Tag Archives: luna moth (Actias luna)

The Wasn’t Winter

Balmy temperatures keep grass green and growing.  Bats fly nearly every night.  Some trees budded as early as the first week of February.  And insects remain active and obvious.  Welcome to the wasn’t winter.

A southern lappet moth (Phyllodesma occidentis) hanging on a screen (IMG_0041)

Southern lappet moths (Phyllodesma occidentis) join crane flies and beetles and wasps and bees, along with a laundry list of insects, all of which remain quite active and obvious.

A Southern lappet moth (Phyllodesma occidentis) hanging on a screen (IMG_0052)

The lack of major freezes this season portends a bad mosquito problem, not to mention other unpleasant critters.  And if it indicates anything about future temperatures—as in regarding this summer—then the news is bad indeed, especially in light of last summer’s record heat and misery.

Close-up of a male luna moth (Actias luna) resting on the ground (IMG_0041_l)

But luna moths (Actias luna) are always welcome visitors, just like the other unusual winter guests, so I won’t complain.

Close-up of dew on the wing of a luna moth (Actias luna) (IMG_0043)

Well, I won’t complain much I mean, since I love cold temperatures and wintry weather, neither of which we’ve had this year.

Close-up of a luna moth (Actias luna) resting on the ground (IMG_0066)

As we head into spring, the weather need not change to indicate a new season, and it’s clear insects are more than ready for the end of the wasn’t winter.

Luna moths

I wish these photos had turned out better.  Unfortunately, the early morning light and thick clouds made it quite difficult because of shadowy contrasts and dim illumination.  The moths also were near the top of a large light pole, so I was looking up at their position on the dark wood framed with lit clouds.  Overall, I didn’t have much luck capturing respectable images of this pair.

Still, you can see what I saw the morning of March 18 when I arrived at the family farm.  Both the male (at top) and female (at bottom) luna moths (Actias luna) undoubtedly had consummated their lives in the only thing they can do as adults: mate.  With no ability to eat, they live only about one week, during which their only focus is to propagate the species.

As with the plebeian sphinx moth (Paratrea plebeja), blinded sphinx moth (Paonias excaecatus), and Polyphemus moths (Antheraea polyphemus), lunas are yet another species of giant moth that live in great numbers within the woodlands of East Texas.  And like the others I’ve shown, they seem to treat the central light pole at the family farm as a place to congregate en masse, copulate, lay eggs, and die.

In fact, at the height of their season the pole can be covered from top to bottom with these moths.  The sight of it is breathtaking.  Fluttering wings in vast numbers make the tall wood post appear alive in some way, a writhing and active giant, an elongated macro cell mobilized by green flagella.  To be awestruck is to understate how captivating a vision they create under those circumstances.

Two luna moths (Actias luna) in dim morning light (177_7755)
Two luna moths (Actias luna) in dim morning light (177_7753)