The names of underwings

underwing moth

For some reason, the names of many moths in the genus Catocala have bizarrely soap-operatic names. Here are some of my favorites, as encountered in the wonderful new Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie:

  • The Penitent (Catocala piatrix)
  • The Betrothed (Catocala innubens)
  • The Old Maid (Catocala badia coelebs)
  • Obscure Underwing (Catocala obscura)
  • Widow Underwing (Catocala viuda)
  • Tearful Underwing (Catocala lacrymosa)
  • Oldwife Underwing (Catocala Paleogama)
  • Youthful Underwing (Catocala subnata)
  • Sad Underwing (Catocala maestosa)
  • The Bride (Catocala neogama)
  • Once-Married Underwing (Catocala unijuga)
  • Mother Underwing (Catocala parta)
  • Darling Underwing (Catocala cara)
  • The Sweetheart (Catocala amatrix)
  • Magdalen Underwing (Catocala illecta)
  • Sordid Underwing (Catocala sordida)
  • Wonderful Underwing (Catocala mira)
  • Charming Underwing (Catocala blandula)
  • Connubial Underwing (Catocala connubialis)
  • Girlfriend Underwing (Catocala amica)
  • The Little Nymph (Catocala micronympha)

I suppose the way these moths lift their forewings to reveal bright pink-, red- and orange-striped hindwings suggested something feminine, like a petticoat, to the lepidopterists who named them.

I’m a little embarassed to admit however that many of the underwings look pretty much alike to me, even with the help of a field guide, so I’m not entirely sure which species is pictured above. (Maybe the Sweetheart?) This is the one I saw back on September 2, and my mention of some of these names prompted Luisa to incorporate them into her poem for the day, “Telenovela” (which is Spanish for “soap opera”).

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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