The Bewitching Black Witch Moth

First a tarantula, and now a Black Witch Moth (also called a Bat Moth). It’s not even October yet — way too early for Halloween!

blackwitcha09-26-10.jpgThis large noctuid beauty earned one of its names simply from its shape and size — the wing span is at least 5 inches across. I imagine at night it would be quite easy to mistake such a flying creature as a bat. The lovely irridescent “comma” is one of its strongest ID markers. From the pale stripes going through the center of the wings, this particular moth can also be identified as a female.


The Black Witch Moth, Ascalapha odorata,  has quite a bit of folklore about it… some consider its presence to be a curse– that the moth is a harbinger of death– particularly if it enters your house. Other people believe that if the moth flies over you, you will lose your hair. Fortunately, neither are the case here — phew! Yet another belief is that the moth is the embodiment of a lost soul, and still one more is that the moth is actually an indicator of good luck — as in winning the lottery. Well, I suppose I should have entered the lottery on the day I saw this lovely girl — I guess I blew it.

blackwitchc09-26-10.jpgEdit: Apparently the pupa of the Black Witch Moth was what killer Buffalo Bill put in his victims’ mouths in the novel “Silence of the Lambs” (the movie used a different species). Whoa. 

Our moth girl was missing a leg and seemed rather frail. It was clear that she wasn’t going to live much longer, so I can only hope that she enjoyed a full life. I’m glad I got to meet her.

Thinking about the full metamorphic life cycle of moths and butterflies — here’s the larval stage of another kind of moth. The dark horn is going to remind tomato growers of a moth they aren’t particularly fond of, but this hornworm is actually the caterpillar stage of the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, on Coral Honeysuckle. As with other hornworms, these caterpillars are very well camouflaged on the green leaves they feast upon.


My cat keeps turning on my printer and making pages print. Time to get her out of here — and me into the garden!

7 thoughts on “The Bewitching Black Witch Moth

  1. Very informative post and beautiful pictures! It is a gorgeous moth! I had a hummingbird moths in my garden for the first time this summer. I will have to keep an eye out next year for the caterpillars (not to be mistaken with the tomato horn worms).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*Comments -- now with more math!* *