23 Feb 2015 - The interview in this post is a description of what I do as a Hartford CT educator, and how that connects to the white witch through Dave Wagner and James Prosek.
23 Feb 2015 - A friend with access to obscure online journals found me the text of A new species of Thysania allied to T. agrippina, K. Jordan, in the 1924 Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London. "Dr. K. Jordan exhibited some specimens of the large American noctuid T. agrippina ... and said 'the specimens belong to two distinct species.'" He then describes the distinguishing features of body and wing coloration, as well as of the male genitalia. He suggests that T. pomponia may be limited to SE Brazil, which would help explain its scarcity in the collection record (the only specimens of which I am aware are in the British Museum).
Jordan also states that the "true larva [of T. agrippina], discovered by Rev A. Miles Moss at Para, is marked with numerous short black transverse dashes and black dots on a greenish-yellow ground." -DLC
9 Feb 2015 - In a "stories page" on the Butterfly Website, a writer describes seeing, as a 10 year-old "a huge moth flapping it wings against the window, trying to get into the building. Having developed a great interest in moths, I had learned much, and instantly knew this moth was a foreign, exotic visitor known as Thysania agrippina." He recounts the pursuit of the moth, from a diner to the street and back again. He concludes: "... I saw something useful and unusual about capturing the world's largest moth in Colorado Springs, several thousand miles away from its normal home in Brazil." So far as I know, this would be the northernmost record for this 11 inch T. agrippina, in the collection of John Hetzler.
Interestingly, the same page has an entry from Mario C. Callegari of Iquitos Peru, about eating insects to survive. The white witch is not mentioned. This HAS to be the same Mario Callegari credited with the largest white witch recorded (though the source for this is a Russian natural history blog that I can't evaluate). -DLC
5 Feb 2015 - I was trollingthrough ancient emails and found correspondence with Jean Michel Maes of the Museo Entomologico de Leon, Nicaragua. He had sent me photos of a specimen collected in 2012 - the only Nicaraguan record of which I am aware. - DLC
... that is, on a blog for the Ohio History Connection. David Dyer, Curator of Natural History sent me the label data for this specimen:
Homoptera strix Fabr. – Brazil – Jas. Monroe. On the tray itself is a new label “Thysania agrippina”. Unfortunately, the collector didn’t include the date it was collected but the specimen label is quite old, handwrittenin ink, and we assume it to be from late 19th Century.
I can't quite decipher this. "Fabr." is no doubt Johan Fabricius, a Danish taxonomist whose name is associated with some 10,000 species he described. "Strix" is an owl genus--is it a taxonomist's shorthand for "owl" moth? --DLC
2 Feb 2015 - Followed up on a photo posted from Mount Totumas Cloud Forest, Panama. I am told that "in any given year we only see a handful of white witches ..." If a handful were 5, that would double the data we have for Panama. I have a Mexican friend from Michigan State that recalls being told that native americans in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas sold WW on the streets. The indigenas of San Cristobal are descendants of the Maya. What was the state of WW knowledge before the conquest?
31 Jan 2015 - Heard from Philippe Thomas, who maintains beautiful photographic records of lepidoptera of French Guiana, and is creating life histories for Saturniidae and Sphingidae species. He tells me that white witch name (at least in French Guiana) in French as le meunier, the miller. Our endeavor with the white witch is parallel to that of Philippe and many others concerned with their own taxonomic niche, one species at time, for 250,000 moths (David Wagner 2002) . - DLC
1 Feb 2015 - Learned of 6 specimens held by the Insect Collection of the Natural History Museum of Mexico City. Five from Veracruz, one from Chiapas (and one locality unk.) This doubles our Mexican data. Thanks to Biologa Maria Eugenia Diaz B., Curator for data and photos. - DLC
The author of this poem commented "This giant of a moth is a living surrealistic painting of the latest type displayed at the guggenheim. It could put Picasso to shame."
Light grey moth, jungle bred,
Giant of thy kind.
How did a Master's hand
Paint thee in modernistic forms
Aeons before their time?
Millions of tawny scales
Arranged in zig-sag abandon
Mold abstract designs upon thy parchment wings.
Which only art inspired by man
May urge upon a stiffened cloth.
1965. D. Gohla. Journal of the New York Entomological Society.