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Black Witch (Ascalapha odorata)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Black Witch



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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Jeff A. from Indio, CA
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Tim C. from Murrells Inlet, SC
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Image Credit: Judith C., taken in North Padre Island, TX
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Image Credit: Jeff S., taken in Bangor, ME
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The Black Witch is a huge moth that prefers a tropical habitat, but can be found in the some of the strangest locations through no fault of its own.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A member of the Lesser Underwing Moth family, the Black Witch makes grows to an enormous size. The moth is almost as large as a human hand with its wings spread. The wings are brown or dark brown. It has a large eyespot near the front edge of each forewing. A wavy, dark brown line meanders close to the bottoms of both forewings and hindwings. An iridescent purple line shaped like the letter 'm' stamps bottom of each hindwing and part of the forewing.

The normal climate of the Black Witch is tropical, which makes sightings in the U.S. and Canada both rare and a treat. Stormy weather in the more tropical parts of Mexico and southern tip of Florida can literally blow these moths north of their normal range. In the past, hurricanes in the Gulf have created a 'fallout' of Black Witch Moths. A large population of moths find themselves cloistered in the hurricane's eye until it dissipates, which may happen over states the moth would never live in. Warmer summer weather further north can also allow this moth to travel to regions that are unfamiliar with it.

Like many moths, Black Witch Moths are attracted to lights at night and are mostly nocturnal. Their coloration suggests that nightfall offers good camouflage from would-be predators like birds. Their larvae (caterpillars) feed on acacia shrubs and cassias, plants found in Mexico and other tropical regions. Caterpillars are gray with ivory, with brown markings and black stripes on the back and sides of their tubular bodies




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Hairy insect icon
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Noctuidae
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          Genus: Ascalapha
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            Species: odorata
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Ascalapha odorata
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 100mm to 180mm (3.93" to 7.08")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, brown, gray, blue, yellow, white, green, violet
Descriptors: dark, huge, eyespot, rare, flying, large, wavy, enormous, furry, hairy
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 100mm and 180mm
Lo: 100mm
Md: 140mm
Hi: 180mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Black Witch may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Black Witch. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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