Image Size: 10″ x 7-3/4″
One of the largest species of Lepidoptera with a wingspan of more than 300 mn (12 inches), the Atlas moth is widely distributed from Sri Lanka and India to China and may also be found in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The base of the wings is brick red with intricate brownish-black, gold and white bands and lines and a reddish, almost contiguous band across both wings. there are also four triangular, almost transparent patches etched in red, which may confuse predator by reflecting light. The outer wings are similar in color but have separate diffuse color bands, and the margin is outlined in darker brownish-black scalloped lines. The forewings are broad and recurved near the tip with lighter colored patches and eyespots, possibly to resemble a stylized snake.
The males and females are similar in appearance, but the males have enlarged feathery antennae which possess specialized sensory cells to detect females, even from a few kilometers away. The antennae of the females are generally reduced to fine threads.
A denizen of tropical forests, especially moist valleys, the Atlas moth is active during the evening and can be observed perching on tree foliage or shrubs. Like the adults, the caterpillars are quite large (ten to 12 cm) and are bluish-green with darker blue dots. Their favorite host plant is Ailanthus glandulosa, commonly known as the Tree of heaven.
Text by Jacqueline Miller, Ph. D., Associate Curator, Allyn Museum of Entomology, Florida Museum of Natural History and Former President, The Lepidopterists’ Society
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