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Atlas Moth, World's Largest, Flutters Into Notebaert Museum

By Ted Cox | October 28, 2016 6:05am
 An Atlas moth, the world's largest, has taken up residence at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for its brief lifespan.
An Atlas moth, the world's largest, has taken up residence at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for its brief lifespan.
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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

LINCOLN PARK — The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has a new visitor, and it doesn't get any bigger than this — not in the world of moths, anyway.

An Atlas moth, from Malaysia, has taken up residence in the museum's Butterfly Haven. Named after the Greek Titan Atlas, who held the Earth on his shoulders, and with an average wingspan of 9 inches, it's the largest moth in the world.

That makes for a large canvas for its impressive patterned wing colorings in brown, cream and red. Once it emerges from its cocoon, it never closes its wings.

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The moth's cocoons are big enough and the silk strong enough that they're used as purses in Taiwan.

You'd think not even the ugliest Christmas sweater would be safe from a moth like that, but the Atlas has no functional mouth and doesn't eat in its adult form. Instead, it lives off fat reserves for its brief life as a moth — only a week or two, shorter than the average lifespan for a butterfly or moth.

The Atlas, already on display, is expected to live out its life at the Notebaert Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive. It joins about 1,000 other butterflies and moth in the Butterfly Haven — and you best believe they'd better move over to make room.

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