Vampire Moths: Separating the Facts from Fiction

Vampire moths, also known as Calyptra thalictri, are fascinating creatures that have captured the imagination of many. These moths are known for their unique feeding habits, which involve drinking the blood of other animals.

While they may sound like something out of a horror movie. Vampire moths are a real species that can be found in various parts of the world.

moth, Calyptra - vampire moth

Despite their ominous name, vampire moths are not dangerous to humans. In fact, they typically feed on the blood of other insects, such as butterflies and moths. However, there are some species of vampire moths that have been known to feed on the blood of larger animals, such as birds and mammals.

In this article, we will explore the facts and fiction surrounding vampire moths. Shedding light on what makes these creatures so unique.

What are Vampire Moths?

Vampire moths are a fascinating and unique species of moth that have captured the attention of many. They are known for their ability to feed on the blood of animals, including elephants, buffalo, and even humans.

In this section, we will explore the classification and habitat of vampire moths, as well as their physical characteristics.

Classification and Habitat

Vampire moths belong to the genus Calyptra, which is part of the family Erebidae.

There are believed to be 17 species of vampire moth. And they are found in various parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas. These moths are typically found in forested areas, and they are most active at night.

Physical Characteristics

Vampire moths have several unique physical characteristics. One of the most notable features of these moths is their proboscis.

This is a long, tube-like structure that they use to feed on the blood of animals. Nearly all moths have a proboscis but few it would seem are strong enough to penetrate skin.

Vampire moth in flight

In addition to their feeding adaptations, vampire moths also have distinctive wings. Their wings are typically brown or grey and have a mottled appearance. Some species have wingspans of up to 10 centimeters.

Vampire moth larvae feed on a variety of fruits, and they are often considered pests in agricultural areas. However, they are also an important food source for animals such as bats and other mammals.

Overall, vampire moths are a fascinating species that have captured the attention of scientists and the general public alike. While they may seem like creatures of fiction. They are very real and have adapted in unique ways to survive in their respective habitats.

The Blood-Sucking Moth

Origins of the vampire bite myth

As we explore the world of vampire moths, we cannot ignore the popular myth that these insects ‘bite’ and solely feed on blood. This myth has been around for a while now and has been perpetuated in popular culture. Most likely because of the way vampires are presented in the movies and literature in line with vampire bats. .

The truth is that moths cannot actually bite. They do not have a mouth, but rather a proboscis which we will discuss a little more in the next section.

can moths bite you

It is only the male moth that seems to feed on the blood of humans or animals. The female tends to feed on nectar or fruit.

The Truth about Vampire Moths

While it is true that they can feed on the bodily fluids of other animals, including humans, they do not suck blood in the way that mosquitoes or ticks do.

Vampire moths are a type of moth known as the Calyptra genus. These moths have a proboscis, which is a long, thin tube that they use to feed on the fluids of plants and animals. It is this proboscis that the male moth uses to penetrate the skin of the creature it will feed from.

While these insects do feed on bodily fluids, they do not just suck blood, they also feed on nectar and fruit.

The Evolution of Vampire Moths

The Vampire Moth Genus

We have long been fascinated by the world of moths, and the vampire moth genus is no exception.

These moths, which belong to the family Erebidae, are found in various parts of the world, including Siberia, northern Europe, central and southern Europe, Japan, India, and other parts of Asia.

The vampire moth genus is unique in that it includes a group that can feed on the blood of other animals. Icluding mammals and birds.

This adaptation has allowed them to survive in areas where other food sources are scarce, and it has also helped them to evolve into the creatures we see today.


Vampire moths are found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and deserts. They are most commonly found in areas where their preferred hosts, such as cattle and deer, are abundant.

In recent years, vampire moths have been spreading to new areas, including parts of Europe and North America. This expansion is believed to be due to changes in climate and habitat, as well as increased global travel and trade.

Vampire Moth Migration

Vampire moths are known for their ability to migrate long distances in search of food and suitable habitat. Some species have been known to travel thousands of kilometers in a single season, crossing mountains, deserts, and oceans in the process.

