Friday, December 31, 2004

Bats and bat moths

Took the grandkids back to the bat caves yesterday, a secret Tom-Sawyerish place on the back side of the island. The bat colony in the upper cave has pretty much vanished this year, just a few old "grandfather" bats hanging out by themselves. The colony in the lower cave is thriving. I'm sure the bats don't appreciate us awakening their pitch-dark daytime slumber.

The floor of the cave is deep in guano, decorated with the wings of hundreds of giant bat moths (Noctuidae), a big black insect with a six-inch wingspan that flies at night -- obviously a favorite food of bats.

The moths are called "bat moths" not because they are bat food but because they look like bats as they flit around at night. The locals call them money bats because of the intricate currencylike designs on their wings. In Cuba they are called brujas, witches, and considered to be spirits of the dead.

Bat moths love sweets. They have perched on the rims of our wine glasses as we sit on the terrace in the evening.