The Black Witch from Costa Rica
Thought to be an omen of death throughout Mexico and Caribbean, the Black Witch is a large nocturnal moth that somewhat resembles a bat in shape.
These moths are prolific throughout the Southern United States, Mexico, Central America and into Brazil. They are found as far west as the islands of Hawaii, and as far east as Florida and the eastern seaboard.
Mating & Reproduction
The host plants for the larvae of Black Witch moths are often Acacia, Whistling Thorn, Thorntree and Wattle Trees, and the young Black Witch moths feed off of the leaves of these trees throughout the time before they undergo metamorphosis. Mature larvae reach around 7 cm long, and after transformation, the moth’s lifespan is only a few months.
This nocturnal moth (most moths are nocturnal) forages for nectar, legumes, leaves and the juice of fallen fruit. They spend their daylight hours in hiding and rest. Once night has fallen, they may take to searching for food, or they could begin their long migrations which start in the spring. They head north from South and Central America to get away from the coming rainy season.
Black Witches are usually quite safe when they travel under the cover of night, but they do fall prey to some predators. Predators of Black Witches include birds, spiders and bats.
In Costa Rica and Mexico the Black Witch is called, “mariposa de la muerte,” which would translate as, “the butterfly of death.” The Black Witch is also associated with death in a number of traditions throughout the regions it inhabits. Even in Hawaii, people believe that seeing the moth after the passing of a loved one represents the soul returning to visit the ones he or she left behind.
Black Witches, in contrast to their myth, are not dangerous to people.
Locations in Costa Rica: Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Barra Honda National Park, Guanacaste National Park, Santa Rosa National Park
Diet: legume sap, fruit juice, nectar
Migration Pattern: north from South and Central America in the rainy season
Habitat: lowland forest, pre-montane forest, montane forest
Size: Males length=16 cm Females length=12 cm (wingspan)
Species: Ascalapha odorata