What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Alianthus… but not!
Location:  Santiago de Cuba
September 28, 2010 3:03 am
Hi Bug People,
Congrats on your book! I’m trying to work out some way of getting it here in Israel (Amazon doesn’t ship here, and if they do, the shipping costs far more than the book).
Last July I went on a trip to Cuba, and at Santiago’s El Morro fortress I saw a myriad of moths of all shapes and sizes, from black witches to melonworm moths.
I managed to ID most of them, thanks to the wonderful WTB (thanks again!), but this one stumped me. Couldn’t find it on Bug Guide either. It looks just like an Alianthus, but the coloring is all wrong. Instead of the orange background, it has very dark red and blue. At a distance it looks black.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, the curiosity is driving me crazier than I already am!
I’m also curious about the congregation of moths in one place. Yes, the fortress is well lit, but so are a lot of other places. Many of the moths seemed to be old or dying and the birds were enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The old Spanish fortress is located just outside the city of Santiago de Cuba, at the mouth of the bay that is still used as the city’s port, at the south-eastern end of Cuba.
Signature:  Ben from Israel

Owlet Moth from Cuba

Hi Ben,
We agree that this does somewhat resemble the Ailanthus Webworm, meaning that it may be in the Tropical Ermine Moth subfamily Attevinae, but that is just a guess.  We also had no luck in trying to identify this moth.  We will post your letter and photo and hope someone will be able to provide additional information or perhaps an identification.  We also tried to scan the Moth Photographers Group website thinking that if if is found in Cuba, it may also be recorded in Florida, but that did not produce a match, though we only scratched the surface on the possibilities.  Regarding the book, it is also available through several other vendors and we are not certain if any of them ship to Israel.  Check out our current links to the vendors carrying the book on our site.

Karl Identifies Owlet Moth
Hi Daniel and Ben:
This looks so similar to a Tropical Ermine Moth that it is a little difficult to switch focus, but it is actually an Owlet Moth (Noctuidae) in the subfamily Acontiinae. The genus is Cydosia, of which there are at least ten species but only three realistic possibilities (the rest are restricted to South America). There is considerable variability in all three but to me it looks like C. nobilitella. It is also the only one I could confirm as resident in Cuba (ranges from southern United States to Argentina, and throughout the Antilles). The Bugguide also has several photos. Regards.  Karl

Thanks so much Karl.

Ben writes Back
September 29, 2010
Hi Daniel,
Sorry I didn’t provide more details.
The congregation of moths was all over the old Spanish fortress, on the walls, the ground, everywhere! Even inside open rooms. No trees anywhere near, and very little other vegetation.
I’m attaching a photo of what I believe is a white witch, and one of a section of wall about 1 sq meter, where I counted at least 10 moths.

Mysterious Congregation of Moths

Hi again Ben,
Now that you have sent a photo of the moth congregation, we have no theory and our original theory about sap or sweet sticky substances doesn’t seem correct.  Perhaps one of our readers will have an opinion about this mystery.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

3 Responses to Unknown Moth from Cuba is Owlet Moth, NOT Tropical Ermine Moth

  1. Ben says:

    Hi Bugman,
    Thanks for trying. I’ll keep searching as well.
    Do you have any idea why so many moths of different species would congregate at one place? There were black and white witches, various sphinx and hawkmoths, and a bunch of other, smaller species like this one and a melonworm moth.
    Were they attracted to the lights? If so, why did this phenomenon appear here and not elsewhere? And during the daytime?
    Very curious!

    • bugman says:

      Hi Ben,
      You did not provide any photos of the moth congregation. If there was sap oozing from a tree, rotting fruit or any other sweet substance, the moths may have been attracted to a food source. Collectors often “sugar for moths” as a means of collecting. There is a page describing the process of sugaring for moths on Bill Oehlke’s website and on the Michigan Entomological Society’s website as well as numerous other places on the world wide web. Your comment mentions White Witches, and we hope you can send us a photo of a White Witch to add to our site as this huge and beautiful species is not well represented on our site.

  2. Ben says:

    Thank you Karl! It’s great to give this little guy a name.

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