The Biggest Moth in the World Just Migrated for the First Time to the US

Andrei Tapalaga

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Big moth-er: Butterfly keeper Heather Prince holds one of Chester Zoo's newly emerged Atlas Moths, the largest moth species in the worldDaily Mail

The Atlas moths, one of the world’s largest moths in the world has been officially reported in the US for the first time. originating from the tropical forests of Asia, entomologists are still scratching their heads as they do not understand how it’s made its way to America

The first specimen was reported to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) by a local citizen named Patrick C Tobin who is an associate professor f ecology at the University of Washington. He reported that his first encounter with the Atlas moth was on the 7th of July, but only a month later the lant Health Investigation Service at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that it was actually an Atlas moth. 

“It was pretty amazing to see a live adult moth and to hold it in my hand. I teach a tropical ecology course in Costa Rica through my University, so I am used to seeing some pretty amazing insect species in the tropical forests. But seeing this live moth, which is considered to be the largest in the world, was special,” (Quote by Patrick C Tobin)

Their wingspan of over 10 inches makes them the biggest flying insect. The name Atlas comes from the patterns on the wings which look like a map. The species is considered a federally quarantined pest in the US, meaning it is illegal to obtain, harbor, rear, or sell live moths without a permit from USDA. This is because the species could be invasive to other native insects or to the overall ecosystem. 

Such restrictions make the appearance of specimens in the US even more strange. Professor Tobin thinks that the moths may have come from Thailand and sold as live cocoons in the US through eBay. 

“An individual from the Bellevue area of Seattle, from where the adult moth was found, was selling live cocoons of the Atlas moth sourced from Thailand on eBay. This is by far the most logical explanation for finding the adult moth,” (Quote by Patrick C Tobin)

Some people who have commented on this issue say that the reason for the moth’s sudden appearance is due to the illegal trade in wildlife taking place in Washington. The illegal wildlife trade is estimated by the governmental bodies in Washington to be worth billions of dollars annually

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