Black Witch Moth

Ascalapha odorata (Linnaeus, 1758)

A discussion of state & provincial records

(Note below discussions mostly do not yet include relevant post 2004 data.)

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Return to Texas Entomology - Compiled by Mike Quinn

Central US:
Texas   Oklahoma

Southwest & Pacific:New Mexico   Arizona

California   Hawaii

Great Plains: Kansas   Nebraska

Rocky Mountains: Colorado   Wyoming

Northern Gulf Coast Louisiana Mississippi




Ohio Michigan

Far North: Canadan Alaska

Southeast: Florida   Georgia

Other Southern States

Caribbean: Bahamas

Texas Records

     Black Witch moths occur widely in Texas. My realization of that fact came about gradually.

     I started collecting Black Witch records in 2001 which was a relatively good year for the species. That year, 14 records were reported to the TX-Butterfly Listserv. Only a few were reported for 2002. However in 2003, hundreds of the moths were seen in the eye of Hurricane Claudette when it came ashore at Port O'Connor on July 15. Notably, very few individuals were reported from Texas prior to the hurricane's landing bringing into question where the moths came from. (More on this later.)

     The reports compiled in June 2001 suggest this insect is mostly encountered in the eastern half of Texas, similar to the typical Monarch migration pattern (as posted to the Journey North website from March 1 to June 25, 2004). However, 2004 showed a statewide migratory pattern. In early June 2004, records initially appeared to be coming primarily from along the Gulf Coast with scattered records inland. But by the end of June 2004, hundreds (!) of records of the species were reported from the greater Midland area from Alpine to Fort Stockton to Big Spring to Seagraves. (These reports were prompted by a request for sightings by KWES-TV, NewsWest 9.) Burr Williams (Director of the Sibley Nature Center in Midland, pers. comm., 2004) said that they usually see about one Black Witch per year, usually during the first week of July, but in 2004 he saw multiple individuals starting in mid June. In 2004, one person putting out rotten bananas in Midland attracted eight moths at one time! Add in the number of reports from New Mexico and Arizona, and it appears that the moth migrated north across a broad front from the Gulf of Mexico through most of the southwest in 2004. 

     In 2004, Ray Little, of Rockport, volunteered to regularly drive a 25 mile patrol of South Matagorda Island, Calhoun Co. during May and June to look for nesting sea turtles (all of which are state and federally listed as threatened or endangered). This barrier island is assessable only by plane or boat. Driving this route on a Polaris 4 Wheeler, Ray kept track of the number of Black Witches that, upon his passing, flew up out of the sargassum that sometimes was piled two feet high at high tide. (Example of sargassum on a shore line.) He found none of the moths during May patrols prior to May 30, the date I began receiving multiple daily reports of Black Witches from across Texas in 2004. Very similar numbers were reported from a static location (in the north facing eaves of one of the buildings) one county to the south at the Aransas Pass Light Station in Aransas Co.

Ray Little's Data from 25 mile patrols on South Matagorda Island, Calhoun Co., 2004

May 30
June 2 6
June 8  10
June 16  18
June 22 12
June 24  8
Aransas Pass Light Station on 
Harbor Island, Aransas Co.,

June 16
June 23 8
June 24 12


May 1-10
May 11-20 2
May 21-31

June 1-10 22
June 11-20
June 21-30

July 1-10
July 11-20
July 21-31

Aug 1-10
Aug 11-20
Aug 21-31

Sept 1-10
Sept 11-20
Sept 21-30

Oct 1-10
Oct 11-20
Oct 21-31

Nov 1-10
Nov 11-20
Nov 21-30




McCurtain Co. Idabel ~01 June 2004
Tulsa Co. Broken Arrow (Tulsa) 24 June 2004 slightly worn, pic (seen by MAQ)
Washington Co.
Sutton Avian Res. Center28 June 2012BugGuide Photo
Cleveland Co. Norman 27 June 2004 Male, slightly worn, photo

Tillman Co. Grandfield 01 July 2004 Male, flying around in the garage
Pontotoc Co,
TNC Pontotoc Ridge Pres., HQ
06 July 2010 LepSoc Season Summary
Comanche Co. Lawton 08 July 2004 Male
 Bryan Co. Durant 24 July 2012 sighting

Grady Co. Tuttle 08 Aug 2005 worn individual
Cherokee Co.
TNC Nickel Preserve
11 Aug 2006 LepSoc Season Summary
Cimarron Co.
Boise City, 1.5 mi S.
18 Aug 2010 LepSoc Season Summary
Jefferson Co.
Hastings, Moneka Park 27 Aug 2011 LepSoc Season Summary

Roger Mills Co.
Antelope Hills
03 Sept 2007 LepSoc Season Summary
Texas Co.
10 Sept 1998 LepSoc Season Summary
Bryan Co. Cartwright 18 Sept 2005 Female, in very good condition
Noble Co.
I-35 @ Perry
21 Sept 1998 LepSoc Season Summary

Oklahoma Co.
Oklahoma City 24 Oct 2007 BugGuide Photo
Tulsa Co. Tulsa 12 Oct 2003

New Mexico Records

     New Mexico's records start in mid-June and continue through July. The same pattern is seen in Arizona.

