Luna Moths

On the afternoon of June 14, 2004, something quite remarkable happened in my Kensington, Md. backyard, about which I briefly posted on that day. My wife urgently called me from my basement office. Beautiful butterflies had taken up residence on my daughter’s snow sled, which she had dragged out and left for some inexplicable reason. I immediately recognized them as something better: Luna moths.

I was an amateur bug collector in my youth and teens (someday I should tell you about raising praying mantids). So interested, I came a hair’s width from majoring in entomology (e.g. study of insects) in college. I dissected a good number of animals during anatomy and physiology classes, but nothing grossed me out more than cutting open a cockroach. But I digress. 

Luna moth is a real prize/surprise, and there were two! I had only ever seen one once, flying by me on a Spring day in Georgia. Lunas are rare enough during the day, and you’d be luckier to see one at night. Here they were, drawn by the sled’s colors and mating. They weren’t going anywhere, and I had long wanted to really see one.

I got out my Canon Digital Rebel, which was the first consumer dSLR, if I rightly recall (don’t quote me on it). I had the camera for a short time and had yet to master it. I owned no Macro lens, and didn’t want to get so up close as to either disturb the mating act or cause the Lunas to fly off. So I popped on the 70-300mm lens and zoomed in.

The photos here are as I shot them 11 years ago. They are JPEGs straight from the Rebel. No edits. No crops. No corrected composition (and some of these really need it). A few years later, and more amateur shooting experience, I used Canon’s 135mm prime, which is a fantastic lens that would have captured magnificent detail even from afar.

No matter, I’m glad to have taken these photos, just as they are. I may never get another chance to capture Lunas like these again.

Oh, and some advice, if raising kids: Let them play and create chaos. Had I been more of a tight-ass about the sled, the Lunas would have gone elsewhere.

By the way, that red wheel belonged to our push mower. Getting rid of the power mower turned out to be one of the best decisions my wife and I made for the household. We had many more delightful bug and animal visitors (like this little kit) after dispatching the noisy contraption.