|Atlas moth (adult female)|
|Atticus atlas habitat range|
Atlas moths are one of the largest lepidopterans in the world with an average wingspan of 25 cm (9.8 in) and an average wing surface area of 400 cm2 (62 in2).  A record specimen from Java had a wingspan measuring 26.2 cm (10.3 in).  It is only surpassed in wingspan by the white witch (Thysania agrippina) and in wing surface area by the Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules). Females are noticeably larger and heavier than males, while males have broader antennae.
Atlas moths are named after either the Titan of Greek mythology (due to their size) or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong, the Cantonese name translates as "snake's head moth," referring to the prominent extension of the forewing which bears resemblance to the head of a snake.
Relationship with humans
In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity. Unlike silk produced by the related domestic silkmoth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk, known as "fagara," is thought to have greater durability. Atlas moth cocoons are sometimes used as small pocket change purses in Taiwan.
The term "Atlas moth" is sometimes used mistakenly as a name for any species in the genus Attacus, of which there are over 20 named species and subspecies. A few New World species can be mistaken for Atlas moths, specifically members of the genus Rothschildia. Very similar in appearance to the Asian Atlas moth, Rothschildia aurota is one of the largest members of its genus and a neotropical relative.
|Holometabolism (complete metamorphosis)|
|Eggs||Larva||Pupa within cocoon||Emerging from pupa||Imago|
Females are sexually passive, releasing powerful pheromones to attract a mate. Males can detect and home in on these pheromones from several kilometers away with the help of chemoreceptors located on their feathery antennae. Atlas moths are weak, unsteady fliers, and the female does not stray far from the location of her discarded cocoon. She seeks out a perch where the air currents will best carry her pheromones.
Once fertilized, the female lays a number of spherical eggs, 2.5 mm (0.098 in) in diameter, on the undersides of leaves. Dusty-green caterpillars hatch after approximately two weeks and feed voraciously on the foliage of citrus, cinnamon, guava, and evergreen trees. The caterpillars can grow to 11.5 cm (4.5 in) in length and 2.5 cm (0.98 in) in thickness. They are adorned with white, waxy, fleshy spines along their backs, which become more prominent at later instars.
After reaching a length of about 11.5 cm (4.5 in), the caterpillars pupate within a papery cocoon interwoven with desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge from the cocoon after approximately four weeks.
Adult moths lack fully formed mouthparts and cannot eat. They subsist entirely on fat reserves accumulated during the larval stage. As a result, the adults live for only a few days during which their sole objective is seeking out a mate. To conserve energy, the moths rest during the day and fly at night.
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