Atlas Moth at Butterfly World
World's largest moth in Swindon
The newest arrival at Swindon's Butterfly World sports a whopping foot long wing span and is the largest moth in the World.
Butterfly World, a lush tropical garden with cascading waterfalls, exotic plants and free-flying butterflies, is one of the largest butterfly parks in the country.
Over 700 butterflies, from all corners of the tropics, have the run of an enormous conservatory, landscaped with exotic plants and flowers.
Owl Butterfly eating a fermented peach
And the newest arrival is an Attacus Atlas, aka the Atlas Moth, the largest moth in the world.
The Atlas Moth is huge. It sports a hefty foot long wing span and is often mistaken for a small bird when it's flying around.
Hailing from the jungles of Southeast Asia the mammoth moth is born without a mouth and has just two weeks to find a mate before literally starving to death.
With its mind bent on speed dating and being, size-wise, a tad conspicuous the Atlas moth would be a sitting duck if it wasn't for its unusual wing markings.
Thought to resemble maps, hence the name Atlas Moth, the markings on its hooked wing tips also resemble snake's heads, complete with eyes, which literally scare off its predators.
The Atlas Moth joins the over 30 different exotic species which have the run of the climate controlled tropical garden basking in the 80 degree heat and balmy 80% humidity.
At Butterfly World, no matter what the weather, it is always summer.
As you enter iridescent butterflies splashed with bright red, vibrant yellow and deep neon-blue flash and dance in front of you.
Emerald Swallowtails from South Asia, giant neon-blue Morphos from South America and the huge Owl Butterfly are just some of the exotics.
Eighty different varieties of tropical plants, including banana, mango and hibiscus, fill the garden.
With butterflies being really picky eaters, often feeding on a single plant, you can see why.
Whilst the voracious caterpillar feeds on the leaves of the plant, adult butterflies feed only on flower nectar and rotting fruit.
The Owl Butterfly, for instance, feeds exclusively on fermenting fruit. It’s a habit which can result in the giant butterfly literally keeling over in a drunken stupor.
Alcohol intake aside most adult butterflies live for only a few weeks.
Giant Swallowtail from North America
So to keep the butterflies flying the farm literally imports live pupae from butterfly farms from around the world.
The live pupae are copydexed to doweling rods and hung ready for hatching.
You can take a peak at the live pupae suspended from racks in the emerging room.
Almost as colourful as the butterflies themselves the pupae can look like dead leaves or resemble glittering metal.
If you're lucky you might see a butterfly emerging from its pupa.
While you're there check out the spiders, scorpions and mantis in the mini beasts house.
All in all Butterfly World is a little taste of the tropics in the heart of Wiltshire.
Butterfly World is open every day except Christmas Day from 10:00 to 18:00 during the summer and 10:00 to dusk throughout the winter. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. For more information call the Butterfly Farm 01793 852400.
last updated: 04/12/2008 at 10:55
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