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Atlas Moths

Atlas Moths – Facts about the World’s biggest Moths

Atlas Moths – when most people think of a moth, they most likely think of the drab pests that fly around lights at night. These are just a small sample of the veritable species of the moth family.

Actually, there are more than 160,000 species on record. There are some moths from different countries that are exceptional, such as the Attacus Atlas moth. Even though they are related to the same moths that wreak havoc on clothing, these moths are known for their large dimensions, stunning wingspan, and short lives.

This impressive moth is found in the southwestern parts of Asia. It rivals any other moth or butterfly with unique designs out there. As one of the largest species of moths, they are kept by insect enthusiasts around the world. Atlas Moth caterpillars are great to keep as pets as they require no attention.

They will not try to escape from their respected houses, and they are inactive during the day. When night comes, they are busy chomping on foliage to build their fat reserves. The fascination with the world’s largest caterpillar has been going on for decades, and there is no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.

The Atlas Moth Life Cycle

The life cycle of these beautiful moths can be divided into four categories:

  1. egg,
  2. larva,
  3. pupas and
  4. adulthood

Their short adulthood is spent trying to find a mate before they die. Since they are nocturnal, they only have a few nights to succeed.


An Atlas moth begins its brief adulthood with sexual attraction. The Attacus Atlas females are usually very sexually passive. However, they release a strong pheromone that the male moth can detect. These chemicals are released from their chemoreceptors, which are located on the antennae. The antennae itself is quite remarkable. It is light and feathery, though quite large.

A moth can be several miles downwind and still pick up on the scent released by a female in waiting. Unfortunately, these moths are not good fliers, so they do not play hard to get. The female doesn’t have the ability to wander far from the spot where she cast off her chrysalis. She will find a resting place where the air currents will carry her alluring scent to the eager male species.


Once the two moths have mated, a female will lay between 200-300 eggs. They often lay their eggs on the bottom of the foliage, which is helpful in keeping predators at bay. The Atlas moth eggs are spherical in shape, and they measure around 2.5 millimeters in diameter. The time frame from when the eggs are laid until they hatch is around fourteen days total.


At this stage, the egg has hatched, and it is officially a caterpillar. However, they are still in a juvenile state, because maturity has not yet taken place. As the larva matures from this state, it turns into a full-grown moth. The Atlas moth larvae is also known as the nymph phase is some animals.

The young Atlas moth caterpillar has a white, waxy substance and a fleshy spine on their back. These physical characteristics help to protect them during this state of their life.

These small caterpillars are greenish white color, and they look kind of odd with the soft spines running visibly down their backs. Their feet have a bright red spot on them. The spines and dots make them look more ferocious to any would-be predator, though, they are harmless.

Though their appearance may make some predators apprehensive, Mother Nature has given these caterpillars another way to protect themselves. They have the ability to spray a potent scent when they feel threatened.

The moth can shoot or drop a stream that can go as far as two feet from their location. These moths have very specific deadlines to do what nature intends. So, being able to protect themselves is imperative.


Once the small caterpillar grows to around 4.5″, they pupate into a paper sack that is about 3″ long. The young baby feeds inside this special sack, which is interwoven into desiccated foliage. They eat the foliage of either citrus or evergreen trees, but those in captivity can eat cinnamon leaves and other variations too.

After the caterpillar, has spun their silk cases and turned into pupas, collectors can gather them and hang them in a container. Instead of a random place for the adult to emerge, called an eclosion, a planned place gives them more space to develop. This helps because they won’t bang around, and It can hurt its wings during this extensive process.

Many moth collectors have good luck with placement by using a simple “sewing needle” process. All caterpillars have spinnerets on their bottom lips, which make this process easy. In captivity, they pin a piece of silk to the container’s ceiling to spin their sack. Owners must take care and make sure that the sack and incubating pupa are not harmed.

If the silk does not hold to the top of the container, pet owners you can tie a piece of thread to the cocoon for hanging. The cocoon needs enough room for the moth to get out comfortably. In the wild, the moth will find a tree branch to set up their nest.


