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Jessica's Underwing

Catocala jessica


Photo © by Mike Plagens

This moth was photographed just before it flew off into it's riparian habitat at Mesquite Wash. It was reared from the caterpillar at right.

Noctuidae -- a Moth Family

Catocala moths are supreme at crypsis. They would be a tasty morsel for a sharp eyed bird such as a Brown-crested Flycatcher. By day the red underwing is concealed by the flake-of-bark top wing. If that ever fails their fallback is to suddenly show blood-red. If nothing else this short wave length red requires the predator to re-adjust its focus - giving the moth a split-second lead on escape. The caterpillar is also an amazing work of cryptic coloration and behavior. Appearing as a stretch of stem-bark, closely appressed to the stem. Thus they hide by day and feed at night when sighted predators are sleeping.

This is one of the many insect species to utilize Gooding's Willow (Salix goodingii) as a host plant. One result is that insectivorous birds and lizards find much to hunt for in these shady trees of riparian habitats in the Sonoran Desert. This is in marked contrast to Salt Cedar (Tamarix pentandra), an exotic invasive, that is nearly void of anything for birds to eat.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2008