One early spring morning in Wisconsin, a luna moth pupa wiggles. It had spent all winter camouflaged in the leaf litter and its ability to wiggle scared off several predators, including several mice. Now that its metamorphosis is complete, the adult moth uses the serrated spurs near the front edge of its wings to split open its cocoon. Wet and tired, the male luna moth emerges. Mr. Moth spends the day resting and letting his wings dry. He will not eat and must rely on his store of fat from his caterpillar stage. Adult luna moths only have about a week to live. When his antenna detect a musky, intoxicating perfume, he flies toward the intriguing scent.
A bat darts toward him. He spins the tails of his elongated wingtips in circles, confusing the bat’s echolocation and—whew— he manages to escape.
He ignores the luminescent glowworms rustling in the leaves, the glowing fungus called foxfire, and the mewing of raccoon kits. The pheromones he’s smelling get stronger. And then, there she is.
This Goddess of the Moon’s misty lime-green wings catch the moonlight. Her wing eyespots resemble owl eyes that help fool predators and keep her safe. He ventures closer. Yes. This. This.
After remaining together several hours, the moths mate. The following day the female lands on a white birch leaf. She lays her eggs, up to 400, on the underside of many leaves so those that hatch will have plenty of “baby food.” The caterpillars will hatch out in about ten days. After completing five in-stars or molts, the caterpillars will spin a tough cocoon, often using nearby leaves and twigs. They’ll often drop down into the leaf litter where they will over-winter. If disturbed, they will wiggle hoping to scare off predators such as mice. Once the longer days of spring signal that it’s time, the moth will emerge continuing the cycle.
Mr. and Mrs. Moth have just a few precious days to enjoy the golden summer days and nights. The male might find another mate. The adults might pause at the frog swamp to enjoy the music or fly from meadow to forest to beyond. Finally, having lived their best life, they might rest on a tree trunk and enjoy their last view of a still, moonlit lake.
I hope, like the luna moths, you’re enjoying these remaining precious golden summer days and nights.
I have five luna caterpillars that I intend to rear. If they successfully spin their cocoons and survive the winter, you are all invited to attend their late May/early June “coming out” party which I’ll announce on my author Facebook page. Follow me at facebook.com/amylaundrieauthor. It’s sure to be a golden night to remember.
Author Amy Laundrie, a Wisconsin Dells resident, writes a weekly column for Capital Newspapers. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.