Inside their silk home, it takes the small caterpillar around four weeks to emerge morphed into a moth. As one of the world’s biggest caterpillars, they are a sight to behold. Their opulent beauty makes them worthy of much scientific research. The transformation is quite remarkable to watch, which is why so many scientists are fascinated with the four-stage process and want to learn as much about it as they can.

Where do Atlas Moths live? – The Atlas Moth Habitat

Where do the largest moths in the world set up their residence? They love the tropical and subtropical foliage that comes from dry, broadleaf forests. They also like the scrublands. In a pinch, they will use secondary forests too.

Naturally, they are found in areas of Asia, but they have migrated to other areas as well. Interestingly enough, many people are taking them as pets. Though their short lifespan is not good for a long-term pet, they are still interesting to study, even if just for a short period of time.

The Size of The Atlas Moths

The Atlas moth is massive. They are considered among one of the largest moths in the world, and It has a surface area of 62 inches.

Lady moths are slightly bigger than their mates. Because of their colossal overall size, some say that they are named after the doomed Titan, Atlas, in Greek mythology.

In comparison to their wings, their bodies are small. The map-like wing patterns on the adult insect are a marvel to see. Both upper and lower wings have a brownish-red color with outlines of black, purple, and pink. Their undersides are paler than their top. Some say it looks like a map, and this is how it got its name. Whether it came from Greek mythology or because of a map, no one will ever know.

The largest moth wings on record for the Atlas is documented reaching over 9.25″.

Atlas Moth Snake WingA sister moth, the Thysania species, is on record with a measurement of a whopping 10.25″. However, a Hercules moth was measured at 11.42” across, making it even larger.

Consequently, those moths are only found in New Guinea and northern Australia. The Atlas moth wingspan area is rather impressive, especially seeing it for the first time.

The wing tips come down into a shape that makes them look like the head of a snake, which gives them the Chinese name of snake moth. Some theorize that this is to scare away predators.

What Does The Atlas Moth Eat?

Atlas Moth MouthThe Atlas moth does not have a mouth. However, when they are in the caterpillar stage, they must eat a large amount of food to sustain them.

They store the fat they ingest during this phase, and they will use it for their entire life. As stated above, they love to dine on citrus, willow, and evergreen tree foliage.

Lifespan – How long do Atlas Moths live?

So much is yet to be learned about the Atlas moth butterfly; however, it is difficult when they only live for about five to seven days.

The world’s biggest caterpillar has one of the shortest life spans. Their pragmatic design will allow them to live off fat reserves for this short length of time.

Their timeline is as follows:

  1. After mating, the female lays her eggs. The eggs of the Attacus Atlas moth take 10-14 days to hatch.
  2. The Attacus Atlas caterpillar is nocturnal and it eats for about a month before transforming into the next stage.
  3. The pupas develop into a butterfly at 21 days.
  4. The Attacus Atlas butterfly will live for about 5-7 days total.

They live to find a mate, lay eggs, and die.

The Atlas Moth Is Well Revered

Some countries use the Atlas moth for its silk. Silk is usually derived from the silkworm moth. However, the Atlas produces silk that is broken into strands and it has a different amino acid composition .

The technical term for their silk is fagara. It is a brown, wool-like silk that has a far greater durability than traditional silk. Even the cocoons of these moths have been used to spin fine purses in India. Their short life is not in vain as they are revered in many cultures.

Keeping The Largest Moth In The World As A Pet

People who want to keep these caterpillars as pets can easily find appropriate housing. One of the best contraptions is a clear plastic container with air holes. A container that has good ventilation is imperative. The bigger the container, the better it is for the moth to flourish.

Cages with wide gaps in the bars and glass terrariums can be detrimental to the moths. While they are flying around, they can damage their wings against these surfaces. Owners should put paper towels on the bottom of the container as well as foliage for food. This is all that the caterpillar needs. To keep the leaves fresh, they should be put in a small cup of water.

Care needs to be taken that the caterpillar does not accidentally fall into the cup. The container should be kept in a room at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Since these special larvae are susceptible to fungal disorders, owners should be careful about moisture levels in the cage. Keeping the foliage moist should provide enough moisture for them.

The Attacus Atlas, also known as the Southeast Asian saturniid moth, is one of the largest lepidopterans on the planet.

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