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5 Awesome Facts About the Atlas Moth

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We know what you’re thinking: You’d like to torch every one of those pesky bugs buzzing around your porch light and banging into your windows.

But forget those white-winged summertime pests that come to mind. An Atlas Moth would eat them for breakfast … if it had a mouth. A native of Southeast Asia, the Atlas Moth rivals any butterfly with its beauty and grandeur, and it’s time to show this insect the respect it deserves. Why? Here are five facts about its life that we find impressive.  

1. It’s the largest moth in the world in terms of wing surface area.

Ready for this? The wingspan of a female Atlas Moth can reach up to 12 inches with a surface area of 62 square inches. Go ahead and hold up a ruler … that’s one big bug.

2. The word “Atlas” in its name has many meanings, referring to its “mapped” patterns, “titanic” size, and the snake-tipped edges of its wings.

Many see the word “Atlas” as a reference to the bold and distinct lines that form the map-like pattern found on its wings, the different colors representing different geological formations.

A second theory is based on Greek mythology. The moth is said to be named after “Atlas,” the Titan condemned by Zeus to hold the sky upon his shoulders. The reference is more about the large size of the moth than the idea that they are bearing some sort of burden.

Lastly, in China, the Cantonese name for the moth translates into “snake’s head moth,” referring to the outer tips of the wings that look very similar to the head of a snake. You can see this very clearly in just about every photo of an Atlas Moth.

While all three theories have some ground to stand on, we think the Chinese are most on-point in their observation. Those tips sure do look like snakes!

3. In Taiwan, the cocoons of Atlas Moths are used as purses.

Seriously! The cocoons are very durable and spun from broken strands of brown silk known as fagara, which local communities non-commercially collect and turn into useable products, including purses. Some vacated cocoons don’t need to be deconstructed—they can be used “as found” as small pocket-change purses by simply installing a zipper!

4. They have no mouths.

You don’t have to worry about the Atlas Moth munching on the clothes in your closet. Despite their large size, they have no mouths and don’t eat once emerging from their cocoons, relying on fat storage from their immature stages of life.  

5. Once they emerge from their cocoons, Atlas Moths have a very short lifespan.

After spending about a month in their cocoons, Atlas Moths emerge as the beautiful creatures we’ve been describing above. Unfortunately, this state is short lived as the adult moths typically die within a week or two of spreading their wings.

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The Very Disgusting Reason You Should Always Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them
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It’s sometimes assumed that clothing with a price tag still dangling from the sleeve can skip an initial wash. Someone else may have tried it on, sure, but they didn’t run a marathon in it. Why not just throw it in the closet as soon as you get home?

One big reason: lice. As The Independent reports, Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, told NBC's Today show recently that clothing fresh off store racks can harbor infestations of lice, scabies, or fungus.

You might be familiar with head lice as the dreaded insects that occupy the scalp and give school health monitors cause for concern. Head lice can be transmitted via clothing and other fabrics, and anyone who tried on a shirt or dress before you did can be a carrier. While they only live for one or two days without a blood meal, that’s still enough time to cause problems if something is being tried on frequently.

Scabies is far more insidious. The mites are too small to see, but the allergic reaction they cause by burrowing into your skin to lay eggs will be obvious.

Both scabies and lice can be treated with topical solutions, but it’s better to kill them by washing new clothes in hot water. A good soak can also get rid of formaldehyde, a common chemical used in fabrics to help ward off mold in case stock gets wet in transit. Formaldehyde can cause allergic skin reactions. For all of these reasons, it’s best to hit the washing machine before those new pants ever hit your hanger.

[h/t Independent]

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These Fake Flowers Could Help Scientists Study At-Risk Bees
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If you haven't heard, the world's bees are having a crisis. According to one recent study, bee populations in some areas have plummeted by 75 percent in a quarter of a century. Some countries have introduced legislation banning certain pesticides in response to the news, but solving the complicated problem will likely require much more research. In order to gather better data on bee behavior, one new media artist has developed a machine that can give scientists a bug's-eye view.

As Co.Design reports, Michael Candy's Synthetic Pollenizer is designed to blend into a bee's natural environment. Yellow circles bolted around the opening of the device imitate the petals on a flower. Tubes pump real nectar and pollen into the center of the fake flower, so when bees land on it to feed, they're collecting real reproductive materials they can spread to the next plant they visit.

Candy, who's based in Brisbane, Australia, originally conceived the apparatus as a way for scientists to track the pollinating behaviors of bees. The synthetic flower is outfitted with cameras and dyes, and with enough of them distributed in the wild, researchers could see which bees travel to certain places and how long they stay.

After his concept reached the final round of the Bio Art and Design awards in the Netherlands, Candy decided to create his own prototype with help from an urban beekeeper in Melbourne, Australia. The invention worked: Bees mistook it for real flora and carried pollen from it to their next destination. But to use it for tracking and studying bees on a larger scale, Candy would need to build a lot more of them. The pollinators would also need to be scattered throughout the bees' natural habitats, and since they would each come equipped with a camera, privacy (for nearby residents, not the bees) could become a concern.

Even if the concept never gets the funding it needs to expand, Candy says it could still be used in smaller applications. Fake flowers designed to look like real orchids, for example, could encourage the pollination of endangered orchid species. But for people studying dwindling bee populations, orchids are low on the list of concerns: 30 percent of all the world's crops are pollinated by bees [PDF].

[h/t Co.Design]

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