Meaning of the Giant Black Moth in the Dominican Republic’s Culture

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Ascalapta adorata is the scientific name of the dreaded black moth, a nocturnal lepidopteran that has been carrying the burden of attracting death since pre-Hispanic times. 

It is a superstition, that is, to attribute to unknown, magical or mystical sources, certain facts that, in many cases become part of the culture of a certain human conglomerate.

Not in all cultures black butterflies are seen as omens; for example in the Bahamas they are assumed to be carriers of good news as it is believed that by landing on the person, they will attract money. 

In Texas, if the butterfly lands on the lintel of the house, it is possible to win the lottery and in Hawaii it is strongly believed that they are deceased who return to say goodbye, in the Dominican Republic it is also believed that they announce a visit.

I remember when I was a kid and there were giant black moth flying into the house, they scared me a lot because of their color and big size, sometimes I tried to take a stick to hurt them but my grandmother always told me not to hurt them.

She told me that those moths were visits from deceased family members who came to visit, to this day, even though I don’t consider myself a superstitious person I always remember her words.

In other countries it is also known as “butterfly of death or “the black witch”, its presence has always negative connotation and bad omen. 

It is understandable why this harmless butterfly causes an irrational fear in people, it is due to its large size, its dark color, its erratic way of flying and the fact that it is a night bug.

In Mesoamerican beliefs it was commonly believed to be related to death and evil omen. In Nahuatl their names were mictlanpapalotl (butterfly of the land of the dead), micpapalotl (butterfly of death), miquipapalotl (butterfly of bad luck) or tetzahupapalotl (butterfly of fright).

In its English form it is called black witch and even its scientific name, Ascalapha odorata, is derived from the demon Ascalaphus, the horticulturist of Hades, the king of the underworld in Greek mythology. 

This superstition has effectively materialized in the death of thousands of black butterflies.

Is the Black Moth dangerous?

Despite its intimidating appearance the giant black moth is totally harmless, it does not bite, and all parts of its structure are soft and fragile.

I even touched them when I was a child, their wings give off a kind of silky dust, my grandmother always told me not to touch them, because that dust could cause me a fever.

It is also possible that some people are sensitive to moths and may have skin allergies.

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