The moth called taparaco malagüero, which is English would be a bad news taparaco, is a kind of nocturnal moth. It is generally dark and opaque in color–black, brown, gray. . .
This coloring differentiates it from the moths and butterflies that move around in the daytime and that possess brightly and more inviting colors. Another contrast; the taparaco keeps its wings extended and has something strange under its wings. These are, in reality, very fine scales that give the appearance of a powder.
The taparaco’s size is astounding. It is larger than any common butterfly or moth (in Spanish the word for moth and butterfly is the same, mariposa) and people who see it say each of its wings can measure 6 inches across, approximately. In its wings it has a kind of camouflage to confuse predators, two dark eyes and other dark spots to make it difficult to see.
Since these moths only come out at night it is unusual to see one flying during the day. People in Cusco get frightened if they see one during the day because, they say, it means that someone is about to die. Many people claim that before someone died this moth was seen posing on a part of the house of the person who would die or it was inside it.
People think that this nocturnal moth announces bad luck or even that it brings it because of the moth’s color. Black is the color of death and misfortune.
This idea is transmitted down from our grandparents and great grandparents. I remember that my mother told me that seeing this taparaco was very bad luck and that it really announced the death of a family member.
In one community in the Peruvian Andes many families lived scattered and at some distance from one another. This made it difficult to know how to find each other. One time a taparaco malagüero came to one of the houses warning of death. Immediately on seeing it, the person ran to the nearest house to tell them what had been seen.
In this way, one by one, the families started coming together and debating the issue until the arrived at the last house. The man who lived there was very ill and could do nothing to ask for help from other people since he lived a great distance from everyone else. When the people saw him they came together and managed to save his life.
What should you do when you see one of these nocturnal butterflies? You should scare it away from your house so that the bad fortune will go elsewhere and then be very careful throughout the day, just in case. You should also call your close family members and your friends to check on them and their health, because you never know. The moth appears in the wrong time and place for some reason.