Catocala vidua

Catocala vidua
(J.E. Smith, 1797) Phalaena vidua

Catocala vidua courtesy of Hugh McGuinness, 9-22-02 in Sag Harbor, NY

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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 Widow Underwing, Catocala vidua (wingspan: 70-80mm), flies from southern Ontario, Canada, into Maine, New Hampshire (expected but not confirmed), and Connecticut, south at least to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, west to Texas and Oklahoma and north to Wisconsin.

Rick Gillmore writes, "C.P.Kimball's book, Lepidoptera of Florida is a good book, but an example of another mistake in Kimball's book is with Catocala vidua. He lists five specimens of C. vidua from Starke, Florida, May 1951. Steve Roman and I found all five specimens in the Florida State Collection in Gainesville, Florida, back in the early 70's. The five specimens were all Catocala maestosa."

It has also been reported in Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia.

Visit Catocala vidua, Pickens County, Georgia, September 1, 2008, courtesy of Aubrey Scott.

Visit Catocala vidua, Pickens County, Georgia, October 15, 2009, courtesy of Aubrey Scott.

Visit Catocala vidua, Rockburn Ridge Park, Elkridge, Howard County, MD, August 22, 2010, Saundra Byrd.

Catocala vidua, Central Park, New York, courtesy of Marie Winn.

Catocala vidua, Montgomery County, Tennessee, last week of September 2008, courtesy of Tom Payne.

The ground colour of the forewing is light grey. There is a distinguished dark arc running through the top of the reniform spot to the apex. There are heavy, dark anal and basal dashes.

There is considerable white scaling inside the diffuse subterminal line.

The hindwing is black with broad, white fringe, only lightly interrupted.

Catocala vidua courtesy of Clemson University.

Visit Catocala vidua, August-September, Woodlawn, Montgomery County, Tennessee, courtesy of Tom Payne.


Catocala vidua flies as a single generation with moths on the wing from early August into late October.

The vidua to the right, in typical resting pose, came into a light in Sag Harbor, New York, on September 22, 2002.

Image courtesy of Hugh McGuinness.

The Catocala vidua caterpillar feeds on hickories, walnuts, oak, willow and locust species.

Adults come readily to bait and to lights.


Adults eclose from pupae formed under leaf litter.

Catocala vidua, Devonwood, Windsor, Ontario, August 30, 2008, courtesy of Maurice Bottos. copyright.


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

Many thanks to David Moskowitz who sends this beautiful image of a Catocala vidua photographed September 21, 2011, in East Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Catocala vidua, East Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey,
September 21, 2011, courtesy of David Moskowitz.

David asked me, "What are the diagnostic marks that separate it as C. vidua?"

I have outlined various features in different coloured inks on a Diagnostic Copy of C. vidua, and have entered some comments so that techniques I use for determinations might be of use to others.


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 illinoinensis.......
Carya ovata
Carya pallida
Juglans cinerea
Juglans nigra
Robinia pseudoacacia

Shagbark hickory
Sand hickory
Black walnut
Black locust/False acacia

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Catocala vidua, Ozark Mountains, Searcy County, Arkansas,
October 4, 2011, courtesy of Marvin Smith.