US: World's largest moth detected for the first time in U.S., officials say

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A moth with a wingspan of 10 inches has been found in the U.S. for the first time, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which is asking residents to report further sightings.

  World's largest moth detected for the first time in U.S., officials say © Provided by NBC News

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

The moth was sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which identified it as an atlas moth. It is believed to be the first detection of the moth in the U.S.

“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it is so large,” Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the state's agriculture department, said. “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.”

And that's exactly what Washington agriculture officials want people to do so that they can determine if there's an atlas moth population.

“This is normally a tropical moth. We are not sure it could survive here,” Spichiger said. “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.”

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

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