April 1
May 1
June ~16
July 14
Aug. 2

Doņa Ana Co.   no specific locality ?? April 1999

Grant Co. Silver City 29 May 2010
BugGuide Photo

Sandoval Co.    Rio Rancho 06 June 1996 Museum of SW Biology, UNM
Apparent onset of BWM migration in New Mexico
Bernalillo Co. Albuquerque  11 June 2004 s. valley, nr. Rio Grande Bosque
Doņa Ana Co.  Hatch  12 June 1960
Eddy Co. Carlsbad  14, 17, 21 June 2004
Doņa Ana Co.  Las Cruces 15 June 2004 Picacho Hills
Doņa Ana Co.  Fairacres  16 June 2004
Santa Fe Co.  Santa Fe 17 June 2004 Downtown
Bernalillo Co.  Albuquerque  19 June 2004 Photo
Bernalillo Co. Albuquerque  20 June 2004 3-5 from Rio Grande Bosque to NE Heights/Foothills at 6500'
Bernalillo Co. Albuquerque  21 June 2004 Male, photo, flew to Mimosa tree
Eddy Co.  24 mi. E. Carlsbad 22 June 1977
Catron Co Zuni Salt Lake  23 June 2004 So. shore of cinder cone lake
Doņa Ana Co. Las Cruces  24 June 2004
Lea Co. Jal  Late June 2004 (SE corner of NM)

Doņa Ana Co. Las Cruces  04 July 1976
Roosevelt Co. 4 mi. se. of Portales  04 July 1989
Doņa Ana Co. Fairacres  09 July 2004 Three
Bernalillo Co.  Sandia Park   10 July 2004 Sandia Mtns E. of Albuquerque
Doņa Ana Co. Las Cruces  12 July 1968
Otero Co.
Alamogordo 12 July 2008
BugGuide Photo
DeBaca Co. no specific locality  18 July 1964
Doņa Ana Co. Las Cruces  19 July 2004  
Bernalillo Co.  Albuquerque  22 July 1993  Museum of SW Biology, UNM
Bernalillo Co. Albuquerque  25 July 1963  Museum of SW Biology, UNM
Bernalillo Co. Albuquerque   29 July 1970 INHS Insect Collection
Doņa Ana Co. near La Cueva  31 July 2004  Organ Mountains

Bernalillo Co. Albuquerque 10 Aug 2007
BugGuide Photo
Colfax Co. Eagles Nest  23 Aug 1960 INHS Insect Collection

Arizona Records

     Black Witch records in Arizona, like those of New Mexico, begin in mid-June. But in additon to the mid-June through July  records as seen in NM, data for AZ also show an equal number in August plus a slug of around 50 records ca. August 8.

June 12
July 11
Aug. 12(+50)
Sept. 2
Oct. 2
Nov. 1

Maricopa Co.Peoria (Phoenix suburb)16 June 2004Male, Photos
Mohave Co.    Mohave Valley 19 June 2004 Male, photographed
Maricopa Co.Wickenburg20 June 2005Female, near fresh, photo (MAQ)
Pinal Co.
San Pedro River Valley 20 June 2012
BugGuide Photo
Yuma Co. Yuma, AZ Western Coll 21 June 2004  Female
Pima Co. Tucson  23 June 2004
Apache Co.
Greer 23 June 2012
BugGuide Photo
Pima Co. Green Valley 25 June 2010 BugGuide Photo
Maricopa Co. Gilbert (Phoenix suburb) 27 June 2004 (Phoenix suburb) 
Santa Cruz Co. Madera Canyon  30 June 2004 Two, photos (seen by MAQ)
Maricopa Co. Peoria (Phoenix suburb) 30 June 2004 (Phoenix suburb) 

Cochise Co. Garden Canyon  02 July 2004 Huachuca Mountains, Sierra Vista
Pima Co. Tucson  03 July 2004
Pima Co Sahuarita  04 July 2004
Maricopa Co. Chandler (Phoenix burb) 05 July 2004 "tattered wing tips"
Santa Cruz Co. Harshaw Creek   20 July 2003 near Patagonia
Gila Co. Payson   23-27 July 2004 Two females, pix (seen by MAQ)
Santa Cruz Co.Pena Blanca nr Nogales24 July 2005"very worn, came to an MV light"
Coco Co. Walnut Cyn SE Flagstaff  27 July 2004 Female, fairly worn, at MV lights
Pinal Co. 10 mi NE Kearney 29 July 2004 (Plus two other dead BWMs) 
Santa Cruz Co.  Box Cyn, nr Madera Cyn 30 July 2004 Female, fairly worn, at MV lights

