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Species Ascalapha odorata - Black Witch - Hodges#8649

Black Witch Moth - BWM - Ascalapha odorata - male Black Witch Moth - BWM - Ascalapha odorata - female Ascalapha odorata Moth with eyespots Draper, Utah unknown - Ascalapha odorata - female Black witch moth? - Ascalapha odorata Ascalapha odorata Ascalapha odorata - male Large silkworm moth? - Ascalapha odorata
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Erebidae
Subfamily Erebinae
Tribe Thermesiini
Genus Ascalapha
Species odorata (Black Witch - Hodges#8649)
Hodges Number
Other Common Names
Black Witch Moth - BWM
Money Moth or Moneybat - Bahamas
Mariposa de la Muerte (Spanish)
La Sorcière Noire (French)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Ascalapha odorata (Linnaeus)
Phalaena Bombyx odorata Linnaeus 1758
Erebus odorata (Linnaeus)
Erebus odora (Linnaeus), misspelling
Phylogenetic sequence # 930759
Explanation of Names
odorata - Latin for "scented, having an odor" (1)
The names "Black Witch" and "Money Moth" show that this insect can be seen as lucky or unlucky depending on the local culture.
Lafontaine & Schmidt (2010) listed Ascalapha odorata as the only member of the genus. (2)
Wingspan 9-15 cm.
Larva up to 7 cm.
Wings dark brown, both pairs crossed by series of alternating light and dark undulating lines and bands; often an iridescent blue cast over wings. Females are more contrastingly marked than males.
Females have pinkish-white bands across middle of both pairs of wings:

Males lack pale bands:

Mature larvae:
Mexico to South America, annually emigrates north to southern Canada, primarily through western United States. Common in southern Florida and the Caribbean. Established across Hawaii.
Northernmost records: Auke Bay, just west of Juneau, Alaska (Spangler 1957) and Churchill, Manitoba, Canada:
< - Juneau, AK < - Churchill
Northern-most BWM breeding record ---> Omar Baldridge of Wheelersburg, Scioto Co., Ohio - October 5th, 2012 near a rather large Mimosa tree
They have been recorded in Africa. (Van Noort, 1998)
Please report significant records to your local LepSoc Zone Coordinator
Not a habitat specialist as this species strays throughout N. Amer.
Often found perched on houses and out buildings during the day:
Most records are from June-October(3) . Very few US records (outside of FL) from December-May.
Recorded host genera: Acacia, Albizia, Cassia, Ebenopsis (Pithecellobium), Gymnocladus, Prosopis, Robinia, Samanea (Fabaceae)
Adults come to bait such as bananas.
Life Cycle
The northward June migration out of Mexico coincides with Mexico's rainy season which typically starts in early June and lasts through October.
Three mating pairs of adults reported along Texas coast from Brownsville to Houston in August.
Mature larvae reported from all three of Texas' southmost counties, as early as July 16th and as late as Oct. 23rd.
Large numbers, more than 50 in Patagonia, AZ in early August and 72 BWMs at Bentsen State Park in south Texas on Sept 1, probably were moths of a second generation migrating out of Mexico.
Northern-most BWM breeding record ---> Omar Baldridge of Wheelersburg, Scioto Co., Ohio - October 5th, 2012 near a rather large Mimosa tree
Often flies great distances in only a few nights, hiding by day wherever it can find dense shade – frequently under the eves of houses.
See Also
Sometimes mistaken for the following large silk moths (Family Satuniidae):
- Cecropia Moth
- Calleta Silkmoth
- Promethea Moth
- Polyphemus Moth
Print References
Brou, V.A., Jr. 2003. Ascalapha odorata (L.) and Thysania zenobia (Cram.) in Lousiana. Southern Lepidopterists' News, 25(3): 91. Full PDF
Comstock, J. 1936. Notes of the early stages of Erebus odora L. (Lepidoptera). Southern California Academy of Sciences Bulletin, 35:95-98.
Ekrem, T., P.G. Kevan, T.S. Woodcock, and P.D.N. Hebert. 2014. The most northerly Black Witch (Ascalapha odorata): a tropical moth in the Canadian Arctic. Canadian Field-Naturalist 128(1): 77–79. Full PDF
Freeman, B. 2003. A Fallout of Black Witches (Ascalapha odorata) associated with Hurricane Claudette. News of the Lepidopterists' Society. 45(3): 71. Full PDF
Lugaski, T. & W.H. Clark. 1973. Collection records of the black witch moth, Ascalapha odorata (Linnaeus) in Nevada (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Pan-Pacific Entomologist. 49(4): 353.
Powell, J.A. & P.A. Opler, 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, Pl. 43, fig. 17; p. 255. (4)
Sala, F.P. 1959. Possible migration tendencies of Erebus odora and other similar species. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 13: 65-66. Full PDF
Spangler, P.J. 1957. A record of the black witch, Erebus odora (Noctuidae), in Alaska. The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 11(6): 205. (Full PDF)
Van Noort, S. 1998. The Black Witch, Ascalapha odorata (Linnaeus) (Noctuidae) visits again: an example of long distance wind dispersal. Metamorphosis, 9: 93-94.
Internet References
Texas Entomology - Mike Quinn
Pacific Northwest Moths - includes interactive map
Systema naturae, 10th ed., v.2, p.505 - Linnaeus' original description of the species (in Latin)
A voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, tab. 236, fig.13, fig.14 - Sloane's 1725 illustrations with a descriptive caption (in Latin)
Northern-most BWM breeding record ---> Omar Baldridge of Wheelersburg, Scioto Co., Ohio - October 5th, 2012 near a rather large Mimosa tree
Works Cited
1.Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms
Donald J. Borror. 1960. Mayfield Publishing Company.
2.Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico.
Donald J. Lafontaine, B. Christian Schmidt. 2010. ZooKeys 40: 1–239 .
3.North American Moth Photographers Group
4.Moths of Western North America
Powell and Opler. 2009. UC Press.