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Massive atlas moth found in the United States for the first time

A University of Washington professor snapped photos of a massive moth he spotted on his Bellevue garage. The Washington State Department of Agriculture said the insect is the first atlas moth documented in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Department of Agriculture
A University of Washington professor snapped photos of a massive moth he spotted on his Bellevue garage. The Washington State Department of Agriculture said the insect is the first atlas moth documented in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Department of Agriculture

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The Washington State Department of Agriculture said a massive moth spotted on a resident's garage was identified as the first atlas moth ever documented in the United States.

The department said a University of Washington professor snapped photos when he spotted the gargantuan moth perched on the exterior wall of his Bellevue garage July 7, and state officials examined the photos and confirmed the insect was an atlas moth, one of the world's largest species of moth.

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Atlas moths are native to the tropics and have never been documented in the United States.

"This is a 'gee-whiz' type of insect because it is so large," Sven Spichiger, the agriculture department's managing entomologist, said in a news release. "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 -- they are that striking."

Researchers said they are now trying to determine if the moth is part of a population in Washington. They are asking anyone who spots a similar insect to report it to pestprogram@agr.wa.gov.

"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," the department said.

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