Wings of the Atlas moth are snake-like

Atlas moth

Atlas moth displays wing tip that resembles the head of a cobra; photo by Brian Bevan/Ardea/Caters News

One of the world’s largest moths might also be the scariest … at least in appearance.

Brian Bevan recently returned from an expedition to Southeast Asia, where he photographed the rare Atlas moth, a strikingly colorful critter whose masterful disguise includes wing tips that resemble the curved heads of cobras, complete with menacing eyes.

The cobra, of course, is one of the world's deadliest snakes, so the giant moth has evolved quite nicely in a tropical forest habitat in which one is either predator or prey—or both.

Atlas moth

The Atlas moth’s wingspan can measure 12 inches; photo by Brian Bevan/Ardea/Caters News

“The wing tips do really resemble that of a snake’s head," Bevan, 64, a U.K. wildlife photographer, told Caters News. “It was extremely impressive to look at up close, and it looked the size of a bird when it flew.”

The Atlas moth's wingspan can measure 12 inches, and its surface area can measure about 60 square inches. It’s believed to be the world’s largest moth, but its size is rivaled by that of the giant silkworm moth.

Giant Moth Resembles Cobra

Wing tip of an Atlas moth compared to the curved head of a cobra; photo by Caters News

In China, the Cantonese name at the Atlas moth is "snake's-head moth." But the Atlas moth does not stop at mere camouflage as a means of defense: When threatened it will drop to the forest floor and fan its wings to make them resemble cobra's heads, weaving back and forth.

In Taiwan, the silky cocoons of Atlas moths are fashioned into coin purses, used as is, requiring only a zipper.

Also worth noting is that this moth, despite its enormity, could inflict little or no damage to closet linens, were it ever to find its way into a closet.

Adult Atlas moths have no mouths; they subsist on fat storage from their caterpillar stages.

And despite possessing such a clever means of defense, adult Atlas moths live only about two weeks.

States one nature website: "The adults quickly mate, lay eggs, and die shortly thereafter.”

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