Attacus atlas: The world’s largest moth

If you ask me, moths get a bad rap. Butterflies get all the attention and adoration, and moths get… well, trapped in the bathroom, usually. However, if you were to walk into your bathroom and discover an atlas moth hanging around on your shower curtain, I think you’d definitely give it some attention…

A fully-grown atlas moth

An atlas moth on a tree

You see, the atlas moth is the world’s largest moth. Well, according to its wing area, anyway. The surface area of the atlas moth’s wings can reach up to a massive 62 square inches! Here’s a photo of a typical atlas moth with a typical hand so you can see just how big these beasts can be:

Atlas moth with a hand

If you’ve got a fear of moths (and I know plenty of people who do), don’t have any sleepless nights; the atlas moth can only really be found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, including the Malay archipelago (oh, and London Zoo). So it’s unlikely to make an appearance in your bath any time soon.

Close-up of an atlas moth

The atlas moth’s name is said to derive from either the ancient Greek Titan Atlas (the guy who was punished by the gods and forced to carry the celestial sphere on his shoulders), or the map-like patterns on its wings.

Atlas moth's wing pattern

Close-up of the atlas moth's wing pattern

Beautiful, isn’t it? It almost looks like fur. I wouldn’t recommend giving an atlas moth a stroke, though. Touching a moth’s wings can remove the magical flying powder (actually tiny scales) from them, putting an end to their flying careers.

Apparently, in Hong Kong, the Cantonese name for the moth translates as “snake’s head moth”, and if you look at their wing tips, you can probably see why!

Atlas moth's wing tip

The brown silk produced by the atlas moth is so strong and durable, their cocoons are actually used as purses in Taiwan. That certainly brings another meaning to the phrase “having moths in your wallet”!

Here’s a video of a massive female atlas moth flapping around on someone’s hand:

Photo credits: Hic et nunc, Ryan Somma, internets_dairy, Deanster1983 and woodleywonderworks

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About Dom Stapleton

Dom Stapleton

As well as being the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavik in Iceland is also an incredible place to visit.

We stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the city and spent most days walking around from there. The main thing we noticed (apart from the cold, of course) was that the people are so friendly. At home, trying to cross the road is a nightmare, but in Reykjavik, the cars are literally queuing up to let you across.

When my partner and I went, in January 2013, the sun only started rising at about 10 am, which was a strange experience. And it got dark at about 4 pm each day!

Dom works in our marketing team

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