FW: Black Witch fallout in eye of hurricane

Mike Quinn Mike.Quinn at tpwd.state.tx.us
Wed Jul 23 16:03:51 EDT 2003


-----Original Message-----
From: Petra Hockey [mailto:phockey at tisd.net]
Sent: Monday, July 21, 2003 10:27 AM
To: Mike Quinn
Cc: Alan Wormington; Ladd Hockey
Subject: Black Witch invasion.

Hi Mike:

 Brush Freeman writing.  We wanted to let you know about a odd event
regarding Black Witches (moths).  Here in Port O'Connor we went through the
recent hurricane with the eye passing directly over us.  It was a strange
and unnatural experience and we made it through fine with little damage to
the Hockey's house.

  When the eye of the storm went over we went outside to the balcony to look
for rare birds over the bay after winds went down from about 100 mph to near
0 in a matter of just a few minutes. The sky cleared and it got real hot. We
were only in the eye for about 45minutes to an hour before they other side
of the storm hit and once again we had terrific winds.

  With the eye we had the largest concentrations of Black Witches any of us
had ever seen  At any time with any scope view of the bay there was one to
several to be seen.  They were everywhere on the east side of town in the
hundreds.  The grackles and resident shrike were having a field day catching
them.  After the storm there were still  hundreds of them in town and below
Petra's Balcony there were easily 10+ of them in the rafters after finding
that shelter.

  Another oddity was their fondness for beer.  Ladd and I were outside at
dusk relaxing after the storm and a very stressful day with a cold beer.  As
I stood on the sidewalk 7 of the animals gathered around me and landed on me
at times.  Then I poured a small amount of beer into my cupped palm and some
immediately came in to it, landing on my hand and lapping up the beer with
very long tongues.

  Today it is several days after the hurricane but there are still a few of
them alive and about.  All are pretty worn though that I have seen.  Dead
ones are encountered virtually everywhere.  We found all of this very
strange especially to see these giants in the hundreds around town.  In a
good year I might see 3-4  here on the coast and maybe 1-2 in Bastrop Co. Is
it possible that they had been in the eye of the storm when it came in off
the gulf?  We were after all the first place that the storm made landfall.
It is also important to note that prior to the storm we had not seen any in
town.  If they came in with the eye, how could they have managed to  stay
alive over water so long?  Plus as I understand it the eye had collapsed
several times before it hit made it to land.

I just thought I would write you and tell you of this experience.  Ladd and
Petra are in Arizona and Petra will likely be back by about the 10th of

Brush Freeman


Related papers:

Neck, R.W. 1977. Effects of 1933 hurricanes on butterflies of central and
southern Texas. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 31:67-68.

Neck, R.W. 1978. Climatic regimes resulting in unusual occurrences of
Rhopalocera in central Texas in 1968. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society

Mike Quinn, Austin

      Texas Entomology    


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