The yellow underwing moth is an interesting creature that you might have encountered in your garden or during an evening walk. These moths are known for their distinct yellow underwings and their ability to fly both day and night.
As a member of the Noctuidae family, the yellow underwing moth can be found all across Europe and parts of North America. In their larval stage, they feed on a variety of plants, while adult moths seek nectar from flowers. Keep reading to learn more about their fascinating life cycle and identifying features!
Overview of Yellow Underwing Moth
The yellow underwing moth is a fascinating species of moth found in the family Noctuidae. This insect belongs to the genus Noctua and is scientifically known as Noctua pronuba. As a member of the Animalia kingdom and Arthropoda phylum, it falls within the Insecta class.
Yellow underwing moths possess some interesting features which distinguish them from other moth species. For instance:
- They have distinct bright yellow hindwings
- Their forewings showcase a mix of brown and grayish colors with intricate patterns
The life cycle of these moths involves multiple stages, including the egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. One significant aspect of the yellow underwing moth is its larvae, which plays a crucial role in the moth’s overall development. Here are some key characteristics of yellow underwing moth larvae:
- They feed on low-growing plants and grasses
- Their body color may vary from green to brown with light stripes
Though the yellow underwing moth is only a small part of the diverse moth family, understanding and appreciating their unique characteristics can leave you in awe of these fascinating insects. The more you learn about them, the more you may find yourself drawn to the world of moths.
The Yellow Underwing Moth is a fascinating creature that can be easily identified by its distinct features. Let’s dive into the physical attributes that make this moth unique.
Wingspan and Size: The Yellow Underwing Moth is a relatively large moth, with a wingspan ranging from 40 to 60 mm. This makes it quite noticeable compared to other similar insects. When at rest, it displays its beautiful forewings, which are typically tan or brown with intricate patterns.
Coloration: One of the most striking characteristics of the Yellow Underwing Moth is its vibrant underwings. As the name implies, these hindwings are usually bright yellow or orange with a bold black band towards their edges. This colorful display is typically hidden beneath the more modestly-colored forewings.
Distinct Markings: Yellow Underwing Moths can also be identified by their unique patterns and markings. Their forewings often have various shades of brown, creating a camouflage-like appearance. Some may even feature a central black or dark brown spot on the forewing to add more complexity to the pattern.
In summary, the physical attributes of Yellow Underwing Moths make them quite distinctive compared to other moth species. Their large size, bright hindwings, and intricate forewing patterns contribute to their uniqueness. By understanding these characteristics, you’ll be able to easily identify and appreciate these fascinating insects in their natural habitat.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
The life cycle of the yellow underwing moth consists of several stages: eggs, caterpillars (larvae), pupae, and adults. Let’s dive into each stage briefly.
Eggs are laid by female moths after mating, usually on the leaves of host plants. These tiny eggs then hatch into caterpillars, which are the larval stage of the moth.
As caterpillars, they feed on a variety of plants, helping them grow and develop. When they have reached a certain size, the caterpillars enter the pupal stage. At this point, they form a protective shell, called a pupa, where they undergo metamorphosis.
Finally, the moth emerges as an adult. Adult moths are responsible for seeking out mates and starting the cycle once again.
Here are some key points to remember about the life cycle and reproduction of yellow underwing moths:
- Female moths lay eggs on host plants
- Caterpillars hatch from eggs and feed on plants
- When fully grown, caterpillars become pupae and undergo metamorphosis
- Adults emerge from pupae, find mates, and lay eggs to continue the cycle
In summary, the yellow underwing moth goes through a fascinating process of growth and development, from egg to adult. Understanding their life cycle and reproduction can help appreciate these creatures and contribute to their conservation.
Habitat and Geographic Distribution
The yellow underwing moth is quite versatile when it comes to its habitat. You can find them in various locations such as North America, Europe, and Asia. In particular, they can be spotted in countries like Canada, Mexico, and regions like Nova Scotia, Pacific, British Columbia, England, the U.S., and Wales.
