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Oh that's cool... and thus not climate-related

05 Oct 2022 | News Roundup

NBC recently gushed about a very cool bug coming to America. It seems the Atlas moth has been spotted in Washington state and they’re hoping for more. Something new happened in nature and it’s seen as a positive development. So by definition it’s not because of climate change. Whereas if it was icky…

According to NBC, “The moth was sent to the U.S. Agriculture Department, which identified it as an Atlas moth. It is believed to be the first detection of the moth in the U.S.” It also says this “moth with a wingspan of 10 inches” is “considered one of the world’s largest moths”. It’s not obvious why they say “considered” since you’d think a ruler would settle the matter.

On the other hand it is clear why they don’t say it is considered a consequence of climate change. It’s because those are all bad and “‘This is a “gee-whiz” type of insect, because it is so large,’ said Sven Spichiger, the managing entomologist for the state Agriculture Department. ‘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 while not everyone reacts to the unexpected appearance of one of the world’s largest insects with an enthusiastic “Gee whiz” we ourselves agree that the moth is spectacular, not just for its orange coloration and triangular highlights but the spectacular mimicry of cobra heads on its upper wings, and frankly we’d enjoy having them around.

Which we don’t in Canada. Attacus atlas is native to Asia, especially “dry tropical forests, secondary forests, and shrublands across South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia, including Borneo”. As NBC further quotes Spichiger, “This is normally a tropical moth. We are not sure it could survive here. 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.” And apparently “Little is known about the moth; entomologists believe its host plants are cherry and apple trees.”

Still, where’s the doom and gloom? When it was green crabs which are apparently nasty (and don’t even like warm conditions) the explanation was “Like many invasive species, green crabs are likely benefiting from climate change, which often facilitates invasions." Why not a story saying “Like many invasive species, Atlas moths are likely benefiting from climate change, which often facilitates invasions.”? Simple, because Atlas moths aren’t nasty or gross, and people hope to see one, and so of course it’s nothing to do with climate change, invasions and sixty-three tipping points or whatever it is.

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