Moths of North Carolina
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Catocala Members:
12 NC Records

Catocala sappho Strecker, 1874 - Sappho Underwing

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: ErebidaeSubfamily: ErebinaeTribe: CatocaliniP3 Number: 930776.00 MONA Number: 8786.00
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 10 species, all of which feed on Hickories or Walnuts (Juglandaciae). In addition to sappho, other members of this group that occur in North Carolina include habilis, serena, robinsonii, judith, flebilis, angusi, obscura, and residua.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954); Sargent (1976)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Wagner et al. (2011)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A large, pale gray Underwing with a strongly contrasting reddish brown reniform and dark blotches at the costal ends of the antemedian and postmedian lines. Hindwings are dark with a white fringe (Forbes, 1954). Unlikely to be confused with any other of our Underwing species.
Wingspan: 70-75 mm (Sargent, 1976)
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Wagner et al. (2011) describe the larvae as greenish lichen mimics, with short rootlet setae and a black mask between the eyes. The specimen they illustrate is pale gray with a series of darker gray spots located within a subdorsal band and a series of gray crescents running laterally above the legs.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Our records span the state
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 appearing in mid- to late summer and peaking in the fall.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Our records all come from stands of hardwoods, ranging from fairly mesic slopes and riparian habitats to dry ridgetops.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on hickories. Wagner et al. (2011) specifically mention Pignut and other section Carya hickories but Forbes (1954) and Sargent (1976) state Pecan -- a section Apocarya species -- is the host.
Observation Methods: Comes to light to some extent but like other Underwings may come better to bait. Several of our records come from daytime observations when individuals were flushed from trunks; tapping is, thus, likely to be an effective method for recording this species.
See also Habitat Account for General Oak-Hickory Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: W3
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 S2S3
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Sargent (1976) described sappho as generally considered very rare, although locally common and regularly observed at some sites in Florida and the Gulf Coast. Wagner et al. (2011) likewise describe this species as scarce outside of Florida and the Southern Appalachians. Since this species may be irruptive, it is not clear how many of our observations represent resident populations. More information is needed -- particularly through documenting larvae -- to determine its status, host plant use, and habitat range as it exists in North Carolina before its conservation needs can be estimated.

 Photo Gallery for Catocala sappho - Sappho Underwing

Photos: 3

Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2020-07-18
Cabarrus Co.
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1998-07-01
Pender Co.
Comment: Wingspan = 6.5 cm; forewing length = 3.9 cm.
Recorded by: Steve Hall on 1987-07-00
Orange Co.
Comment: 1987 may have been an outbreak year for this species. I saw several in the Orange County area during the course of several weeks but haven't seen them in this area since then.