Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFErebidae Members:
Catocala Members:
22 NC Records

Catocala cara Guenée, 1852 - Darling Underwing

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: CatocaliniP3 Number: 930812.00 MONA Number: 8832.00
Comments: One of 103 species in this genus that occur in North America (Gall and Hawks, 2010; Kons and Borth, 2015a,b), 67 of which have been recorded in North Carolina.
Species Status: Formerly considered conspecific with Catocala carissima (e.g., Sargent, 1976) but separated by Gall and Hawks (2010) on the basis of egg size as well as differences in wing pattern. DNA barcoding indicates a clear separation between these two species as well as between these species and C. amatrix, which Sargent (1976) states sometimes hybridizes with them.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954); Sargent (1976)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1954); Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A large underwing moth. Forewings are a dark, maroon-brown, dusted with green, gold, or yellowish-gray scales but typically less pale than in carissima and lacking a strongly contrasting pale patch at the apex. Hindwings are banded with black and bright red to rose; the inner margin and base of the hindwing are marked with black. Catocala carissima is very similar but is more strongly mottled and possesses a distinct apical patch of light scales. In worn specimens, the dentations of the postmedian -- particularly the two distal points and the point just above and outward from the sub-reniform patch -- are longer and narrower in cara than in carissima (SPH, pers. obs.). Catocala amatrix is also similar in size and hindwing color and frequently flies with cara in the same habitats. Typical amatrix have strong oblique dark dashes that are missing in carissima. Form selecta of amatrix has a more yellow-brown ground color on the forewings than carissima, possesses a grayish sheen rather than a gold dusting, and has an inward-pointing tooth on the antemedian near the radial vein -- in both cara and carissima a prominent outward-pointing tooth is present in this area. The base of the hindwing of amatrix is usually not marked with black although there may be a small spot of black at the inner margin.
Wingspan: 70-85 mm (Sargent, 1976); 87 mm in one of our specimens
Adult Structural Features: Gall and Hawks (2010) note that the egg of cara is consistently larger than that of carissima, a difference they state is unusual among Catocala.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larvae range in color from orange to brown to dark gray (Wagner et al., 2011). Stripes are obscure or absent and the pinnacula are red-orange. The head possesses a prominent pair of buff to orange, forward-pointing lobes that distinguish this species from other most related species (Forbes, 1954; Wagner et al., 2011). C. carissima, however, is very similar in pattern, although consistently paler (Wagner et al., 2011).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable only through rearing to adulthood.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: We have records from all provinces of the state, but are currently missing from the western Piedmont and southern Coastal Plain. Over at least the eastern portion of the state, C. cara appears to be sympatric with C. carissima.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

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Flight Comments: Univoltine, with our records coming from late July to early October, with most from August.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All records from sites where we have habitat information come from lake, pond, and river shorelines, all sites where willows are common.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on Willows (Salix spp.); Black Willow (S. nigra) is especially used in the South (Wagner et al., 2011). - View
Observation Methods: Comes to blacklights to some extent but like other Underwings comes particularly well to bait (Wagner et al., 2011).
See also Habitat Account for Shoreline Shrublands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S4]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species does not appear to be common but adults may be undersampled by light trapping. It is otherwise widespread in North Carolina and is associated with common host plants and habitats. It currently appears to be secure within the state.

 Photo Gallery for Catocala cara - Darling Underwing

Photos: 12

Recorded by: Owen McConnell on 2022-08-23
Graham Co.
Recorded by: L. M. Carlson on 2019-08-08
Orange Co.
Recorded by: j.wyche on 2017-08-27
Gates Co.
Recorded by: B. Bockhahn, P. Scharf, K. Kittelberger on 2014-09-17
Vance Co.
Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2010-08-27
Camden Co.
Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2009-10-22
Warren Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2009-08-30
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2007-09-07
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1993-07-21
Dare Co.
Recorded by: M.O. Fleming on 1988-09-03
Washington Co.
Comment: NCSU Insect Museum specimen. Wingspan = 7.8 cm; forewing length = 3.8 cm.
Recorded by: C.S. Brimley on 1909-08-15
Wake Co.
Comment: NCSU Insect Museum specimen. Wingspan = 8.7 cm; forewing length = 4.0 cm.
Recorded by: C.S. Brimley on 1908-08-15
Wake Co.
Comment: NCSU Insect Museum specimen. Wingspan = 8.5 cm, forewing length = 4.0 cm