Atlas Moth Lesson for Kids: Facts & Information

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

The atlas moth is one of highly unusual size and looks. What sets this moth apart from the others, and what are some interesting facts about it? Keep reading to learn more.

A Moth of Epic Proportions

When you imagine a moth, what do you picture? Perhaps a small, winged insect flapping furiously at your porch light at night. With delicate wings often seen in muted colors, moths typically aren't as striking as their butterfly cousins. Or are they?

The huge and unusual atlas moth
Atlas moth

One type of moth is astounding both in looks and size. The atlas moth is one that stands apart from all the rest. It is among the largest insects in the world, and its patterned wings have a very unique design. Let's uncover facts and learn more information about the massive atlas moth.

Characteristics of the Atlas Moth

The atlas moth is found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. As we already mentioned, it is one of the biggest insects around. Its giant wingspan rivals that of many birds, reaching up to twelve inches across. This would easily cover most human hands.

The wings of the atlas moth are reddish orange, with patterns that almost look hand-painted. Not only are they intricate in design, but they also hold a secret power.

Cobra-like design on wingtips
Atlas moth

The tips of an atlas moth's wings strongly resemble the head of a cobra snake. Do you see it? When an atlas moth is threatened, it can fly down to the ground and raise its wings to make itself look like the deadly snake. The atlas moth can also shoot out a smelly liquid to help keep its attackers away.

What Does an Atlas Moth Eat?

This is where things get even more unusual. Atlas moths eat absolutely nothing. That's right, atlas moths don't eat, at least not while they're moths. All of their eating must occur when they are in the caterpillar stage. And during this time, they must eat for their lives.

From Egg to Cocoon

Atlas moth caterpillars hatch from eggs that were previously laid on leaves. These caterpillars are bluish-green in color and are very hungry. It is during this stage that they must eat all they can in order to store up energy for their transformation and moth stage. So, they eat their way through all sorts of plants. Citrus, cinnamon, and Jamaican cherry tree leaves are among their favorite foods.

Atlas caterpillar munching on leaves
Atlas caterpillar

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