Thysania agrippina is a species of moth in the family Erebidae. It was described by Maria Sibylla Merian in her 1705 publication Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, and Pieter Cramer provided the formal description of the species in 1776. The most commonly accepted English name is the white witch. Other common names include the ghost moth, great gray witch and great owlet moth. Thysania agrippina is of interest as a competitor for title of "largest insect". This may be true by the measure of wingspan—a Brazilian specimen with a wingspan of almost 30 cm (12 in) appears to hold the record. The Atlas moth and Hercules moth, however, have greater wing areas. The white witch occurs from Uruguay to Mexico, and appears as a stray as far north as Texas in the U.S. Collection dates shows no discernible pattern with respect to location or season.
One story of the derivation of the common name: early naturalists collected specimens of birds and bats with shotguns. An enormous darting flyer high in the canopy was a tempting target. Firing a cloud of pellets at a white witch moth did not necessarily bring it down, however, because the body is small relative to the wing area. The moth would sail along, an unkillable witch.This moth is of historical interest as the subject of a well-known painting by the artist Maria Sibylla Merian. Merian was an insightful naturalist who advanced the 18th-century understanding of insect life cycles; however, her depiction of the white witch life cycle does not match the actual biology of this species, as it depicts the larva of an unrelated moth.
Given the enormous geographic range of the adult, and observations that date back 300 years, it is striking that the immature life stages of this species have never been documented (notwithstanding the erroneous Merian painting). Long migratory flight is likely, given that the close relatives Thysania zenobia (the owl moth) and Ascalapha odorata (the black witch) are known for flights that reach far north of the host plant distributions. Based on the larval host plants recorded for the owl moth and black witch, the larval host plants for the white witch are probably also woody members of Fabaceae (subfamily Caesalpinioideae), possibly Senna and/or Cassia .
White Witch Watchis a project led by the lepidopterist David L. Wagner at the University of Connecticut, seeking to identify the immature stages of the white witch. A key strategy: to obtain a gravid female and attempt rearing on likely hosts. The participants maintain a website, and an active citizen science project on iNaturalist.
Conventionally, "white witch" refers to two very similar species of Thysania listed in the GBIF database:T. agrippina and T. pomponia (T. zenobia is a third morphologically distinct species). However, a 2016 publication proposes a new species among the subset of moths previously identified as T. agrippina. Thysania winbrechiini is differentiated from T. agrippina by morphological features and DNA evidence. T. winbrechiini is further categorized as containing two subspecies, and the authors also define a subspecies of T. agrippina, T. agrippina siriae, though considered by some to be of dubious validity in the case of this and several hundred other "Brechlin and Meister species", which are often proposed on the basis of DNA alone.
Caterpillars are the larval stage of members of the order Lepidoptera.
Lepidoptera is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths. About 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 families and 46 superfamilies, 10 percent of the total described species of living organisms. It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world. The Lepidoptera show many variations of the basic body structure that have evolved to gain advantages in lifestyle and distribution. Recent estimates suggest the order may have more species than earlier thought, and is among the four most speciose orders, along with the Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera.
Moths are a group of insects that includes all members of the order Lepidoptera that are not butterflies. They were previously classified as suborder Heterocera, but the group is paraphyletic with respect to butterflies and neither subordinate taxa are used modern classifications. Moths making up the vast majority of the order. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth, many of which have yet to be described. Most species of moth are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species.
A pupa is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation between immature and mature stages. Insects that go through a pupal stage are holometabolous: they go through four distinct stages in their life cycle, the stages thereof being egg, larva, pupa, and imago. The processes of entering and completing the pupal stage are controlled by the insect's hormones, especially juvenile hormone, prothoracicotropic hormone, and ecdysone. The act of becoming a pupa is called pupation, and the act of emerging from the pupal case is called eclosion or emergence.
Attacus atlas, the Atlas moth, is a large saturniid moth endemic to the forests of Asia. The species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae.
An instar is a developmental stage of arthropods, such as insects, between each moult (ecdysis), until sexual maturity is reached. Arthropods must shed the exoskeleton in order to grow or assume a new form. Differences between instars can often be seen in altered body proportions, colors, patterns, changes in the number of body segments or head width. After shedding their exoskeleton (moulting), the juvenile arthropods continue in their life cycle until they either pupate or moult again. The instar period of growth is fixed; however, in some insects, like the salvinia stem-borer moth, the number of instars depends on early larval nutrition. Some arthropods can continue to moult after sexual maturity, but the stages between these subsequent moults are generally not called instars.
Baculoviridae is a family of viruses. Arthropods, among the most studied being Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and Diptera, serve as natural hosts. Currently, 85 species are placed in this family, assigned to four genera.
Sattal or Sat Tal is an interconnected group of seven freshwater lakes situated in the Lower Himalayan Range near Bhimtal, a town of the Nainital district in Uttarakhand, India. During the British Raj, the area had a tea plantation, one of four in the Kumaon area at that time.
Maria Sibylla Merian was a German entomologist, naturalist and scientific illustrator. She was one of the earliest European naturalists to observe insects directly. Merian was a descendant of the Frankfurt branch of the Swiss Merian family.
The erebid moth Ascalapha odorata, commonly known as the black witch, is a large bat-shaped, dark-colored nocturnal moth, normally ranging from the southern United States to Brazil. Ascalapha odorata is also migratory into Canada and most states of United States. It is the largest noctuoid in the continental United States. In the folklore of many Central American cultures, it is associated with death or misfortune.
Athanasios Koutroumbas Insect Museum, also known as the Entomological Museum, is a museum in Volos, Magnesia, Greece.
Ardices canescens, the dark-spotted tiger moth or light ermine moth, is a moth in the family Erebidae that is found across most of Australia. It originally was included in the genus Spilosoma, but later the generic status of Ardices was proven.
Thysania is a genus of moths in the family Erebidae. The genus was erected by Johan Wilhelm Dalman in 1824.
The external morphology of Lepidoptera is the physiological structure of the bodies of insects belonging to the order Lepidoptera, also known as butterflies and moths. Lepidoptera are distinguished from other orders by the presence of scales on the external parts of the body and appendages, especially the wings. Butterflies and moths vary in size from microlepidoptera only a few millimetres long, to a wingspan of many inches such as the Atlas moth. Comprising over 160,000 described species, the Lepidoptera possess variations of the basic body structure which has evolved to gain advantages in adaptation and distribution.
The Erebinae are a subfamily of moths in the family Erebidae erected by William Elford Leach in 1815. Erebine moths are found on all continents except Antarctica, but reach their greatest diversity in the tropics. While the exact number of species belonging to the Erebinae is not known, the subfamily is estimated to include around 10,000 species. Some well-known Erebinae include underwing moths (Catocala) and witch moths (Thermesiini). Many of the species in the subfamily have medium to large wingspans, up to nearly 30 cm in the white witch moth, which has the widest wingspan of all Lepidoptera. Erebine caterpillars feed on a broad range of plants; many species feed on grasses and legumes, and a few are pests of castor bean, sugarcane, rice, as well as pistachios and blackberries.
Attacus is a genus of moths in the family Saturniidae. The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus in his 1767 12th edition of Systema Naturae.
Archips breviplicanus, the Asiatic leafroller, is a species of moth of the family Tortricidae. It is found in Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.
Thysania zenobia, the owl moth, is a species of moth in the family Erebidae. The species was first described by Pieter Cramer in 1776, and is native to North and South America and the Caribbean.
Dysaethria conflictaria, or Epiplema conflictaria, is a moth of the family Uraniidae first described by Francis Walker in 1861. It is found in Indo-Australian tropics of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia.