Home / Erebidae Moths / Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata)

Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata)

The black witch moth of the Erebidae family has a close resemblance to a bat since it is big and black with a similar flight pattern.  It has a wide and extensive range, occupying the southern parts of the US, extending towards Mexico, Central America, and Brazil. The specimen comes with a spiritual meaning and symbolism, mostly representing death or misfortune in various Central American cultures.

Black Witch Moth


Scientific Classification

  • Family: Erebidae
  • Genus: Ascalapha
  • Scientific Name: Ascalapha odorata

Description and Identification


The larva grows to a length of about 7 cm, intricately spotted and striped in greenish-brown and black patterns.

Black Witch Moth Caterpillar



The larva pupates in a cocoon that appears rough and shabby. The pupae grow up to 4 cm and have a smooth texture, alongside a dark brown body.

Black Witch Moth Cocoon


Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

When the wings are opened, the upper part is mottled brown with iridescent shades of pink and purple. Each of the forewings has a tiny spot, mostly looking like the number nine or a comma, with orange and green highlights. When the wings are closed, the color remains the same, though the purple and pink shades remain partially visible.

The females are a little larger and paler than their male counterparts and have white bands running through the dorsal part of their wings.

Average wingspan: About 17 cm in females and a little smaller in males

Flight pattern: Swift

Season: June – October

Black Witch Moth Images


Ascalapha odorata



The eggs are gray, laid on the upper sides of the host plant’s leaves.

Black Witch Moth Eggs


Quick Facts

Other NamesButterfly of Death, Duppy Bat, Sorciére Noire, Papillion-devil
DistributionSouthern parts of United States,  Mexico, Central America, Brazil
HabitatRainforest region
PredatorsBirds like loggerhead shrike and house sparrow
Lifespan of adults3 – 4 weeks
Host plantsLegumes, species of Acacia, candle bush, Kentucky coffeetree
Adult dietsOverripe fruits

Did You Know

  • In the Caribbean and Mexican folklores, the black witch moth is a messenger of death. In Jamaica, it is called the duppy bat and stands for a lost soul. While in Hawaii, it represents a departed soul coming to say goodbye to his near and dear ones. On the contrary, in Texas, it stands for good luck, indicating that a person may win a lottery if it comes near his or her door and stays there for a certain period.
  • The novel “The Silence of the Lambs” mentioned the black witch moth’s pupae that were put into the mouths of those victimized by Buffalo Bill, the serial killer, to torment them further.
  • During the spring-summer time, they fly far north and is even know to reach up to Hawaii.
Black Witch Moth Pictures


Black Witch Moth Female


Black Witch Moth Photos


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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Erebidae
  • Genus: Ascalapha
  • Scientific Name: Ascalapha odorata