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Huge non-native moth in Washington leaves officials perplexed

Posted at 12:56 PM, Aug 18, 2022

A huge atlas moth was spotted in Washington state in July, which has officials there questioning whether there are additional moths in the area.

Its wingspread is 10 inches long and normally lives in tropical environments. The Washington State Department of Agriculture said when the moth was spotted, it was the first time the atlas moth was found in the United States.

State officials said, “It is also a federally quarantined pest – meaning it is illegal to obtain, harbor, rear, or sell live moths whether adults, eggs, larvae, or pupae without a permit from USDA.”

“This is normally a tropical moth. We are not sure it could survive here,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, 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.”

With its massive wingspan, Spichiger called the moth “stunning.”

“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it is so large,” Spichiger said. “Even if you aren’t on the lookout for insects, this is the type that people get their phones out and take a picture of.”