Moths of the Amazon
Superfamily - NOCTUOIDEA
Family - EREBIDAE
subfamily - CALPINAE
Letis caligula, Villa Rica, Peru ©
Noctuoidea is split into 6 families i.e. Erebidae, Noctuidae,
Notodontidae, Euteliidae, Nolidae and Oenosandridae. The Erebidae
comprises of 18 subfamilies of which 9 are represented in the
neotropical region: Arctiinae, Calpinae, Erebinae, Lymantriinae,
Rivulinae, Anobinae, Hypeninae, Herminiinae and Eulepidotinae.
Most moths in the subfamily Calpinae have proboscises that are
modified to enable them to pierce and feed on fruit. They are
divided into 3 tribes - Phyllodini, Ophiderini and Calpini,
totalling about 400 known species worldwide.
There are 61 species in the genus Letis.
All are largish nocturnal moths with a wingspan of between about
8-12cms, and are confined to the neotropical region. They are
characterised by the pattern of dark wavy lines on a light brown
ground colour, and a pair of ocelli in the forewing discal cell.
Most species also have a wavy white post median line or band on the
forewings. The wing margins are scalloped in all species, and more
pronounced on the hindwings.
Moths in the closely related genus Ascalapha
are very similar but bear a large ocellus at the tornus of the
hindwing. One particular species Ascalapha
odorata is known as the Black Witch. In some Latin American
cultures it is considered bad luck - in Mexico for example of one of
these moths flies into the house of a sick person it is believed
they will die; while in Jamaica it is seen as an evil spirit
returning to inflict harm on the living. Strangely in other cultures
it is seen as a sign of good luck - in the Bahamas it is said that
if a Black Witch lands on you, you will come into money.
Another closely related species is the White Witch
Thysania agrippina, which has a similar
pattern, but a white ground colour. It measures as much as 32cms
across the wings, the greatest wingspan of any moth in the world (
there are other contenders for the title of largest moth -
Attacus atlas from south-east Asia
measures up to 30 cms across the wings but has a greater wing area
Letis caligula is distributed from Central America to
This species is found in forested habitats at altitudes between sea
level and about 1800m.
To be completed.
moths are commonly attracted to artificial lighting.