Large Underwing Caterpillar and Adult
I almost stepped on this one while pushing my bike up the hill on May 29, 2012. It was sitting on the road pavement, and looked so much like a mouldy bit of rotting stick that I nearly didn’t stop to pick it up.
It was something of a huge caterpillar, as we can see when we compare it to a penny.
The belly was more colorful, pink with a number of elongated black spots. It was pretty lethargic even for a caterpillar, and let me roll it around and photograph it quite a bit.
Based on the black spots on the pink belly, I’m inclined to think this is an Ilia Underwing caterpillar, Catocala ilia.
The face looks right for the Ilia Underwing, too.
We had it in a bowl, and it was so lethargic that I thought that it was probably going to pupate right there on the spot. So I didn’t put a cover on the bowl. Big mistake. Because a few hours later, I looked in on it again, and it was gone. I couldn’t find it anywhere, and figured it had probably crawled off under the stove or behind the cabinets.
But then, almost exactly a month later (June 30, 2012), I came home and Sandy presented me with a jar containing this big moth that she had caught in the kitchen. I suppose it is possible that this is a completely unconnected moth that just happened to get into the kitchen, but the circumstantial evidence here is pretty darned strong.
And, the bit of hindwing that we can see is consistent with the color and pattern of the Ilia Underwing adult photos on BugGuide, so there we go.
This is evidently one of the most common underwings in this area, so it’s no surprise that I found one. Aside from the fact that the caterpillars are practically invisible, and the adults apparently aren’t as drawn to lights as many other moths are, so it is a bit unlikely to actually see one. The only reason the caterpillar was out where I could spot it, was because it was crawling around looking for a place to pupate. They eat oak leaves, so it probably dropped out of one of the oak trees that grow next to the road where I found it.