Santa Cruz Co.  Green Valley 03 Aug 2004  
Santa Cruz Co. Sonoita 03 Aug 2005Female, ~fresh, pic (seen by MAQ)
Pima Co.Babquavri Mts, 07 Aug 20054 adults (Brown Cyn)
Santa Cruz Co.
nr. Patagonia
08 Aug 2000 ~
at least 50 sheltering in old shack
Pima Co.
Marana 10 Aug 2010 BugGuide Photo
Pima Co.Arivica Creek20 Aug 2005at lights, fide B. Walsh
Yavapai Skull Valley 20 Aug 2007 BugGuide Photo
Maricopa Co.Peoria23 Aug 2005"on the eave of my house"
Maricopa Co. Surprise 23 Aug 2009 BugGuide Photo
Santa Cruz Co.
31 Aug 2005 BAMONA

Pima Co.Tucson 12 Sept 2006photo of adult BWM emerging
Yavapai Co.
nr. Sedona 26 Sept 2010 BugGuide Photo

Pima Co.Sahuarita09 Oct 2005fresh male, photo (seen by MAQ)
Pima Co. Boquivari Mtns. ?? Oct 1923 INHS Insect Collection

Yavapai Co. Chino Valley  03 Nov 1995 LepSoc Season Summary

Louisiana Records 

(text needs updating post Tropical Storm Cindy)

     The only other report of more than five moths in a single location received in 2004 were the "dozens" reported from Grand Isle, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana on 15 June 2004 by Wayne Keller. When I first received news of the Grand Isle dozens, I thought that many clustered that far north may have resulted from a moth version of the Trans-Gulf fallout that frequently famously occurs in nearby High Island. If so, then it appears from the Aransas and Calhoun Counties (just north of Corpus Christi) that conditions may have been right for a fallout over a long stretch of the middle and upper coasts. Alternately, the dozens seen in southwest Louisiana on June 15 may have resulted from a migratory push up the coast from the Corpus Christi area. Double digit moths were counted in this area as early as June 8, 2004. (If anyone knows how to access archived weather data from this region and time period, please contact me. Thanks!) If multiple individuals are reported away from the coast, they were most likely attracted to black lights or to bait.

     I find the coastal Louisiana records from Grand Isle, Holly Beach, and Buras to be most interesting. The Gulf Coast plain along southern Louisiana certainly does not have much in the way of caterpillar food plants to draw the moths to that location. Also contrast the report of dozens of Black witches at Grand Isle to the near absence of coastal Monarchs from Louisiana in the spring of 2002 or 2003. It appears that as the Gulf Coast bends to the east, the Monarch primarily keeps heading north. 

Feb. 1
Mar.  1
April 0
May 0
June ~352004
July 61000's
Aug. 1
Sept. 1
Oct. 1
Nov. 2

St. John Parish ? 13 Feb. ???? per Brou 2003
? ? ?? Mar ???? per Brou 2003

Jefferson Parish Grand Isle  15 June 2004  "Dozens" (Not asso. w/ any storms)
Plaquemines Parish Buras  17 June 2004
Lafayette Parish n. portion of parish  20 June 2004
Grant Parish Prospect  20 June 2004
E. Baton Rouge Pa. Baton Rouge  22 June 2004
Cameron Parish Holly Beach   26 June 2004 7 moths seen in ~6 hrs. 

Jefferson Parish Grand Isle 07 July 2005 "Thousands" in eye of TS Cindy
St. Bernard Parish Arabi 08 July 2005 Post TS Cindy
Plaquemines Parish Buras/Venice 7-8 July 2005 Two in two days, Post TS Cindy
Jefferson Parish Marrero 08 July 2005 Post TS Cindy
Jefferson Parish Grand Isle   10 July 1941 LA St. Arthropod Museum
Orleans Parish New Orleans 11 July 2005 2 males, Downtown, Post TS Cindy
E Baton Rouge Pa. Baton Rouge 16 July 2005 worn male, photo (seen by MAQ)
E. Baton Rouge Pa. Baton Rouge, LSU   23 July 1984 LA St. Arthropod Museum
E. Baton Rouge Pa.  Baton Rouge   29 July 1960 LA St. Arthropod Museum

Vermillion Parish Perry   06 Aug 1992 LA St. Arthropod Museum
E. Baton Rouge Pa. Baton Rouge   21 Sept 1971 LA St. Arthropod Museum
St. Tammany Parish Abita Springs  09 Oct ???? per Brou 2003
St. Tammany Parish Abita Springs  10 Nov ???? per Brou 2003
St. Tammany Parish Abita Springs  30 Nov ???? per Brou 2003

Brou, V.A., Jr. 2003. Ascalapha odorata (L.) and Thysania zenobia (Cram.) in Louisiana. Southern Lepidopterists' News 25(3): 91. Full PDF

Mississippi Records

Appriximately 20 BWMs were seen in Mississippi after TS Cindy made landfall on July 5, 2005. I've only found one MS BWM prior to 2005.

