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Washington State News

Giant Asian Moth Found in Washington State

(The Center Square) — An Asian moth with a wingspan of 10 inches has been spotted in Bellevue, Washington, the first known sighting in North America.

The winged creature was seen on the garage of a University of Washington professor on July 7 and turned over to the Washington State Department of Agriculture for identification.

“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it is so large,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said in a statement. “Even if you aren’t on the lookout for insects, this is the type that people get their phones out and take a picture of — they are that striking.”

Atlas moths live in southern and eastern Asia and are rarely seen outside their native habitat. An adult female was seen in Ramsbottom, England, in 2012, believed to have escaped from a collector.

Atlas moth caterpillars feed on citrus, guava, cinnamon, and Jamaican cherry tree leaves, experts say, but adult months do not eat and live for only one or two weeks, just long enough to mate.

While a giant among moths, the Atlas is not the latest in the world. The Brazilian white witch moth has a wider wingspan than the Atlas by two inches, and the Hercules moth of New Guinea has a greater wing surface area at around 47 square inches.

WSDA is asking anyone who believes they have encountered an Atlas month to photograph it and send the picture and location to for identification.

“This is normally a tropical moth. We are not sure it could survive here,” said Spichiger. “USDA is gathering available scientific and technical information about this moth and will provide response recommendations, but in the meantime, we hope residents will help us learn if this was a one-off escapee or whether there might indeed be a population in the area.” 

Though the creature’s scientific name, Attacus atlas, translates as “Atlas attacked,” it is not known to be dangerous to humans.