World’s largest moth discovered in Washington

The world's largest moth has been found for the first time in the US in Washington state.
The world's largest moth has been found for the first time in the US in Washington state.(Wash. Dept. of Agriculture)
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 5:22 PM PDT
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BELLVUE Wash. (KPTV) - Following the discovery of the largest moth in the world, experts in Washington state are urging the public to keep an eye out for and report any sightings.

A University of Washington professor reported the moth for the first time on July 7, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. It was discovered on a Bellevue garage.

The Atlas moth was reported to the Washington State Department of Agriculture by a University...
The Atlas moth was reported to the Washington State Department of Agriculture by a University of Washington professor on July 7.(Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Later that month, the USDA confirmed what entomologists had previously recognized as an Atlas moth.

It is thought to be the first official finding of the pest in the US.

The size of this insect makes it a “gee-whiz” kind, according to managing entomologist Sven Spichiger of the WSDA. “These are the kinds of insects that people bring their phones out and take pictures of, even if they aren’t looking for bugs,”

With a wingspan that can reach approximately 10 inches, the Atlas moth is the biggest known moth in the world.

The non-native atlas moth compared with large moths found in North America.
The non-native atlas moth compared with large moths found in North America.(Washington State Department of Agriculture)

According to officials, the moth is a federally quarantined pest, which means that without permission from the USDA, it is prohibited to collect, house, rear, or sell, including adults, eggs, larvae, and pupae.

The moth does not represent a hazard to the public’s health.

“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.”

Anyone who thinks they spotted one of these moths in Washington, is encouraged to send a photo to pestprogram@agr.wa.gov and include the location where it was spotted.