Thiruvananthapuram: M. Sudheer, an assistant engineer with the Kerala Water Authority and an M.Tech. student in Environmental Engineering at the College of Engineering Thiruvananthapuram (CET), had a rare winged-visitor at his house near Vembayam in the city a few days back.
An Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) with a wingspan of 23 cm came zooming into Sudheer’s home, leaving everyone intrigued by its capacious size and beautiful silky-brown wings. “At first we thought it was a butterfly of unusual size. We caught it and took some photographs. Its wingspan measured 230 mm. Later, we let it fly away,” said Mr. Sudheer. The pictures were shown to D. Thankamoney, who heads the Eco Club at CET. It was only after consulting experts in the field that it was identified as the Atlas moth.
“The Atlas moth is the largest moth in the world. It is not exactly a rare moth, but it is rare to find it so close to the city as it is generally endemic to wild areas and forests,” said C. Sushanth, a naturalist and butterfly observer.
Atlas moths had been spotted in the Ponmudi and Palode areas of the district. He added that the one that came to Mr. Sudheer’s house seemed to be a female, as female Atlas moths are usually larger than males.
The Atlas moth does not possess a fully-formed mouth. It survives entirely on larval fat reserves throughout its two-week life span.
According to Wikipedia, a record specimen of Attacus atlas from Java measured 262 mm.
The Hindu had earlier reported about the book ‘Flying Jewels of CET’ brought out by the CET Eco Club describing the various types of butterflies found on the CET campus.