The Atlas Moth – One of the Largest Insects in the World

The Atticus Atlas Moth is one of the largest lepidopterans(butterflies & moths), featuring a wingspan averaging up to 24 cm (9.4 in) & a wing area of about 160 cm2 (~25 in2). The white witch (Thysania Agrippina), Attacus Caesar and the Hercules Moth (Coscinocera Hercules) are the only ones that can surpass it in terms of wingspan.


Like most Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), females are noticeably heavier than their male counterparts. Males have broader antennae.

The wings are much larger than the body. The top of the wings is red-brown, with a pattern of black, white and pink lines. There are also three-sided scale-less windows that are black.

The wings’ undersides are either lighter or more faded. The tips of both forewings are marked with a visible extension. This is to resemble the snake’s head or upper body. When the moth faces potential predators, the wings move to intensify the resemblance.


Atticus atlas has no mouth, and they do not eat after they emerge from their cocoon. They rely on fat storage to store energy. Each flight uses valuable energy and may reduce their short lives by days to around one to two weeks.

They fly as little as possible to conserve energy. A female will always be on the lookout for a male and return to her nest, fertilise, and lay eggs.


Atlas moths Habitat

The Habitat of the Atlas Moths is usually dry tropical forests, secondary forests, and shrublands in South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. One specimen, a mature female, was discovered in Ramsbottom in England in 2012. It arrived on a windowsill, and it is believed to have escaped from a private collection.

Attacus atlas moth habitat distribution

Atlas moths: Where did the name come from?

Atlas moths were named after Atlas, the Greek mythological titan. The Cantonese word for “snakehead moth” is found in Hong Kong. It refers to the prominent extension of the forewing, which resembles a snake’s skull.


The Atticus atlas Moth, one of the most powerful in the insect realm, is a gentle giant. But behind every large moth is a ravenous caterpillar.

Atticus atlas is the largest insect on Earth, measuring up to 27 cm in length. This is more than any person’s hands.

Atlas Moth caterpillars can reach 12 cm in length and eat every second of food.

The Atticus atlas Moth is captivating. Its beauty, detail on its wings and sheer size at each stage of its life cycle are some of the reasons why it is so compelling.


Atlas moths – The race to Grow

The adult atlas moth can grow huge, but they don’t feed once they emerge from their cocoon.

The proboscis, or nozzle that other butterflies and moths use for nectar is small and doesn’t work. Atlas moths can only survive for between one and two weeks without the ability to feed. They depend on the energy they get from their caterpillar stage.

Atticus atlas caterpillars, which live in the wild, consume the leaves of citrus, guava, and cinnamon trees. The moth is native to China, Malaysia and India, as well as Indonesia. It shares a source of food with Atlas, the Titan god in Greek mythology.


Atlas was charged with keeping the heavens open for all eternity and was referred to as the giant god of endurance and astronomy. Although one of the largest moths in the world should have a connection to Atlas, it is not clear if the insect was titled after him directly.

Scientists believe that the moth may have been named due to its unique wings patterns. They also look similar to a paper map. Because the moth’s tips look almost exactly like the tops of deadly cobra snakes, its Cantonese name is a snake’s head moth.

The moth will writhe and drop to the ground when it is threatened or ambushed.

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Atlas Moths facts

Are Atlas moths dangerous?

The Atlas Moth won’t chew on your clothes, so you don’t need to worry about it. They are small and don’t have mouths.


What is the average life expectancy of Atlas moths?

5 to 7 days. The Attacus atlas species does not have a mouth and therefore cannot eat. They live on the energy they have as caterpillars. They live for a short time, usually between 1 and 2 weeks.

Why don’t Atlas moths have mouths?

The Atlas moth’s proboscis is a short but beneficial one. Once they emerge from their cocoons, they do not eat and rely on fat storage to fuel their bodies. Each flight wastes precious energy and can cut into their short life spans by a few days.

Which is the largest moth in the entire world?

The atlas moth is one of the most feared insects. It is a gentle giant, but there is also a ravenous caterpillar behind every giant moth. With a wingspan of up to 27 cm, the atlas moth is one of the largest insects on Earth. It’s larger than the human hand.


Where can you find Atlas moths in the wild?

The Atlas Moth is found in Southeast Asia’s subtropical and tropical forests. The Atlas Moth’s wing colours include rusty brown, light yellow and red, and purple and black. The wings have two triangles that look like translucent windows.

Are Atlas moths nocturnal?

Moths are mainly nocturnal, so they fly at night and rest during the day.

Further reading

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