Photo by Greg Raterman
Moth expert Greg Raterman was baiting nocturnal leps last night in Pickaway County, when this gorgeous monstrosity appeared. Black Witch, Ascalapha odorata! As far as I know, this is the biggest moth to be found north of Mexico, and they are true showstoppers.
I can only imagine Greg's surprise when he checked his moth-baiting operation and found this beast. Like most Black Witches that turn up far to the north of where they ought to be, this one is a female, which has the prominent white scalloped line across the wings. The Black Witch occurs in parts of the Caribbean, and throughout Mexico and Central America and south into South America. They are major rarities this far north, and one shows up in Ohio every few years, perhaps.
Its wings are ornately painted, and when seen well the Black Witch is a thing of beauty. However, not all people consider them welcome, and much superstitious nonsense has come to shroud the moth. A Spanish name for this species is Mariposa de la Muerte, or "butterfly of death". Legend has it that if someone is ill in the casa, and a Black Witch enters, they'll soon die. A better myth has it that if the moth enters a dwelling, flies to all four corners in a room, someone inside dies.
Congratulations to Greg Raterman for an outstanding find, and I thank him for sharing it with us. There are probably some others flying around out there, somewhere - if you see a Black Witch, please let me know.