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Luna Moth Caterpillar: Food, Poisonous and Identification

August 4, 2018 | Caterpillar

Luna moths are one of the biggest North American moths there is. They are easy to spot because of their lime-green wings which spread wide. The wingspan of these moths can go up to approximately 178 millimeters, or 7 inches. Normally, its wingspan will only be about 114 mm. They are truly a natural beauty.

When the luna moths are just caterpillars in the larvae stage, they are lime-green with several segments and white horizontal stripes running along their backside. They also have little hairs sticking out of the segments as well. Contrary to popular belief, luna moth caterpillars are not harmful to people. They might look like it because of their hairs, but those hairs will not transmit toxins into your system.

If you are walking through leaves or shrubbery, these caterpillars might stick to your clothes. You can pull them off you safely with your fingers. If you do this, grab them gently by the sides of their abdomen. Keep your fingers away from their mouth or else they will bite you.

Food

When the luna moth caterpillar first breaks free from its eggshell, it will come out extremely hungry. It will try to munch on anything so that it can get the vital nutrients it needs to grow bigger and faster. The broken pieces of eggshell may be the first thing the caterpillar munches on. After that, it will scavenge its surroundings to look for more food. Luna moth hatchlings just love to feast on tree leaves. Some of its favorite leaves come from trees like paper birch, sweet gum, hickory, and walnut. It eats these foods for at least 30 days. At this point, it creates a cocoon for itself where it lives for the next 3 weeks. When it comes out of the cocoon, it is now a moth.

After the luna moth caterpillar has actually become a moth with wings, it no longer has a digestive system. In fact, it does not even have a mouth to eat anything with. That is why the luna moth can only live for about a week after it comes out of the cocoon. During this time, it will never eat anything. However, they will still try to defend themselves from predators in the wild, such as bats.

Poisonous

There are a lot of misconceptions about luna moth caterpillars. Some people think they are poisonous because of their strange colorful appearance. The truth is that luna moth caterpillars are not dangerous. If you were to pick one up with your hands, you don’t need to worry about any toxic hairs rubbing against your skin like with other caterpillars. The only thing you need to concern yourself with is bites. If you put your finger near the mouth of a luna moth caterpillar, it could potentially bite it as a defense mechanism. This will cause you pain, but it will not transmit any toxins into you. So, you shouldn’t feel any symptoms other than the pain itself.

Read also: 5 Symptoms of Puss Moth Caterpillar Sting and the Best Treatments

Identification

Luna moth caterpillars are very easy to identify if you know which physical features to look for. They are generally found in both Canada and the United States. In February, the luna moth caterpillars are found in the southern states of the U.S. You will know them when you see them because of their bright green colors, white stripes, and rigid segments. When they become moths, their tails are elongated in the back of their hindwings. Scientists believe this bodily design helps the luna moths throw off the sonar detection of predators looking to feast on them. Bats are the number one predator of these caterpillars.

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