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Black Witch

Ascalapha odorata


a very large gray-brown moth © by Mike Plagens

Found in Glendale, Arizona. 21 June 2012. The head is facing down and at the top in this photo are spots that resemble eyes.

Noctuidae -- Owlet Moth Family

This is among the largest of moths found in the United States; the wing span can exceed 15 cm. It flies at night and is sometimes brought into lighting and is found alighted nearby in the morning. This is a tropical species, much more common to the south in Mexico and the Neotropics. It is likely that specimens such as this one have arrived after a very long migratory flight. Black Witch moths have shown up in many parts of the USA and even Canada. Another name for this insect is Mariposa de la Muerte, a reference to superstitions attached to the apprearance inside homes. The moths may also enter dwellings for dark, cool shade.

The larva form, or caterpillar, feeds on a variety of plants in the bean family. It would be interesting to learn if this moth is able to use any of the exotic leguminous trees that are widely planted in the urban environments of the Sonoran Desert.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 26 June 2012