Black Witch

Ascalapha odorata

The erebid moth ''Ascalapha odorata'' bears the common name Black Witch. It is considered a harbinger of death in Mexican and Caribbean folklore. In Spanish it is known as "Mariposa de la muerte" (Mexico & Costa Rica), "Pirpinto de la Yeta" (Argentina), "Tara Bruja" (Venezuela) or simply "Mariposa negra" (Colombia); in Nahuatl (Mexico) it is "Miquipapalotl" or "Tepanpapalotl" (miqui = death, black + papalotl = moth); in Quechua (Peru) it is "Taparaco"; in Mayan (Yucatán) it is "X-mahan-nah" (mahan = to borrow + nah = house); in Jamaica and the Caribbean, the moth is known as the "Duppy Bat" or "Money moth". Other names for the moth include the Papillion-devil, La Sorcière Noire, or the Mourning or Sorrow moth. In Paraguay the species is called "Ura" and the same name is applied to the larva of the human botfly (Dermatobia hominis), in a confusing relation of both species as the former being the adult of the latter.
Ascalapha odorata ♀ - Black Witch / Bruxa (Linnaeus, 1758) Lepidoptera: Bombycina: Noctuoidea: Erebidae: Erebinae: Thermesiini

Ascalapha odorata is a moth in the order Lepidoptera, superfamily Noctuoidea, family Erebidae, subfamily Erebinae and tribe Thermesiini. The subject portrayed is a female.

The sexual dimorphism is pretty clear in this species; females possess a white stripe crossing the wings. The upperside of the forewings possess a blueish-green 9-shaped spot, somewhat iridescent and highlighted by shades of orange or yellow. The upperside of the hindwings possess two markings that are reminiscent of a moon shape (yet different) and are colored purple, pink, shades of blue and cream. The males possess a wingspan of around 9-16cm, while the females can reach more than 17cm in wingspan. Adults rest with wings open, these being pointy. Females are more contrasted than males. The larvae measure around 7cm in length (with registers displaying individuals with approximately 9cm), brown to black with three irregularly shaped pale splotches and two parallel dark lines running down their backs. They serve as food to many birds in the food chain.

They are found throughout Central America and Mexico, with its distribution extending from Brazil to the southern United States. After migration, the species can be found from Texas to Florida as well as the Hawaii islands, although not native there.

Adults feed on overripe rainforest food and fermenting fruit, especially banana. The larvae's host plants include Gymnocladus dioicus, Senna alata, Acacia sp., Ebenopsis, Albizia sp., Cassia sp., Prosopis sp., Robinia sp., Samanea sp., Pithecellobium sp., Uncaria sp., Acacia sp., Diospyros sp., Mangifera indica, Anadenanthera peregrina, Inga sp., Mora oleifera, Ficus carica...; these include many Fabaceae (Leguminosae) trees and more host plants may exist. Acacia dealbata is one of Ascalapha odorata's famous hosts.

They inhabit tropical and subtropical forests where there are plenty of Fabaceae (Leguminosae) trees. They are also found in urbanized and suburbanized habitats, where they often suffer bias due to folklore and cultural influences, being often ignorantly killed. They are nocturnal in habit, They can migrate great distances, even over open water.

Ascalapha odorata breeds year round in overlapping generations. The lifespan of adults is speculated to lie somewhere around three to four weeks. Once the females are impregnated, they begin to search for the host plants to lay the eggs, which are dark in color. After eclosing the caterpillars will feed on the plants they were laid on. The pupa is smooth and dark-colored, measuring around 4cm in length.

Sources: - Ekrem - The Most Northerly black witch.pdf

24th of February, 2018 at 22:08:52.
Male picture:

Portuguese version in Project Noah at: Ascalapha odorata,Black Witch,Brazil,Erebid moth,Geotagged,Lepidoptera,Lepidopterologia,Lepidopterology,Moth,Noctuoidea,South America,américa do sul,biologia,biology,black,black witch,brasil,brazilian moths,bruxa,ceara


''Ascalapha odorata'' is a large bat-shaped, dark-colored nocturnal moth. Males can attain a wingspan of 16 cm. The dorsal surfaces of their wings are mottled brown with hints of iridescent purple and pink, and, in females, crossed by a white bar. [Males lack this bar.] The diagnostic marking is a small spot on each forewing shaped like a number nine or a comma. This spot is often green with orange highlights. Females are somewhat smaller, reaching 12 cm in width, and lighter in color. The larva is a large caterpillar up to 7 cm in length with intricate patterns of black and greenish brown spots and stripes.
Ascalapha_odorata_(11_of_11) on the wall of our workshop, seen in the morning.
The wingspan was about 12 cms!!
 Ascalapha odorata,Noctuidae,ascalpha odorata,mariposa de la muerte


The black witch moth is found throughout Central America and Mexico, with its distribution extending from Brazil to the southern United States. It is the largest noctuid found in the continental United States, Adults feed on overripe rainforest fruit, especially bananas, and larvae consume the leaves of plants. Most of its host plants are legumes. It favors ''Acacia'' species, Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), and Candle Bush (Senna alata). It attacks mesquite and edible fig, and can be an agricultural pest.

The moth undertakes a northward migration during the late spring and summer, moving up through Central America and entering the northern reaches of its range. During this season individual adults and masses of larvae can be found from Texas to Florida. It is also found in Hawaii, but it is not native to the islands.
Black Witch Moth visits our bedroom at Chichen Itza One of these flew into our room and stayed for a few days flitting about. It is a large and impressive moth. Ascalapha odorata,Chichen Itza,Geotagged,Mexico,Summer


In many cultures, one of these moths flying into the house is considered bad luck: e.g., in Mexico, when there is sickness in a house and this moth enters, it is believed the sick person will die, though a variation on this theme is that death only occurs if the moth flies in and visits all four corners of one's house . In some parts of Mexico, people joke that if one flies over someone's head, the person will lose his hair.

In Jamaica, under the name ''duppy bat'', the moth is seen as the embodiment of a lost soul or a soul not at rest. In Jamaican English, the word ''duppy'' is associated with malevolent spirits returning to inflict harm upon the living and ''bat'' refers to anything other than a bird that flies. The word "duppy" is also used in other West Indian countries, generally meaning "ghost".

In Hawaii, Black Witch mythology, though associated with death, has a happier note in that if a loved one has just died, the moth is an embodiment of the person's soul returning to say goodbye. In the Bahamas, where they are locally known as Money Moths or Moneybats, the legend is that if they land on you, you will come into money, and similarly, in South Texas, if a Black Witch lands above your door and stays there for a while you will supposedly win the lottery.Pupae of the Black Witch moth were placed in the mouths of victims by serial killer 'Buffalo Bill' in the novel The Silence of the Lambs. In the movie adaptation the moth was changed to a Death's-head Hawkmoth.


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