Largest moth I have seen

Phildeez(9b)August 18, 2013

Identified by a fellow forum member as a Black Witch,
Ascalapha odorata. I found this monster wedged in a pint glass in my garage! It was lifeless all day and then, sadly, it came to life later and damaged its wings flying around inside. I gave it to a buddy to pin, although it made me want to start a collection!

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Many moths are paralyzed by light and cannot move much during the daylight. This is what was going on c this moth. This is also why moths and other nocturnal insects seem "attracted" to porch lights. The wing muscles exposed to the light are weaker than the non-exposed muscles, causing the insect to fly in circles. The insect simply cannot get away.
Please, PLEASE reconsider your idea of "starting a collection".
As beautiful as they may seem, they take butterflies and other endangered insects out of the ecosystem.
I shudder at the thought of a Monarch or Atala in a collection!!!
Butterfly collections are no different than having animal heads on the wall.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 6:29AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Please don't pin that beautiful moth!


    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 10:39AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Serious butterfly collections are actually useful. When I say "serious," I mean ones where the butterflies are mounted properly, documented properly, stored in conditions that preserve them, and the collection is available to researchers. Butterfly collections are invaluable tools to researchers who are putting together studies/books on lepidoptera. The official guide on Ohio butterflies that was published in '92 constantly refers to information gleaned from many different butterfly collections the researchers personally looked at. The official guide corrected some known "facts" because the researchers found some "facts" were based on somebody else misidentifying a butterfly. Without the preserved collections, those corrections could not have been made.

I'm in no way suggesting everyone should start their own butterfly collection. A "serious" collection takes serious time. I had to put together a "serious" collection for an entomology class. Gobs of hours were involved. $ and a place to store it are considerations too. Not my cup of tea and I know the same would be true of almost all people.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:19AM
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I gave it to a biologist at UCD to pin, and I did not by any means want for the moth to get hurt. When I think of starting a bug collection I mean in situations like this, not to just go out and kill cool bugs for my collection. I was just unaware that it could be THAT lifeless simply because it is nocturnal, and when it came to life while i was out of the house it crashed around and damaged its wings (they were quite possibly damaged in the first place considering I found it stuck in a pint glass...) I took it outside and it was clearly unable to fly anymore. I definitely felt bad about it but I was just naive, not malicious. I definitely did not want it to die.

It was euthanized properly and is now mounted and going into a collection on campus.

I also wonder how close it was to the end of its lifespan, being that it was so large.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 5:06PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Moths and butterflies are as big when they first emerge from their cocoon or chrysalis as they'll ever be - they don't grow as flying adults.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 7:30PM
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Thanks for more bad news, Sherry. >.At least now I know if this happens again! that is quite amazing to me that this moth emerged at that size. Not often that you see bugs that large around here. Looks like something you would find in the South, or Africa haha.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 9:16PM
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Where did this lights / muscles story come from??

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:49PM
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I was wondering the same thing, but I know little to nothing about moths so I did not want to jump to conclusions. It seems entirely possible that moths "paralyze" in strong light, but the fact that the light is physically paralyzing them seems a bit far-fetched. I would love to know more!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:55PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

I want to second KC's post that collections are vital to providing information. I have both collector friends (academics) and non-collector friends. Some of my non-collector friends are so adamant about not collecting that they won't have anything to do with the collectors. I have contributed a few bugs to our local collection on campus. The purpose was to provide specimens that were missing. Also some species cannot be identified without a microscope or genetic study, so specimens are invaluable for researching and determining the species present in a certain area. Your specimen proves that the Black Witch was present in your area.

I also keep any butterflies that naturally die so that I can share them with children when I am doing presentations. I tell them up front that I don't collect. It's the people who buy online and bring in illegal specimens that bother me.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:00AM
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Scientists have done everything except put ketchup and mustard on moths, and no one knows why they are attracted to lights, but there are many theories. The spiraling-in flight pattern seems universal, but that would expose all the muscles to all the light.

Plus, most moths are not attracted to lights. If they all were, you wouldn't get much light out of a porch lamp in summer.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:42PM
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Found it in the UCD database. One sighting in Riverside (SoCal) at midnight in 1972 of an "ova from female" on an acacia tree. Maybe I should give them a call!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 11:17AM
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