See discussion of Tropical Storm Cindy

Harrison Co. Gulfport 05 July 2005 fresh female, clipped male, photos (seen by MAQ)
Jackson Co. Ocean Springs 6-8 July 2005 ~10, photos of many (seen by MAQ)
Harrison Co. Long Beach 07 July 2005 male observed   
Harrison Co. Gulfport 05 July 2005 2 males, 2 females, in fig tree, pix (seen by MAQ)
Harrison Co. Biloxi  08 July 2005 "multiple males and females" 
Harrison Co. Pass Christian  10 July 2005 female, photo (seen by MAQ)

Jackson Co.
Ocean Springs 30 Aug 2005
BugGuide Photo

Jackson Co. Gautier 16 Sept 2011
BugGuide Photo
Jackson Co. Ocean Springs 26 Sept 2003
fresh male, photo

     Kansas Records

     There are five Black Witch specimens (with labels) in the Kansas State University Museum of Entomological and Prairie Arthropod Research (KSU-MEPAR), a collection begun in 1879 and estimated to contain approximately 824,000 total specimens. Of the five Ascalapha specimens, the most recently collected was from 1939! In less than 30 days in 2004, six were reported from Kansas! Four more were reported in 2005. Howe also collected Black Witch moths at bait in Ottawa, Kansas which I don't have data for.

June  6
July  8
Aug. 1
Sept. 0
Oct. 2

Hamilton Co. Syracuse 11 June 2004
Crawford Co.Cherokee12 June 2005
Saline Co.Salina 14 June 2005
Ellis Co.Hays20 June 2012
Ellis Co. Hays 22 June 2004
Clarke Co.
25 June 1934 KSU-MEPAR Coll

Sumner Co. Milton 02 July 2004
Finney Co. Garden City 03 July 2004
Riley Co. Manhattan 04 July 2004 Two records
Riley Co. Manhattan 06 July 1939 KSU-MEPAR Coll
Riley Co. Manhattan 09 July 1912 KSU-MEPAR Coll
Crawford Co.Pittsburg20 July 2005
Hamilton Co. Syracuse 27 July 1925 KSU-MEPAR Coll

Riley Co.Manhattan07 Aug 1929

Sedgwick Co.Wichita 07 Oct 2005
Riley Co. Manhattan 10 Oct 1931 KSU-MEPAR Coll

Nebraska Records

     Similar to Kansas' holdings, there are four Black Witch specimens in the Division of Entomology at the University of Nebraska State Museum, a collection of 2 million pinned specimens. The first record from 2004 closely matches the historical first record for Nebraska.

June  1
July  4

Hall Co. Grand Island 30 June 2004

Platte Co. Columbus  01 July 1958 UN State Museum
Lancaster Co. Lincoln 03 July ???? UN State Museum
Lancaster Co. Lincoln 18 July 1965 UN State Museum
Lancaster Co. Lincoln 23 July 1931 UN State Museum

Colorado Records

     Ray Stanford (Lepidopterists' Society Coordinator for Colorado, pers. comm., 2004) reports "All in all, I think we have about 20 distinct Colorado records, from both east and west slopes, and from NM to WY. Perhaps 10 of the 64 counties." I only have the specifics on a portion of the Colorado records:

June  2
July 6
Aug. 1

Garfield Co. New Castle 11 June 2004
Weld Co.  Greeley  14 June 2004  Photo (seen by me)

Lake Co. Leadville  04 July 1892* Collected in a snow storm!
Jefferson Co. Indian Gulch 04 July 1999  Clear Creek Canyon
La Plata Co. 3 mi NW Bayfield 08 July 2004 Pine River
Boulder Co. Louisville  15 July 2004
Boulder Co. Lafayette  16-17 July 2004 Photo (seen by me)
Teller Co. Big Spring Ranch  ?? July 1984

Pueblo Co. Pueblo  30 Aug 1968

*This is the earliest U.S. record that I've found.

Wyoming Records

     The data from the five Black Witch specimens (collected before 2004) in the University of Wyoming Insect Museum, a collection with holdings estimated at more than a quarter of a million specimens, are a bit different from those collected in Nebraska, Kansas, and Illinois in that they were all collected in one county  and primarily in the 1990s.

