by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist
Insects and spiders are often used in popular culture. They demand attention when they appear in movies, TV shows, billboards, etc. Sometimes, though, the depictions aren't 100% accurate. Over the Thanksgiving break I noticed that the moth featured in the one of the current Lunesta television commercials is not... quite... right.
Presumably, the creature in the commercial is meant to be a luna moth (although I cannot confirm this on the company's website). The luna moth is one of the largest moths in North America. It is native (and common in Kentucky) and is distinguished by its hairy, lime-green body and its long, tailed wings. At first glance, the Lunesta moth looks very much like a luna moth. The color is right. So are the markings. Heck, I think even the wing-venation is correct. But there is a fundamental error in the Lunesta mascot: luna moths do not have knobbed antennae. In fact, in most cases, only butterflies (and their relatives, the skippers) have truly knobbed antennae. The antennae of moths are typically long and straight, or feathery. This is one of the main distinctions between moths and butterflies (the Butterflies and Moths of North America website discusses some other differences as well).
Okay, so the mascot's antennae aren't perfect. I guess that's not a big deal. But while researching this topic I found that there is another controversy surrounding the Lunesta moth. John Mack, a marketing blogger, found evidence that the moth's presence in TV ads has been reduced. He thinks its because of negative marketing and maybe because the moth's "eerie glow" is a bit "frightening." Cool!
Read more about the luna moth and its relatives, the Giant Silkworm Moths, in our UK Entomology factsheet, written by Dr. Ric Bessin: Saturniid Moths.