Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Photo: Jonathan Vandiveer, 2008. Black Witch Moth, Ascalapha odorata. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Last week, Jonathan Vandiveer, a Red Car Property neighbor, sent me the above photo of a giant moth he found dead on his porch last summer. You can almost hear the tiny women chanting "Mott-terrrr-iiiii-ya!"

I have never seen a moth with nearly a 7-inch wingspan in Los Angeles, let alone the neighborhood. So, I searched What's That Bug? and the LA County Natural History Museum Entomology Dept.'s "Common Insects of the LA Basin."

The Black Witch Moth is a common migrator through Los Angeles between Central America and Canada. They are nocturnal and fly like bats. (We also have brown bats in the neighborhood.) In Los Angeles, Black Witch Moths will breed and feed on acacia trees. (There's a big acacia tree that blooms with yellow flowers on the 2 Freeway across from 2517 Corralitas Drive.)

UPDATE 1-15-09: Neighbors at 2517 Corralitas report having seen these Mothras and their caterpillars for years, usually dead on their porch. They debated whether they were moths or butterflies. Mystery solved.

If you have photos of any neighborhood wildlife (including scary bugs), please send them to Diane Edwardson at with info pertaining to when, where and who took the photo as well as any other observations of the animal's behavior at the time. DO NOT attempt to pet or feed wildlife.

For more on urban wildlife, see City of Los Angeles Animal Services website.