Subject: A Moth
Location: A older fish tank, inside of a house
January 10, 2013 8:47 pm
Hi I had found a Caterpillar and today it came out of it’s cocoon and I wanted to know first off should I keep it or let it go (what is best for it?) second if I keep it than what do I feed it and last but not least is it okay to keep it in a older fish tank with a top that has holes for breathing but not large enough to get out of! In that tank there is a water bottle cap full of water (in case it get thirsty lol)3 healthy leaves and a stick so that when it was a caterpillar it could make it’s cocoon on it ( it made it’s cocoon on the floor) and currently that is all that is in there should I put anything else in there!! Oh ya I also wanted to know how long is a moth’s adult life span? Thank you very much!!!!
Signature: From a Moth Owner

Large Yellow Underwing Moth

Dear Moth Owner,
While it is great to know that the location is a fish tank, a global location might be more appropriate for us to tag this submission.  If you are in Europe, this is a native species, but if you are in North America or some other location, this is an Invasive Exotic species.  We are going to assume you are not in Europe for tagging purposes.  This is a Large Yellow Underwing, Noctua pronuba, and according to BugGuide it was:  “Introduced from Europe to Nova Scotia in 1979, this species has since spread north to the Arctic Ocean, west to the Pacific, and south to the Gulf of Mexico.”  Adult moths feed on nectar and other fluids, and we do not know the preferred food of the adult moth, but BugGuide states:  “Larvae feed on a variety of crops and vegetables, plus grasses.”

Well as for the location we are in North America, so currently I have a older cutie (mini orange) in the tank, by the way the tank is NOT full of water lol. So do you think it is best for the moth to stay of be released? How long is an adult moth’s lifespan and should I add anything else to the tank other than the food, water, leaves, and that stick that I am going to remove? I also wanted to know if it is normal for a moth to sleep upside down because it keeps staying at the very top sleeping upside down!!!

We personally don’t think it is a good idea to release an invasive exotic species into the environment, though this species is already so established, we doubt it will make much of a difference.  Moths feed on nectar and other fluids, sometimes from fruit and sap, and we have no knowledge of the particular requirements of the Large Yellow Underwing.  Sleeping upsidedown from the top of the aquarium does not seem out of the ordinary.

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27 Responses to Large Yellow Underwing raised in captivity

  1. Jhon says:

    this website does not help at all i am 11 and i found a large yellow underwing caterpillar in my yard and i raised it and it is now a cacoon and i do not know whatto feed it when it is a moth so i think you should do a little more research and give me and many others information that I NEED! SO PLEASE GIVE MORE INFO.

    • bugman says:

      Dear jhon,
      We hope that you learn patience as you grow older. Your request is less than 24 hours old and the editorial staff of What’s That Bug? is gainfully employed at a relatively demanding job which requires us to work outside the WTB? office. Ethically, we cannot answer your question as feeding a Large Yellow Underwing may result in perpetuating an invasive exotic species.

    • Becca says:

      I have a large yellow underwing moth. I did some research and from what I understand they eat fruit. (I know for a fact that won’t be all they eat). I’m trying to find more info myself. I’ve just given mine some strawberries and a paper towel soaked with water for it until I know a bit more about them

    • bugman says:

      Hi Amy,
      We gather that by combining your two brief comments, you are agreeing with us that feeding an adult Large Yellow Underwing is “NOT” a “good idea” since it is an invasive exotic species that will displace native species if it is allowed to proliferate.

  2. Terry says:

    LOL! Very enjoyable thread. I found some noctua pronuba eggs early in the fall, and took them inside thinking they wouldn’t survive in Minnesota without my assistance. Two months later they were still tiny little caterpillars barely 8mm long. I wanted to see what they would turn into, but I would have had a long wait. Finally I found out they were winter cutworms and I released them into the wild of my garden. There were only 2 left of the original 23, so I’m not worried about an infestation. It was fun watching them hatch and grow. I just happened to be there with my camera when the first one hatched. Pretty cool.

