The Black Witch Moth, 19 March 2015

Ascalapha odorata, the Black witch moth;
Monroe county, Florida (19 March 2015).

Given that Halloween is fast approaching, now seems an apt time to introduce the Black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata) to the wiggly world of Floridensis. Averaging around four to five inches in wingspan, this a moth species you’re unlikely to overlook. In fact, female wingspans can climb upwards to just shy of seven inches. The Black witch moth is, to put it bluntly, friggin’¬†massive — at least by North American moth standards.

Primarily a tropical species associated with the Caribbean and Mexico, the Black witch moth does migrate across much of the continental United States each year; however, in south Florida they are an annually-present species. Interestingly, various folklores throughout Mexico and the Caribbean also associate the Black witch moth with death.

In these photographs, you can see this female Black witch moth’s considerable proboscis, the needle-like appending essentially used for feeding. Also of note, female Black witch moths have the light striping across each wing. Males, which also tend to be smaller, lack this light stripe.

To date, I’ve never seen a Black witch moth in central Florida. This individual was photographed along the edge of Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida.


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