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Moth Days

"For ten days now, two luna moths remain
silk-winged and lavish as a double broach
pinned beneath the porch light of my cabin.
Two of them, patinaed that sea-glass green
of copper weather vanes nosing the wind,
the sun-lit green of rockweed, the lichen’s
green scabbing-over of the bouldered shore,
the plush green peat that carpets the island,
that hushes, sinks then holds a boot print
for days, and the sapling-green of new pines
sprouting through it. The miraculous green
origami of their wings—false eyed, doomed
and sensual as the mermaid’s long green fins:
a green siren calling from the moonlight."

~ Hinged Double Sonnet for the Luna Moths, Sean Nevin

Moth week celebrates the most diverse organism on Earth! Scientists estimate there are at minimum 150,000 moth species, and some believe that there could be over 500,000! Many of the giant silk moths, of which the Luna Moth is best known for its distinctive pale green wings and hypnotic eye spots, take their common names from Greek and Roman mythology. In Roman mythology the moon goddess was called Luna, the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. The Luna moth is found in North America, from east of the Great Plains in the United States – Florida to Maine, and from Saskatchewan eastward through central Quebec to Nova Scotia in Canada. Luna moths are also rarely found in Western Europe as vagrants. These beautiful, mainly forest-dwelling, night-flying, short-lived moths appeared on a first class United States postage stamp issued in June 1987. And although more than two dozen butterflies have been so honored, so far this is the only moth. While a collective name for a group of butterflies is called a 'kaleidoscope,' a group of moths is called an 'eclipse.' 🦋 🌕

The butterfly's night cousin, the moths are one of the evening garden's most beautiful companions.


There are many more species of moths than butterflies. Butterflies and skippers (with hooked-shaped antennae) make up 6 -11 percent of Lepidoptera order, while moths make up 89-94 percent!

 

The largest known moths are the Atlas moths (Saturniidae) with wingspans as large as 12 inches.  The smallest moths are from the pygmy moth family (Nepticulidae) with wingspans as small as 3/32nds of an inch.

 

By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan was created after the designer "saw (a Luna Moth) in my backyard on a lilac bush - a huge pale green moth with markings like little yellow eyes and white stripes."


A member of the Giant Silkworm moth family,  Luna Months have a wingspan of four and a half inches. They fly only at night in spring and early summer.  


First described and named Phalena plumata caudata by James Petiver in 1700, this was the first North American saturniid to be reported in the insect literature.  Its  initial Latin name roughly translates to "brilliant, feather tail", and was replaced when Carl Linnaeus described the species in 1758 in the tenth edition of Systema Naturae, and renamed it Phalaena luna, later Actias luna.   Some species of giant silk moth larvae are known to make clicking noises when attacked by rubbing their serrated mandibles together.  They only live about a week as a adults and then perish. 


For a video on the lifecycle of the Luna Moth, click the Luna Moths!