These moths prefer areas like deciduous forests but can also be found in places with different vegetation like lawns and urban areas. They adapt well to changing environments, making them more widespread than other moth species. In the U.S., they have been spotted in states like Montana and more.
Some key features of the yellow underwing moth’s habitat include:
- Deciduous forests
- Lawns and urban areas
- Regions with diverse vegetation
Remember, keep an eye out for these moths in your very own backyard! Their adaptability allows them to thrive in various types of environments, making it likely for you to encounter them.
Behavior and Lifestyle
The yellow underwing moth is an interesting species with unique behaviors and lifestyle patterns. In this section, you will learn about their nighttime activities, flying habits, and their life as winter cutworms and larger yellow underwing moths.
At night, these moths become active and engage in flying. They deftly navigate the darkness and search for food sources. As winter cutworms, they feed on a range of herbaceous plants, while as larger yellow underwing moths, they may have broader dietary preferences.
Yellow underwing caterpillars, commonly known as cutworms, are active during the day and night. They are notorious for damaging plants, as they tend to feed on the base of plant stems and can cause significant injury to the plant.
Some key characteristics of the yellow underwing moth lifestyle include:
- Activity during nighttime
- Ability to fly in search of food sources
- Life span as winter cutworms and larger yellow underwing moths
- Preference for herbaceous plants
In conclusion, understanding the behavior and lifestyle of the yellow underwing moth can help you appreciate their ecological role and develop effective strategies to manage them if necessary.
Interactions with Plants and Crops
The Yellow Underwing Moth (Noctua pronuba) has a significant role in its interactions with plants and crops. You’ll find that this moth’s larvae mainly feed on a varied diet which includes several plants and grasses.
Some of the common plants these larvae feed on are:
- Tomato plants
- Fragaria (strawberry plants)
- Beta (beet and chard plants)
- Vitis (grapevines)
Although the Yellow Underwing Moth is not known to cause fatal damage, they can still be considered a pest. The feeding activity of the larvae may lead to visible signs of damage to the plantations.
One way they can be a nuisance is through their role as a cutworm. Cutworms are the type of larvae that feed on the stems of the plants, causing the plants to fall over as they chew through its base.
Comparison between plants mainly affected by the Yellow Underwing Moth larvae:
|Mainly affected by Cutworm Damage
|Other Damage Info
Remember to keep an eye out for signs of the Yellow Underwing Moth larvae in your garden or farm. By being aware of their presence and potential damage, you can better protect your plants and crops from this pest.
Predators and Threats
Yellow underwing moths face various predators and challenges in their environment. Let’s explore some of these threats.
- Spiders: As with many moth species, spiders are natural predators of the yellow underwing moth. They use their webs to trap unsuspecting moths and consume them as a food source.
- Bats: Greater horseshoe bats, lesser horseshoe bats, and brown long-eared bats are known to prey on moths. These bats use echolocation to locate and catch flying moths during their nighttime feeding sessions.
- Other animals: Birds and larger insects may also pose a threat to the yellow underwing moth.
Toxicity and predation:
Though yellow underwing moths are not toxic, some animals might avoid them due to their bright coloration. This is because bright colors in insects can sometimes be a sign of toxicity. In the case of the yellow underwing moth, however, their vibrant colors might simply deter predators.
As a friendly reminder, when observing yellow underwing moths, be sure to respect their natural habitats and avoid disturbing them, as doing so can inadvertently expose them to greater risks from predators.
Conservation and Impact
The Yellow Underwing Moth, scientifically known as Noctua pronuba, is a widespread species found in various habitats. In terms of conservation status, they are not currently under threat and are quite common in their distribution regions.
These moths have a migratory behavior, often seen traveling to different areas depending on seasonal changes. This allows them to adapt to various soil types and environments, making them a highly versatile species.
