Atlas moth – Attacus atlas
The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is a large saturniid moth found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and common across the Malay archipelago. In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity; unlike that produced by the related Silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk is thought to have greater durability and is known as fagara. Atlas moth cocoons have been employed as purses in Taiwan.
Atlas moths are considered the largest moths in the world in terms of total wing surface area [upwards of c. 400 cm2 (62 sq in)]. Their wingspans are also amongst the largest, from 25–30 cm (10–12 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier.
Atlas moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong the Cantonese name translates as “snake’s head moth”, referring to apical extension of the forewing, which bears a passing resemblance to a snake’s head.
Featured in Colour and Light on November 29/2010