ISSN 2816-6531

First record in Quebec for the inconsolable underwing Catocala insolabilis Guenée (Lepidoptera: Erebidae, Erebinae)

authors orcid
Tags: Canada, Catocala insolabilis, Erebidae, Erebinae, Insecta, Lepidoptera, Quebec
Number 18, 
4 December 2023


The genus Catocala Schrank, commonly referred to as underwings, has more than 230 described species, most of which occur in the north temperate zone (Ishizuka 2011). In the context of ongoing global warming and rapid landscape modifications that facilitate the migration of most mobile species, underwing moths are at the forefront of the northward expansion of biodiversity distribution, just like several other lepidopterans. Amateur entomologists in southern Quebec, Canada, along with open-source citizen-science social network software such as iNaturalist, have reported the addition of several new underwing species to the province in the past 10 years. These species have not been officially documented in the literature. The current note aims to specifically document the occurrence of the inconsolable underwing, Catocala insolabilis Guenée, 1852, in the province of Quebec, Canada, based on four specimens sampled by Vincent Lacombe and Sylvain Durand. Specimens were sampled using a sugar bait in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Laval, and Longueuil, Quebec, Canada.

Results and Discussion

Catocala insolabilis is easily distinguished from other dark underwings occurring in the province (C. obscura Strecker, C. judith Strecker, C. retecta Grote, and C. residua Grote) by its ventral side which is predominantly black with some white near the basal area (Ishizuka 2011). The postmedial band on forewings is largely absent, and very narrow and obscure on hindwings (Sargent 1976). Catocala insolabilis can also be easily distinguished from Catocala maestosa Hulst, which could be expected to occur in the province in the upcoming years due to its similar geographic distribution and ecological niche; C. insolabilis lacks a white fringe on the hindwings, and the underwings exhibit bands that may appear faint or absent, with a notable gray basal area (Sargent 1976). In contrast, C. maestosa hindwings are a deep black color a with heavy dusting of contrasting light gray hairs at base (Sargent 1976).

The four specimens of C. insolabilis sampled in Quebec were significantly damaged, suggesting that they were long-distance dispersers that did not emerge at the collection sites. Given the regular surveys at the sites by amateur entomologists, the collecting of fresh specimens over the years of sampling would have been very probable if the species was established. It is possible that C. insolabilis has not yet established in the province due to its low abundance and fragmented habitats. As of now, its distribution is known to range from southern Ontario, Canada, to Florida, United States, occurring in most of the Eastern United States. The occurrence of the species in Quebec is surprising, considering that it only has occurrences in southernmost Ontario and none in the adjacent State of Vermont (Hess & Hanks 1979; Hanks 1995; GBIF 2023). The species is considered rare in the northern part of its distribution and uncommon in the south because it is largely associated with its hosts, hickories (Carya spp.), as are several other rare underwing species (Handfield 2011). However, C. insolabilis has been reported as locally common in Florida, where it preferably feeds on pignut hickory (Carya glabra (Mill.) Sweet) (Wagner et al. 2011). Carya glabra is not present in Quebec and there does not seem to be other reports of specific hickory species that C. insolabilis would prefer (Robinson et al. 2023). Nevertheless, the three sites where the species was sampled in Quebec were forests where several mature bitternut hickories (Carya cordiformis (Wangenh.) K.Koch) and shagbark hickories (Carya ovata (Mill.) K.Koch) are present. These findings highlight the importance of the rare and fragmented habitats harboring mature hickory trees in the south of the province of Quebec and emphasize the relevance of citizen science for monitoring biodiversity.


I thank Vincent Lacombe and Sylvain Durand for allowing the use of their specimen records, and Tonia De Bellis (Dawson College, Montreal) for her comments on the manuscript.




GBIF - Global Biodiversity Information Facility. 2023. Catocala insolabilis Guenée, 1852., accessed 2023-12-03.


Handfield, L. 2011. Le guide des papillons du Québec. Volume I. Édition revue et corrigée. Broquet: Saint-Constant, Québec, 1352 pp.


Hanks, A. J. 1996. Butterflies of Ontario & Summaries of Lepidoptera Encountered in Ontario in 1995. Toronto Entomologists' Association Occasional Publication, Toronto, Ontario. p. 72.


Hess, Q. F., and A. J. Hanks, 1979. Butterflies of Ontario & Summaries of Lepidoptera Encountered in Ontario in 1978. Toronto Entomologists' Association Occasional Publication, Toronto, Ontario. p. 70.


Ishizuka, K. 2011. Catocala of the World. Handbook Series of Insects 1. Mushi-Sha, Tokyo. 108 pp.


Robinson, G.S, P. R. Ackery, I. Kitching, G. W. Beccaloni, and L. M. Hernández. 2023. HOSTS - a Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants [Data set]. Natural History Museum, London., accessed 2023-12-03.


Sargent, T. D., 1976. Legion of Night; The Underwing Moths. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, Massachusetts. 222 pp.


Wagner, D. L., D. F Schweitzer, J. B., Sullivan, and R. C., Reardon, R. C. 2011. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 576 pp.



Figure. Dorsal habitus of a female Catocala insolabilis Guenée sampled in Laval, Quebec, specimen VLC 187.