With Halloween almost upon us, you may be gearing up to watch your favorite horror movie. But will it star the death's-head hawkmoth? To celebrate All Hallow's Eve, we rounded up plant and animal species with names that sound like they were ripped straight out of a monster or slasher film.
First up is the dreaded wolf spider, a big, hairy tarantula-like spider that at first glance should give you a big case of the heebie-jeebies. The male Mediterranean wandering wolf spider pictured here is relatively large and fast-moving, according to Orkin, and is an incredibly good hunter.
Just like some horror movie serial killers like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kreuger, the wolf spider hunts alone and aggressively, using its excellent eyesight and strong body to violently track down and attack its prey. Fortunately for humans, the wolf spider's bite isn't deadly, but it'll do a number on the spider's traditional prey, which includes small insects like ants and crickets.
Fun fact: the Carolina wolf spider was named the official state spider of South Carolina in 2000.
Bram Stoker's "Dracula Orchid" might sound like the tale of a deadly vampire plant, but the real-life dracula orchid doesn't really want to suck your blood. This orchid species got the dracula moniker because several types are blood-colored, and they have long pointy sepals that look pretty menacing.
Fortunately, if you ever come across a dracula orchid, you don't really need to worry. They might look like they could drain the blood from your neck, but they're actually just unusual-looking flowers.
(Photo: Andreas Kay/Flickr)
We tend to think of flies as buzzing around our houses and generally just annoying us, but some are deadly killers. The Asilidae, commonly referred to as a robber fly or assassin fly, won't kill humans, but it does effectively and voraciously attack creatures like wasps, bees, grasshoppers, spiders and even other flies, often waiting to ambush its prey in flight.
All types of robber flies have a characteristic divot on the top of their heads, but apart from that, their appearances can vary wildly. Some even look like bumble bees, probably an effective disguise as they track and hunt down real bees for food.
(Photo: Bob Peterson/Flickr)
Movie buffs will recognize the creepy-looking pattern of the death's-head hawkmoth as the insect that covers Jodie Foster's mouth on the poster for "The Silence of the Lambs." You also won't forget it if you happen to see it or hear it in the wild. When disturbed, it can produce a distinct, high-pitched scream by vibrating an internal flap at the bottom of its proboscis.
It also likes to attack beehives, an impressive trait considering it doesn't have any natural weapons like the bee's stinger. It makes you wonder what else these moths might be capable of overtaking when properly motivated.
You might know the Tasmanian devil as the snarling, crazy animal from the Looney Tunes cartoons. Strangely enough, the cartoon version of the marsupial isn't that much different from the real thing.
Tasmanian devils are small and black in color, and they have incredibly fierce tempers combined with large heads, necks and jaws that are "well suited to crushing bones," according to the San Diego Zoo. You'd definitely be right to be spooked if you heard the devil's eerie nighttime growls when it's on the hunt for food.
When it actually manages to catch something, it makes some pretty scary-sounding screaming noises that'll send shivers down your spine.
(Photo: Kris Nootenboom/Flickr)
Based on the name, you might think the beewolf is a very hairy bee, a wolf that has black and yellow stripes, or a bee that turns into a werewolf when the full moon strikes. You'd be wrong. Dead wrong.
Beewolves are actually a species of solitary wasp that preys on bees, especially honeybees. While they're very similar to other types of ground-nesting wasps, the fact that they prey on bees sets these bee killers apart from other wasp species. Another distinctive feature is that their nests are often littered with dead honeybees, according to the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society.
(Photo: Bob Peterson/Flickr)
If you saw a hickory horned devil caterpillar, you might just let out a high-pitched scream, but despite its fierce look, it's harmless to humans.
This nocturnal creature found in parts of the southeastern United States is one of nature's largest caterpillars and can grow up to 5.5. inches (14 centimeters) in length. It has rows of tiny spikes poking out of its body to help it move and horns growing out of its head. This larva of the regal or royal walnut moth comes in a variety of colors, but is usually blue-green.
Vampire moths usually suck on the juice inside fruits, but they earn their foreboding name because they have a habit of drinking blood from vertebrates, including humans.
A biologist from Purdue University stuck her thumb in a specimen jar and the moth used its proboscis to poke a hole in her skin and start slurping down her blood like a soda from a fast-food cup.
A closer examination revealed that moths that liked the taste of blood had fewer hairlike structures called "sensilla" on their antennae to help them detect odors compared with moths that only ate fruit. So the moths that like blood apparently think we're just walking bunches of grapes that bleed savory juice. While they might be thirsty, they can't hurt you.
(Photo: John Horstman/Flickr)
Could be a deadly organism, could be a Bond villain. The Deadly Nightshade is actually an extremely toxic plant whose foliage and berries can kill you. After all, it didn't get the deadly name for nothing.
Deadly Nightshade has bell-shaped flowers and glossy black berries. In small amounts, the berries can get you sick, with symptoms including difficulty breathing, vomiting, excessive stimulation of the heart and hallucinations. If you eat enough of the berries (the amount considered fatal varies, according to The Poison Garden), you will die.