The Chesapeake Central Library where I work held its annual “Monsterfest” program on October 5. On that day the library was filled with horror and supernatural enthusiasts, vendors, speakers, and panelists, many of them dressed up as their favorite monsters, ghouls, manga characters, and an impressive array of otherworldly creatures. It’s was quite an event!
The evening before Monsterfest (coincidence…?) a huge, dark moth appeared on the library building and it remained there for the duration of Monsterfest. It remained inconspicuous in the shadows, but one of our library staff saw it and showed it to me. I had never seen anything like it, in person or in any Virginia nature publications, and I had never heard of any Virginia moth that was as big as this one. Confused, I did some research and identified it as — are you ready? — a Black Witch Moth! It is also sometimes call a Bat Moth because it is so big and dark that it can look like a bat. How appropriate for Monsterfest day! This individual is an adult male, and he is in surprisingly good condition considering the distance he traveled to get here:
What makes this moth’s appearance even more “spooky” is that it is extremely rare in Virginia, with only a handful of historic records of its occurrence here. The moth’s home is in Central America and Mexico, and in most years they move into southern Texas. Once the rainy season hits Texas in June, the moths sometimes wander further north into the United States and are mostly recorded in Texas, Florida, and the far southern states through October.
During outbreak years when the moths disperse north in larger numbers than usual, a few individuals have been recorded as far north as Canada, although they still are extremely rare north of Texas. As stated above, Virginia has only a small handful of historic records of the moth’s occurrence. A few might enter Virginia every few years, but only 3 or 4 (?) have ever been documented.
So the Black Witch that came to the Chesapeake Library for Monsterfest was a very big deal! I photographed it and have sent photos and details to Steven M. Roble, Ph.D., staff zoologist at the