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Batman’s cape?

September 30, 2010

A few times this year I have seen a large (12 cm) ‘butterfly’ resembling Batman’s cape vanish into dark areas. Ketsanee calls it ‘pi sua damm’ , which means the ‘black butterfly, or literally ‘the black spirit’s cloak’. It seems to avoid light, hiding in the nursery or under the canopy of a longan tree. It is quite shy, so it took me a while to get a clear picture. To my surprise it was not included in Pisuth Ek-Amnuay’s eminent book on butterflies, and frankly there was something fishy with this ‘butterfly’. I sent the picture to Adam Cotton, a Chiang Mai lepidopterologist, who explained this is an Owl Moth, Erebus macrops, the largest moth among the Thai members of the family Noctuidae. While the butterflies have a ‘club’ at the end of their antennae, noctuids have filamentous antennae.

The larva feeds on various legumes such as Acacia and Entada. A good website for moths is “Moths of Borneo”.

Eric Danell

Erebus macrops are sometimes seen in tropical butterfly houses. At Dokmai Garden it roams freely.

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