luna moth; can I collect them?

Asked May 19, 2015, 6:10 PM EDT

So I have a luna moth on my porch wall and I believe it is laying eggs in little clusters on the wall. I have researched how they normally lay them on leaves. Anyways, I know the mother will die shortly when done and I was wondering if it would be possible to collect them and maybe keep them as catapillars. If I can how would I get the eggs off the wall and what should I put them in? What would I feed them?

Williamson County Illinois insects entomology moth

1 Response

You might find all the info you need on wikipedia. Type in: Actias luna wiki---into your browser and see what you get.

There's a list of potential host material at the end of the article. You'll be in business if you have some of those plants near at hand--and are sure they haven't been sprayed with insecticides. If not in your yard, there may be some of these trees accessible along a local hiking or biking trail. You would need to pick fresh foliage for your caterpillars---not a problem initially, but as they reach maturity, they will really chow down. In the interim, you might scout the area to find handy sources of quality plant food while waiting for the eggs to hatch; it appears you may have a week to do this since you'll likely bring these insects indoors.

The eggs will probably be rather firm to the touch after they are laid. You can probably scrape them off with a knife blade into something like a plastic leftovers container (with lid). You might make several containers with eggs in them, in the event of mold growth---which could be a possibility in an artificial rearing situation.

How much moisture the eggs will need to hatch is a question. If they take a week---or 2 as is mentioned in the wiki article---perhaps not very much. Let's say you have some handy birch leaves, you might try placing several of these leaves in some of the containers. Cover the containers---if not with the lid, then Saranwrap and a rubber band. Saranwrap might be easier to see through. As the leaves look wilted or dried, replace them with fresh ones. Watch for condensation and mold---remove eggs, throw out the old leaves and thoroughly wash and dry your container before replacing the eggs and moisture source. Check daily.

If you are lucky enough to have hatch, make sure the little critters have fresh food available at all times. If your find you have more caterpillars than you can feed, put some outdoors on the same host plant.

How long the caterpillars will feed before pupating is another question. Having them indoors where they get natural light but are not in direct light, they might develop faster than outdoors if you can keep the quality food coming. I wouldn't be surprised that the caterpillars might change color---from green to yellowish as they near pupation.

You're right about the short lifespan of adult luna moths. Like others in their family, the caterpillars consume all of the calories needed for development of the pupa and adult stage. When they emerge as adults, they have no functional mouthparts. Females have all the eggs they will ever have right away; males start searching for females right away. Mate once, lay your eggs as quickly as possible---and that's it.

Hopefully, your project will be successful. It will be interesting for sure. And take photographs along the way.