When I talked to my mom this past weekend, she told me about a very large green butterfly that she had seen recently in northeast Ohio. All that it took for me to identify this insect was to receive an emphatic "yes!" when I asked if it looked like the one on the Lunesta television commercials. In fact, this isn't a butterfly, it is a moth... a Luna Moth (Actias luna), named for its moon-like eye spots.
The photograph above shows a Luna Moth that I saw several years ago in LaPorte County, Indiana. Although they are common, I've only seen a handful of these mysterious-looking moths, so I always consider it a treat when I do get to see them. With a wingspan of approximately 4 1/2 inches, Luna Moths rank amongst the largest moths in North America. They are found thoughout most of the eastern United States and in the southern portion of eastern Canada, usually in forested areas.
Here is another photograph that I took of a Luna Moth, this time through a screen in Arkansas this past spring. Caterpillars of Luna Moths feed on Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), alder (Alnus spp.), Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickory (Carya spp.), walnut (Juglans spp.), and sumac (Rhus spp.). Adult Luna Moths, however, don't have fully developed mouths and don't eat. As a result, they only live for about a week, and their sole purpose is to mate and reproduce before they die. Luna Moths have from one to three generations per year, depending on latitude (with more generations further south and fewer further north).
Keep an eye out for these large, lime-green moths from March to September in the southern part of their range and May to July in the northern part of their range.