     The male collected on 05 July 1995 in Laramie had a wingspan of a mere ~ 9.5 cm or about 3.7 inches!!!

June  1
July  6
Aug. 1

Albany Co. Laramie (1 mi east) 28 June 1991 Male, at black light trap, UW Insect Museum

Albany Co. Laramie 01 July 1993 Male, UW Insect Museum
Albany Co. Laramie 05 July 1995 Male, UW Insect Museum
Sheridan Co. Sheridan 12 July 2004 Female, worn, UW Insect Museum
Teton Co. Jackson 14 July 2004 Male, fresh
Sublette Co. Daniel 25 July 2004 Male, Photo (seen by me)
Albany Co. Laramie 28 July 1993 Male, UW Insect Museum

Albany Co. Laramie 07 Aug 1946 Male, UW Insect Museum

California Records

     These data were drawn from a variety of sources. The pre-2004 records are primarily from the California Moth Specimen Database. Black Witch records averaged slightly less than two per decade from the 1950s through the 1990s. Records since late June 2004 occurred about once a week. The first record of 2004 preceded by three weeks the earliest specimen record. Surprisingly, only two of the eleven records are from the same county, Sacramento. Three-fifths of all records are from July. 

     There is an undated specimen in the Los Angeles County Museum from Santa Cruz Island

     In 2004, The Orange County Register ran a front page story on the Black Witch which generated 37 reports not yet included here. Dates ranged from August 12 to about two months prior. The following cites generated BWM reports based on the ORC article:

Orange County: Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Dana Point, Fountain Valley Fullerton, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Rancho Santa Margarita, Santa Ana, Westminster

Los Angeles County: La Mirada, Lakewood, Long Beach

San Diego County: Coronado

Del Norte County: Crescent City

June 5 
July 14 ~80
Aug. 12
Sept. 3
Oct. 2

San Diego Co.

11 June 2012
Orange Co.Fullerton23 June 2004
Tulare Co.Dinuba28 June 1958UC-Davis
Sta. Barbara Co.Santa Barbara29 June 2004Somewhat worn female, photos
San Joaquin Co. Stockton
30 June 2000 California Moth Specimen Database

Sacramento Co.Cosumnes River Pres.02 July 2004Male (location is south of Sacramento)
San Francisco Co.San Francisco 05 July 2004Male, worn
Apparent onset of BMW migration in CA, possibly resulting from 2nd generation of moths in Mexico
Contra Costa Co. Kensington 13 July 1973 California Academy of Sciences
Riverside Co.w. of Palm Springs 16 July 2004Female, somewhat worn, elev. 4176'
Nevada Co. Alta Sierra 17 July 2001 Female, 2400', LepSoc Season Summary
Sacramento Co.Sacramento18 July 1973LepSoc Season Summary
Humboldt Co. Kneeland 18 July 2001
Yolo Co.east Davis24 July 1982LepSoc Season Summary
San Bernardino Co. Upland 27 July 2008 BugGuide photo
Sacramento Co. Sacramento  28 July 2004 American River College, Bio. Dept.
Santa Clara Co. San Jose
29 July 2006 BugGuide photo
Los Angeles Co. Venice
30 July 2005 BugGuide photo
Orange Co. Costa Mesa 31 July 2004 photo
San Diego Co. Lemon Grove 31 July 2008 BugGuide photo

Orange Co. Laguna Beach 03 Aug 2004
LepSoc Season Summary
Ventura Co.Ventura City04 Aug 1991180', T. Dimock
San Diego, Orange, and LA counties
07 Aug 2008 ~ 40 reports triggered by OCR article
San Mateo Co.San Bruno Mtns08 Aug 1983Male, California Academy of Sciences
Kern Co.

09 Aug 2012
San Diego, Orange, and LA counties
12 Aug 2004
~ 37 reports triggered by OCR article
Riverside Co. Palm Desert
13 Aug 2008 BugGuide photo
Los Angeles Co. Torrance 13 Aug 2010 BugGuide photo
San Diego Co. Mira Mesa 15 Aug 2009 BugGuide photo
San Diego Co.
15 Aug 2012 2 - BAMONA
Los Angeles Co.
25 Aug 2012 BAMONA
Los Angeles Co. San Pedro 26 Aug 2012 BugGuide photo
San Diego Co. San Diego
26 Aug 2010 BugGuide photo

Mariposa Co.near Mariposa?? Sept 1984LepSoc Season Summary
Alameda Co.Berkeley11 Sept 1963California Insect Survey
Alameda Co.
17 Sept 2011

San Diego Co.San Diego11 Oct 1958Female, SDNHM
Los Angeles Co.Artesia30 Oct 1991Photo (seen by MAQ)

Hawaii Records

     The first Black Witch moth from Hawaii was observed in 1928 (Sewezy & Bryan, 1929). James Snyder (pers. comm., 2004) reports that the Black Witch Moth is now very common in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (Big Island):  "They frequently perch on my garage door or house eves. I see both males and females almost every day."  

