Friday, September 14, 2012

Silence of the Lambs

Ares Metalmark
I am fascinated by cultures.  Over the years, I've heard some strange things.  Here are some Mexican beliefs that are interesting. This is written by a Mexican American woman.  "A few years ago, an old lady told me something about Black Butterflies, that are big, are a symbol of death. It means someone is going to die if it attaches itself to a house. She told me there is hope however, one must kill the Black Butterfly, in order to avoid death. I'm really scared about this. I saw this huge black Butterfly on some lady's house and just a few days later she died."
 "Also, one time at my aunts house one of them butterflies(The Huge Black one) landed on right next to the door. My grandma killed it before it got away. Not long after that, someone shot my aunt twice and she survived. I have not much to go on this subject but it frightens me alot."
Dicogaster coronada
 "My mother has been feeling ill and she's very young at only 36. We are having a lot of family problems and my mother was outside by the pool earlier today...she was doing some chores and one of them Huge Black Butterflies flew out and near her.  When she went inside it retreated somewhere by the house. She was talking to one of my elder aunts and told her about it, the elder aunt warned her about the significance of the Black Butterfly (Which was very a small bird) and told her to kill it if she sees it again."
"I just got home from work(on my break) and my mom told me to look for it in my room- the Balcony outside of my room. I did, and sure enough, it was right there. It frightened me! I tried killing it but it flew off into the sky and then right back to my balcony. My mom ran upstairs and tried killing it but escaped and onto the roof. We have a two story house and I climbed from the balcony to the roof and searched for it and almost killed it but it flew off again. It flew off into the sky and I just hope it doesn't come back again..I know it sounds ridiculous but I beg for some helpful advice of anyone who might know anything? Witches, people who know about this sorta thing? please help If it flies away, is the Omen voided?"
Spring Azure butterfly
So many people believe these insects to be the signs of death.  And this isn't the first time I've heard of such things.  Id'ing moths is like trying to find a needle in a haystack but I do believe the moth that this young lady is describing is called the Black Witch Moth.  It's actually quite amazing.  Moths(and some butterflies) fight human superstition everyday with their own lives.
Gloveria arizonensis
They are such amazing creatures that come in all shapes and sizes.  I give credit to anyone who attempts at trying to ID them.  But going back to the topic of death, these insects are seen as evil in many cultures.  In movies like Silence of the Lambs or El Norte, they are used as symbols that reinforce these deadly views.
Apatelodes pudefacta (Type of Sphinx moth)
And that scares me more than anything else in this world.  Every species of plant, insect, mammal, bird, reptile, etc etc plays an important role.  So why feel the need to kill it? So my advice to this young lady is...."Don't kill the moth.  You'll be okay."
Carales arizonensis (a tiger moth;left) and Isabella Tiger Moth
This post seriously took hours to do and if I've ID'd incorrectly please let me know. I can label some things off from the top of my head by just looking at them.....not so much with this group:) I said to a volunteer, "There are a lot of moths out here today!"(as there had just been a recent rain).  She replied in a happy tone, "Oh you haven't seen anything!!!  Did you see this area outside?"  "Um, no."  I got outside and did an inner groan.  They are so cool to look at but I see hours of work researching their names afterwards......and so the photography was the easy part of this post.  Have you been in this situation?  You see cool stuff but fight the urge to not photograph because you'll have to ID later on(and you know it's going to be a bear!)
The Black Witch Moth
Luckily the moth that this young lady was describing is an easy answer.  The Black Witch Moth is awesome and found in the Southwestern part of the United States.  They live in Mexico.  They love drinking orange Fanta soda or rotten bananas.  It could be a cruel joke to play on supersticious people but I'd fear for the moths life and if we don't stop these crazy human thoughts, we're going to make them all go extinct.  More beauty on the way....


  1. These are grand insects. Thanks for posting.

  2. Muy interesante.. Siempre surge la leyenda y la fábula en torno al ser humano y lo que le rodea.. Un cordial saludo

  3. Because that Black Witch Moth is not as colourful and perhaps less attractive than some, you can see why many years ago it may have given rise to silly tales. But in these "enlightened" times there is no excuse for killing living creatures. It's a great picture you took Chris and so are the others.

  4. Beautiful pictures. I had a conversation once in El Centro California with a Mexican american man who had married a woman from the more southern Indian areas of Mexico. He told me they are more shackled to countless superstitions down there than above the border. He said weird things like Poltergeist sighting or experiences are common. Even that creepy celebration they do with Day of the Dead with all those skulls inside those caves courtesy of Aztec Religion. Someday such things will end for good.

  5. Wow, what a story. The butterflies and moths are beautiful. I do not believe in many superstitions but I can understand how some cultures have their beliefs. That's Ok with me too. Lovely photos, have a happy weekend!

