The Astonishing Optical Illusion of the “Angry Snakes” in a Tree

Angry-looking ‘snakes’ spotted lurking in tree, but everything is not as it seemed

Nature is filled with incredible and captivating species that amaze and fascinate us. It’s truly remarkable to witness the interactions and adaptations of organisms as they thrive in their ecosystems. Recently, a series of images showcasing three “angry snakes” hiding in a tree caught the attention of many, including myself. However, these captivating pictures turned out to be something entirely different.


The diversity of species found in nature, known as biodiversity, plays a crucial role in maintaining balance. Each species has its unique purpose within its environment. Animals and plants have developed incredible adaptations and survival techniques over time. Some have evolved camouflaging colors to blend in with their surroundings, while others have developed toxic compounds to defend themselves against predators.

One viral photo that circulated on the internet in 2021 perfectly highlighted these adaptations. Shared by Twitter user Rob Allam, the image featured three angry-looking “serpents” hidden in a tree. However, upon closer inspection, it became apparent that these were not snakes at all.

Atlas Moth

In reality, the trio of “snakes” were actually pieces of wings from two different species of the Atlas moth. The combination of these wings created a striking optical illusion. The Atlas moth is an astonishing species of moth that inhabits Asian forests. It possesses the incredible ability to mimic the appearance of a snake. With a wingspan that can reach up to 24 cm (9.4 in) and a wing surface area of over 160 cm2 (25 in2), the Atlas moth is one of the largest Lepidoptera species.

Although the body of the Atlas moth is considerably smaller than its wings, it still manages to create the illusion of a snake. This remarkable insect was first observed by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 and was named after the Greek mythological Titan Atlas, due to its significant size.

Discovering the Illusion

Rob, the Twitter user who shared the trending image, explained, “Attacus Atlas is among the largest butterflies worldwide and during its adult stage, it lives only for a brief span of two weeks. Its primary objective during this stage is to lay eggs and safeguard them until they hatch, all the while camouflaging itself as a snake.”

Many social media users were initially skeptical that the creature in the photo was indeed a moth. One user commented, “That disguise is really good,” while another expressed surprise, saying, “How’s that top one not an actual snake? This moth would live longer if it didn’t look like I wanted to beat it with a broom.”

Contrary to popular belief, Atlas moths are not skilled flyers. They prefer to rest during the day and conserve their energy for active flight at night. When they sense danger, they employ a unique defense strategy. The moth will fall to the ground, wriggle, and purposefully flap its wings to resemble the appearance of a snake’s head.

Atlas Moth Wings

Experiencing the awe-inspiring presence of the Atlas moth would most likely require a trip to the tropical forests of Asia. However, there have been reported sightings of Atlas moths in Europe and the United States as well. In 2012, the BBC reported an extraordinary occurrence of a massive Atlas moth found on a windowsill in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester. The family who discovered it initially thought it was a bat due to its immense size. Unfortunately, the moth passed away shortly after being found.

Another historic sighting of the Atlas moth occurred in Bellevue, Washington, in July 2022. This was the first known sighting of the species in the United States. Additionally, a specimen was discovered in Sweden in the same year.

Sven Spichiger, the managing entomologist for the state Agriculture Department, described the Atlas moth as a “gee-whiz” type of insect due to its size and striking appearance. He mentioned that people couldn’t help but take pictures of this remarkable creature.

Magnificent Encounter

Encountering this magnificent species would surely be a moment to remember. If I had the opportunity, I would be awe-struck and reach for my camera to capture the scene. However, I would also maintain a safe distance if the moth started to resemble a snake’s head.

Please consider sharing this post on Facebook to spread awareness about this extraordinary and fascinating moth. Its exceptional qualities and surprising occurrences outside of its natural habitat are truly worth acknowledging and appreciating!