The 'Money Bat' or Black
Some animals and
plants gain their place in folklore merely by their appearance. The
Money Bat, Bat Moth or Black Witch is just one of these. A spectacular
giant among moths, the Money Bat may not be seen for months or even
years, and then a number may be seen in quick succession. Of course,
this moth is not a bat, but has been so named in the Bahamas because of
its large size and its fluttering flight which resembles that of a bat.
Like most moths, it is a nocturnal flyer, often resting during the day
under the eaves of buildings or even inside houses.
In Cat Island, it is said
that if a Money Bat lands on you, then you will come into money.
Similarly, in parts of Texas, the story is similar - that you will
win the lottery! In Central America, and in particular Mexico, the
folklore is quite different. The Aztecs knew the 'Money Bat' as the
Butterfly of Death, mariposa
de la muerte - probably because of its dark colour.
There are a number of other superstitions
associated with this moth, but they are just that superstition - with no
basis in fact whatsoever. This Money Bat is totally harmless, it
cannot bite, sting, or carry disease. Like other moths and butterflies,
it has no mouth as such, but a long thin coiled tube under its head
called a proboscis, which it uses to suck plant nectar from flowers.
The Money Bat is found from
Brazil as far north as Texas and Florida, with the largest population
probably being in Mexico. It can migrate great distances - especially
with the wind behind it. In 2003, Hurricane Claudette brushed the
Yucatan peninsula , passed Jamaica and then crossed the Gulf of Mexico,
making landfall in Texas. Hundreds of Money Bats were seen in the eye of
the hurricane and it is believed that they were carried to Texas by the
winds of the hurricane. Although rarely seen they have been reported
from many other states, and I have recently (August 2005) had reports of
Money Bats from as far north as Ontario in Canada.
The Money Bat breeds in the Bahamas,
and many of the
caterpillar's food plants such as Cassias, Acacias, and the Mango are
found throughout the islands. The caterpillar is almost two and a half
inches long and has very prominent orange coloured spiracles or
breathing holes along its body.
have had a report
from 'John' on Eleuthera, that these big caterpillars feed on Fig leaves
there. Please let me know if you have seen these caterpillars on your island.
The Money Bat and many of
its close relatives have very acute hearing, and can hear the sounds
made by Bats up to a frequency of 100 kilocycles a second. As Bats
are predators of this moth, this obviously has great survival value. In
the bush near the Fox Hill Blue Hole one August, I disturbed several
Money Bats from their roosts when I was often many yards away from them.