While the Yellow Underwing Moth primarily feeds on various plants, they also play a role in the larger ecosystem. They serve as prey for birds, bats, and other predatory insects, promoting biodiversity and balance in their habitats. Additionally, their larvae are known to help control the population of certain plant species by feeding on them.
Yellow Underwing Moths can be found in a wide range of environments, from grasslands and meadows to urban gardens and woodlands. Their diverse distribution is a testament to their adaptability and resilience, allowing them to thrive in various environments.
Despite their numerous benefits, the moths can sometimes host parasites and diseases. Some of these parasites may negatively affect the moth’s life cycle or health. However, such occurrences are relatively rare and not a significant threat to the overall moth population.
In conclusion, the Yellow Underwing Moth is an essential part of their ecosystems, contributing to conservation efforts and providing ecological balance. By understanding their role in nature, you can appreciate their significance in maintaining a healthy environment.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Large Yellow Underwing raised in captivity
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
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.
Letter 2 – False Underwing
Subject: Some kind of catocala moth?
Location: Troy, VA
August 3, 2016 9:11 am
After doing a search, I’m pretty sure this is a catocala moth, what kind eludes me. It’s lovely, whatever it is, and it was quite obliging by showing its underwings.
Signature: Grace Pedalino
Though the common name Underwing is shared by your moth as well as the Underwings in the genus Catocala, your individual is actually a False Underwing, Allotria elonympha, which we identified on BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed on a variety of deciduous trees, such as Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica), hickories, walnuts.” Black Gum is also the only host listed for The Hebrew you just submitted, so we are speculating there is at least one growing nearby.
Letter 3 – Fruit Piercing Moth from Australia
Unknown Australian hawkmoth.
April 3, 2010
Although I’m usually pretty good at identifying local insects, I’ve never seen this one before! I spotted this very large hawkmoth on the balcony and I’m absolutely stumped. You can’t really tell from the pictures, but its first pair of wings were almost irridescent; they seemed to change from dark green to jet black depending on the angle. It’s currently mid-Autumn, should that make a difference. What species is it? It’s really quite gorgeous. =)
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
In February 2008 we posted a photo of this unusual Noctuid Moth, and we had assistance in identifying it as a Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima salaminia. You can find some nice images on Light Creations Critter Page and on the Butterfly House website of Australian species.
The adult moth is considered a pest because it feeds by piercing fruit with its sharp proboscis, leaving the fruit vulnerable to fungus infections.
Well, that explains why I couldn’t identify it – I’ve never seen an owlet
moth with such sharply pointed wings before! Thankyou very much, always
glad to learn more about my buggy friends. =)
Letter 4 – Fruit Piercing Moth from India
Subject: What’s that bug?
August 25, 2013 6:01 pm
I want to know about this creature..
This is a Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima materna, and we found matching photos on FlickR and Wikimedia Commons. The moths have a proboscis that is capable of piercing the skin of many types of fruit, enabling the moth to feed on the juice. This habit ensures them a position as an agricultural pest in many parts of the world.
Letter 5 – Fruit Piercing Moth from Indonesia
Subject: Moth in Jakarta
October 30, 2016 5:41 pm
Hi. This guy/gal was hanging on our patio wall in Jakarta, Indonesia, in late October. Any idea what it’s called?
Love your site. Thanks!
While we did not find an exact visual match online, we did find several similar looking moths which makes us feel pretty confident this is a Fruit Piercing Moth in the subfamily Calpinae, similar to these images on this Bengkulu Blog or this image from the Papua Insect site. It seems to most closely resemble Eudocima (Adris) prolai from the Papua Insect site.
Letter 6 – Fruit Piercing Moth from Maldives
Subject: moth, needs ID
Location: kunfunadhoo, maldives
December 31, 2015 11:56 pm
hi, my name is adil and im on eco resort in the maldives, Sonevafushi, we are trying to identify and map the bio diversity of the island and as local resources on the matter limited we are having trouble identifying these insects. Maldives is in oriental region weather is sunny for most of the year, the moth in question was found at night outside near a light
We believe this is a Fruit Piercing Moth in the family Erebidae, though we have not been able to locate an exact match from Maldives. Oz Animals has a very similar looking individual that is found in Australia.
