Red underwing

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Red underwing
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Erebidae
Genus: Catocala
Species: C. nupta
Binomial name
Catocala nupta
(Linnaeus, 1767)[1]
  • Phalaena nupta Linnaeus, 1767
  • Catocala unicuba Walker, [1858]
  • Catocala concubia Walker, [1858]
  • Catocala nozawae Matsumura, 1911

The red underwing (Catocala nupta) is a moth of the Erebidae family.

This is a large (80 mm wingspan) nocturnal European species which, like most noctuids, is drably coloured to aid concealment during the day. It flies in August and September, and comes freely to both light and sugar.

Illustration from John Curtis's British Entomology Volume 5

This species and other Catocala moths have brightly coloured underwings, in this case orange, red, or pink. These are not visible at rest, being hidden by the dull forewings, but they help the moth avoid predators such as birds if it is disturbed during the day.

As the red underwing moth takes off, the sudden flash of colour may confuse the attacker, and when it lands and immediately closes its wings it may seem to disappear as the colour is "switched off". It is also thought that the symmetrical patterned orange sections on the rear wings form the illusion of another smaller creature (butterfly), so the attacker will go for the colourful "small illusive" rear safe region on the main body of this red underwing moth species.

The adult feeds on nectar, the caterpillars eat willow and poplar leaves.


  • Catocala nupta nupta
  • Catocala nupta alticola Mell, 1942 (China: Yunnan)
  • Catocala nupta centralasiae Kusnezov, 1903
  • Catocala nupta clara Osthelder, 1933 (Turkey)
  • Catocala nupta concubia Walker, [1858] (northern Hindostan)
  • Catocala nupta japonica Mell, 1936
  • Catocala nupta kansuensis O. Bang-Haas, 1927 (China: Kansu)
  • Catocala nupta japonica Mell, 1936
  • Catocala nupta likiangensis Mell, 1936 (China: Yunnan)
  • Catocala nupta nozawae Matsumura, 1911 (Japan)
  • Catocala nupta nuptialis Staudinger, 1901 (Altai)
  • Catocala nupta obscurata Oberthür, 1880 (south-eastern Siberia)