The Biggest Moth in the World: Hercules

The Biggest Moth in the World: Hercules
December 17, 2016 Cure All Pest Control

Queensland is home to a spectacularly large moth, in fact, the Hercules moth (also known as the Atlas moth) is classified as one of the largest moths in the world.

Found in North Queensland in natural rainforest environments, the Hercules has an impressive wingspan. Find out more about this monster-sized moth.

Australia has around 385 butterfly and moth species, and two-thirds of these are found in North Queensland’s wet tropics, such the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation.

Caterpillar Life

The Hercules starts its life cycle as a red coloured egg and hatches after 8 -14 days into a greeny/blue caterpillar adorned with yellow spikes. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of rainforest trees but prefers the large leaves of the Bleeding Heart Tree and the Cheese Tree. It can grow up to 12 cm, weighs up to 30 g and has two false eyes on its rear end to scare off any potential predators.

The bigger the caterpillar is, the bigger the size of the adult moth which is a velvety brown in colour. Both the males and females have transparent markings with white triangles bordering the edges. The female Hercules moth is the larger of the two with a wingspan of up to 27cm. The males are smaller with a wingspan of up to 20cm and have longer hind wings, which look like tails, and more vibrant colourations.

Finding a Mate

After the adult female emerges from the chrysalis, she emits pheromones to attract a male from her feathered-antennae. These are purpose-designed to detect the reproductive pheromones from kilometres away. The moths only live four days, so it’s paramount that she attracts a male within this time.

Hercules moths don’t have a proboscis (the long thin tube on the front of their heads designed to suck up food) as their brief lives don’t include feeding but are only about reproduction. This involves laying between 80-100 eggs singularly in groups on the leaves or stems of rainforest plants. She will die shortly after.

There are tours of the Daintree Forest specifically designed to see this beautiful moth.