Thank you for your reply. I thought that it was a fruit piercing moth as well but i have been contradicting answers from a few other sources, another species which looks quite a lot like this one is also found in Maldives and i was told that this might be a Thyas coronata. The resemblance is making it hard to accurately ID the species, your thoughts?
The Moths of Borneo site has a nice image of Thyas coronata that looks very close to your individual, and it belongs to the tribe Ophiusini in the family Erebidae. That might be the correct identification.
Letter 7 – Greater Yellow Underwing
Location: Ancaster, Ontario
November 16, 2010 4:58 am
This underwing invited itself into the house and I took the photos in June of this year. I captured it in a vase to get a closer look and to take some pictures of it (and also to keep my cats from eating it) and then let it go back outside.
I love their aerodynamic little faces.
We nearly went dizzy scrolling through all the individuals in the Owlet Moth family Noctuidae on the Moth Photographers Group which does not recognize the newer taxonomy on BugGuide of the superfamily Noctuoidae. This is one large family or superfamily, but we finally found Noctua pronuba on the Moth Photographers Group on Plate 33 (Noctuidae, Noctuinae), and it matches your moth. BugGuide identifies Noctua pronuba by the common names Greater Yellow Underwing, Large Yellow Underwing or Winter Cutworm (larva) and states that 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.“
Letter 8 – Large Yellow Underwing
Subject: Unkown moth
Location: Seattle, WA
January 18, 2013 11:32 pm
Hello, I am located in Seattle, WA and have found several dead moths in a sewing/fabric studio. This is very concerning as a cloth eating moth infestation could destroy all of the work that went into collecting/organizing this fabric studio as well as any finished work. I don’t know much about insects and just need to know if this moth will destroy fabric as well as any tips you might have on deterring fabric destroying moths (I do have quite a bit of natural fabrics like wool, cottons, silks, etc, all of which are clean and folded on wire shelving or in tall rolls). I’ve read up a bit on moths and did buy some moth traps but have not used them, as I’m leery of ”attracting” moths to the trap (would this just create a moth problem where none existed before by attracting the very type of insect that I am hoping to avoid? Come on over buddies!) This room only has a small window that doesn’t get much light, so it’s dark when I’m not there as I do not keep lights on in rooms that are not in use. Any help/info/tips would be greatly appreciated.
Signature: Worried in Seattle
Dear Worried in Seattle,
This appears to us to be a Large Yellow Underwing, Noctua pronuba, an invasive, exotic species introduced to North America from Europe. Adult moths do not feed on clothing. The damage is done by the caterpillars. The species that feeds on wool and other natural fibers, Tineola bisselliella, is small and rarely noticed. You can see its image on BugGuide. We do not give extermination advice.
Letter 9 – Large Yellow Underwing
Location: Madison, Wisconsin area
June 6, 2016 6:56 pm
Hello! I’m from the Madison, Wisconsin area, and I found this moth (butterfly??) while I was gardening. He has 3 legs and cant walk or fly. What kind of moth/butterfly is he?
Though it is a very pretty moth, the Large Yellow Underwing, , is an Invasive Exotic species that according to BugGuide, 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.”
Letter 10 – Large Yellow Underwing
Subject: Unidentified moth
Geographic location of the bug: Vancouver Island, BC
Time: 04:15 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello! Here is a picture of a moth that I found on my door a couple weeks ago. I recently became a moth enthusiast so I have difficulty IDing some of them, despite long internet searches and owning multiple moth books. What is this particular moth?
How you want your letter signed: Rachel
This looks to us like a Large Yellow Underwing, Noctua pronuba, which is pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “hindwing yellow with black terminal band; forewing varies from light to dark brown to orangish to grayish, and from almost unmarked to boldly patterned; reniform spot large and either dark or barely visible; small dark patch along costa near apex nearly always present” and “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.”
