Catocala habilis

Catocala habilis
Grote, 1872

The Habilis Underwing, by James K. Adams.

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Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Noctuidae
Group: Noctuinina
Subfamily: Catocalinae
Genus: Catocala, Schrank, 1802


"Moon River"
copyright C. Odenkirk

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Catocala habilis (wingspan: 55-65mm; Hodges #8778) flies in Quebec (common), Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick in Canada south through Connecticut and New Jersey to North Carolina and west to Arkansas.

It has also been reported in District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska (LJP), New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Catocala habilis, Fontenelle Forest, Bellevue, Sarpy County, Nebraska,
August 10, 2012, courtesy of Loren J. Padelford.

Many thanks to Loren J. Padelford who supplies the image of Catocala habilis above. Prior to Loren's submission, I do not believe Catocala habilis had been recorded in Nebraska.

Visit Catocala habilis, Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts, August 23, 2009, September 1, 9, 2011, courtesy of Dave Small.
Visit Catocala habilis, Amherst, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts, Aug. 12, 2011, Joshua S. Rose.

The specimen described as denussa, Ehrman, 1893, is an aberrant melanic form of Catocala habilis.

Catocala habilis Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility


In northern portions of its range, Catocala habilis flies as a single generation with moths on the wing from mid July to early October (rare).

In more southerly locales there may be multiple flights with moths on the wing from early June, but it is generally accepted that all Catocala species are univoltine.

Catocala habilis, Stillwater Township, Sussex County, New Jersey,
August 27, 2005, courtesy of Joe Garris.

Note the large "M" on the thorax and the "pork chop" shaped, light coloured subreniform spot that constricts at the juncture with the postmedian line.

The pm line is narrow but dark and distinct, and the two largest, produced "teeth" tend to be darker than the other projections. The pm line is outwardly lined with a narrow suffusion of white scales, followed by a broader band of brown-grey scales, and then another broader suffusion of white scales up to a very regular dentation of the subterminal line.

There is always significant "bleeding" of the yellow-orange to salmon scales into the hindwing fringes.

The reniform spot has a brown center, faintly edged with black, then white, then black again. There are usually two dark bars on the forewing, one across the basal area, and one paralleling the inner margin, just below the lowest "tooth" of the pm line. The basal dark bar is sometimes absent.

Wing veins in forewing postmedian area have a grey, feathery appearance, against a lighter background.

Image courtesy of Maurice Bottos, Windsor, Ontario, August 30, 2008.

Catocala habilis, The Habilis Underwing, Trout Valley, (McHenry County) Illinois,
August 21-26 -- Sept 6, sugar bait, courtesy of Scott Boutilier.

The Catocala habilis caterpillar shows a preference for Carya ovata (shagbark hickory), Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash), and Juglans cinerea (butternut) and Juglans nigra (black walnut).

Moths come in to lights and to bait.


Adults eclose from pupae formed under leaf litter.


Catocala habilis females emit an airbourne pheromone and males use their antennae to track the scent plume. This is a sexually dimorphic species.


Eggs are deposited on tree bark in the fall and hatch the following spring.

Mature larvae

Image courtesy of

Larval Food Plants

Listed below are primary food plant(s) and alternate food plants. It is hoped that this alphabetical listing followed by the common name of the foodplant will prove useful. The list is not exhaustive, although some species seem very host specific. Experimenting with closely related foodplants is worthwhile.

Carya ovata
Fraxinus pennsylvanica.....
Juglans cinerea
Juglans nigra

Shagbark hickory
Green ash
Black walnut

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