  3. Stephanie says:


    Brought my tree inside in September and found a crystalin in October baried in the dirt. Didn’t think it would immerge until spring, but suprise, I have a pet Noctua pronuba male! I made a mix of honey and water and he ate some! He is not captive in a cage, but free in the house. I have a 12 x 12 x 12 fish tank, should I put it in? I don’t thinkk it’s big enough for him to feel as freely as possible…. Will he survivre all winter inside if he keeps eating? I want to go buy some nectar at the store.
    P.S. I live in soutern Quebec, Canada

    Thank you!

    • bugman says:

      While your concern for this lovely moth is understandable, the fact remains that it is an invasive species. Many nonnative species compete with native species for food, and it is possible to displace and eventually eliminate native species when nonnatives are especially prevalent. See BugGuide for more information on the Large Yellow Underwing.

  4. meag says:

    Hi! I, like john, found one of these little guys in my yard and have been harboring him in a large mason jar. He has grown since finding him, and is now approximately 3.6-4 cm long. I have two questions;
    Initially, approximately how long until he pupates and forms a cocoon?
    Secondly, is it normal that he should change colors from a light green to a light brown?

    Thank you for your insight regarding this species, I understand you cannot condone or facilitate the growth of this species as it is invasive, so I am asking merely for the sake of general knowledge.

    • bugman says:

      The change from green to brown may indicate the caterpillar is ready to pupate. Most moths that do not overwinter in a cocoon emerge if four to six weeks. Species in climates with a severe winter emerge when the temperature and other conditions are right.

  5. Hannah says:

    Hi! I recently found a Large Yellow Underwing Caterpillar on the sidewalk beside my house, and my brother took it inside to warm it up. I volunteered to look after and raise this little cutie. 🙂 As is nearly winter, I’m a little concerned as to whether it is accustomed to warm or cold weather. I’ve researched what the caterpillar eats and have made it habit to renew his food source every morning. He’s a healthy, plump little thing. Food aside, my question is, how and where do they make their cocoon? Do I need to dig up some dirt or something for it to burrow down, or does it just make it on a solid surface? I read that most moth caterpillars dig into the ground to make a cocoon, but I couldn’t find any information on my caterpillar. If you could tell me what I should prepare for him, that’d be great. 🙂
    Thank you!

  6. Lucy says:

    Finding it funny you call a (I live in UK so to me it’s British, but Eurasia works too) moth exotic and invasive. I get the whole ‘competing with native species’ bi,t but we are anything but exotic…wet and cold most of the time but not exotic! PS I found this page by looking for a way to protect a native winter caterpillar (as we have an outdoor toilet and they love walking in this time of year) I guess I will NOT be finding out any answers here but thanks for making me feel warm while the gales rage outside!

    • bugman says:

      By our standard, a species is an “Invasive Exotic” if it is non-native to the region where the submission originated and it is spreading, thus competing with native organisms. Thus, the North American Western Conifer Seed Bug, which is native to the Pacific Northwest, and which expanded its range across North America probably due to increased air travel by people beginning in the 1960s, is tagged as an Invasive Exotic now that it has been introduced to Europe, but it is not tagged as an Invasive Exotic in its original range. We should probably go back and clean up the tag because not every introduced species is invasive. Here is how the North Carolina Aquariums site defines the terms: “An exotic species is any organism not native to an area, but not necessarily found in the wild. It may have been brought intentionally or introduced accidentally. It can be found in homes, private gardens or public facilities, such as zoos and aquariums. Occasionally, exotic species escape and establish themselves without causing damage to the natural environment. Both plants and animals can be exotic and/or invasive.” So on our site, a creature is an Invasive Exotic if it is non-native and it proliferates to the detriment of native species.

