It is not entirely certain where the atlas gets its name from: it could be from its huge size, with reference to atlas of Greek mythology, or it could refer to the patterns on its wings, which resemble maps in an atlas. In Hong Kong, the Cantonese name for it is “snake's head moth”. This refers to the snake-like shape of the pattern on the top wing tips.
The Natural Habitat
The natural habitat of the atlas moth, is Southeast Asia, particularly around the Malay archipelago. They do not fly far from where they hatch, since they are very inelegant fliers and do not have enough energy stored for long journeys. They live purely to breed, so the fact that they do not venture far from their hatching area, allows for easy mating to occur.
There are some species of moth with longer wings, but the atlas moth has, on average, the largest wingspan in terms of area. These moths belong to the Satuniidae family. Other moths that belong to that family, include another impressive specimen - the luna moth.
The Atlas Moth Caterpillar
The atlas moth caterpillar has to eat a huge amount of food, to store enough fat for life as an adult moth. They eat citrus, willow leaves, and evergreen tree leaves. In India, the silk from the caterpillars is not farmed commercially, but the characteristic brown silk is used in a small-scale capacity. It is known as fagara, and is more durable than regular silkworm moth silk. The cocoons are sometimes used as purses or handbags in Taiwan.
The caterpillars hatch from small eggs that are laid on the underside of leaves. They hatch within two weeks and feed until they are about 115 mm (4.5 in), before pupating. The caterpillar has spines that are soft and fleshy, which protrude upwards from its back. They are coated with a white, waxy layer.
Largest Species of Moth
Atlas moths are the largest species of moth in the world. The females have bigger, heavier bodies than males and larger wingspans too, ranging from 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 inches), with a surface area of at least 400 cm² (62 sq in). Despite their huge size, the moths do not eat anything once they hatch from their cocoons. Both males and females lack fully-formed mouth parts; they rely on the sustenance they build up as caterpillars, for stored energy. They only live as hatched moths for two to three weeks.
If Moth has flown across your path;
Moth is the master of disguise and is reminding you to be aware that you could be hiding from yourself. Are you using your emotions to keep yourself hidden from others? Is it time that you transform your emotional energy away from drama and into something closer to your heart? Have faith in your journey and trust that although things seem to be complicated right now – you will eventually see the light. Use your heart to guide you.
If Moth is your Animal Totem;
You are the most optimistic of souls! You can find the silver lining in every crisis, the light in any darkness and the love in any frustration. Your ability to seek out the positive in any situation makes you a good listener for your peers, a great peer counselor and advice giver, as well as highly sought after as a friend. You are popular, generous with your attention and understand the subtleties of the way the universe works around you. You have a gift for attracting what you need in life and have very little difficulty moving through life changes and transformations. You find joy in rituals and dance. You also know how to use your intuition and have a great deal of psychic awareness.
If Moth has come into your Dream;
If Moth has flown into your dream it is generally a notice for you to pay attention to the minor details and take care not to overlook things. It may also be suggesting that some unseen irritation may not surface until it is too late. Alternatively the Moth could symbolize your weaknesses, character flaws and the fragile state you are currently in. It is putting you on notice that you need to step back and take time to heal before moving forward.