared to its male counterparts. As already mentioned, the adult moth does not have a mouth or a digestive tract. It also needs to mate to begin its next generation during its short span of life.

*  Use of Luna moth

The Luna moth is used in the science laboratory to know about the life cycle of the insects and is used under proper care. You can consider yourself lucky enough if you can spot Luna moth. They are usually herbivores who live on the vegetation of the trees. The predators get perplexed by the long tails of the Luna moth. As they remain active during the night, they should try to avoid the hunters with the help of sound.

*  Researcher’s opinion about Luna moth’s tail 

As per joint outcome of the study of researchers at the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University regarding the long tail of the Luna moth, it could be used to prevent the attack of the predators. The predators use echolocation to pursue the Luna moth. One more interesting fact about the tail of the moth is that they are not only elongated but also twisted at the end of the tail. The twisted tail of the moth generates echo from different directions that shifts the echo that comes from the tip of the insect’s body.

As per a study conducted by Boise State University in 2015, it can be concluded that big brown bats are greatly successful in hunting Luna moths that lost its tails and fails to use the extended tail that often helps the moth to survive. The elongated tail of the moth helps to survive the attack of the predators easily. It is further concluded from research that the bats make use of ultrasonic pulses to move around and capture the insects around them. The pulses are such that it covers the hearing range of the bats, but human is unable to hear the pulse.  

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