Atlas Moth Fact File
The atlas moth is a large insect with two wings resting either side of a short, chubby body. These wings are primarily orange or orangish brown with a range of patterns across them. This includes triangular transluscent patches in the middle of the wing. A black wavy line runs along the wing margin which is lighter in color. The wing tip is curved.
An atlas moths wings are made up of thousands of overlapping scales. These are pigmented to create the colors seen on the wings.
Their body measures between 16 and 30cm (6.25 and 12in) across. Males are typically smaller than females. While originally considered the largest moth this title is now given to the Hercules moth.
Males can be distinguished from females as they have a pair of feathery antennae which project from their head.
As an adult the atlas moth does not consume any food. They survive off of a fat store from their caterpillar stage. During their larval stage they will feed on leaves.
5-7 days in adult form
Atlas moths live in south-east Asia. They range from India across to the Philippines and to the south through Indonesia.
They make their home in forests and open, grassy areas.
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Adult atlas moths are fully focused on breeding. Males can detect the scent of a female from miles away using their feathery antenna. They will follow this to mate with her.
She will then deposit up to 250 eggs on the underside of a leaf which will provide food once the eggs hatch.
The caterpillars which hatch from the eggs can create a secretion which is believed to help defend them against predators.
They will then enter a cocoon. This cocoon is spun from brown silk and is highly durable. They spend a month here before emerging as an adult moth.
As an adult they will only live for 7 days and are immediately sexually mature.
Males and females spend most of the time once they emerge from their cocoon attempting to find a mate with which they can breed.
Predators and Threats
The translucent patches on their wings may startle predators and may also lead to the predator attacking them on the wing where damage is not guaranteed to be fatal as it would be if they were bitten on the body.
In China they are known as the snakehead moth. This is a reference to the way that their curved wingtips resemble the head of a snake.
Atlas moth cocoons are used as purses in part of their range.
The name atlas moth comes from the Greek demigod who was said to carry the world on his shoulders.
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By Sachin Palkar – Own Photographs, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3549785
By Skohlmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63066988
By School of Ecology and Conservation – School of Ecology and Conservation, University of Agricultural Sciences Bangalore, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1078924
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California Academy of Sciences. 2020. Atlas Moth. [online] Available at: <https://www.calacademy.org/explore-science/atlas-moth> [Accessed 7 November 2020].
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. 2020. Monster Moths! The 3 Biggest Moths In The World – Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. [online] Available at: <https://australianbutterflies.com/monster-moths-the-3-biggest-moths-in-the-world/> [Accessed 7 November 2020].
Mentalfloss.com. 2020. 5 Awesome Facts About The Atlas Moth. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/50738/5-awesome-facts-about-atlas-moth> [Accessed 7 November 2020].