What Should You Do If You See an Atlas Moth?

atlas-moth-sitting-on-a-tree-frond

In August 2022, reports of a giant Atlas Moth spotted near Seattle, Washington, made headlines because it was the first time this gargantuan species had been seen in the United States. It’s a beautiful species, the second largest moth in the world, but it’s also a big problem. That’s because the Atlas Moth is native to the boreal parts of southeast Asia and Borneo, about 7,500 miles away. They’re evolved for the forest ecosystems of that part of the world, not the forests of North America. So what should you do if you see an atlas moth here?

They shouldn’t be here, and they pose some very real threats here, like outcompeting native species and throwing ecosystems out of balance. That’s why the Atlas Moth has been classified by the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife as a “quarantine pest.” Essentially, that means it’s an invasive species. That’s why, if you see an Atlas Moth, the first thing you should do is marvel at it, and then it’s your duty to report it.

What Does the Atlas Moth Look Like?

Atlas Moths are awe-inspiringly large. If you see one, it will probably be the biggest moth you’ve ever seen. Its patterns and coloring look like the cecropia moth or polyphemus moth, both of which are native to the U.S., but those two species are significantly smaller.

The cecropia moth is the largest moth native to the U.S. Its wingspan can reach 7” – 8” long. An Atlas Moth, by comparison, can reach 10” or more. Polyphemus moths are much smaller than either: they’re usually about 3” – 4”. Polyphemus moths also have fuzzier bodies, and fuller wings.

How Did the Atlas Moth Get Here?

It’s an unfortunate dilemma because the Atlas Moth did not choose to come here. They’re not adapted to fly thousands of miles across the ocean. Sadly, it appears that a person smuggled them here for economic gain – there’s a thriving black market for insects. Shortly after the discovery of the specimen in Seattle, an eBay listing offering Atlas Moth cocoons for $60 each was found. However, the listing was quickly taken down and authorities have not been able to trace the seller.

It’s hard to know how many Atlas Moth cocoons were sold and shipped, but there could be many across the United States, which is why it’s important to know what it looks like – even if there hasn’t been a sighting in Bristol yet.

The Atlas Moth’s Potential Harm to Ecosystems

Anytime you introduce a new species into an ecosystem, there are unknown risks. Nature is a delicate balance, so removing one species can have a domino effect for years to come. It may not seem like a big deal, but one change can alter a natural area permanently.

We do know a few things about the Atlas Moth life cycle, and the ecosystems in southeast Asia they inhabit.

Atlas Moths are impressively large caterpillars before their metamorphosis. They ward off predators by spraying a foul smelling liquid. They’re voracious eaters, and spend every possible moment eating. (They have to – because adult Atlas Moths don’t eat at all, they survive only off the nutrients and fat stored when they were caterpillars). It’s because they’re such hungry caterpillars that lead to worries that Atlas Moth caterpillars may be able to outcompete cecropia and polyphemus moth caterpillars, and ultimately threaten their numbers.

What to Do If You Spot an Atlas Moth

Atlas Moths are not dangerous to humans. They won’t bite, and they’re not poisonous, yet they pose a significant threat to humans in their potential to harm ecosystems.

That’s why if you see one of these hard-to-miss Atlas Moths, we ask that you please notify the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife or your state’s office for plant and animal regulation.

Which Fall Pests Could Be Lurking in Your Walls?

a group of mice waiting out the winter inside a wallWhich Fall Pests Could Be Lurking in Your Walls?

Every year when temperatures drop, insects and vermin that don’t die off take part in a phenomenon called “overwintering,” which basically means they find a habitable environment to wait out the winter months. Some of these fall pests will migrate to warmer climates. Some find hiding spots outside under debris. The ones we’re most concerned about are those that make their way indoors into homes and buildings.

You should be aware of this possibility even if you don’t see them in places like your bedroom or bathroom. Fall pests love low-traffic areas like the space behind your walls or your attic. They can spend the entire season camping out there and come spring you may find that you’re dealing with a full-blown infestation.

Common Overwintering Pests in Tennessee

The most frequent fall pests we receive calls for here in Bristol include rodents, termites, stink bugs, Asian lady beetles, and wasps.

Rodents

Vermin can get into your attic by climbing up onto the roof. Squirrels are the most well-known culprits, but roof rats and mice are just as notorious for invading homes and making nests in the attic. How can you tell if you have rodents living in your home? The most common sign of a rodent infestation is scratching or gnawing sounds from above or from inside the walls. If you hear these sounds, it’s time to call an expert rodent exterminator.

Termites

It’s no wonder that termites are considered the most destructive pest in the United States. The cost of termite damage in the is estimated to be up to $30 billion annually. While termites are present all year, fall and winter can worsen an already-existing situation. Subterranean termites burrow deeper into the ground to survive cold weather, allowing the infestation to cultivate undetected until the following spring. Before you realize, entire colonies are ready to do significant damage to the wood structures of your home. How can you tell if you have termites? You may notice blisters on painted wood surfaces, pinhole-sized holes, and hollow-sounding wood.

Stink Bugs

As the name suggests, stink bugs release an unpleasant odor when they feel threatened or are squished. Not what you want in your home or office! Brown marmorated stink bugs are the most common type, ranging in size from about 1/4″ to 3/8″, so they’re very small and difficult to detect until you have a lot of them. The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species that’s taking over more and more territory across the country. They breed quickly, so if you start noticing them don’t wait, give us a call right away.

Asian Lady Beetles

Asian lady beetles are a type of beetle that look very similar to ladybugs, but they tend to be a bit larger, and not all have spots. They typically can be found in groups communicating with each other using pheromones – so if one lady beetle finds its way into a nice warm crack in your home, it will likely leave a signal to attract many more. Asian lady beetles do not pose any direct threat to your home’s structure and don’t bite or sting, but they can trigger allergic reactions for individuals with sensitivities and breathing problems. Additionally, they can cause unsightly stains around the house with their waste.

Wasps

Generally, wasps die off before each winter and the colonies do not overwinter like the rest of the creatures on this list. But to ensure the colony’s survival the following year, fertilized queens will find a warm hiding spot to overwinter, often in stumps or hollow logs outdoors, or in protected structures like crawlspaces and attics. Make sure to have your house checked for wasp queens during the winter to avoid having dangerous nests on your property the following year when it gets hot again.

Our Expert Exterminators Can Help

Think you might have pests in your walls?  As Bristol’s leader in fast, effective, and long-lasting pest control services, Leo’s Pest Control is here to keep your home pest-free all year long. Give us a call today for a free, no-obligation quote.