The migration patterns of vampire moths are still not fully understood, but researchers believe that they are guided by a combination of environmental cues and genetic programming. As climate change and other factors continue to alter the habitats of these creatures, their migration patterns may also change in response.

In conclusion, the evolution of these moths has been shaped by a combination of genetic adaptation and environmental factors.

As these creatures continue to evolve and adapt to changing conditions, we can expect to see new and fascinating developments in the world of moth biology.

Calyptra Thalictri – The Vampire Moth Species

Male and Female Differences

When it comes to the Calyptra Thalictri, the male and female moths differ in a few key ways.

Males are typically smaller than females and have a more pointed abdomen. They also have feather-like antennae, which they use to detect pheromones released by females. They also have a stronger proboscis that they use to pierce the skin of their prey and feed on their blood.

Females, on the other hand, have a rounder abdomen and antennae that are less feathery.

Moth close up

Larval Stage

The larval stage of the Calyptra Thalictri is quite different from the adult moth.

As larvae, they are small, worm-like creatures that feed on the leaves of their host plant. They go through several molts before pupating and emerging as adult moths.

Feeding Habits of Vampire Moths

As their name suggests, Vampire Moths like the Calyptra Thalictri feed on the blood of other animals. However, they do not suck blood like mosquitoes or ticks. Instead, they use their specialized proboscis to pierce the skin of their prey and feed on their blood.

While they are known to feed on the blood of mammals like deer and cattle, they are also known to feed on the blood of birds and even other insects.

The Danger of Vampire Moths

Human Health Risks

These moths are generally only known to feed on animals and humans when other sources of food aren’t readily available.

The ‘bite’ (it isn’t really a bite as mentioned above) of a Vampire Moth is not venomous, but it can be mildly painful and cause itching and swelling.

It is important to note that Vampire Moths are not aggressive towards humans.

Agricultural Damage

Apart from the potential health risks to humans, these insects are also a significant threat to agricultural crops. These moths are known to feed on fruits such as apples, pears, and grapes, causing severe damage to the crops.

crop leaf damaged by moth larva

The Calpinae subfamily, which includes the Vampire Moths, is particularly known for causing damage to agricultural crops. The larvae of these moths feed on the leaves and fruits of crops, leading to significant economic losses for farmers.

One of the most common Vampire Moths, the Calyptra canadensis, is known to cause damage to various crops, including soybeans, corn, and cotton.

Entomologists and Vampire Moths

Research and Discoveries

As entomologists, we have been fascinated by the mysterious and intriguing nature of vampire moths for many years. These unique creatures have captured the imagination of scientists and the public alike due to their unusual feeding habits and striking appearance.

Over the years, we have made many exciting discoveries about vampire moths. For example, we have learned that these moths feed on the blood of mammals and birds, using their sharp proboscis to pierce the skin and extract blood. This was initially developed to pierce the skin of fruit.

A moth feeding on fruit

We have also discovered that vampire moths are found in many different parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, and South America.

Jennifer Zaspel’s Contributions to Vampire Moths

One entomologist who has made significant contributions to our understanding of vampire moths is Jennifer Zaspel. Zaspel is an associate curator of entomology at the Milwaukee Public Museum and has spent many years studying these fascinating creatures.

Zaspel’s research has shed light on many aspects of vampire moth behavior and biology. For example, she has discovered that vampire moths are actually quite selective in their choice of hosts, preferring to feed on large mammals such as deer and cattle rather than smaller animals like rodents.

Zaspel has also used advanced imaging techniques to study the anatomy of vampire moth proboscises, revealing the complex structures that allow them to pierce the skin of their hosts and extract blood.

Overall, the work of entomologists like Zaspel has helped us to better understand the fascinating world of vampire moths. While there is still much to learn about these incredible insects, we are confident that continued research will yield even more exciting discoveries in the years to come.

Tom Watson