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Attacus atlas – Atlas Moth
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat
Newsletter
Attacus atlas – Atlas Moth
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat

The Atlas Moth, known scientifically as Attacus atlas, belongs to the family of the giant silkworm moth, Saturniidae. Its common name is either derived from the Titan of Greek mythology, Atlas, or its map-like wing pattern. In Malay, this moth is probably known as “Kupu-kupu Kuda” (Stamp catalog, n.d.).

The Atlas Moth is the largest moth in Malaysia with respect to wing surface area and wingspan. The wingspan can spread over 9.8 inches or up to 35 cm from wing tip to wing tip, with females being slightly larger and heavier than males (Mary et al., 2016). The wings are brown in colour with light yellow, red, purple, black and pink accents. The wing tips of the forewing are hooked. The forewing and hindwing have translucent “window” patches, which are triangular and bordered in black. The apex of the forewing looks like a “snake’s head”, and functions as defence against predation. The body of the Atlas Moth is much smaller than the wings. The male’s antennae (c. 1-2 cm) are longer and much more feathery than the female’s. The male antennae have chemoreceptors which are used to detect the pheromones released by the female which can be up to several kilometres away. The larvae or caterpillars are greenish white in colour with soft spines on their back. The adults do not have mouth parts and can only survive for a few days on the food stored during the caterpillar stage (Mary et al., 2016). The main aim of the adult moth is to fly around and find a mate. One generation of the Atlas Moth from an egg to adult ranges between two and four months depending on the surrounding environment and food availability (Bhawane et al., 2011; Sathe & Kavane, 2014).

One population of the Atlas Moth can be quite large. This was seen when a teenager found hundreds of the caterpillars and moths breeding on an unidentified tree in urban Shah Alam rendering the tree almost leafless (Zakaria, 2012).

The Atlas Moth is distributed in Asia ranging from India to the Philippines and south to Indonesia (The California Academy of Sciences, 2020). Its habitat ranges from lowland forests up to upper montane forest at about 2,000 m a.s.l. The moths are cultivated in Northern India for their silk, called fagara, which is rough and woolly, to produce purses, ties and scarves (Mary et al., 2016). In Malaysia, the moth has been used as a symbol on a 1996 RM0.50 stamp (Stamp catalog, n.d.).

Its conservation status has yet to be evaluated. This species is being proposed for listing in CITES Appendix II (CITES, 1999). Presently, the Atlas Moth is being sold online via channels such as Mudah.my and Etsy, and can cost between RM 8.00 and RM 320.00 depending on the specimen’s condition, whether in the pupal state, or as a framed specimen (Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, n.d.; Mudah.my, n.d.; Etsy, n.d.).

References

  1. Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre. n.d. Pupae Sales. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.angkorbutterfly.com/bbcpupaesales.html.
  2. Bhawane, G.P., Mamlayya, A.B., Koli, Y.J., Phonde, Y.A., Aland, S.R. & Gaikwad, S.M. (2011). Life History of Attacus atlas Linn. (Saturniidae: Lepidoptera) on Sapium insigne Benth. The Bioscan 6 (3): pp. 497-500
  3. CITES. 1999. Notification to the Parties: Proposals to amend Appendix II. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/notif/1999/040.shtml
  4. Etsy. n.d. Snake Head Attacus Atlas Female Real Moth Entomology Collectible in Shadowbox. . Retrieved March 30, 2020, from http://www.etsy.com/listing/761471634/snake-head-attacus-atlas-female-real?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_ query= attacus+atlas&ref=sr_gallery-1-19&col=1
  5. Mary, P.P., Kammar, V., Rani, A.T. & Yathish, K.R. (2016). Giant Moths and Their Conservation. Arthropod Diversity and Conservation in the Tropics and Sub-tropics. pp. 315-325
  6. Mudah.my Sdn Bhd. n.d. Dy Butterfly Collection of Atlas Moth in Frame (Second-hand). Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.mudah.my/Dy+Butterfly+Collection+of+Atlas+Moth+in+Frame-62445383.htm
  7. Sathe, T.V. & Kavane, R. (2014). Biology of Attacus atlas (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae), A Wild Silk Worm of India. Indian Journal of Applied Research 4 (10): pp. 4-7
  8. Stamp catalog: Stamp > Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas). n.d. Retrieved March 12, 2020, from https://colnect.com/en/stamps/stamp/277590-Atlas_Moth_Attacus_atlas_-Stamp_Week-Malaysia
  9. The California Academy of Sciences. Atlas Moth. The California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from https://www.calacademy.org/explore-science/atlas-moth
  10. Zakaria, N.R. (31/12/2012). Attacus atlas breeding ground in Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from http://angkasa-norul.blogspot.com/2012/12/attacus-atlas-breeding-ground-in-shah_31.html
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