Black Witch Moth

(Ascalapha odorata)

 

Identification

The Black Witch moth is one of the largest moths found in North America. It is considered a harbinger of death in Mexican and Caribbean folklore. In Jamaica, under the name duppy bat, the moth is seen as the embodiment of a lost soul or a soul not at rest.

Its wings are blackish to brownish with typical noctuid pattern of lines and spots. It has a large oval patch at the outer margin containing 2 rounded spots. The females have pinkish white bands beyond postmedial lines of forewing and hindwing which are not present in the males. The typical wing span is 11 to 15 cm.

The caterpillar is mottled brown and black reaching up to 9 cm.

 

Habitat

The Black Witch moth can be found in gardens and residential areas.  

 

Food

The Black Witch moth caterpillar prefers Cassia and catsclaw. Adults feed on overripe fruit, especially bananas, legumes and acacia leaves.

 

Life Cycle

The moth finds its way to Bermuda, most likely blown of course, as it undertakes a northward migration during the late spring and summer, moving up through Central America and entering the northern reaches of its range.

Adults have a very fast flight and are strong migrants. Females lay grey coloured eggs on the upperside of leaves high up on the host plant.

 

Remarks

The Black Witch moth is an infrequent migrant  to Bermuda  travelling 1,000 miles from its breeding ground in the West Indies or Mexico. To attract the moth into the garden plant Cassia tree, Legumes and Banana plants.