It’s a bird! It’s a bat! No, it’s a MOTH!

If you remember in our last Freak of the Week post, we linked our answer to the Archaeology blog and to Juli Six’s blog post titled “Reason #382 to work in a museum: Surprise Teeth”. Well here’s “Reason #383 to work in a museum: a Huge Moth”! Our volunteers Chris Krites, Bill Schultz and Curator Emeritus Bob Glotzhober have been working on cataloging and rehousing the large backlog of uncataloged Lepidoptera specimens in the natural history collections. We’ve been working mostly on the specimens with identifications, and have processed hundreds of Ohio moths and butterflies. On Monday we plowed into the many drawers of mostly unidentified exotic specimens that we were leaving for last. Most of these are not really suitable for the OHS collections, since they are non-Ohio species and don’t have a connection to an Ohio collector. But they do have great research potential for a large entomology collection such as at OSU’s Museum of Biological Diversity. So we’ve been transferring such specimens to OSU. But when we opened the drawer and saw this giant moth, we said (once the initial gasps were over) “This one stays HERE!”

Thysania agrippina moth

This big moth, Thysania agrippina, has many common names and all of them are quite fitting: White Witch, Great Grey Witch, Ghost Moth, and Great Owlet Moth. The most interesting thing about this moth is that it has the largest wingspan of any moth or butterfly in the world! The wingspan can be up to 12 inches! A few other moths may have a larger surface area but none have a greater wingspan. This huge moth is found in Central and South America, Mexico and can appear as a stray as far north as Texas. Our specimen has an old label, with the same handwriting and size as labels on other moths from the 1890s, and was collected in Brazil.

White Witch Moth compared with a Black-throated Green Warbler


Posted December 18, 2013

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