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.
- 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.
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.
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
The eggs are gray, laid on the upper sides of the host plant’s leaves.
|Other Names||Butterfly of Death, Duppy Bat, Sorciére Noire, Papillion-devil|
|Distribution||Southern parts of United States, Mexico, Central America, Brazil|
|Predators||Birds like loggerhead shrike and house sparrow|
|Lifespan of adults||3 – 4 weeks|
|Host plants||Legumes, species of Acacia, candle bush, Kentucky coffeetree|
|Adult diets||Overripe 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.