Catocala praeclara
Grote and Robinson, 1866

Catocala praeclara courtesy of Cindy Mead, Michigan.

This site has been created by Bill Oehlke at
Comments, suggestions and/or additional information are welcomed by Bill.


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


"Moon River"
copyright C. Odenkirk

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Catocala praeclara, the Praeclara Underwing, (wingspan: 40-50mm) flies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and through to Nova Scotia maybe??? in Canada. Subspecies praeclara manitoba flies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and in the US states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

In the US nominate praeclara flies in Maine south to Florida, west to Kansas unconfirmed and Minnesota.

It has also been recorded in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Catocala praeclara, Monhegan Island, Maine,
September 1, 2006, courtesy of Steve Nanz.

The forewing is a pale greenish-grey with considerable contrasting brown shading beyond post medial line.

There is a black basal dash very close to the inner margin and another dash, higher up in the median area.

Note the contrasting shapes of the reniform and subreniform spots.

The upper of the two larger teeth of the pm line is considerably longer and wider than the lower tooth.

Note double am line, internally filled with white.

There is a lighter, subcircular patch, outlined in black and brown on lower portion of thorax.

Catocala praeclara courtesy of Canadian Biodiverstiy Information Facility

Vernon Brou writes, "Praeclara's forewings can be silver, green or purple, depending on the locale across the eastern US."

Catocala praeclara, July 21, 2006, Peterborough, Ontario, courtesy of Tim Dyson.


Catocala praeclara are usually on the wing from July to September.

The Catocala praeclara caterpillar shows a preference for chokeberry and juneberry.

With much patience Tim Dyson was able to lure this one to some mashed banana on a stick after it reported to a bedsheet below his cabin light.

Catocala praeclara, verso, July 21, 2006, Peterborough, Ontario, courtesy of Tim Dyson.


Adults eclose from pupae at soil surface.

Catocala praeclara, Monhegan Island, Maine,
September 1, 2006, courtesy of Steve Nanz.

Catocala praeclara, Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts,
July 15, 2011, courtesy of Dave Small.


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

Catocala praeclara, Monhegan Island, Maine,
September 1, 2006, courtesy of Steve Nanz.

Visit Catocala praeclara, Omegaw County, Michigan, July 28, 2012, Cindy Mead

Visit Catocala praeclara, Florence, Hampshire County, July 16, 2014, Betsy Higgins.


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

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.

Crataegus calpodendron.......
Photinia X prunifolia
Photinia melanocarpa

Service berry/Juneberry/Shadbush
Red haw/Pear hawthorn/Urn-tree haw
Black chokeberry

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Catocala praeclara, Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts,
August 2, 2011, courtesy of Dave Small.

I am often asked to identify Catocala, and had to carefully examine this specimen by actually writing a description of what I observe before making a determination. There was some concern as to whether or not this might be Catocala mira, but my notes below, indicate why it is more likely Catocala praeclara.

The Catocala depicted immediately above has an almost uniform ground colour of grey with a slight greenish cast. There is lighter grey (almost white) on the costa from the body to about midpoint of median area where the costa gradually darkens to ground colour.

The basal area has three strong black dashes: one central, emanating from the body to about the middle of the basal area; the second running parallel to the inner margin along one vein up from the inner margin from mid basal area to am line; the third emanating from the body, running along im almost to antemedial line.

The amline is strong and dark in the costa, running almost obliquely before turning almost at a right angle near its midpoint, distant from subreniform spot at this turn. It turns again at a slightly oblique angle back toward the outer margin, before turnign again to the inner margin. The black outer edge is not as thick in the lower half of the line, and there is a strong whitish presence interior to the aml in its lower half. The whitish inner lining is also present in the upper half, but is not as pronounced. There is much fainter, diffuse light brown interior tracing of the whitish scaling.

The median area is pretty much devoid of markings except for a large, closed, subrectangular subreniform spot that is weakly outlined in black and is slightly lighter than its surroundings. The reniform spot is a weakly delineated (very thin grey black outline) crescent with a whitish suffusion surrounding the crescent.

The pmline is strong in its upper half to the completion of the two elongated teeth. Subsequent teeth are almost non-existant until the third tooth which has its lower edge highlighted with a thick black streak, below which there is a dark brown bar, a thinner black steak on the next vein and a brown area along the inner margin.

The subterminal area is a mix of light and dark brown and the terminal area shows some strong black highlights on veins, and a row of white dots (appearing non-connected) subparallel to outer margin.

I looked at my description above and applied it to the other preaclara images on this page and found it to be an appropriate description, with some slight variations, possibly due to angle, size, or quality of photos.

When applying the same description to mira, I find mira has a costa that lacks the lighter, whiter section near the body. Mira lacks the additional streaks in the basal area. Ground colour is not as consistent in mira, and there is a definite lighter area in median area of mira from subreniform spot to costa outside of amline. I also found the am line in mira gets very close to the lower inner edge of the subreniform spot. The dark steak in the lower reaches of the pm line is not so think in mira, and the brown area along the inner margin is much weaker in mira. For all of the above, I feel this moth is more likely praeclara.

Catocala praeclara, Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts,
August 2, 2011, courtesy of Dave Small.