The largest moth in Southeast Asia

Butterflies and Moths come from the Order Lepidoptera, taken from the Greek words lepis (scale) and pteron (wing). All insects contained in this order have wings, legs and a small body covered with microscopic scales.

These creatures have the largest wing span area of any moth, but not the overall longest wings. The Atlas Moth (Attacus Atlas) is named accordingly because of the patterns that resemble maps on their enormous wings. Also on their wings are small, triangular ‘windows’. We have yet to understand why these transparent sections exist and what purpose they serve. The tips of these wings resemble the heads of snakes, so as to scare of predators, which consist of small mammals and birds.

Breeding and life stages

The female Atlas Moth secretes a pheromone from a gland on her abdomen to attract the male. The females utilize the wind to spread their ‘love scent’ for up to three miles. These moths can lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized eggs will hatch to be male moths only. The eggs are laid on the underside of a leaf and hatch within eight to fourteen days, depending on the temperature and/or climate. Upon hatching, a small green caterpillar emerges. These have been described as pale green, speckled with white dots, and having sets of both dorsal and subdorsal green spines. The caterpillars eat constantly and a variety of leafs including the Jamaican Cherry Tree, Soursop, Cinnamon, Lime, Pomelo, Rambutan, Guava, and other varieties of citrus fruit leaves. Eventually the caterpillars form pupae. These are encased with a pliable, silken cocoon. This stage of development lasts roughly four weeks. From the cocoon spouts a fully-grown Atlas Moth. These adult moths are mainly nocturnal, and are readily attracted to artificial light. During this adult stage, these moths do no eat but rather feed of the fat deposits stored up from the caterpillar stage. The average life span of the Atlas Moth is two weeks. During this short period of time the adults quickly mate, lay eggs and eventually die.

Crazy human uses found for this creature

Since their insect family is related to that of silk worms, the moth’s broken cocoons and silk strands are used to produce what is known as Fagara Silk. Intact and slightly scarred cocoons are harvested and used whole as coin purses.

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