Catocala obscura

Catocala obscura
Strecker, 1873

Catocala obscura, posed scan on shagbark hickory by Bill Oehlke,
Pottersville, New Jersey, August 18, 2002.

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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 obscura, The Obscure Underwing, (wingspan: 60-72mm), flies in Canada in southern Quebec (very rare) and Ontario and in the United States from Massachusetts and Connecticut south to North Carolina, west to Mississippi and north to Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.

It has also been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Obscura has lightly checked white fringe (residua - grey fringe) and tends to be less common in northern portions of its range. The dull, grey forewings, usually void of any significant dashes or streaks, provide for easy identification. The antemedial, postmedial and subterminal lines of obscura are faint and the outer half of the subterminal region is only slightly paler than the rest of the forewing.

The upper tooth of the pm line is slightly elongate with tips of subsequent teeth in an oblique line.

The reniform spot is mostly concolorous with the rest of the forewing, sometimes with some darker marks. The subreniform spot is open, faintly outlined and concolorous with the rest of the wing. Catocala obscura (right), Windsor, Ontario, courtesy of Maurice Bottos. See wing descriptions.

Catocala obscura pair, August 16, 2003, Longueuil, Quebec,
taken at bait, courtesy of Pierre Legault.


Catocala obscura are on the wing from July to October. Peak flight is probably in August-September in the northern portions of range.

Catocala obscura, Sussex County, New Jersey, August 1, 2006, courtesy of Joe Garris

Catocala obscura (verso), Sussex County, New Jersey, courtesy of Joe Garris

The Catocala obscura caterpillar feeds on Juglans and Carya species: pecan and hickories.

Sometimes moths hide, head down, under shags on shagbark hickory.

Catocala obscura, Myersville, Frederick County, Maryland, September 5, 2002, MVlight, Mark Etheridge.


Adults eclose from pupae at soil surface.

Catocala obscura, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York,
August 8, 2012, courtesy of Meena Haribal.

Catocala obscura, Ware, Hampshire County, Massachusetts,
August 31, 2014, courtesy of Brian Klassanos, tentative id by Bill Oehlke


Catocala obscura females emit an airbourne pheromone and males use their antennae to track the scent plume.


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

Catocala obscura, reared by Gabe Larrabee, photo by Ronald Nelson

Catocala obscura, reared by Gabe Larrabee, photo by Ronald Nelson

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 glabra
Carya illinoinensis.......
Carya ovata
Juglans nigra

Pignut hickory
Shagbark hickory
Black walnut

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