Atlas Moth budak/Flickr

Atlas Moth

Attacus wardi

Did You Know?

  • Of the family Saturniidae, it is the second largest species in Australia
  • It is locally extinct in Darwin (nearest known population at Dundee Beach)
  • City of Darwin has re-estblished host plants at East Point Reserve with a view to reintroduce it to its natural home range
FactBox Image

The Atlas Moth is a very large, iconic insect with a wingspan of approximately 17cm. It is rusty-brown in colour, with a double white band and a large white spot on each wing.

Eggs are white and almost spherical, each laid singly on a leaf.

Caterpillars can be white to green, 10cm or longer, with floppy spines.

Behaviour

Breeding colonies are very local in distribution. Adults are nocturnal and seasonally abundant, having been recorded during the wet season from January to March.

Their life cycle takes approximately 3 months, however pupae may remain dormant for a year.

Its range is restricted to coastal monsoon forest, where the preferred larval food plants and breeding habitat occurs.

Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Presence (adult, caterpillar, chrysalis or eggs)

Climate Adaptations

The Atlas Moth occupies critical habitat that is threatened by prolonged dry seasons and increases in stochastic events like bushfires. Destructive fire can penetrate forest edges, destroying or altering habitat and killing developing pupae.

There is a strong connection between emergence times and temperature, and over the past few years some moth species have been observed flying about 14 days earlier than in the past.

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When and Where

When To Look

Eggs, chrysalis and caterpillars can be seen year round. Adults can be seen during the wet season (January to March) with increased sightings during the night.

Where To Look

  • Endemic to the northern end of Northern Territory
  • Eggs, chrysalis and caterpillars can be found on Croton habrophyllus plants in coastal dry monsoon forest and near coastal wet monsoon forest
  • Look for adults during the wet season, and at night
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Similar Species

The Hercules moth is similar in appearance and pattern; however its range is restricted to Far North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. The Hercules moth can be distinguished by an extended tail on each hindwing and overall larger size. Hercules moth eggs are also rusty red in colour.