100 Years – 100 Objects: Spanish Moon Moth

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Nancy, the museum’s director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and curator of entomology. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the rarest and most interesting insects in the Museum’s collections,that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org– throughout the year.

Spanish Moon Moth – Actias (Graellsia) isabellae

Spanish Moon Moth

This relative of our luna moth (Actias luna) is native to conifer woodlands in the mountains of northern Spain, southern France, and parts of Switzerland. There is still some debate over whether this moth should be included in the genus Actias, or placed in its own genus (Graellsia). The species name honors Queen Isabela of Spain. This moth is fairly rare and populations are fragmented, so today it is protected by law in Spain and France and cannot be collected without a special permit.

Males and females are similar in color, but the male (right) has long tails much like our luna, while the stouter female (left) has much shorter tails. The caterpillars, handsomely patterned in green, brown, and white, eat various conifers, especially pine.

Learn more about butterflies and their relatives in a visit to the new Brown Hall of Entomology, a part of the Cockrell Butterfly Center– a living, walk-through rainforest at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org