  6. Never heard of this superstiction before. All along I knew the Black Witch was what you were talking about. I have only seen one Black Witch along the Virginia coast. Also have seen only one Zela Metalmark and that was in AZ. Enjoyed this post a great deal.

  7. So many lovely moths and butterflies in your area! What a shame so many people believe they are a sign of imminent death. Hmmm. We humans are so prone to believing superstitions.

  8. When is the time down there that the Monarchs come to sit a spell. That's what I want to see. I've heard it's in Mexico too.

  9. ooooh, that metalmark is beautiful!!
    so is the black witch!

    a couple of weeks ago, i saw a really small BLUE butterfly, but it wouldn't sit still long enough for a picture...i wonder if it was a blue azure!

    i love ALL butterflies & matter what color they are! i'm really not superstitious at all...i certainly wouldn't go around killing them.

    sometimes i think people 'convince' themselves of something...and in a way, bring it on!

    love ALL your pictures chris...have a great weekend!

  10. i had the pleasure of encountering one of these black witch moths in our barn a few years ago. huge an at first i thought it was a bat. i, too, read the lore about it being an omen of death. can't say that it was for me or mine.

  11. In our house we call superstitions "stuporstitions." Humans are a strange mix of the rational and irrational, it's funny how our brains allow both to exist at the same time. That last shot is bewitching, oops, better not say that :)

  12. How interesting! It's really beautiful even with the lore.

  13. It's amazing how these superstitions get started and carry on even into this age of computers and cell phones. Moths are easier for me to photograph than butterflies...they tend to stay in one place longer. But I am a slacker...I often just say something like, "isn't it pretty?" and don't worry about identifying them. You know a rose by any other name...blah blah blah. :) Hey, Happy Friday!

  14. Gosh what a story Chris, it's very hard to believe if you're not superstitious that something so beautiful could be the symbol of death, it has such beautiful markings. Let's hope they manage to survive this weird notion. It's a little like our problem here at the moment with sharks, we've had quite a few attacks and deaths this year, but really we can't just go and randomly kill sharks, it is after all their natural terrain, not ours.

  15. ¸.•°`♥✿彡✿♥`°•.¸
     ┊  ┊  ✿
     ┊  ✿
    Como são bonitas!
    Bom fim de semana!!!

  16. Those various moths, not to mention the black witch moth, are pretty creepy looking, and the way many fly (though not the black witch) is so erratic, often aggressive, one must wonder. Certainly freak me out! Funny how they get fear of death applied to their very existence!

  17. Great photos and I love the moths!!!!! :) These must be the ones that gave you such a headache over id! Well done for persevering! I know the feeling about not photographing over id worry! Many a time I have breathed a huge sigh of relief that a micro moth (they are really tiny and an id nightmare) has escaped and I don't need to worry re: id!!!! And these days I don't over bother myself with worn moths which are virtually impossible to put a name to.

    Sad about the superstitions leading to people killing these beautiful creatures :(

    Thanks so much for showing more of your moths - how many species do you have??

    1. Oh too many Robin....too many:) They have specialists here capturing and collecting these moths in the thousands. Which is a good thing...but still, it's a daunting task. I actually didn't take the full canvas of shots that I could have because I just didn't have time to ID all of them. Butterflies?...easy breeze compared to the moths. The cool part about the moth experiences though are that I've met some really cool moth experts and I think of you each time I talk to them wondering what kinds of questions you'd ask them. So these shots were for the moth people today:)

  18. I'd rather ID the bear. I did a moth shoot, once. Sure I don't know what most of them are. Yet this is better than carrying around a dozen field guides. All great captures.

  19. Your photos are great, and i feel sorry for the moths too because of superstitions. Maybe the Catholic countries have those superstitions, maybe brought by the old Spanish colonizers centuries ago, because we also have them. It is good we don't see many of the black moths or butterflies. By the way, that black witch moth is really scary!

    I also have much difficulties ID'ing moths. Few months ago I get many moth visitors in my 5th floor space, I wonder why tehy don't visit anymore when i already have a macro lens, haha!

  20. Hi Chris, I find this totally fascinating too. It doesn't really matter if it's true or not, I feel. If people believe it then it affects their lives - and ends the lives of the poor moth or butterfly!

  21. I love folklore. The American Indians and Central American Indians had such a colorful culture and beliefs. Like in all cultures, something black is usually the victim of superstition. Great shots. I marvel at the intricacy of the insect.

  22. Really wonderful post! Lots of research, but so much info that is fascinating, and the pictures are beautiful!

  23. apropos your header pic, South Africa battles with legends of owls as omens of death. The owls suffer.


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