Maybe you have had a similar experience: a bat flying around the lanai at night, only to reveal itself as one big moth. That was my introduction to the Black Witch Moth, Ascalapha odorata. Wow, that is an attention-getting moth (some reaching wingspans over six inches), and I loved it immediately! Who cares that it is also known in Mexico as Mariposa de la muerte, the Butterfly of Death, or in Jamaica as the Duppy bat, a lost soul that is not at rest. Not me. I prefer the Hawaiian version, in which it is purported to be the embodiment of a loved one saying their goodbyes. The people of the Mayan culture had a sense of humor about the black witch moth, calling it a Mah-ha-na, which translates into: "May I borrow your house?" I welcome the Black Witch Moth anytime. I appreciate the beautiful coloration of their wings. Though it appears at first to be a brownish-black, on closer inspection you can see the iridescent purples and that interesting spot on the forewing that looks like a comma, or the number nine.
The female tops that off with a whitish band across the back end of the wings. And these guys can fly. They are migratory on the mainland, leaving Mexico in the early summer when the rainy season begins and pushing northward. It is reported that they fly great distances at night, in only a few days. There have been sightings of the moths hundreds of miles off shore. By day, you might find them resting under the eaves, hiding from cardinals and mynahs, who find them to be a tasty snack. Host plants for egg-laying and caterpillar munching include the shower tree, monkeypod, and mango. It is believed that they live a mere three to four weeks as adults. That just makes their visits all the more special. I don't think of them as black witches... I think of them more like black magic.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.