Subject: Bark-colored Moth
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
May 31, 2015 12:04 pm
Nice bark-camouflaged moth with some color. I couldn’t find a comparable one on your site. Taken during the day, resting under a porch light. May 2015. Recognize it?
Signature: A Fan
Dear A Fan,
Your pretty moth is an Underwing Moth in the genus Catocala, and though we are not able to provide you with a definite species name, we believe it may be Catocala ilia. We just took an image of a Walnut Underwing at our Mount Washington, Los Angeles offices, but unlike your image, we did not capture a flash of the brightly colored underwings. As you have noted, the upper wings of an Underwing Moth are an effective bark camouflage, and the flashing red and black insect appears to vanish when the Underwing lands on the trunk of a tree.
Thanks for the genus name! I know the calos part comes from Greek, kalos (beautiful). I like the way it just sat there quietly. I assume it just rests during part of the day and is active at night.
Thanks for the etymology lesson. The Underwings are nocturnal, and they are frequently attracted to lights. If they are disturbed during the day, they will fly, which is why we explained about the brightly colored wings distracting the predator, who continues to search for a morsel of that color when in fact the Underwing has blended with its background once it has landed on a tree trunk or other concealing facade.