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.
Bewitched Black Witch Moth
11/26/2013 07:37:16 am
I had one of these in my bathroom this morning and I too loved it. I safely caught it and set it free. It was an amazing creature.
2/12/2014 04:38:13 pm
02/12/14 Just caught a female inside 12th floor condo. released unharmed.
2/24/2014 02:48:59 pm
My father's funeral was on Tuesday. The moth was at our back door on Friday night. It was unbelievably beautiful.
2/25/2014 04:05:06 pm
Thanks for sharing that. How nice for the visit.
3/16/2014 07:14:46 am
I had my first visit the night before I started installing the wood floor in my new house in Hawaii. My husband was hauling that wood when he was killed in a vehicle accident 10 miles from home.
3/22/2014 05:43:46 pm
So glad you had that visit. Hope it softened your loss.
12/16/2014 01:44:41 pm
Amazing "little creature"! I just had a male apparently, as no white stripe, spend the day in my condo here in Naples, FL... ALOHA! and MAHALO for your site... I truly find the mysticism interesting, but spending a half hour on the floor just looking at this guy was great! Wish I had a better camera, but would love to share some pics and video with you.
12/25/2014 01:30:43 pm
I just had a visit from this impressive critter in my 11th story condo. Pretty gentle thing; after startling me she let me check-out her amazing wings before I escorted her to the lanai.
12/25/2014 10:05:49 pm
I am on the third floor, so apparently they don't pose much of a threat to aviation! Talk about startled, I have had Mexican Freetail Bats or some close relative in here, Caught with Tupperware and put outside mind you, and amazingly, they're quite a bit smaller than the moth. I released the moth, who went rather reluctantly, don't know why, my condo's a dump.
7/28/2015 04:41:55 am
We had one visit our courtyard here in Fallbrook, CA this weekend. I too thought it was a bat as it was flying erratically. She landed on the wall and stayed there to rest all day. Our 15 year old cat just crossed the rainbow bridge two weeks ago. I wonder if she was stopping by to say "Hello"!
10/26/2015 10:53:31 pm
We are stunned by this new info, came to Hawaii to scatter my moms ashes after 10yrs of Alzheimer's....it was her favorite place plus being Japanese she always felt like it was home. We found it 2 days after spreading the ashes in our condo 27 floors up!!! Guess she was saying goodbye....aloha nui loa mom.....
11/29/2015 12:56:17 pm
- The visits by the moths are not mere coincidence and only now make sense. In 2012 (when my son/I lived alone subsequent to a restraining order served onto my estranged husband), my son/I did our usual early evening routine walk to the park. We exited the back door to the open garage and 2 HUGE moths (one black, the other dark brown w/stripe) were erratically flying in our open garage near our back door which terrified my son and I running out of the garage. I've NEVER seen moths like this in our neighborhood/home which we resided at for 12 years and they were HUGE, I thought they were small bats! We watched them hovering near the light so I turned off the garage light. Then they planted themselves over the back door. We left them alone hoping they would fly away during our walk but when we returned 20 minutes later, they were still there! I used the outside broom to brush/scare them away and again they erratically flew around but with enough time/distance for us to make a fast break through the back door! Later that evening, I exited the front entrance door to see whether moths had left and they sat high above on the side wall next to the back door. They were gone the next morning. I talked to neighbors about it who never saw black moths in our neighborhood. I also searched the internet to educate myself about these huge black moths.
1/2/2016 10:00:30 pm
Tonight I was blessed with a large black moth above our front door. I immediately smiled and told my family grandma was here visiting.
2/7/2016 08:55:46 pm
Just had one fly into my office right now and it freaked me out. I too thought it was a bat. Thankfully I was able to guide it out a window and was able to find this post to find out what the heck it was.
10/23/2016 11:13:28 pm
I was just chased out of my bedroom by one. I am so freaked out but this article helps. I hope I didn't kill or injure it when I threw a tissue box at it :( I have to be up early so I will worry about tomorrow. For now I am sleeping on the couch
4/22/2017 01:31:35 am
I just received a letter from my stepfather, pulled it out of the mailbox at 1000 pm, with a cashier's check in it saying the money was from my mother's closed checking account. My stepfather split the checking account between me and my siblings, and he said the money was to be used to pay for dinner on Mother's Day. My mother passed 3 years ago.