Letter 11 – Large Yellow Underwing from Iceland
Subject: What kind of bug is this
September 26, 2012 8:27 am
We recently encountered this bug in Iceland, never seen anything like this before.
Can you please advise whether this is something you have information about.
Signature: Haukur Þór
Dear Haukur Þór,
We don’t get many identification requests from Iceland. This moth is known as the Large Yellow Underwing, and its caterpillar is called the Winter Cutworm. It is native to Europe, including Iceland. The species was accidentally introduced into North America where it has become an Invasive Exotic species. You can read more about it on BugGuide and on the Michigan State University website.
Letter 12 – Fruit Piercing Moth from India
moth from south india
December 11, 2009
this moth flew into my drawing room one evening and I took some pictures with my mobile camera.my home is in ,Kerala,South India, and the pics were taken on 8 august 2009 about 8:30 pm . the season here was near the end of the monsoon rains
Cochin, Kerala, South india
Generally, moths with this appearance are called Underwing Moths, and many are in the genus Catocala. Underwings often have brightly colored underwings and drab upper wings that blend with tree bark. If the moth is startled and flies during the day, it is easy to spot, but when it comes to rest, it disappears in its surroundings, effectively eluding a predator. We cannot be certain if your moth is in the genus Catocala, but it is probably in the family Erebidae.
Correction by Karl
This looks like another fruit-piercing moth (Noctuidae: Calpinae [sometimes included in subfamily Ophiderinae or Catocalinae]) in the genus Eudocima. Of the seven species found in India, only E. hypermnestra has this particular two-spotted pattern on the hindwing. The forewing matches well also but you have to brighten the image a little to see it. A nice photo of the similar E. materna was posted recently on WTB by Ram Kulkarni (from Pune, India). Regards.
Thanks so much for the correction Karl. We were rushing out of the house for physical therapy and a busy day at work, and the thought did cross our mind that this might be a Fruit Piercing Moth, but we surrendered to our first impression.
Letter 13 – Fruit Piercing Moth from India
What’s that moth?
September 22, 2009
I am not from this field. So don’t have much to write about it except that the moth was found recently, in September 2009 in Pune, India
This is such a beautiful moth, that despite being late for work, we have decided to post it as unidentified in the hopes that one of our readers will have enough time to research its name. Karl, are your reading???
This beautiful moth is a fruit-piercing moth (Noctuidae: Calpinae [sometimes included in subfamily Ophiderinae or Catocalinae]) in the genus Eudocima. There are several similar looking species in India, but I believe this one is probably E. materna. The common name is sometimes given as the Pacific Fruit-Piercing Moth, but the same name is also given for other closely related species. It is very wide ranging, found throughout Asia, Africa and the Pacific. It was formerly considered pantropical, but New World populations (including in the USA and Canada) are now considered their own species, the nearly identical E. apta =Ophideres apta). As the common name implies, the adult moths are considered a pest on a wide variety fruit trees. The individual in Ram’s photo looks like a male. Regards.
Letter 14 – Fruit Piercing Moth from Australia
Subject: Unknown Prominent Moth
Location: Nth Burnett. Queensland Australia
December 4, 2012 2:09 am
A first encounter with this big beautiful moth and so far no luck in a positive ID. It is possibly the Eucalyptus Prominent Moth but there are few photos of it on the net and none of them very good.
I have submitted an ID request with our CSIRO’s Living Atlas project but so far they can’t provide an ID. The moth is 50mm with a wingspan around 80mm. The abdomen is orange as are the hind wings.
I particularly love the blue bands on the palps. Any ideas anyone?
If you ever determine the species of this comely Prominent Moth, please let us know. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist as well.
Update: Eudocima fullonia
Thanks to a comment from Trevor, we now know that this is a Fruit Piercing Moth, Eudocima fullonia, and it is profiled on Butterfly House.