     Bernarr Kumashiro (Insect Taxonomist, Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture, Pers. Comm., 2004) writes:

     Since larvae come out at night to feed on foliage, and hide under bark during the day, it is difficult to assess population levels. I'm not sure if anyone has light traps set up which may occasionally collect adults. Generally speaking, though, no one usually complains about their monkeypod or shower tree being chewed up by something. In the 70's when I looked for Melipotis indomita, also found hidden in the bark, I rarely came across A. odorata larvae. My guess is that they are almost always at low levels on Oahu. Probably the same for the neighbor islands.

Illinois Records

     Illinois Natural History Survey Insect Collection (INHS) currently houses over 6 million curated specimens, yet the date and number of in-state A. odorata specimens therein are surprisingly similar to the dates and number in the to those in Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. The most recently collected Black Witch specimen in the INHS is from 1930 vs. 1939 in the KSU-MEPAR. The first 2004 record matched the historical first record for Illinois, July 11th.

July  7
Aug. 3
Sept. 1
Oct. 1

Cook Co.  Chicago  10 July 2004 Male, photos, (seen by me)
Lee Co. Lee Center 11 July 1910 (specimen in INHS Collection)
Cook Co. River Grove 11 July 2004 Female, fresh, sight record
Cook Co. Chicago 14 July 1907 (specimen in INHS Collection)
Stephenson Co. Freeport 16 July 1978 slightly worn male, at commercial light
Marshall Co. Lacon 30 July 1926 (specimen in INHS Collection)
Cook Co. Chicago (north side) 31 July 2002 Lep. Soc. Season Summary

Union Co. Alto Pass 10 Aug 1996 Lep. Soc. Season Summary
Stephenson Co. Freeport 14 Aug 1976 very worn male, at commercial lights
Marshall Co. Lacon 20 Aug 1930 (specimen in INHS Collection)
Champaign Co. Urbana  11 Sept 1930 (specimen in INHS Collection)
Jefferson Co. 2 miles se of Belle Rive 23 Oct 2004 fresh female under garage eave, photos

     *The INHS holds another five specimens collected outside of Illinois.

Wisconsin Records

     The follow records primarily provided by Leslie A. Ferge, Coordinator of the Midwest: Zone for the Lepidopterists' Society's Season Summary. Most records are from August which fits with the state's northern latitude.

June 1
July 1
Aug. 3
Sept. 1

St. Croix Co. Hudson 16-17 June 2005 Pix of early northernmost record
Brown Co. Green Bay 01 Jul 1985 Specimen at Univ. of Wisconsin
Milwaukee Co. Glendale  04 Aug 1971 
Grant Co. Cassville  09 Aug 1986  Collected at sugar bait 
Milwaukee Co. West Allis  14 Aug 1999
Madison Co. Douglas Solon Springs  24 Sep 1994 Collected at UV light 

Michigan Records

     All the BWM records from 1960 and earlier listed below are from the Albert J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection (ARC) at Michigan State University, a collection established in 1867, which now holds more than 2 million pinned specimens, though only about 185,000 lepidoptera specimens. Only two of the post-1960 records are from MSU's ARC.

June  2
July 5
Aug. 3
Sept.  3
Oct. 1

Midland Co. 04 June 1947
Livingston Co. 22 June 2005
Ingham Co. 15 July 1995
St. Clair Co. 21 July 1949
Van Buren Co.  24 July 2004
Muskegon Co. 25 July 2004
Ingham Co. 30 July 1919
Livingston Co. 10 Aug. 1960
Chippewa Co.  22 Aug 2000
Eaton Co. 25 Aug. 1953
Kent Co.   01 Sept. 1999
Macomb Co. 09 Sept. 1940
Kent Co. 10 Sept 1999
Houghton Co.
25 Sept. 2015
Genesee Co. 26 Oct. 1998

Ohio Records

     The following records are primarily from The Ohio Lepidopterists, with support from the Division of Wildlife of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The May 19th record is exceptionally early. Most records are from July and August.

