The timing of semilunar as well as lunar reproductive rhythms has been analyzed in different geographic populations of the intertidal chironomid Clunio. In stocks of three populations differing in period and phase relationship with the lunar month, these long-term rhythms were synchronized in the laboratory by using artificial moonlight cycles of 30 days in otherwise 24-hr light-dark (LD) cycles (0.4 lux during 4 successive nights every 30 days in LD 12:12). In LD cycles of various periods, a strong synchronization was only possible in LD 12:12 and LD 11:11, whereas in LD 10:10 and LD 15:15 the synchronization by the 30-"day" moonlight cycle was weak or even absent. The study demonstrates a limited range of circadian periods for entrainment of the long-term rhythms. It is concluded that an LD cycle with a period near 24 hr is an essential zeitgeber condition for semilunar and lunar timing in this marine insect. Further, it is suggested that the underlying physiological timing mechanism of Clunio consists of a circadian function for the perception of the monthly moonlight zeitgeber cycles that entrain the endogenous, temperature-compensated oscillator of the circasemilunar (or circalunar) period. The long-term oscillator triggers the metamorphosis of the insect, and thereby determines the time of its eclosion and reproduction on the shorelines, in correlation with days of spring tides recurring about every 14-15 days.