Yellow Underwing Moth: Essential Facts and Information

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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.

Physical Attributes

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:

  • Grass
  • Tomato plants
  • Marigolds
  • Flowers
  • 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:

Plant Mainly affected by Cutworm Damage Other Damage Info
Grass No Moderate
Tomato Yes Significant
Marigolds Yes Moderate
Flowers Yes Mild
Fragaria Yes Moderate
Beta Yes Mild
Vitis Yes Mild

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.

Common predators:

  • 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.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Underwing Moths

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37 Comments. Leave new

  • Hello!
    I got the answer from ‘toni’ on a forum at http://www.gardenstew.com. He wrote…
    “It is the male Eudocima materna
    http://www.inra.fr/papillon/no…uid/ophideri/texteng/e_matern.htm

    And it appears to be an agricultural pest, it attacks citrus fruit and sucks the juice out. “

    Reply
  • Sorry..that was a wrong link…here is the correct one…
    http://www.inra.fr/papillon/noctuid/ophideri/texteng/e_matern.htm

    Reply
  • Edibility update.
    The caterpillars of these moths are definitely edible; I suspect that the adults are also, and I’ve read several accounts of people making tea out of moths. Intriguing.

    Dave
    http://www.smallstockfoods.com

    Reply
  • Hi guys,
    Finally got an ID on this guy. It is one of the fruit piercing moths and is listed as also being present in Hawaii. It is Eudocima fullonia and is considered an agricultural pest.

    Reply
  • Hi guys,
    Finally got an ID on this guy. It is one of the fruit piercing moths and is listed as also being present in Hawaii. It is Eudocima fullonia and is considered an agricultural pest.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • good idea

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • NOT

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • Hi,

    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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • Hi,

    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!

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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 🙂

    Reply
  • 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 🙂

    Reply
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qftGEMVKbw4

    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.)

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

      Reply
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qftGEMVKbw4

    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.)

    Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
    • Angela Shepherd
      December 4, 2018 8:31 am

      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???

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply

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