|Picture Notes: Connie spotted this huge moth (Fig. 01) in a corner of our deck, near the ceiling. Its wingspan was at least 6 inches. Though it initially appeared to be more brown, the flash on my camera seemed to bring out more of its colors. According to the description below, it appears to be a male. When I went back a few hours later to capture some more pictures, it was gone.|
|Description: The Black Witch (Ascalapha odorata), a.k.a. “the bat moth” resembles a bat in size and shape and with a a seven-inch wingspan is the largest moth in North America. It bears other common names such as Mariposa de la Muerte (Butterfly of Death) in Mexico, Duppy Bat (Lost Soul) in Jamaica, or Sorciére Noire (or Dark Sorcerer) in French-speaking Caribbean islands. It has been vested with a foreboding aura of darkness and mystery. According to folklore, if the black witch flies into your field of view, it conveys a curse from an enemy. If it flies over your head, it will cause your hair to fall out. If it flies into your home when you are sick, you will not get well. You will die. On a happier note, if the black witch appears before you after someone has died, it represents the soul of the person returning to bid you farewell. Should one alight on you, you will become rich. Should one land above the door of your home, you will win the lottery.|
With a wingspan of up to 6 inches, it bears the superficial resemblance to a small bat. Its wings are broad along insect’s head and body; pointed at the ends; often tattered by rigors of migratory flight. Its wings are brown with undulating dark brown or black lines; single black-outlined ‘9’-shaped mark near leading edge of each of its forewings (Fig. 02); single black-outlined umbrella-shaped mark near trailing edge of each of its hind-wings; marks distinguished by iridescent violent tinges. Males exhibit the plain, grey, brown mottled pattern commonly associated with moths, but with small dark eyespots on each forewing. The female, slightly larger than the male, is distinguished by wavy white line traversing its wings.
Its migration range extends from northern South America across Caribbean islands, Central America and Mexico and throughout the United States. The Black Witch moth generally flies only at night. During the day you may see one under eaves, a carport or porch awning. They are attracted to soft overripe fruit. The beginning of the rainy season in Mexico triggers a northern migration where they are often seen in the American southwest. In some locations, the moths breed throughout the year, in overlapping generations. Some populations migrate seasonally, with those of the tropical regions heading north during rainy seasons. Mexican populations, for instance, head north into the Southwest during the summer. The northward migration of the Black Witch appears to be triggered by the rainy season in Mexico; typically June through October. Like other migratory moths, the Black Witch flies only at night, well above ground level. It may travel considerable distances, even across open water. The Black Witch favors stands of woody legumes, for instance, the acacias and mesquites of the Southwest. The Black Witch is perfectly harmless; it does not bite, sting, or carry diseases. It has only a straw-like proboscis or tongue to drink flower nectar through.