Catocala palaeogama
Guenee, 1852

The Old Wife Underwing, courtesy of Jesse Donavan, New Jersey.

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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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The Oldwife Underwing, Catocala palaeogama (wingspan: 60-70mm, Hodges #8795), flies in Ontario and Quebec (rare), through Maine, New Jersey, Tennessee, etc., to South Carolina, west to Arkansas and Oklahoma and north through Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

It is also confirmed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin,

Catocala palaeogama, Connecticut, courtesy of John Himmelman.

annida Fager, 1882, form, has whitish forewings with very dark reniform spot, subapical spot and inner margin border.

phalanga Grt., 1864, form, has black basal patch and dark subterminal band on relatively light grey forewing.

Catocala palaeogama form phalanga, August 30, 2006,
Stillwater Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, courtesy of Joe Garris.

Catocala palaeogama form phalanga, New Salem, Franklin County, Massachusetts,
August 2, 2015, courtersy of Sue Cloutier.

All forms have the characteristic orange, heavily barred fringe to the apex, and irregular bands on the hindwings. The hw basal median area is heavily suffused with dark brown to black scales.

There is also a dark bar in the outer half of the median area, paralleling the inner margin halfway between the inner margin and the light, closed subreniform spot. The bar is especially evident in the phalanga form.

Catocala palaeogama, New Salem, Franklin County, Massachusetts,
September 4, 2012, courtesy of Sue Cloutier.

Catocala palaeogama, August 19, 2005,
Stillwater Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, courtesy of Joe Garris.

Catocala palaeogama, Pickens County, Georgia, September 15, 2009, courtesy of Aubrey Scott.

Catocala palaeogama, Willshire, Van Wert County, Ohio,
July 21, 2012, courtesy of Greg Roehm, tentative id by Bill Oehlke.

Catocala palaeogama, Quebec, courtesy of Pierre Legault.

Catocala palaeogama, Quebec, courtesy of Pierre Legault.

Catocala palaeogama, Quebec, courtesy of Pierre Legault.

Visit Catocala palaeogama, Devonwood, July 30, 2008, Windsor, Ontario, courtesy of Maurice Bottos. Maurice had suggested I post a labeled diagram of Catocala wing characters to aid with descriptions. That has been done in the Identification Keys area.

A detailed description relative to that diagram is posted with Maurice's image, linked just above.

Visit Catocala palaeogama, Pickens County, Georgia, August 15, 2009, Aubrey Scott.

Visit Catocala palaeogama, Athol, Worcester County, August 31, 2011, Dave Small.

Many thanks to Shayna Marchese who provides great images (recto and verso) of Catocala palaeogama from Jersey City, Hudson, County, August 15, 2015.


Catocala palaeogama flies as a single generation with moths on the wing from June to October.

Moths come in to lights readily and also to bait.

Catocala palaeogama, female underside, Montreal, Quebec,
September 2, 2004, street light, courtesy of Pierre Legault.

The Catocala palaeogama caterpillar show a preference for hickories and walnuts.


Adults eclose from pupae formed under leaf litter.


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


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

Ron Nelson, teamed with Gabriel Larrabee, sent me the image below of Catocala palaeogama eggs from Milwaukee.

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 alba
Carya glabra
Carya illinoinensis......
Carya laciniosa
Carya ovalis
Carya ovata
Castanea dentata
Juglans nigra
Malus pumila

Mockernut/White hickory
Pignut hickory
Shellbark hickory
Red hickory
Shagbark hickory
American chestnut
Black walnut
Common Apple

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