I just had an unexpected encounter with a black witch moth. I was outside working in the garden when it startled me and flew up to me and around my head. At first I thought it was a bat because it flies just like a bat. But bats generally do not fly during the day. As it flew away towards the oak tree I realized it was a large black moth.
Female moths can attain a wingspan of 24 cm. The dorsal surfaces of their wings are mottled brown with hints of iridescent purple and pink, and, in females, crossed by a white bar. The diagnostic marking is a small spot on each forewing shaped like a number nine or a comma. Photo by Charles J. Sharp, from Sharp Photography.
The moth, Ascalapha odorata, commonly known as the black witch, is a large bat-shaped, dark-colored nocturnal moth, normally ranging from the southern United States to Brazil. Ascalapha odorata is also migratory into Canada and most states of United States. It is the largest noctuoid in the continental United States.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascalapha_odorata)
I have to be honest, this encounter spooked me somewhat, one, because the flight pattern was so unusual, and second, I am aware of the tradition in many cultures that an encounter with this moth means impending death or misfortune. (In Spanish, the black witch is known as “mariposa de la muerte”.) It also doesn’t help that it is so close to Halloween.
The males are somewhat smaller, reaching 12 cm in width, darker in color and lacking the white bar crossing the wings. Photo by Charles J. Sharp, from Sharp Photography.
I decided to do some research and found out that black witch moths have also been credited with bringing good fortune. In the Bahamas the moth is known as the money moth, and if you see a black witch moth, the hope is that you’ll gain riches. And in south Texas, where I live, the black witch moth might be the prelude winning the lottery.
Fall is the perfect time to teach children about Monarch butterflies. Whether you are a teacher, parent or grandparent, here are nine books to read to young ones and help them discover the magical lives and migration of these amazing butterflies.
Monarch Butterflies by Ann Hobbie and Illustrated by Olga Baumert
With easy-to-read text and colorful, engaging illustrations, Monarch Butterfliespresents young readers with rich, detailed information about the monarch’s life cycle, anatomy, and the wonders of their migration, as well as how to raise monarchs at home and the cultural significance of monarchs in Day of the Dead celebrations. As the book considers how human behavior has harmed monarchs, it offers substantive ways kids can help make a positive difference. Children will learn how to turn lawns into native plant gardens, become involved in citizen science efforts such as tagging migrating monarchs and participating in population counts, and support organizations that work to conserve butterflies.
How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids by Carol Pasternak
If your children want to learn how to raise Monarch butterflies, this is the book you must have. Carol Pasternak, The Monarch Butterfly Crusader, has filled the book with colorful and detailed photos. She shares secrets to help you find eggs and caterpillars, then provides detailed instructions on how to feed Monarch caterpillars, as well as how to take of Monarch adults.
Gotta Go, Gotta Go written by Sam Swope and illustrated by Sue Riddle
This is a very fun book to read aloud to children, beginning with the monarch caterpillar chanting, “I don’t know much, but I know what I know. I gotta go! I gotta go! I gotta go to Mexico!” In simple, jaunty text and pictures, children will learn about the magical transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly and its fantastic journey to Mexico.
A young girl finds a monarch caterpillar and invites it to play with her but the caterpillar replies that he is much too busy. She observes the similarities between her and the caterpillar (including that they both need to eat and they both poop). Beautifully illustrated with large and detailed artwork of the monarch caterpillar’s metamorphosis from egg through caterpillar and chrysalis to butterfly.
Follow the transformation from a tiny white egg laid on a leaf to a brilliantly colored butterfly in this kid-friendly introduction to metamorphosis. With detailed, bright watercolors, Gail Gibbons illustrates the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, stage by stage, as it grows, changes, and takes flight.
A Hiding Place for a King by Anja Dhinagaran and illustrated by Anna Panchuk
Every child who loves to play Hide-and-Seek will enjoy reading this story about Mouse and Frog and Caterpillar who play Hide-and-Seek in a meadow of milkweed. When it is Caterpillar’s turn to hide it takes several days before Mouse and Frog discover his special hiding place.
Monarch Magic! Butterfly Activities & Nature Discoveries by Lynn Rosenblatt
Learn about the world of the monarch butterfly and milkweed habitat in this beautiful book with full-color photographs throughout. An excellent resource for parents and teachers with many learning activities. ~ “If there is a better book for children about butterflies, we haven’t seen it.” – National Parenting Center
Rhyming text in both English and Spanish along with lively illustrations showcase the epic journey taken by the monarch butterflies each year from Canada to Mexico. “Over mountains capped with snow, to the deserts down below.” Children will be delighted to share in the fascinating journey of the monarchs and be introduced to the people and places they pass before they finally arrive in the forests that their ancestors called home.