There is beauty hidden within darkness. Beauties of the night are curious creatures and none more than the stunning Luna Moth.
We humans are creatures of habitual repetition and it is a reliable assumption that by nightfall most people are indoors with lights on and doors closed to the outside world. When we accidentally or purposefully leave our outside lights on, it is somewhat like fly fishing with the bright light being the lure. Many beauties of the night will be drawn to the light and will fall into a deep sleep making them vulnerable when dawn covers night.
Just before sunrise, birds find these Saturniidae or giant silk moths easy prey. The luna moth sleeps all day only normally they would be hidden somewhere in a crevice or beneath a leaf or wherever moths find to safely sleep away the day after cruising around all night. Daylight takes over when the manmade light fades. There is no escape for the exquisite luna or other members of the same family.
I discovered this when watching Catbirds going back and forth to the back door of our old farmhouse. I quickly realized that when I left the outside light on to frighten the bears away from the Tree Swallow nest box, I had put other creatures at risk. I found the Luna Moth Actias luna, (photo above) sleeping near the door and brought it inside away from the pointy beaks of birds. Taking a second look I found another one and brought that one inside too.
Both the luna above and below are males. The antennae are wide and resemble feathers. The female antennae are thinner as you can see in the last photograph below. The two males came into my life on June 22, 2014.
The adult male above almost did not make it. Perhaps a bat snipped his tail which is part of his hind wing. So, the tails are more than just elegant and graceful.
Holding each luna on my open hand later that evening, I watched the most beautiful moths I have ever encountered flap their large translucent wings. Strong wings carried their white fuzzy bodies out into the darkness and they disappeared like delicate spirits. I wonder how they see each other . . . is all that beauty wasted in the dark. Since they are night creatures their vision must be special too. I will have to do some research and get back to you.
As moths, the luna only lives about a week, that is, if they survive birds and bats and who knows what all might be out to get them. They mate and the females will lay eggs over the next few nights on White Birch and perhaps hickory and walnut trees. They will die soon after . . . leaving eggs and later larvae to carry on their species.
Luna moths have no mouth parts. They have a peculiar life purpose of sleeping all day and seeking mates all night. Females spray a pheromone perfume to attract the males. Their ghostly gossamer, pale-green wings are adorned with striking eyes and when they fly into your life it is a special visit from one of nights beauties.
Such intricate design
The name luna comes from the moon-shaped eyes on the hind wings. The female above came to the light the night after the two males.
We have many bad habits in how we care for our world and trying to throw light over everything outdoors during the night is one of them.
We might consider that darkness holds a special wildlife habitat of its own. Light pollution may interfere with the normal matting habits of Luna Moths and other moths of their family and is causing concern for their survival.
I decided to turn off the light at night and hoped the bears would leave the Tree Swallow nest box standing. In the end it was a large spider that scared the Tree Swallows away from their nest and four eggs. But that is another story.
Flooding the night with harsh light also hides amazing displays of fireflies. This year we had awesome shows every night for much of June and into July.
Avid moth seekers take sheets and lights and go exploring out into the dark. They discover many species that live in their nighttime wildlife habitat. This is a temporary observation session and the light goes off after the study. I had created a study of my own with our backdoor light. I may do it again to see who is flying around but will turn it off after a couple of hours. Once the light goes off the moths wake up and fly out into their normal way of being.
When I look out into our large night sky, I love imagining exquisite Luna Moths flying through layers of blackness and I am thankful for these brief visitations that open my eyes and imagination to the wonders of our nighttime wildlife habitat.