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World’s largest moth detected in US for the first time, officials say

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A moth with a 10-inch wingspan has been found for the first time in the US, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, prompting residents to report further sightings.

The Atlas moth — considered the world’s largest moth — was first reported to the state agency last month by a University of Washington professor. It was seen in Bellevue.

The moth was sent to the United States Department of Agriculture, which identified it as an atlas moth. It is considered the first detection of the moth in the US

The atlas moth on a garage wall in Bellevue, Washington, last month.Washington State Department of Agriculture

“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it’s so big,” said Sven Spichiger, chief entomologist for the state’s agricultural department. “Even if you’re not looking for bugs, this is the type where people take their phones out and take a picture of them — they’re so eye-catching.”

And that’s exactly what Washington’s agricultural officials want people to do so they can determine if there’s a population of atlas moths.

“This is normally a tropical moth. We’re not sure it could survive here,” Spichiger said. “We hope residents will help us find out if this was a one-time refugee or if there is indeed a population in the area.”

Little is known about the moth, but entomologists believe its host plants are cherries and apples.

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