May 1
June 0
July 5
Aug. 4
Sept. 1
Oct. 1

Jackson Co. Jackson 19 May 1937 (Probably human assisted)
Lucas Co.Maumee Bay St Pk07 July 2012worn f., pix (seen by MAQ)
Ottawa Co. South Bass Island 16 July 1941
Wayne Co. Wooster 18 July 1977 Ohio Ag. R & D Center
Cuyahoga Co. Bay Village 21 July 1986
Miami Co. Tipp City 29 July 200 female
Ross Co. Tar Hollow State Park 04 Aug 1988
Athens Co. Athens 10 Aug 1957
Franklin Co.  Worthington  16 Aug 2005 female, fairly fresh, photo 
Lake Co. Painesville 25 Aug 1993
Franklin Co. Columbus 13 Sept 2001
Franklin Co. Columbus 05 Oct 1901 OSU Insect Collection

Canada Records

     Over 40 Black Witch records from Canada, dating back to about 1900, have been passed on to me. (Not all of which are yet posted on the record compilation page.) Early and late Canadian records are July 14th (Spruce Brook, NF) and October 18th (Scarborough, ON) respectively. Don Lafontaine provided label data of 14 specimens in the The Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, a collection of some 16 million specimens! Alan Wormington, Editor Point Pelee Natural History News, reported nine occurrences at Point Pelee National Park, Ontario, between 1993 and 2001. Jeffrey P. Crolla of the Toronto Entomologist's Association provided numerous other records.

     The distribution of records across Canada's southern provinces suggest a high degree of observer bias, where most records are reported from provinces with the highest human populations, which are not necessarily where the highest number of stray moths occur. In particular, the high number of reports from Ontario is strongly influenced by records from Point Pelee NP, the southernmost point in Canada, often referred to as Canada's "banana belt!" In addition to its southern latitude (equal to California's northernmost latitude!), it's also frequented by tens of thousands of birders and other naturalists annually. 

Black Witch Moth - BWM - Ascalapha odorata - female This is the female Black Witch Moth collected August 18, 2006 on a rocky headland jutting out into Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada by the Barcode of Life Initiative.
This specimen represents the northernmost Black Witch Moth ever collected, displacing an individual found near Juneau Alaska in 1957!

Canadian records by month

June 2
July 18
Aug. 18
Sept. 5
Oct. 1

Canadian records by Province - west to east

British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec New
Nova Scotia Newfoundland
2 7 1 2 25 4 0 3 2

Alaska Record

     A female Black Witch in "excellent condition" was found on October 4, 1957 at Auke Bay, 12 miles north of Juneau, Alaska (Spangler, 1957).

     Juneau is one of the northernmost significant population centers.

Spangler, P.J. 1957. A record of the black witch, Erebus odora (Noctuidae), in Alaska. The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 11(6): 205.

Florida Records

     Black Witches are resident in south Florida (Covell 1985), however that population is apparently non-migratory. Kimball (1965) compiled the most thorough list of Florida Lepidoptera of the time, reporting scattered records from some 72 private and 34 institutional collections.

     Kimball listed the collection holding the specimen and the month it was collected specimen. According to Kimball, regular collecting in Florida began in 1875. The American Museum of Natural History launched four entomological expeditions to Florida between 1911 and 1914. The published results of those expeditions formed one of the main literature sources that Kimball drew upon. He also searched the relevant entomological journals for Lepidoptera records from Florida.

     Kimball geographically organized the records he reported by "Distributional Areas" based on (with slight modifications) the regions delineated by West & Arnold (1952). The following graphic is nearly identical to Kimball's Distributional Areas with the exception that Regions V-VIII are lumped in with Region IV. Interestingly, Kimball listed no records for the Keys, but one A. odorata record from the Dry Tortugas in July by W.M. Davidson!

     Here I list the cities, months and quotes concerning each A. odorata record Kimball found. They are segmented by each of the four main regions he identified.

Region I

Escambia Co.: Warrington  (far west panhandle): 
"five late summer"

Map of Florida divided into four regions

Region II

Alachua Co.: Gainesville (south-central Reg. II): 
June, July, Sept, Nov. "appears to be rare in this area"

Region III

Hillsborough Co.: Tampa, St. Petersburg
(SW corner of Reg. III): August.

Region IV
(includes V-VIII)

Various locations: Every month except March

     That the Black Witch is rare north of south Florida is exemplified by the fact that all of Kimball's records north of Region IV fall into only three counties. Given the date and the location of the panhandle records, they are most likely the product of a late season southward migration rather than having originating in south Florida. Indeed, the majority of the records from Regions II and III could be the product of late season south bound individuals.

     That this insect population is non-migratory in south Florida is actually to be expected. Winged animals born on an island (or a peninsula) and having the genetic impulse to travel are less likely to contribute their genes to the next generation than are the individuals that don't have the impulse to travel, thus an island bound-population is likely to become sedentary or even flightless over time as the non-traveling individuals contribute more of their genes to the succeeding generations than do the emigrating individuals.

