One of the world’s largest moths, the atlas, was found in the United States for the first time

‘This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it is so large’

The atlas moth found on a Bellvue garage. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Meet the atlas moth. It’s one of the largest moths in the world and it was detected in the United States for the first time.

Washington State environmental officials have confirmed the detection of a single atlas moth. They said there is no evidence that the moth population is established in Washington.

“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it is so large,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said. “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.”

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There aren’t reports of the moth anywhere else in the United States, but if you think you find one you should take a picture of it, note the location and let officials know.

The atlas moth was reported in Washington on July 7 and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Investigation Service confirmed the specimen as an atlas moth on July 27.

It has a wingspan of up to almost 10 inches. It’s a federal quarantined pest, which means it’s illegal to obtain, harbor, breed or sell without a permit from the USDA.

This is normally a tropical moth. We are not sure it could survive here,” Spichiger said. “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.”

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Atlas moth compared to a man's hand. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)
The non-native atlas moth compared with large moths found in North America. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

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