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Atlas Moth

Attacus atlas

Description

One of the largest moths in the world, a female atlas moth's wings may span as much as 10 inches; the male is significantly smaller and less massive.

The general body and wing color is tawny, but the wings are adorned with very striking patterns, including "hooked" forewings that look much like snake heads. There is also a very conspicuous triangular, transparent spot on each wing.

female atlas moth
female atlas moth

Distribution and Habitat

Atlas moths are found in the tropics and subtropics from Afghanistan, eastwards to the Pacific Coast and southeast through Malaysia. the Philippines, and Indonesia, including the Himalaya. It inhabits dry rainforests, secondary forests, and shrublands.

distribution of the atlas moth
distribution of the atlas moth

Life Cycle

Females are sexually passive. releasing pheromones to attract a mate. Most breeding appears to occur from November to January.

After mating, the female lays spherical eggs, each about 2 mm in diameter, in clusters on a wide variety of tropical shrubs, including cinnamon and hibiscus.

eggs
atlas moth eggs

It takes about two weeks for the eggs to hatch. The caterpillar is white at birth but gradually becomes pale bluish-gray. For protection, its body is covered with rows of spines and a white, waxy powder.

first stage larva
atlas moth larva

atlas moth caterpillar
atlas moth caterpillar

By the time the caterpillar is about 3 months old it has grown to a length of 4-4 inches and diameter of over an inch. At this time it spins itself into a tough, papery silk cocoon in which it pupates. After about a month it secretes a liquid from its mouth parts which dissolves the silk, enabling the fully grown moth to push itself out.

Adult atlas moths lack fully formed mouthparts, so they cannot eat. As a result, the adults live for only a few days during which their sole objective is seeking out a mate. To conserve energy, the moths rest during the day and fly at night.

Diet

Atlas moth caterpillars feed on the foliage of citrus, cinnamon, guava, and evergreen trees.

Scientific Classification

phylum Arthropoda
class Insecta
order Lepidoptera
family Saturniidae
genus & species Attacus atlas

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This page was last updated on March 25, 2018.