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Oldwife Underwing (Catocala palaeogama)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Oldwife Underwing

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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Margarette G. from southeast MI
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Image Credit: Margarette G. from southeast MI
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The Oldwife Underwing seems drab and ordinary at rest, but when seen in flight, its bright orange hindwings get to show off in marvelous fashion.

Updated: 07/07/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Underwing moths hide their colors when resting by laying their wings flat. The smaller hindwings of the Oldwife Underwing are a rich orange color with irregular black bands crossing them. A light fringe decorates their edges. These wings are only visible when the wings are spread wide open, usually just when it is about to take off and fly away. The larger, less conspicuous forewings are gray with black scalloped lines that cross almost every third portion of the wing. A light brown band also crosses wings near the bottom. A dark brown spot sits at the center of each wing, and a second, paler spot lies is further down. The Oldwife Underwing bears many similarities to its close relatives like The Bride and the Youthful Underwing.

Adults can be found flying at night and near light sources in areas close to deciduous forests. They are most active from summer through early autumn. Caterpillars eat hickory and walnut tree leaves.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Erebidae
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          Genus: Catocala
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            Species: palaeogama
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Catocala palaeogama
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 60mm to 70mm (2.36" to 2.75")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: gray, black, brown, white, orange
Descriptors: marbled, spots, wavy, lines, flying, orange, bands

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 60mm (2.4in) and 70mm (2.8in)
Lo: 60mm
Md: 65mm
Hi: 70mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Oldwife Underwing may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Oldwife Underwing. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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