Description Underwings are members of the owlet
moth family. This is the largest family of moths,
represented by about 3,000 species in North America.
Most are dull-colored and have wingspans of 3/4-2",
but some have brightly colored wings, and a few reach
5 7/8” in wingspan.
The Underwing’s mottled grayish forewings provide
excellent camouflage when at rest on a tree trunk;
hindwings flash bright colors, conspicuous in flight.
The antennae are slender and threadlike, and the
tonguelike proboscis is usually well developed. There
is a prominent hearing organ, or tympanum, on each
side of the thorax.
The wings are folded rooflike over the body when at
rest. Most caterpillars are smooth or only sparsely
hairy, but some are densely hairy, resembling tiger
They feed on a wide range of plants, including the
foliage of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and
grasses. Some bore into stems and roots; others feed
on decayed organic matter; still others are cannibalistic.
Most species pupate in cells at or below the soil
surface. Others pupate in hollow galleries bored by
other larvae, or in cocoons spun among debris or
Adults are usually nocturnal, but some are day-fliers.
Many feed on fermenting tree sap or decaying fruit,
some sip flower nectar, and others do not feed.