One of the largest moths in the world discovered in the United States for the first time

A species of moth with a wingspan of almost 10 inches―one of the largest moths in the world―has been found in the United States.

Entomologist Patrick Tobin received an email last month containing a photo of what he immediately recognized as an Atlas moth on a garage door in Bellevue, Wash., he told the Seattle Times. Wildlife officials believe this is the first time the moth has been spotted in the United States

“It’s a ‘gee-whiz’ type insect because it’s so big,” Sven Spichiger of the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said in a press release on the winged creature. “Even if you’re not looking for bugs, they’re the type people pull out their phones and take pictures of – they’re so striking.”

Atlas moths are a tropical species native to Southeast Asia. Its wingspan can be up to 10 inches long, with large distinctive markings that scientists say are meant to mimic the heads of snakes to scare off predators like birds.

The particular butterfly seen in Washington had a wingspan about the length of an adult man’s hand. Moths do not pose a risk to human health, but their caterpillars could threaten plant life such as apple and cherry trees. According to the WSDA, they are legally a “federally quarantined pest,” which means it is illegal to “obtain, harbor, breed, or sell live butterflies” to anyone. what stage of their life.

The origin of the butterfly observed at Bellevue is unknown at this time. However, news station KUOW reported that a now-deleted local eBay account claimed to be selling Atlas butterfly cocoons online.

Tobin killed the butterfly by putting it in the freezer and sending it to the US Department of Agriculture, which confirmed it was indeed an Atlas butterfly.

Anyone in Washington State who thinks they have seen one of these butterflies is encouraged to report it to with information on where they saw it and a photo, if possible. . Anyone who sees one in the United States outside of Washington can report it to their state’s director of plant health.


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