The Atlas Moth
The atlas moth, much like its namesake, is considered the largest and most famous moth. Learn all about the atlas moth!
In Greek mythology, Atlas was one of the Titans or giants. The atlas moth, much like its namesake, is considered the largest and most famous moth. Belonging to the Saturniidae family, which includes the British emperor moth, the North American cecropia moth and the tussah, the Atlas moth is found mainly in tropical areas. Females are larger, heavier and more massive than the males. In some cases the females hooked fore wings will span ten inches. The body color of this moth is a tawny brown but they have beautiful patterns and a conspicuous triangular, transparent spot on each wing.
The only moth that can compete with the atlas moth as the largest in the world is the hercules moth which is another giant of Greek mythology. This moth is found in New Guinea and Australia and can also have a wing span of close to ten inches. The great owlet moth of South America has recently given all other moths a challenge concerning size. One great owlet was discovered with a wing span of twelve inches. The size dispute comes into play in relationship to the body size of all these moths. The hercules moth has shorter wings but is a broad, ample moth with a total surface area of around 100 square inches. On the other hand the great owlet has the widest span but is less heavily built then the other two moths.
Found in the tropics and subtropics from India and the Himalayas, eastward to Malaysia and Indonesia, the atlas moth lays spherical shaped eggs that are about 2 1\2 millimeters in diameter. The eggs are laid in clusters on a wide variety of tropical shrubs. The larvae or caterpillars begin their lives white in color but soon turn a pale bluish green. The caterpillar's body has rows of spines and is covered with a white, waxy powder. Approximately three months later the caterpillar is 4 to 4 1\2 inches long and over 1 inch in diameter. It spins around itself a tough, papery cocoon of silk in which it pupates. The cocoon is attached to the foliage of the food plant on which it existed as a caterpillar. There is no opening in the cocoon so the moth gets out in the same way as other cocoon spinning insects. It secrets a liquid from the mouth parts that dissolves the silk and enables the moth to push its way out. In temperate latitudes, this moth can be kept in captivity. It feeds readily on privet, willow or rhododendron but must have a temperature to 70 to 80 degrees fahrenheit provided for it at all times.
On the other end of the size scale in moths is the midget spotkin. This is a leaf boring moth which is just 1\2 inch across. Some of the smallest insects of all are tiny beetles known as a feather winged beetle which lives in tropical America and Australia. The tiniest of these is a mere 1\4 millimeter long. However, there is a family of parasitic wasp known as fairy flies that lay their eggs in other insects eggs. The smallest of these is the smallest insect known to man measuring out at a mere .21 millimeters long. That means that there are some insects which are smaller than the largest single celled animals which are protozoa. It also means that these insects are truly microscopic.