Underwing Moths of Ojibway
Underwing moths are named after their brightly coloured and boldly patterned hindwings which contrast with the bark-like pattern of the forewings. These moths are in the genus Catocala which is part of the owlet moth family (Noctuidea).
There is one brood per year with the adult moths appearing between mid July and October. They reach their peak of diversity during mid to late August in Essex County. The eggs overwinter before hatching and the caterpillars feed on various species of trees. Their quaint common names reflect the period of the latter half of the 1800's when many underwings were first discovered and named.
The best way to observe these moths is to go "sugaring". Mix one cup sugar, two or more mashed bananas, one oz. molasses and one bottle of beer to make the solution. Sometimes a bit of dry yeast is added to help with the fermentation process. Find a woodlot and apply this bait mixture with a paint brush to tree trunks at dusk. Visit your trees through the evening to watch these magnificent moths and other insects enjoying the sugary concoction.
The Penitent Underwing in the photograph to the right is visiting a patch of sugaring solution. Notice the bright eye shine which gives this family of insects their common name, the owlet moths.
UNDERWING MOTHS of WINDSOR and ESSEX COUNTY, ONTARIO
There is concern for the future of these beautful insects as they are dependant on the survival of woodlands. The larval food plant for each species is provided below. Only a few precent of Essex County remains wooded, one of the lowest percentage for any county or regional municipality in Ontario. An * indicates the species has been recorded in the Ojibway Prairie Complex.
L. F. Gall. 1990. Evolutionary Ecology of Sympatric Catocala Moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) III. Experiments on Female Oviposition Preference Journal of Reseach on the Lepidoptera 29(3):217-233.
T.D. Sargent. 1976. Legion of the Night: The Underwing Moths. University of Massachusetts Press. Amherst, Massachusetts. 222 pp. (available from BioQuip)
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