If you have never experienced the wonder of catching a glimpse of the lovely Luna Moth, you are missing out on a beautiful, enchanting vision. Only twice in my lifetime have I had the fortune to happen upon a Luna Moth at rest, once as a teenager and once about 20 years ago when my son was a young boy. In both cases, I walked out of my house and there was this huge, gorgeous moth, clinging to the base of a bird bath, wings fully extended in repose. The first time I thought it was some sort of rare butterfly. Or maybe an alien bug? Or a butterfly that flew too close to a nuclear reactor? The almost lime green coloring is rather suspicious looking. It almost looks like it belongs in a rain forest instead of the climate we have here in Missouri. The wingspan is approximately four and one-half inches. At that size I’m grateful it is not some kind of alien bug!
The Luna Moth, also known as the Giant Silkworm Moth although their silk is not used very much, flies at night during spring and early summer. The female lays a total of 200 eggs in her short lifetime. Brace yourself. Now I’m getting to one of the very sad yet ludicrous things about this story. The poor adult Luna Moth only lives for one week. That’s right. Seven days. That’s almost enough to make me want to cry. Seriously. But then comes the next little item that kind of makes me want to laugh. Do you know what those adult Luna Moths spend that one precious week of life doing? You guessed it! Lunamaking! Well, not for the whole week. Just a few seconds and then the rest of the week the female spends laying eggs under every leaf in sight while the male….well…Anyway since neither the male nor the female have a mouth, which must virtually eliminate those pesky newlywed verbal disagreements, the adult Lunas are unable to eat and, therefore, they die.
At this point, I find it necessary to insert a very interesting fact I discovered about all moths. Have you ever wondered why every moth in the neighborhood has to show up when you turn on your outside porch light so you can navigate from your house to your car? Well, here we go! The key word here is navigate. Moths are able to fly at night by keeping a distant light, such as the moon or a star or a planet, as a marker, a technique known to some as celestial navigation. This technique only works when the light source is very far away. The theory is that when a moth sees the nearer light from your porch, it completely throws off the whole system. I could get more technical, but I think you get the idea. So, the moth is not really drawn to the light. There is no little voice inside its tiny little head saying, “Go to the light!”. It is simply spiraling out of its own orbit – and into your porch light.
Now back to the beautiful yet illusive Luna. Unfortunately your chances of seeing one of these creatures is fading. They are approaching the stage of becoming an endangered species due to pollution and habitat destruction. I’ve never been on an actual Moth Hunt – yes, there really is such a thing! But if you keep your eyes open and take a look around early in the mornings, perhaps you will have the rare experience of seeing this captivating vision of green light.
When I looked for pictures of the Luna Moth, I found they come in several different shades and varying shapes. My pencil sketch above is a bit different from the one I decided to paint. I’ve tried to capture my version of the lovely Luna in this watercolor and acrylic. I used acrylics to make the eyes on the wings. Can you tell I am ready for spring? Hope you all enjoyed my little spin on the Luna and thanks for following me on my journey!