What does the appearance of black witch moths mean? It depends on who you ask. Photo: Facebook

The yellow-green butterflies have exited stage left. Now the black witch moths have entered in their place.

Dubbed locally as the “mariposa de la muerte” or “butterfly of death,” the Majanás are moths that have begun to appear across Yucatan, carrying with them a bit of local lore. Many think their appearance is ominous, perhaps even foreshadowing death. Or one fluttering moth that approaches could be a deceased relative staying for a surprise visit. Others think it is a harbinger of rain.

These nocturnal creatures are named based on the Maya phrase, “X’mahan Hah,” one who lives in someone else’s house.

Indeed, they tend to find themselves inside homes. They might perch on a wall or ceiling and remain still for hours.

The species can measure up to 20 centimeters from end to end when its wings are fully extended. Due to their erratic movements, they are confused in the dark with bats, which only provokes more trepidation.

They also appear in central Mexico, where they are also known by their Nahuatl name, “mictlanpapalotl,” or “butterfly from the country of the dead.” So there, too, their existence is associated with death. In parts of Mexico, some people joke that if one flies over someone’s head, the person will lose his hair.

In Colombia, they are thought to be sorceresses who died, but failing to enter Heaven, returned to Earth as black witch moths.

But in the Bahamas, they are considered good luck. If one lands on you, it means money is coming. In Texas, if one appears at your door, it’s a good omen and time to buy a lottery ticket.

Scientists and ecologists implore the public not to kill or capture Majanás because among other important tasks, they join the bees in the act of pollination. That is, when they’re not lingering on someone’s ceiling.

With information from Sipse