Luminescent

13 Sep
A luna moth (Saturniidae) with wings lit from behind.

A luna moth (Actias luna) with wings lit from behind.

We set up a light sheet in Sam Houston Park early this spring, and were positively swarmed with dozens and dozens of luna moths.  In person, I found these moths to be somewhat less graceful than certain sleep aid commercials have led me to believe.  They arrived in the area of the light sheet in a commotion of wings, and fluttered around bouncing noisily off everything in the vicinity before dropping to the ground.  Occasionally, they managed to cling to someone’s hair or shirt like a colorful decoration.  However, whatever they lack in grace (at least around lighted obstacles) they make up for in impressive size and striking coloration.

These large, charismatic moths are well known but rarely seen, as populations reach adulthood and mate only once or twice a year, and the moths hide away during the day.  Luna moths live only a brief time in their adult form, about a week, and their delicate wings quickly become tattered.  Like other saturniid moths, they don’t feed as adults, and lack the coiled tube mouthparts of other butterflies and moths.    Moths in the family Saturniidae are easily recognized by their large size; stout, fuzzy bodies; absent mouth parts; and broad wings.  They also generally have large feathery (plumose) antennae, which assist them in tracking down mates.

A luna moth (Saturniidae) on the leaf litter.

A luna moth (Actias luna) on the leaf litter.

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One Response to “Luminescent”

  1. Kurt September 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Wonderful shot of the backlit moth. Didn’t know that they don’t feed as adults.

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