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5 Awesome Facts About the Atlas Moth

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Thinkstock

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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This Self-Cloning Tick is Terrorizing More States
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Few arachnids are as demonized in the summer months as ticks, the parasitic little nuisances that can spread disease in humans and pets. That's not likely to change now that there's a exotic new species that can not only self-replicate, but is also poised to attack animals like a colony of swarming fire ants.

This super-tick is Haemaphysalis longicornis, or the longhorned tick, native to East Asia and imported to the U.S. by unknown means. The first North American sighting took place in August 2017 in New Jersey when a farmer walked into a county health office covered in nearly 1000 ticks after shearing a pet sheep that had been infested. The insect was then spotted in Virginia, West Virginia, and Arkansas, with caution advised in Maryland. As of this week, it’s now a confirmed resident of North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer reports.

H. longicornis invites more dread than a conventional tick for several reasons. It can “clone” itself, with females laying up to 2000 genetically identical eggs without any assistance from a male, a process called parthenogenesis. Reproduction is faster, with offspring appearing in just six months compared to two years for common deer ticks. It’s also an aggressive biter, nibbling on any animal flesh it can latch on to, and is able to transfer a host of diseases in the process—some of them fatal. In addition to Lyme, longhorned ticks can transmit the flu-like ehrlichiosis bacteria and the rare Powassan virus, which can cause brain inflammation.

The news isn’t much better for livestock. Given enough opportunity, the ticks can siphon enough blood from an animal to kill it, a process known as exsanguination. The attack can become so concentrated that pets have been spotted with ticks hanging from them like bunches of grapes.

New Jersey officials have confirmed the tick has survived the winter by burrowing underground, a somewhat ominous sign that the invasive species might be durable enough to become a widespread problem. Experts recommend taking all the regular precautions, including wearing long pants when outdoors, using repellent, and examining yourself and your pets for ticks. While the longhorned tick hadn’t yet displayed a taste for human flesh, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As for the sheep: following a chemical treatment, she made a full recovery.

[h/t Charlotte Observer]

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Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku
This Super-Stinger Wasp Was Just Discovered in the Amazon
Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku
Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku

Deserved or not, the Amazon has developed a reputation for hosting animals, insects, and other creatures that appear to exist solely to terrify humans. And everywhere in the world, you’ll find parasitic organisms that thrive when they siphon blood or other resources from hosts.

A new entrant has emerged in both of these charts: Calistoga crassicaudata, a wasp recently discovered in the Amazon that sports a stinger roughly half the length of its 9.8-millimeter-long body. The insect may as well come out of the workshop of Alien designer H.R. Giger: Its methodology is to impale prey with the stinger, paralyzing it, and then depositing eggs inside so they can hatch later. The hatching usually causes the host—typically a spider—to burst open and die in agony as C. crassicaudata laughs maniacally. Metaphorically speaking.

Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, made the discovery between the Andes and the Amazonian lowland rainforest and reported it in the journal Zootaxa. The new species appears to be amazing wasp experts by the sheer magnitude of its built-in spear, also called an ovipositor, that delivers both venom and the female's eggs.

"I have studied tropical parasitoid wasps for a long time, but I have never seen anything like it," entomologist and co-author Ilari E. Sääksjärvi said in a statement. "It looks like a fierce weapon."

The good news? It’s not really strong enough to pierce human skin, so should you find yourself in its vicinity, you probably don't need to worry. Instead, worry more about the common paper wasp, which has a barbed stinger, takes only 0.5 seconds to impale you, and can retain its stinger to continue its assault.

[h/t LiveScience]

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