[[quoteright:350:[[Film/ThePossession http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ThePossessionMoths_650.jpg]]]]
[-[[caption-width-right:350: Emily ''wishes'' she had an IncurableCoughOfDeath instead. ]]-]

Butterflies are seen as [[ButterflyOfDeathAndRebirth symbols of death and rebirth]] as well [[ButterflyOfTransformation as transformation]]. But if you take away their [[PrettyButterflies beauty]] and make them nocturnal, you end up discovering the Macabre Moth Motif.

Because moths are very much like [[MirrorMatch equal]] and [[EvilTwin opposite]] [[TheMirrorShowsYourTrueSelf mirror images]] of butterflies -- alike in shape, flight and metamorphosis, unlike in that [[DarkIsEvil they're dark]], weighed down with negative stigma and nocturnal -- they can be used as generic symbolism for Bad Stuff[--[[superscript:TM]]--] whenever the plot needs it. This includes but isn't limited to: [[PoisonousPerson poison]], the supernatural, DemonicPossession, death and apotheosis[[note]](a dark transformation)[[/note]].

This trope is not well supported by RealLife; the biological differences between moths and butterflies are small, with both families containing colorful and drab, nocturnal and diurnal species. But nobody ever let a little science get in the way of a good bit of symbolism.

No relation to WalletMoths.

'''[[color:red:Note:]]''' To qualify as examples they must be intended to cause dread and/or fear by the author and/or the [[InvokedTrope invoking]] character. This trope is ''not'' a more specific BigCreepyCrawlies focused on moths.

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!!Examples:

[[AC:Anime]]
* In the ''Anime/CowboyBebop'' movie, the genetic tampering the villain underwent causes him to constantly hallucinate swarms of what are referred to as butterflies, but their ghostly whiteness and eerie atmosphere seems to invoke this trope.
* In the ''Anime/RevolutionaryGirlUtena'' movie, one scene has a flashback of a young Touga [[spoiler:getting raped by his adopted father]] in a field full of Cabbage White butterflies intercut with scenes of a nude Shiori sprouting white wings formed out of bedsheets. Given the symbolism of the scene is parasitism and "cruel innocence" it fits this trope.

[[AC:ComicBooks]]
* The ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' villain "Killer Moth" wasn't initially dark, wearing a garish costume with striped purple and green spandex, orange cape and a moth-like mask. Later on though, he was redesigned to look more menacing in his demonic Drury Walker / Charaxes incarnation.

[[AC:{{Film}}]]
* ''Film/{{Mama}}'' has moths appear whenever she's nearby or about to make a "physical" appearance. In this case, the moths are attracted to her because [[spoiler:her corpse was left to rot in a lake, and moths nested in it before burrowing out. At the end, when Lily is taken by Mama off of a cliff Lily is transformed into a blue moth rather than straight up die. Probably?]]
* ''Film/TheMothDiaries'', about a new girl in a boarding school who may or may not be a vampire, features heavy moth symbolism.
* ''Film/ThePossession'' has the moths presage the oncoming DemonicPossession and transformation awaiting Emily.
* ''Film/TheMothmanProphecies'': In this film adaptation, Mothman is named for a Ukrainian myth of the moth as a {{psychopomp}} or dark angel.
* In ''Film/TheSilenceOfTheLambs'', [[TheProtagonist Clarice Starling]] finds the pupa of a black witch moth inside the mouth of one of "Buffalo Bill"'s victims. The film changes it to a death's-head sphinx, and features it on the poster.
* Averted in ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'' films, where a moth seems to be the go-between for Gandalf and his eagle friends. It's certainly playing on the mystery and magic of the motif, though.
* Also averted with Film/{{Mothra}}, a gigantic moth in the ''Franchise/{{Godzilla}}'' universe, who is generally depicted as benevolent, but vengeful. Played closer-to-straight with her [[GaiasVengeance angrier]] counterpart, Battra, who features in the 1992 ''Godzilla vs. Mothra''.
* Swarms of moths adorn ''Film/ManosTheHandsOfFate''. It wasn't even on purpose, since they were attracted to the location shooting's bright lights!

