Luna Moth: Living Only for Love

Actias luna photographed April 1, 2018 near Pensacola, Florida
Easter morning. The woods are quiet except for birdsong, the sky cerulean, trees unfurling new life before my eyes. When a thought entered my mind, “Give me a sign,” I muttered out loud, “I didn’t mean to say that. There’s a lot of trouble and heartbreak in the world. Tend to those folks.” 

Lou, the little chocolate Lab, and I had just returned from our morning walk to the gate when we spied this gorgeous spring generation luna moth on the driveway. I put Lou inside the fenced backyard to be sure her curiosity didn’t accidentally injure the moth and returned to take a photo with my phone. 

When I have seen lunas before, they have been on a window pane on the east side of the house, near where I spotted this fellow. It bothered me that he was out in the open, on concrete, at 8 on a sunny morning. Someplace he probably shouldn’t be. Exactly where I was destined to see him.
I stepped back into the house and picked up a small piece of paper, thinking in some misguided, anthropomorphic way that maybe he was cold in the chilly breezeway and just needed a few rays of sun to perk him up. But when I slipped the paper under the moth, he flipped over onto his back and flapped around piteously. I managed to carefully flip him back over and onto my hand. We moved into the sunlight for a moment, but then I realized the moth would be totally exposed and vulnerable if I left him there, so I moved him back to a spot near where I found him but away from the concrete, and into a bed of hosta plants. I really thought he was about to die. So be it, I thought, at least here it will be a soft and lovely spot, not out in the open on a hard surface.
After a half hour or so, I returned to see if he was dead or gone. Neither, it turns out. He was in the same spot I left him, but furiously beating his wings and poised at an angle, almost as though he were trying to tunnel into the earth.
Now I wonder whether this lovely Luna is at the end or the beginning of his week-long life? Yes, the luna emerges from his cocoon with all the food he will ever eat, having no mouthparts at all. Can you imagine? His sole purpose in this stage of his existence is to find a mate. Perfect timing here with a full, blue moon. I wish the little guy luck.
Postscript: When I returned an hour later, the luna was still, the vivid lime green fading. I’m sure lunas emerge and die without finding a mate in the short allotted time. I’ll never know whether this moth’s destiny was to mate or simply to be ready. 

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