Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFErebidae Members: 15 NC Records

Catocala obscura Strecker, 1873 - Obscure Underwing

Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: CatocaliniP3 Number: 930773.00 MONA Number: 8784.00
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 V (also adopted by Forbes, 1954). This groups comprises species, all of which feed on Hickories or Walnuts (Juglandaciae). In addition to obscura, other members of this group that occur in North Carolina include habilis, serena, robinsonii, judith, flebilis, angusi, residua, and sappho.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Beadle and Leckie (2012)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954); Sargent (1976)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1954); Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A large, smooth gray Underwing with black hindwings. The ground color of the forewings is a dull, medium gray. The transverse lines and spots are present but not contrasting. The subterminal line is a narrow band of diffuse white, often bounded on either side by bands of gray. Basal and marginal dashes are absent as is any strong contrast between the outer and inner portions of the forewings. The hindwings are black with a white fringe. Catocala residua is similar but is a darker, ashy gray in the median and basal area, contrasting with the paler outer area that includes a wider white subterminal line and a paler marginal area. Residua also has dark markings in the marginal area that are missing in obscura and often has a hindwing fringe that is fuscous rather than white (Sargent, 1976). Catocala robinsonii, myristica, and angusi are similar in size and can have a smooth ground color, but they are usually paler and often have dark, contrasting dashes or bands. Catocala judith is similar in its obscure markings and coloration but is much smaller.
Wingspan: 60-70 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: Larvae are mottled gray, brown, and charcoal; a black spiracular stripe is sometimes present. Rootlet setae are absent (see Wagner et al., 2011, for illustrations and a more detailed description). Larvae of C. residua are similar but differ in the length of the black stripes on the head (Forbes, 1954; Wagner et al., 2011).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from close inspection of specimens or by DNA analysis.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Occurs from the Mountains to the eastern Piedmont
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; most of our records come from August and September
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: All of our records come from hardwood forests associated with rich soils, including rich alluvial forests, dry or mesic basic forests, rich cove forests, and northern hardwoods.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on Shagbark Hickories (Wagner et al., 2011)
Observation Methods: Comes to lights but it is not clear how strongly they are attracted, at least to 15 watt UV lights; like other Underwings, it probably comes to bait
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Dry Hardwood Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G5 [S3S4]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species is one of our least common Shagbark-feeding Underwings but otherwise occurs in similar habitats and occupies approximately the same range. The same pattern has been observed elsewhere (Forbes, 1954; Sargent, 1976), but the reasons for its lower frequency of occurrence do not seem to be known.

 Photo Gallery for Catocala obscura - Obscure Underwing

Photos: 9

Recorded by: David George, L. M. Carlson on 2021-09-12
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-08-21
Guilford Co.
Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-08-21
Guilford Co.
Recorded by: Bo Sullivan on 2014-09-14
Ashe Co.
Comment: Specimen in NCSU Insect Museum. Wingspan = 6.5 cm; forewing length = 3.2 cm.
Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2011-08-16
Warren Co.
Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2011-08-16
Warren Co.
Comment: Specimen in NCSU Insect Museum. Wingspan = 6.7 cm; forewing length = 3.3 cm.
Recorded by: Paul Scharf on 2011-08-09
Warren Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2009-08-15
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: J.B. Sullivan on 2002-09-04
Ashe Co.
Comment: Specimen in NCSU Insect Museum. Wingspan = 6.7 cm; forewing length = 3.2 cm.