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For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
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Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Whitney's Underwing Moth (Catocala whitneyi)


There is no overview information available for that species.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Whitney's Underwing Moth (Catocala whitneyi). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Catocala whitneyi in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG2G3
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Identification: A gray moth with basal dash absent, reniform spot and antemedial line each forming a black wedge on forewings. Hindwings yellow-orange with two black bands, the marginal band broken.

Similar Species: C. abbreviatella has heavy dark lines on the forewing perpendicular to the leading edge and emerges earlier. C.amestris has double black lines on the forewing and the hindwing more yellow. C. sordida has a conspicuous deeply zigzag whitish line across the forewing. C. nuptialis has a large black spot near the leading edge of the forewing and the hindwing marginal band is not broken but rather indented and emerges earlier.

Habitat: Basically a prairie species but it does occur in xeric oak savanna and other dry lightly wooded habitats where the foodplant is common.

Host Plant: Leadplant, Amorpha canescens.

Associated Species: Catocala abbreviatella and amestris also feed on this plant in Wisconsin, though C. amestris is not usually found with C. whitneyi.

State Distribution: Dane, Grant, Green, Monroe Cos.

Global Distribution: Plains states eastward to Ohio and Tennessee.

Phenology: Adults mid July-early August. Early adult date June 27. Flight period begins about a week later than C.abbreviatella.

Life and Natural History: Eggs are laid on the plant or in the litter nearby in July or August. Eggs overwinter and the larvae feed on foliage in the spring. The larvae are found at the uppermost tips of old growth beginning when the leaf buds unfurl in late May. Larvae hide in debris during the day and feed during the night. After larval development, the caterpillars will cease feeding and shorten in preparation for pupation. Pupation occurs typically in the litter. Most Noctuids are nocturnal and females attract males by the release of pheromones.

Survey Guidelines: Attracted to artificial light. Many Catocala species are attracted by "sugaring" along forest paths and edges (Rings, et al. 1992). Search plants for larvae in early June and blacklight for adults in July. Peak flight periods between 1:30 and 3:00 am.(Borth and Barina, 1991).



Whitney's Underwing Moth

Photo © Les Ferge.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Whitney's Underwing Moth. Only natural communities for which Whitney's Underwing Moth is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Dry Prairie 2
Dry-mesic Prairie 2
Oak Opening 2
Sand Prairie 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Whitney's Underwing Moth. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Whitney's Underwing Moth occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020