Luna Moths are generally easy to raise. You do need to be careful with them during the first couple of weeks. But if you follow these steps, everything should be fine.
Luna eggs usually hatch about 10 days after they’ve been laid. While you’re waiting, you should keep them in a Tupperware-type container with a tight-fitting lid.
The big secret: neither the eggs nor the caterpillars need airholes. Caterpillars need so little oxygen that they’re just fine in a sealed container.
This is especially important at first, because when the caterpillars hatch, they scatter everywhere. They’re tiny, they can escape out of the smallest openings, and they’re super-fast.
Don’t put any leaves in the container until the caterpillars appear. The leaves give off gasses that can keep the eggs from hatching.
Luna caterpillars can eat a number of different kinds of leaves: sweetgum, pecan, hickory, walnut, sumac, sycamore. But it’s best to pick one kind and stick to it.
Make sure you aren’t getting leaves from any place near where mosquito spraying has been done (even in a neighboring yard). The spray drifts all over and poisons everything.
Once the caterpillars hatch, add a few leaves to the container. Make sure the leaves aren’t too wet. These early days are tricky – you don’t want the caterpillars to get too wet or too dry. If you give them fresh leaves every day, they’ll get all the water they need.
It’s good to open the container about once a day, dump out the poop, and add a couple of fresh leaves. Be careful when you put the lid back on. Caterpillars like to hang out at the top of the container. You don’t want to smush them.
Don’t worry about taking out the old leaves right away. The caterpillars will move from the old leaves to the new leaves when they’re ready. Once they abandon the old leaves, you can take them out.
Be very careful when discarding leaves. The caterpillars are much harder to see than you think – even after they get pretty big. I usually check each leaf two or three times before discarding it. I’ll often find a caterpillar I overlooked.
If for some reason a caterpillar escapes, leave a fresh leaf or two out near the container. Often the escapee will find it, and you can then return it to the container.
You should keep the caterpillars in the sealed container for about two weeks, until they’re big enough to move to a cage (see Making a Caterpillar Cage and Food and Water).
If your sealed container is big enough, you can just raise the caterpillars in it. But they’re more fun to watch in the cage, and you don’t have to change the leaves as often because you can put the stems in water.
You can learn more about the next stages of Luna caterpillar growth here.