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.
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.