Visit from the Black Witch


Chris woke me up out of a sound sleep this morning. I wasn’t even sure he was real, and not a dream.

“Do you have any moths hanging outside?” he asked. Muzzy with sleep, I said, “Mph? Hmm?”

“Greysie brought in a great big moth,” he said.

He wasn’t kidding, either. He had thought it might be one of the Polyphemus moths that I’ve been raising – Greysie, our sweet, lovable kitty, is a voracious killer of anything with scales, fur, or feathers, and she’s brought in several of the unsuspecting polyphemus males who’ve come to court my ladies. I recognized the distinctive silhouette, though – it’s a Black Witch, Ascalapha odorata. I’m pretty sure this is a male, but since there’s not a lot of sexual dimorphism, it’s hard to tell.

It is really a massive moth. The wingspan is just under seven inches. The hinge on the cabinetmaker’s rule is at the six inch mark. These moths are more tropical than most of our local species, and although they do occasionally come through here and migrate much further north, they’re not common here.

Despite looking fairly drab from a distance, it’s really pretty close up. It’s got a lot of irridescent blues, greens, and purples blended into the overall brown-gray appearance. I couldn’t get any good closeups of its face, because it was skittish and kept taking off for flights around the room.

13 replies
  1. f1ymetothemoon
    f1ymetothemoon says:

    Wowwwww. I get visits from moths with approximately 5-inch wingspans here in Ca, and I thought those were the mothers of all moths. I guess I was wrong. Don’t they feel lovely to hold, all nice and weighty?

  2. jayjaybear
    jayjaybear says:

    I remember once, when I was a kid, happening upon a luna moth resting on the side of a telephone pole. That had to have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

  3. admin
    admin says:

    I love lunas. I saw them often (well, not really, but relatively so) when I lived in Houston and romped in the woods all the time.

    I’ve got a bunch that spun their cocoons about a week and a half ago; I should have them hatching out soon.

    I’m curious whether we’ve got a local population here in DFW; I haven’t seen them, but I live in a suburb and haven’t really gone out looking for them. If I get any females, I’ll be putting them out to scent, and that’ll draw the males if there are any around.

  4. thedreamingeye
    thedreamingeye says:

    Wow! What a lovely surprise. I can imagine the iridescence you mentioned. It is difficult to photograph that unless you have the right lighting. Though you can see a lovely purple throughout. Very stunning!

  5. john swartwout
    john swartwout says:

    When I went to get the mail one of these swooped in the house over my head. At first I thought it was a bird or a bat due to the size, Then I saw it on the living room curtain. I guess they have an affinity for curtains. I live in Houston.

  6. hunter jahami
    hunter jahami says:

    i found one this morning and it scared me half to death me and my little brother were flying around the house to try to catch this thing and when it landed on the ceiling we saw there was two of them right next each other it took us 30 minutes to finally catch 1 and another 7 to catch the other we got some pictures and let them go after that

  7. Jean Croix
    Jean Croix says:

    I just had one on my porch in Texas City today. Scared the heck out of me when it flew around my head. It was too early for a bat; but that’s what I thought it was at first!

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