The black witch (Ascalapha odorata) is the largest moth in the U.S. with a wingspan up to 7" in length. It has been recorded in all 50 states except New Hampshire, but is most common in the lower latitudes of the US and Caribbean. Black witch moths are primarily nocturnal and can be seen at night around lights, and due to their large size are frequently mistaken for bats. They can sometimes be seen seeking shelter under roof eaves or on the sides of buildings by day. They are completely harmless to people. Larval host plants include legumes such as cassia and acacia. More information on the Black Witch moth
Photographs: Dave Graff, Education Specialist
Black Witch Slideshow
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Female Black Witch moth seen last week behind the Environmental Learning Center
Black Witch Eyes
Close up of eyes, which are large for nighttime vision
Detail of eye spot
Female Black Witch
Female Black Witch blending in with a tree trunk at the Administration building seen in 2013
Larg black witch moth
Male Black Witch
Another male seen in January 2012
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A female black witch, spotted on the Administration building, August 2010
The grizzled mantis (Gonatista grisea) is relatively common in southwest Florida. It is an arboreal (tree dwelling) mantid with varied color but usually a mottled gray-green, and dorsally-compressed (appears flattened.) They are known to press themselves flat against a tree trunk or other surface, as if to mimic lichen. Like their cousins, the preying mantis, they are predators of other arthropods.
The pipevine, or gold rim swallowtail (Battus polydamas sp) surprisingly doesn't even have a swallowtail! The second common name, gold rim swallowtail, is likely derived from the yellow scales that form a line near the edge of the dorsal side of each black wing. The pipevine swallowtail, a Florida native, earns its primary common name from its affinity for pipevine plants, such as the non-native ornamental dutchman's pipe, upon which it deposits groups of eggs.
The salt marsh mosquito (Ochlerotatus taeniorhynchus) is one of forty species of mosquitoes found in Collier County. It does not transmit diseases, but is considered a major biting nuisance in coastal areas. Both male and female salt marsh mosquitoes feed on plant juices, however, the female requires a blood meal to produce eggs. The eggs are laid and develop into larvae in the water, making them an important food source for juvenile fish. Although they have many aquatic predators, the salt marsh mosquito survives in large numbers, making it one of three mosquito species targeted by the Collier Mosquito-Control District.
The zebra longwing butterfly (Heliconius charitonius) has black, narrow wings boldly striped with yellow bands and small yellow spots. It is known to roost in large congregations at night or during rain events. The caterpillar is gray to white with dark spots, and eats the foliage of the passion vine. The zebra longwing, known as the state butterfly of Florida, is found in abundance in tropical hardwood hammocks.