Thursday, July 28, 2011

Luna Moth, agates, and Sunset

This posting features the luna moth. I took this shot of one of these large moths on my out building. Actias luna, commonly known as the Luna Moth, is a lime-green moth in the family Saturniidae, subfamily Saturniina. It has a wingspan of up to 4.5 inches, making it one of the largest moths in North America.

This moth is found in North America from northern Mexico to most areas east of the Great Plains. Based on the climate in which they live, the Luna Moths produce differing numbers of generations. In Canada and northern regions, they can live up to 7 days and will produce only one generation per year. These reach adulthood from early June to early July. In the north central and north eastern United States the moths produce two generations each year. The first of these appear in April and May, and the second group can be seen approximately nine to eleven weeks later. In the southern United States, there can be as many as three generations. These are spaced every eight to ten weeks beginning in March.

Female Luna Moths lay 100–300 eggs, 4–7 eggs at a time, on the underside of leaves, and they incubate for eight to thirteen days. The moths will lay more eggs in a favorable climate.

Each caterpillar stage takes about five days to a week to complete. After hatching, the caterpillars wander around before finally settling on eating the particular plant they are on. The caterpillars go through five stages before cocooning. Each time the caterpillar molts and leaves the old exoskeleton behind. Sometimes the shed exoskeleton is eaten. The dots that run along the dorsal side of the caterpillars vary from a light yellow to a dark magenta. The final caterpillar grows to approximately three to four inches (9 cm) in length.

Shortly before pupating, the final, fifth caterpillar stage will engage in a "gut dump" where any excess water, food, feces, and fluids are expelled. The caterpillar will also have an underlying golden reddish‐brown color and become less active. The Luna Moth pupates after spinning a cocoon. The cocoon is thin and single layered. As a pupa, this species is particularly active. When disturbed, the moth will wiggle within its pupal case, producing a noise.

Adults emerge from their cocoons in the morning. Their wings are very small when they first emerge and they must enlarge them by pumping bodily fluids through them. During this time, their wings will be soft and they must climb somewhere safe to wait for their wings to harden before they can fly away. This process takes about 2 hours to complete. The Luna Moth has a wingspan of 3-4.5 inches (8–11.5 cm) with long, tapering hindwings, which have eyespots on them in order to confuse potential predators. Although rarely seen due to their very brief (1 week) adult Luna Moths are considered common. As with all Saturniidae, the adults do not eat or have mouths. They emerge as adults solely to mate, and as such, only live approximately one week. They are more commonly seen at night.

Here are some pictures taken from the Internet.  First--the egg stage.

The caterpillar hatches from the egg.

The fourth caterpillar stage.

The fifth caterpillar stage.

The pupa stage.

A recently emerged adult male enlarging and drying his wings.

A customer came into the museum this week and showed me this Lake Superior agate with a large copper inclusion.

This is a cool Lake Superior agate with crystal impression cavities.  The crystals that were resident in these cavities dissolved away.

A sunset shot taken through the trees.

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