Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Black Witch


 This beautiful moth is called the Black Witch Ascalapha odorata in the family Noctuidae, which are the Owlet moths. This is an impressively large moth with a wingspan up to 6 inches (there are even reports they could reach 7 inches). The females are larger than males and are marked with more contrasting colors. They have pinkish-white bands across the middle of the wings. Both males and females are brown with alternating wavy lines and bands. Often there will be a iridescent blue sheen to the wings. They are the only species within their genus in North America and would be hard to mistake for any other species. These are a tropical or sub-tropical species and are found in South and Central America as well as Texas and Florida. Often from June-October they will stray further north and make their way in Missouri as well as other areas. They have even been found in Canada.

The one photographed here was found in St. Joseph by a friend of mine named Colton. He was at work at the Miniature Golf Course where he is employed and found it clinging to the side of a wall. He knew it was something unusual and captured it to add to his own personal insect collection. He brought it by to show me to see if I could identify it. I knew right away, even before he opened the brown paper bag it was in what he had. I was so envious, I have been looking for one of these for 3 years. I am happy for him too, this may be a county record for Buchanan County. We will do some more research on it and find out. I brought the moth home to photograph it for Colton and do some research on it so I could post this blog. Now I must return it to him . He knows where I work so I can't keep it....LOL

There is much myth and mystery surrounding this moth. They are commonly mistaken for bats because of their large size and their night time flying habits. The Mayans called them Mah-Ha-Na which translates into "May I borrow your house", and comes from their often being found inside homes fluttering around at night. In Mexico they are feared as a sign of death. If someone should fall ill and be visited at night by one of these moths, they will surely die. On Cat Island, Bahamas, they are locally known as Money Moths or Moneybats, and the legend is that if they land on you, you will come into money. In South Texas they are thought to be lucky if they land above your doorway and remain there, you should play the lottery, because you will win.

These moths are capable of flying great distances in only few days. They are entirely nocturnal and fly at night. They are often attracted to pole lights, porch lights or other light sources. During the day they will rest under the eaves of houses, in sheds, barns or garages. They have even been found resting underneath cars, and don't seem to be bothered at all when the car is in motion.


Colton is hoping to get her to lay eggs so he can attempt to raise them. The host plant are trees in the pea family. After looking up which trees would qualify in Missouri I found that they list the Kentucky Coffee Tree and Black Locust. One of our biologist where I work felt that plants in the Cassia family may work as well such as Partridge Pea. The adults are fond of overripe fruit, alcohol, and sometimes nectar.

I want to thank Colton for allowing me to bring this beautiful moth home and capture images of her. I will just have to keep looking and hopefully I will be as blessed as Colton was to find one of God's most beautiful creatures.

11 comments:

  1. heck! who doesn't?!!

    great shots - nice article! VERY VERY COOL MOTH!

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  2. Thank you P.R. I think they are cool too.

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  3. Nice you have a following.I enjoyed the speciman and don't remember seeing one.

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  4. Thank Prairie, the following I've gained is still shocking to me. I started this blog a year and half ago with the idea in mind to keep track of the insect I find, never expecting to have people actually enjoy it. It is a great feeling. I am happy to be able to include you as one of my followers. Your own blog is so fun and the pictures are beautiful.
    This moth is truly impressive, I hope you get the opportunity to see one someday.

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  5. Thank you Garlic....I think she is way cool too, just wish I'd would have been the one to find... Is it terrible to be jealous of a 19 year old?

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  6. We have one right now over our door .took pictures .its lovely and feel lucky to see this moth

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  7. We had one on our porch last night and all day. Right wing pretty tattered from the storm. We are in Bullhead City Az. Beautiful moth. Hope it can make it on it's journey. Thank you for the info.

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  8. Saw one for the first time yesterday in Bradenton, Florida. Have photo.

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  9. Hi, it's late here, I saw your site, after reading a bit more about the interesting guest that just went on "his" way... I just opened the door and shooed a beauty out that has spent the day in my living room! I think it must be a male based on the chocolate markings, amazing over 6"... took some photos and video. Went to turn out all of the lights and it was gone. But you know the beauty is that I not only saw one, but that I touched it, and it touched me as well here in Naples, FL. Am going to upload sd card shortly for pics and video. I thought it was a bat at first, but it was too large!

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  10. Tsinclair@earthlink.netJuly 22, 2015 at 2:35 AM

    Hi, have one in our upstairs hall now. Hope it flies out open windows tonight. (Beach in Ventura, Ca.) Perhaps I'll put some banana by the window? Want to send it on it's journey. Storm maybe off course.

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