Saturday, June 21, 2014

Amazing Creatures: Atlas Moth

I know some might find it scary, some might find it pesky and you would all like to torch or whack these insects to death.

But an Atlas Moth would eat them for breakfast, if it had a mouth. A native of Southeast Asia, the Atlas Moth rivals any butterfly with its beauty and grandeur, and it’s time to show this insect the respect it deserves.

The Atlas moth is a large saturniid moth found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and is common across the Malay archipelago.

It’s the largest moth in the world in terms of wing surface area. The wingspan of a female atlas moth can reach up to 12 inches with a surface area of 62 square inches. Go ahead and hold up a ruler … that’s one big bug.
The word “atlas” in its name has many meanings, referring to its “mapped” patterns, “titanic” size, and the snake-tipped edges of its wings. Many see the word “Atlas” as a reference to the bold and distinct lines that form the map-like pattern found on its wings, the different colors representing different geological formations.

In taiwan, the cocoons of atlas moths are used as purses. The cocoons are very durable and spun from broken strands of brown silk known as fagara, which local communities non-commercially collect and turn into useable products, including purses. Some vacated cocoons don’t need to be deconstructed—they can be used “as found” as small pocket-change purses by simply installing a zipper!

They have no mouths. You don’t have to worry about the atlas moth munching on the clothes in your closet. Despite their large size, they have no mouths and don’t eat once emerging from their cocoons, relying on fat storage from their immature stages of life. 

Once they emerge from their cocoons, atlas moths have a very short lifespan. After spending about a month in their cocoons, atlas moths emerge as the beautiful creatures we’ve been describing above. Unfortunately, this state is short lived as the adult moths typically die within a week or two of spreading their wings.

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