6/18/2017 03:40:38 am
Huge dark moth visited me 2 years ago the night before my grandma passed. 5 nights ago it made its appearance to anniversary the exact date and time of two years as a reminder of my grandmas passing 2 years ago. Then 3 nights later exact time.. it showed itself up again and flew from the night sky directly toward me as I walked out on my patio. I ran into the outside kitchen as it fluttered its wings in front of my face with just the screen door in between. I turned off the light and finally when I thought it was gone it was perched on my house door like an obedient pet. I had to finally use a wet paper towel ball to get it to move. Hopefully I didn't kill it as i seemed to be able to fly away although the powder from the wings rubbed off on the paper towel and my door. I felt bad because it came with good vibes and it was a sight to have the moth visit me againon the terms that it did
Stu and Sally
1/9/2018 09:02:35 pm
We had a 5" wingspan female arrive last night and she has been attached to our inside curtains all day. Perhaps she is resting from her California to Hawaii flight.
In Waikiki, woke up to a giant black bat moth (about 6" wide) on the bathroom mirror near the ceiling. Got a large screen type basket strainer and piece of cardboard to back it up and set if free on the lanai. The night before, a beloved long time client passed away at 92. Did it come to me so Mrs. C. could say goodbye? Who knows?
4/24/2018 10:59:32 pm
April 24, 2018. This morning this species appeared outside my bedroom window. With vigor and persistence, it fluttered for several
5/10/2018 06:53:17 am
I was eating dinner last night with friends outside on a bench in town. A huge black moth flew by our bench and it kept flying at me. I kept waving it away, but it just continued to fly at me. I eventually just sat there and it landed on mu shoulder and was staring at me. My friends were freaked out. It's eyes were so huge. Then it just flew away.
8/17/2018 08:17:02 am
This thing appear in my home two days before my mom passed away. I am still shocked. What exactly is this moth?
9/17/2018 12:58:51 pm
I found one of these moths this morning at the Park in So Cal. It was dying. I picked it up and held it until it passed. I brought it home and put it on my mantle and googled "dark brown moth with blue spots on wings" and found this site.
4/27/2020 04:50:52 pm
I found one on our mesh door it’s huge and it looked like it was attacked by a bird.
5/7/2020 11:14:26 am
We just had a 6” wingspan Black Moth fly right into our 12th floor condo yesterday morning around 10am. It headed straight to a back wall and rested there. My husband thought it was a bat; I was working on my computer at the time so my back was to the entrance of this graceful creature.
5/30/2021 09:11:19 pm
I've had alot of these beauties in my yard so far this year. Ones here right now flipping around. They look like they fly drunk because they seem so haphazard in their pattern. If I would compare it to humans..he just looks like he's having fun.
6/19/2021 08:18:41 am
I was reading about the Atlas moth when I thought for the first time to look up the giant moths in Hawai’i. I lived in Honolulu from ‘94-‘97 while my father was stationed at Pearl Harbor and sadly have not returned. These giants moths looked like birds until they landed on the screen door. They kinda freaked me out due to their incredible size. I have regaled tales of the insects of the island to many. With the moths, centipedes, geckos and cockroaches, as a kid inside my home at times felt like a wild and scary place. The cockroaches scared me the most and once my sisters and I encountered one in our kitchen that was probably the size of my palm. We didn’t venture back into the kitchen for about a week.
7/6/2021 06:58:20 pm
I have a one resting on my front door, I've nvr seen one so beautiful.
11/5/2021 01:56:06 pm
There's one sitting under the eves right now. It's such a beauty. I feel peace and happiness whenever I see one. I'll just lay here and watch it all day. Swish went a monarchy butterfly. Two in a day😊🦋plus my right ears was ringing.
2/21/2022 04:37:56 am
We are here in Kauai, all 17 of us, on a trip planned and paid for following the passing of our Poppy. We just knew he was looking at us all together as a family here (at the place my husband and I were married 15 years ago). I was awakened at 1:30am to a fluttery sound in our bedroom only to find a bat looking creature on the wall above the slider. We don’t really know how it even got in. But after reading this article, and spending an hour trying to gently coax it outside, we feel certain he is here with us. Thanks for this!
1/25/2023 01:48:57 pm
We are on Kauai to mourn the passing of my husband’s mom Jan. 9, and this morning we saw a huge moth. It stayed on the eaves for about 20 minutes. My husband was born on Oahu, and we came here to say goodbye in the islands, where he first met his mom. Having the moth stop by was a moment we will not forget. 😊
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welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.