[[AC:{{Literature}}]]
* In ''Literature/ArciaChronicles'', large gray moths are usually a sign of dark magic at work (especially of the Cialian tradition). Only magically-gifted people can see these magical moths, however.
* Creator/EdgarAllanPoe's short story ''[[http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-sphinx.htm The Sphinx]]'': The narrator is horrified when he sees a humongous moth-monster with the image of a human skull on it. Then he realizes that it was just a normal moth, it was just [[DepthDeception much closer than he realized.]]
* In ''Literature/TheTatamiGalaxy'', one of the characters is phobic about moths because of this, and will have panic attacks if one lands on her.
* In ''Literature/TheHobbit'', when the party is traveling through Mirkwood they go without campfires at night rather than attract the swarms of huge black moths that come out at night. Though not actually harmful, they're very unpleasant.
* ''[[Literature/TheInkworldTrilogy Inkdeath]]'', a book which as the title suggests, is replete with symbols and imagery of death, features several dark moths on its cover.
* In one of Creator/JoeHill's short stories in the collection ''Literature/TwentiethCenturyGhosts'', a ghost in a movie theater appears friendly and normal at first, but after people interact with her for a little while strange things start happening, including creepy white moths gathering all around her.
* Playing straight into the trope, one of Creator/{{Wolfgang Hohlbein}}'s ''Hexer von Salem'' stories features entire swarms of moths magically altered to cause rapid aging in anything and any''one'' they touch and under an intelligent antagonist's control. (The moths themselves are no smarter than usual.)
* The slake-moths of ''Literature/PerdidoStreetStation''. They're sort of like [[Franchise/{{Alien}} Aliens]]... ''except much, much worse''.
* In Carlos Ruiz Zafón's ''Literature/{{Marina}}'', a special kind of moth is associated with Kolvenik. Later is revealed that they literally maintain his life.
* ''Literature/DeadhouseGates'' describes a whole sub-continent sinking into bloody rebellion, and a native kind of moth that thrives on rotting flesh can be seen everywhere, covering the corpses and feasting. Thanks to that, that same moth is one of the symbols associated with the God of Death in the setting.
* Kenneth Oppel's "SuchWickedIntent" has butterflies from the spirit world latch onto the heros and come into the living world. At first, they're harmless, but slowly become more like an addictive substance. And to boot, the [[spoiler: giant demon at the end of the book]] is completely made out of these butterflies, making it incredibly hard to kill.

[[AC:{{Music}}]]
* French BlackMetal band Peste Noire made a song entitled "Phalènes et Pestilence - Salvatrice Averse" ("Moths and Pestilence - Saving Downpour"), which mentions moths in a long metaphoric description of a plague epidemic.

[[AC:TabletopGames]]
* All things fae in ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheDreaming'' have a colorful, stylized butterfly symbol. The Kiasyd, who are a hybrid of faeries and [[TabletopGame/VampireTheMasquerade vampires]], turn this to the morbid with their [[http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20061209011908/whitewolf/images/0/0c/LogoBloodlineKiasyd.png death's-head moth symbol]], and spend a lot of time around moths in art (perhaps because of their habit of frequenting places full of old books).

[[AC:{{Theatre}}]]
* The final scene of ''The Insect Play'' has a succession of moths, including one emerging from a chrysalis, proclaiming the fascination of their existence while dying one after another.

[[AC:VideoGames]]
* ''VideoGame/SilentHill1'' has two enemies, Twinfeeler and Floatstinger, a larva and moth respectively (or rather, the game has one enemy with two forms). It's notable above being a random enemy because Alessa, the dark force moving the town against Harry, [[spoiler: had a moth collection growing up which she uses as a basis for Floatstinger. Beyond that, Alessa herself is transformed two or three times through the game. First by being burned to near death, then when she's reunited into a godlike being, and finally when the god sealed inside her is released into a demonic form.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask'', the boss Odolwa will at one point summon a cloud of moths to harass Link. They can be wiped out with a bomb, as they will be drawn to its fuse.
** Its predecessor ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime Ocarina of Time]]'' also had moth statues in the horror-themed Shadow Temple. Said moth is actually a boss from ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast A Link to the Past]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOracleOfSeasons Oracle of Seasons]]''. While his dungeons (Skull Woods and Poison Moth's Lair, respectively) were fairly dark, its status as this trope is more questionable.
* Morph Moth from ''VideoGame/MegaManX2'' actually makes a fairly frightening boss, inhabiting a dusky robot grave/junkyard with zombie robots, and transforming from a fairly harmless pendulum/cocoon.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Darkfall}}: Lost Souls'', one of the hotel rooms is filled with pupae suspended from the ceiling, with nasty grubs inside that hiss and writhe creepily. Old paintings of moths are propped against the walls.
* In the ''Dawnguard'' expansion for ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim'', a type of magical moth is needed for a ritual to safely read an Elder Scroll, tying them into the implied CosmicHorrorStory that the Scrolls represent. The scholars who study the scrolls are called "Moth Priests".
* The fan-game ''Manos: The Revenge of Torgo'' uses the once-innocuous moths as a plot point: they're reincarnated minor servants of Manos.

[[AC:WebComics]]
* Giant vampire moths feature in ''THAT'', a side-story to the webcomic ''Webcomic/BadMachinery''.

[[AC:WesternAnimation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'', Killer moth is a scary looking [[HalfHumanHybrid moth/human hybrid.]]

[[AC:RealLife]]
* The [[http://tpittaway.tripod.com/sphinx/a_atr.htm Death's-head sphinx]] has coloring that looks like a human skull on its back.
* The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascalapha_odorata Black witch moth]], an omen of death and bad luck.
* Famously, the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth peppered]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution moth]] ''became'' murky because of the massive levels of pollution brought on by the IndustrialRevolution in England.[[note]]The moth comes in two colors, grey and black. The black version became more common during the IndustrialRevolution even though it's a recessive trait.[[/note]]
* Adult moths can't chew; generally either they drink nectar from flowers, or they don't eat at all. The only known exception is the Malayan bloodsucking moth, which drinks blood rather like a mosquito.
* Moth ''caterpillars'' can bite and chew, but any given species will have only a few things that it eats, and most are herbivorous.

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