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

Catocala messalina Guenée, 1852 - Messalina Underwing

Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: CatocaliniP3 Number: 930831.00 MONA Number: 8845.00
Comments: One of 103 species in this genus that occur in North America (Lafontaine and Schmidt, 2010, 2015), 67 of which have been recorded in North Carolina. Catocala messalina is the sole member of Barnes and MacDunnough's (1918) and Forbes's (1954) Species Group XIV.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954); Sargent (1976)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Slotten (2015)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A medium-sized Catocala. The forewing is gray and nearly unmarked, darkening towards the outer margin; a trace of the antemedian and postmedian lines may be present, usually represented by a dark streak at the costa. The hindwing is yellow-orange in the basal and medial areas; the inner black band usually present in orange-winged Catocalas is missing and the outer band is wide and black, either continuous or with a separate black dot at the anal angle as in the amica group. None of our other Catocalas has this combination of features but the hindwing pattern is similar to that of Allotria elonympha and Noctua pronuba, both of which are usually well-marked on the forewing.
Wingspan: 40-45 mm (Sargent, 1976)
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: Egg, larvae, and pupae were recently illustrated by Slotten (2015), based on an ex ovo specimen. Late instar larva are marked with gray and brown longitudinal bands, with superimposed pale pin-stripes. Spiracles are marked with black and there is a series of black spots on the ventral surface.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Restricted to the Coastal Plain; found primarily on the Barrier Islands but occurring as far inland as the Fall-line Sandhills
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)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Univoltine, with adults flying in May and June.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All but one of our records come from maritime forests or coastal sandhill scrub habitats. The exception is specimen collected by Jeff Slotten at Fort Bragg, in seepage habitat but at the base of sand ridge containing an extensive population of Blue Jack Oak (Quercus incana) and other scrub oaks.
Larval Host Plants: Messalina probably feeds primarily on xerophytic oaks. On the barrier islands, where most of our records originate, it seems likely to feed on Live Oak (Q. virginiana), Scrub Live Oak (Q. geminata), or Sand Laurel Oak (Q. hemisphaerica). None of those species have been recorded at the site where this species was found at Fort Bragg, where Blue Jack Oak seems the most likely candidate. The site where Slotten (2015) obtained the female he used in his rearing study also came from a site where no Live Oaks were observed, but where Bluejack, Blackjack, and Post Oak were all present, along with a bottomland species, Cherrybark Oak. The larva reared by Slotten, however, readily accepted Live Oak. - View
Observation Methods: All of our records are from 15 watt blacklights. Like other Catocalas, it probably comes well to bait. Tapping during the day is also likely to be effective.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Plain Dry-Mesic Oak Hickory Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4? S2?
State Protection: Listed as Significantly Rare by the Natural Heritage Program. That designation does not confer any legal protection, however, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Prior to Slotten's capture of a specimen at Fort Bragg, this species appeared to be strictly associated with maritime or coastal oak scrub habitats, all of which are threatened by development and sea level rise associated with global climate change. The Fort Bragg collection, however, indicates that it may use a wider array of xeric oak-scrub habitats, although if so, it appears to be very rare in those habitats, given the fairly intensive sampling that has been conducted in those habitats in North Carolina. While more needs to be learned about its presence inland from the coast, the majority of its known populations remain under significant threat.

 Photo Gallery for Catocala messalina - Messalina Underwing

Photos: 7

Recorded by: David George, Jeff Niznik, Rich Teper, Erich Hofmann, Jesse Anderson on 2023-05-22
New Hanover Co.
Recorded by: David George, Jeff Niznik, Rich Teper on 2023-05-21
New Hanover Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2020-06-19
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: Britta Muiznieks on 2014-06-01
Dare Co.
Recorded by: Britta Muiznieks on 2014-05-31
Dare Co.
Recorded by: Britta Muiznieks on 2014-05-30
Dare Co.
Recorded by: Britta Muiznieks on 2014-05-25
Dare Co.