15 July 2009

"she's a witch!"

It's not often that an authentic witch shows up at your front door. Surely there's some implication of doom and black cat type superstition, but until then... "SHE'S A WITCH!"

Monty Python aside, the Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) is a ginormous moth that isn't entirely well known. Not that any moths are, really. But with a name as ominous as Black Witch, it's pretty neat that this could be a first county record for McLennan Co. Now back to why she's a witch - she's HUGE. The size of my hand type HUGE. You're laughing, because I have small hands. But this is a moth we're talking about here. The female of the species has a double/triple lined "v" of scalloped white down both wings, the male is all dark.

She doesn't look like a witch. Perhaps she weighs the same as a duck, but Matt and I were unable to verify. We were also unable to determine whether or not she was made of wood, but she didn't turn either of us into a newt. No floating experiments were performed, either. I know, shoddy use of the scientific method, eh? This paragraph might as well confirm that she's not a witch (by conventional testing, anyway).

Mike Quinn is a fellow who has been keeping track of Black Witch records in Texas and has quite an in-depth site: texasento.net. One of his pages is devoted to our new moth friend, it's an interesting read for anyone so inclined - documentation of an enigma.

My first encounter with a Black Witch was in the fall of 2002, the only other I'd seen until this one. Said critter was seen on the main building at the Texas City Prairie Preserve, where I was volunteering with the Attwater's Prairie Chicken folks. It's in Galveston County - so the BWM map illustrates coastal normalcy for sightings. Somewhere I probably still have a picture of it, he was a male that didn't show obvious signs of wear and he made quite the impression on me.

She was only around for a few hours that we're aware of, but I'd like to think that her fate will be less dramatic than the Waved Sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa) that we had in the yard - it was also a candidate for first county record, but it only came to our attention after Matt's father watched it get thrashed and snacked upon by a Northern Mockingbird.

Indeed, such is the world in witch we live. Er, which. In which we live...

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