  7. Janet says:

    Hi everyone.
    As a special treat, the 2 male American toads that I keep love to eat bugs that I find in summer. Living in Wisconsin, the winter months make it difficult to find insects, so I’ve come to appreciate the Noctua Pronuba; my toads LOVE them (yum yum)!

    Occasionally, a caterpillar will get away and cocoon in the soil, so I have unwittingly raised a large yellow underwing on occasion. Fortunately, I have no moral dilemma over needing to release an exotic & invasive moth as my toads are perfectly happy to eat moths as well as larvae 🙂

  8. Becky says:

    So that’s what I’m dealing with! I’ve just put in a garden in the southern tier of NY state. Having grown up in eastern Ohio, many of the tree, weed, and animal species are familiar to me, but some are not, and this morning I’ve gone looking for an ID on an unusual chrysalis I keep finding in my vegetable beds. Never been stabbed by a pupa before, but there’s a little red mark in my thumb to prove it can happen! So, while I realize this is an older thread, hopefully someone that stumbles across the same photos and species ID I did will see this comment.

    I’ve concluded that I don’t want these in my beds, though I leave beneficial and neutral insects and arthropods alone. (Bring on the centipedes!) I hand pick these pupae like I do Japanese beetle larvae and slugs. I’m lucky enough to live near a small family of wild ducks and some Canada geese, so you can guess where those garden pests end up! (Is it considered carnage if you just help the circle of life a long a little bit?) The pupae are about 1/2″ to 3/4″ long, with a segmented lower half that terminates in a remarkably sharp point. While I assume it is to be used for digging, it can also apparently be used in a limited manner for defense. While holding the solid end, one may watch the segmented end start to rotate, attempting to dig that spike into something nearby to move away from the threat or at least give it a good poke. I’ve read at least one report of someone else having a red spot after getting jabbed by this pupae. That gardener had itchy red bumps for a few days after, but that could be a reaction to soil/pollen in the wound as well. (Or even a brush with urushiol from poison ivy.) I’m finding them in heavy clay soil recently turned from several years of laying fallow under a healthy crop of weeds like dandelion and plantain. It’s mildly acidic, with a juniper tree about 15′ away, and in partial to full sun (warmer than other parts of the yard?)

    Video of pupae and it’s movement with well-documented spike:

    I’m not sure how these pupae would work for fishing bait since the exterior is quite crunchy, but geese, ducks, blue gill, and bass do seem to enjoy them. (The whole group now follows me around the pond, now, whether I have a container in my hands or not.)

    • bugman says:

      For the record, Unnecessary Carnage does not apply to Invasive Exotic species, and we are also not opposed to feeding other wildlife.

  9. Christine says:

    My daughter found a frozen solid yellow underwing cadapiller a couple days ago. It warmed up and is alive. I have been first trying to find out what kind of cadapiller it is. Done that now. Now I need to know what it eats as a caterpillar from now until spring. Is there something I can or should put in the aquarium that is now his home?

  10. Nevaeh says:

    Today I found the exact same species of that moth, only mine was a caterpillar. I found it in the cold so I took it in to stay warm.

    Should I keep it or let it go after hatching?

    • Angela Shepherd says:

      I’m dealing w the same dilemma as we speak!! I couldn’t leave him to freeze, but bc it’s winter his food sources for me to gather are limited….maybe pull up some garden roots???

  11. maddison says:

    hi! i was just wondering what should i feed to my caterpillar. i live in Washington and here, it is not considered “invasive”, so can i please have a complete response? thanks

  12. Iris Bos says:

    Hello I found a Large Yellow Underwing caterpillar and have raised it inside. I have given it food and it is now in a full cocoon. I am set on watching it grow to a full moth and was wondering if the cocoon needs to be under ground for it to survive. Right now it is just chilling under some leaves in a jar with air holes and I need to know if it needs to be buried in order to live? Thanks so much! Oh and I live in Arizona and I’m not sure if it’s an invasive species or not here but either way I would like to watch it grow.

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