The Atlas Moth, Attacus atlas
In terms of total wing surface area, the atlas moth is the largest moth in the world. It has the second longest wingspan at 25-30 cm. Their wings are reddish-brown with triangular, translucent patches. The function of these patches is not well understood. The forewing tips are bent and somewhat resemble a snake’s head. Males are much smaller than females, and have large feathery antennae.
The Atlas Moth occurs in tropical and subtropical forests of southeast Asia. Adults lack a mouth and therefore don’t feed. Instead, they survive for less than 1 week off fat reserves created as a caterpillar.
The caterpillars are plump, bluish-green with white projections lining their dorsal surface. The caterpillars eat a variety of plants including pawpaw/sugar apple (Annona sp.), citrus plants (Citrus sp.), evergreen trees and shrubs (Cinnamomum and Nephelium sp.), and guava (Psidium sp.). They often switch between plant species during their development. Caterpillars produce a foul-smelling secretion that can be sprayed up to 50 cm as a defence mechanism. Atlas Moth caterpillars pupate in cocoons made of broken strands of silk. Their cocoons are used to make Fagara Silk in northern India, while in Taiwan, they’re made into pocket purses.