Currently viewing the category: "Black Witch"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Black Witch Moth?
Location: Los Angeles, California
November 18, 2016 8:07 pm
I took a picture of what I think may be a Black Witch moth. It was resting on my patio screen door this afternoon. I have never seen a moth that large. Its wing span was about 4 inches tip to tip.
Signature: Pat K.

Black Witch

Black Witch

Dear Pat,
Congratulations on your Black Witch sighting, though we believe you may have underestimated its size. 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Black Witch Moth
Location: Studio City, CA
August 25, 2016 12:25 am
Dear Bugman,
I found, I believe, a Black Witch Moth female on the wall at the entrance of my parking deck. I am concerned about the sorry state of its beautiful wings. It has been there for a while. It was dusk when I found it.
Signature: Jessica Chortkoff

Female Black Witch

Female Black Witch

Dear Jessica,
You are correct that this is a female Black Witch moth.  The Black Witch is a long-lived species that is known to migrate thousands of miles.  Their wings can often get quite tattered, but that does not seem to negatively impact their ability to fly.

Oh that is good. I did some research and found out that if a butterfly injures its wing in such a way that they are no longer symmetrical it will starve because it can’t really fly. The only way to save it would be to put it in the fridge for ten minutes, so it goes into a trancelike state, then hold it and clip the wings so they are the exact same shape, or if you have extra butterfly wings on hand, you can try to glue part of the doner insects’  wing on to make it symmetrical. I am not sure I am a butterfly surgeon. Another option would be to build a butterfly garden on my balcony. It has probably flown away by now though.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Large Moth
Location: Worland, WY
August 13, 2016 2:57 pm
Hello, I saw this on the wall of my house today. I live in northern WY. Any idea what it is? It appeared to be 4-5 inches across.
Signature: needarealname

Male Black Witch

Male Black Witch

Dear needarealname,
This is a male Black Witch,
Ascalapha odorata, and according to the Texas Entomology site, it is:  “is the largest moth, if not the largest insect, north of Mexico. ”  Though it has that distinction, it is a migrant species, though perhaps with global warming, it may have naturalized in areas close to the Mexican border.  The Black Witch is a neotropical species, but it has been documented as far north as Canada since as far back as the nineteenth century, though no one really knows exactly what causes this southern species to fly north each year.  Your individual looks quite tattered, which is to be expected after making a 1000 plus mile flight.  Each year in Mexico, at the start of monsoon season, Black Witch moths head north.  Interestingly, we received a report last year of a Cheyenne, Wyoming sighting of a Black Witch.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Black Witch Moth
Location: Carlsbad, NM
July 30, 2016 9:36 pm
This evening, around twilight, I was backing out of my garage when I saw what I thought was a bat flitting around inside the garage. I stopped the car and went to safely shoo it out. It had landed upside down on the raised garage door. I was very surprised to find no bat but a huge brown moth. It was easily 6 inches from wing tip to wing tip. I took a few photos, and then gently moved it out. It landed on the wood frame of the garage door, where I took some better photos using the car headlights for illumination. I love the little commas on the shoulders.
I don’t recall ever seeing this type of moth before. I looked on your site under “large brown moth”, and I think I’ve matched it to Black Witch Moth, male. According to what I read, they are usually tropical but can be found in the U.S. occasionally. We’ve had a very hot summer with 20+ days over 100 degrees. I don’t know if that’s what brought this guy north. Looking at your site, I found several Black Witch Moth submissions, but I didn’t find one from 2016, so I thought I’d send these in.
I love your site and use it all the time.
Signature: Curious

Male Black Witch

Male Black Witch

Dear Curious,
You are correct that this is a male Black Witch and you are also correct that this is our first 2016 report, and we are thrilled that there is such a wonderful, high quality image to accompany the posting.  Northern migrations of Black Witch Moths from Mexico have been documented for over 100 years, and the start of the migration seems to be linked to the monsoon season in Mexico, but no one is certain why the migration includes reports from as far north as Alaska.  The Black Witch is a huge moth that is capable of flying great distances, which may lead to range expansions, but potential larval food plants tend to be confined to warmer climates as the trees upon which the caterpillars feed cannot survive colder winters.  Texas Entomology has information on Black Witch migrations.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Recent photos at our home
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
September 13, 2015
Sandy and Bettie

Black Witch

Black Witch

Dear Sandy and Bettie,
Your large moth is a Black Witch.  Native to Central and South America, Black Witch Moths have been reported to migrate north during Mexican monsoons every fall, and they have been known to reach as far north as the northern border states and even into Canada.  Your individual is a female, as evidenced by the light diagonal markings across the wings.  Though they are frequently found in Los Angeles, a Black Witch sighting is always an exciting event.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Black Witch
Location: Cheyenne, Wyoming
August 31, 2015 1:43 pm
6:45 am, Cheyenne,Wyoming. Approximate size inches.
Signature: Wayne Barton

Black Witch

Black Witch

Dear Wayne,
Congratulations on this extreme northern sighting of a male Black Witch, a neotropical species found in Central and South America.  As far back as the late Nineteenth Century, sightings of Black Witch Moths as far north as Canada have been reported.  According to BugGuide:  “The northward June migration out of Mexico coincides with Mexico’s rainy season which typically starts in early June and lasts through October” and “Often flies great distances in only a few nights, hiding by day wherever it can find dense shade – frequently under the eves of houses.”   While sightings in border states including California and Texas, and southern states like Florida are not rare, northern sightings are not as common.  Black Witch Moths are now thought to be breeding in some border states, but harsh winters in the north will most likely prevent naturalization.  We followed a link from BugGuide to the Texas Entomology site where Mike Quinn is keeping records of state, and though there were three Black Witch sightings in 2004, there is nothing recent.  We would suggest that you contact Mike at entomike@gmail.com to report your sighting, though we are going to pass on the information, but should he require additional information, we would not be able to provide anything.  We can’t help but to wonder why Black Witches continue to migrate north though they would not stand much of a chance of passing on genetic material, because even if they were lucky enough to find a mate in Colorado or Canada, the harsh conditions would not favor the survival of the progeny. 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination