Moths of North Carolina
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Catocala Members:
5 NC Records

Catocala orba Kusnezov, 1903 - Orb Underwing

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: CatocaliniP3 Number: 930843.00 MONA Number: 8856.00
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. Included by Barnes and McDunnough (1918) in their Group XVII (also adopted by Forbes, 1954), which feed mainly on members of the Rosaceae; 12 other members of this group (as redefined by Kons and Borth, 2015b) also occur in North Carolina.
Species Status: Considered just a large form of miranda by Forbes (1954) and Sargent (1976) but recognized as a separate species by Hodges et al. (1984) and Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010)
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954) and Sargent (1976) both mention orba, but only as a large form of miranda.Technical Description, Immature Stages: Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A medium-sized Catocala with a pale gray forewing and black hindwings. It differs from C. miranda primarily in size (Sargent, 1976); our specimens of orba exceed 50 mm in wingspan, whereas Sargent states that miranda ranges only from 40-45 mm. Schweitzer et al. (2011) also mention that miranda usually has some darker shadings, particularly towards the inner margin, whereas orba is more uniformly pale. C. orba also resembles C. judith in size, color, and pattern, but is paler and has narrower forewings. The pattern on the undersides of the wings easily separates the two, with orba possessing nearly all black hindwings but those of judith having a broad pale area located towards the base (Forbes, 1954; Sargent, 1976). Records submitted for this species should give some indication of size (e.g., a coin included in the photograph).
Wingspan: 40-45 mm (Sargent, 1976)
Adult Structural Features: Only the middle tibae possess spines (spurs are present on the middle and hind tibiae); the same is true for miranda (Forbes, 1954)
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from photos showing hindwings, abdomen, or other specialized views [e.g., frons, palps, antennae, undersides].
Immatures and Development: A larva illustrated by Wagner et al. (2011) is pale green with dark brown dorsal spots and a sublateral fringe of pale setae. They also note that the head is extensively black. Although the photo shown for miranda looks substantially different, more specimens need to be collected to verify any differences between the two.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable only through rearing to adulthood.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Most of our records come from the Coastal Plain but there is at least one from the western Piedmont that indicates it could be more widely distributed
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ‚Č• 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 June and early July
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Our records all come from rich alluvial forests. Sites along the lower Roanoke, a brownwater river with its origin in the Ridge and Valley Province of Virginia, contain some of the richest alluvial soils in the state. Parsely Hawthorn (Crataegus marshallii) is common in this area, as are other bottomland species of Crataegus. Although we also have at least one record from a small blackwater stream in Carteret County, there are several plants at that site that are indicative of rich soils, uggesting there may be a marl layer close to the surface. The site where this species has been recorded in the Piedmont appears to support a stand of Basic-Mesic Hardwood Forest. The presence of alluvial species of Hawthornes at that site is unreported.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous. Jeff Slotten (cited in Wagner et al.,2011) states that Parsley Hawthorn (Crategus marshallii) is used in Florida, along with possibly other lowland species of Hawthorn. - View
Observation Methods: Comes to blacklight and bait, but we have too few records to estimate how well they are attracted.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 S2S3
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: This species is considered uncommon but apparently widespread in southeastern swamps and alluvial forests (NatureServe Explorer, 2016). However, we have very few records for this species, currently represented by just five specimens from only four sites. It seems to be very much a habitat specialist, found in rich bottomlands where it is associated with alluvial species of Hawthorns.

 Photo Gallery for Catocala orba - Orb Underwing

Photos: 5

Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2019-06-17
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: Bo Sullivan on 2005-07-03
Carteret Co.
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1996-06-24
Martin Co.
Comment: Determined by D.F. Schweitzer. Lacks spines on the fore and hind tibiae. Wingspan = 5.1 cm; forewing length = 2.5 cm.
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1996-06-24
Martin Co.
Comment: Underside pattern matches illustration in Sargent (1976) for C. miranda
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 0000-00-00
Cabarrus Co.