     In contrast to Kimball's absence of Florida Key records, Ron Gatrelle reported the following observation:

The only [Black Witch moths] I've seen alive were on Key Largo. It was mid afternoon (back in the early 70s when one could collect just about anywhere there) and the mosquito plane flew over the hammocks on the west side of the road to spraying their load. As soon as the mist hit the trees dozens if not scores of Black Witches could be seen (indeed like bats) scurrying out of the hammocks zig zagging a bit and heading to the east side. A sight not soon forgotten. Those who have been on north key largo know there is the one road that runs straight down the center and thus one could see way down the road as the plane passed and moths got out of Dodge. Or.... dodged.

Georgia Records

     Georgia Museum of Natural History, the largest insect collection in Georgia with "over 1.1 million pinned specimens" (pers. comm. C. L. Smith, 2009), has only four Ascalapha odorata specimens from GA. The first was collected in 1953, the next two in the fall of 1971. Five additional records were provided by Jame Adams, Georgia Lepidoptera in 2009.

     Given these numbers, there's really no significant migration of Black Witches north out of Florida.


Columbia Co.Evans19 June 2012
Clarke Co. Athens 15 July 1953
Whitfield Co.Carbondale19 July 1995
Fulton Co.Atlanta26 July 2009
Clarke Co.
02 Aug 2005
Clarke Co. Athens 12 Aug 2002
Fulton Co.Atlanta23 Aug 1996
Fulton Co. Atlanta 19 Sept 1971
Whitfield Co.Rocky Face23 Sept. 1997
Fulton Co. Atlanta 04 Oct 1971
Whitfield Co.Carbondale 17 Oct 2003
Whitfield Co.Carbondale19 Oct 2011
Chatham Co.
26 Oct 2015

Other Southeastern States

     Similar to the low number of BWM records known from north Florida and Georgia, I have only found a paucity of BWM records the following states:

Missouri 4
Kentucky  10
Virginia  2
Arkansas 5
Tennessee 1
North Carolina  6
Mississippi 1
Alabama 6
South Carolina 4

     Amazingly, southeastern Canada has a comparable number of BWM records as have been recorded in the southeastern U.S. (not including KY).

     Note that Tropical Storm Cindy (2005) dramatically increased the number of Southeastern U.S. BWM records

Kentucky Records

    Charles Covell brought to my attention that the KY Butterfly Net Database reports 9 records for Kentucky as of July 2009. LepSoc Seson Summary added a record from Oct.


Bahamas Reports

From: curtis and jacqueline campaigne [campaigne at] 
Sent: Wed 10/13/2004 12:22 PM 
Subject: Bahamas - Records of the Black Witch Moth 

Hi, I live in Cat Island, Bahamas, and we have an awful lot of your moths here. They are locally known as Money Moths or Moneybats, and the legend is that if they land on you, you come into money. They are very common, and although they are more frequent in March and September, they are more or less an all year resident here. After hurricane Frances and Jeanne, the winds were primarily from the northeast, and that kept the moneybats away from the homes on the west coast of the island. (There are no homes on the east coast). Yesterday, however, when the wind changed and we got southerly winds again, they came back with a vengeance. Hundreds of moneybats invaded the houses , and the Mockingbirds had a field day. The Mockingbirds seem to love the moths, and pick them off the decks and porches in the morning.

I do have some pictures, so if you want some more, please tell me.

Yours, Jacqueline Campaigne Orange Creek Cat Island, Bahamas


From: thompson john [houndfish at] 
Sent: Mon 9/20/2004 4:13 PM 
Subject: Bahamas - Black Witches 

Hello, I am a natural history enthusiast from Nassau, Bahamas. I ran into your website while trying to find information on a most interesting black witch (here they are called "moneymoths" or "moneybats") behaviour that I witnessed last night. I collect native Bahamian trees and I have a tree locally known as "anaconda", or to Florida Keys residents, "Geiger tree". This tree (Latin name Cordia sesbestena) suffers from heavy attacks by the larvae of a tortoise beetle, and as far as I know the tree is the one and only host plant. I do not spray them, as the adult beetles are quite beautiful in metallic green and gold. The beetle larvae are much less attractive, and are capable of much damage. They eat the soft leaf tissue and exude a sticky secretion which may build up around them as a thick film. I would guess the solution to be sweet like aphid honeydew, but have no burning desire to taste it. 

Anyway, last night I was outside with a flashlight and I noticed 7 moneybats on the smallish tree, sucking the larval beetles' secretions. They were not even fazed at close inspection under bright light. Have you ever heard of this? Moneybats are very abundant here and are considered good luck, with a windfall of wealth not far away if they settle in your house.

Request for Help

Please report new BWM county records to
Please include date, location (distance to nearest town) & county of record.
Also please include sex, condition of moth & prevailing weather conditions.
Please send medium resolution photo if possible. Thanks, Mike


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Additional Publications on North American Migratory Insects

24 Aug 2007 Š Mike Quinn / / Texas Entomology