November 3rd, 2020


The Atlas Moth and its avatars

Metamorphosis is surely, the most mysterious and magical process in Nature.

I was able to find some caterpillars of the Atlas Moth (considered to be the largest moth of the world) and (at different times) the moth itself. So I decided to document the life cycle of this magnificient moth, which has no mouth parts, and has a very short lifespan indeed! Its only function is to reproduce!

Here is what the Wiki entry says about this moth:

The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is a large saturniid moth found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and common across the Malay archipelago. Atlas moths are considered the largest moths in the world in terms of total wing surface area. Their wingspans are also amongst the largest, reaching over 25 cm (10 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier.

I took the images from the Wiki entry to build this post, and added my own photos and video.

Here are the eggs of the moth:


By Sachin Palkar - Own Photographs, CC BY 3.0,


is a pdf that describes the 6 (yes!) instars, or forms, of the larva, or caterpillar, of this moth.

The first instar looks like this.

Attacus-atlas-caterpillar instar
By Steven G. Johnson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here are a few images of the slightly later instar, from Jaipurdoddi :



Here is the instar before pupation...what a magnificent caterpillar it is!



I found a few of these at Ravugodlu, Karnataka, on the 31st of October, 2020. I took a short video of one caterpillar munching its way contentedly,the last time this creature will be able to eat.

It then becomes a pupa:


By Max Burger - Own work, Public Domain,

Here is the moth, emerging from the pupa:


By Sachin Palkar - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

I took this moth at Honey Valley, Coorg, Karnataka, on 2 Dec'18:


Here's a side view of the moth, from Turahalli, Karnataka, on 12 Aug '17:


I took a photo from behind too, to show the ventral view:


No mouth parts! This is really amazing to me. A life form which cannot eat!


You can see the feathery antennae here:


The spectacular front view:


I will never forget (thought I could not record it) the sight an Atlas Moth flying across the valley at Honey Valley, pursued by a hungry Drongo...which did not succeed in catching the moth.

Here are my friends, all excitedly photographing the moth (this was at Turahalli)


Here is Akash, the trekker who found two of these moths within 20 minutes at Turahalli!

IMG_7215 of my friends, who had been looking for this moth for a long time, calls it the...Atlast moth!