Copper Underwing

2013 April 13

While walking out on Clover Weevil Road[1] on June 9, 2012, Sandy found this green caterpillar with a distinctive hump on its rear. It was eating leaves from a chokecherry bush. She says it bit her hand twice, fairly painfully, while she was carrying it back to the house (although it didn’t draw blood). As you can see from the fact that it is a bit longer than my finger joint in this picture, it is slightly over an inch long.

When I saw it, I thought that it looked very familiar for some reason. And then, when I picked up my copy of Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America[2], I saw why it looked so familiar – it was one of the caterpillars pictured on the cover! Well, that was easy.

So, it turned out to be a Copper Underwing caterpillar, Amphipyra pyramidoides. I put it in a jar with some chokecherry leaves, where it burrowed into the leaves and pupated. It then emerged as this moth on July 16.

The common name is a bit misleading, as it isn’t really one of the true “underwing” moths. It just happens to have hindwings that are colored differently than its forewings. I didn’t manage to get it to open up to see the coppery-colored top side of the hindwings, but here we can see that they have a distinct pattern on the underside.

It was one of those moths that is practically comatose during the day, so I was able to get a fair number of shots before it finally woke up enough to fly off.

The caterpillars are not very discriminating feeders – Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America says that they are commonly found on “almost any nonconiferous woody plant”. The caterpillars also have a tendency to feed on a leaf for a bit, and then move to another leaf so that predators that hunt by looking for leaf damage will have to hunt through a lot of damaged leaves to find the one that has a caterpillar on it.

[1] That’s the name that Sam gave to the trail that runs west from our house into the pine plantation behind our property. We’ve got a road sign on it and everything. Now we just need to get it to appear by that name “officially” on Google Maps (rather than just penciling it in on our custom map).

[2] Incidentally, that is an “Amazon associates” link. If you decide you want to buy the book, and go to it through that link, then I get a small commission.

2 Responses
  1. wendy carpenter permalink
    July 29, 2020

    My deck is buried with copper underwing poop. How can I get rid of them i my maple trees?

  2. July 29, 2020

    Well, birds are very fond of these caterpillars. If you put in feeders to attract birds, they may very well decide to go after the caterpillars as well. Pretty much all birds eat caterpillars, so it shouldn’t matter much which kind you get to come.

    Of course, then you are likely to have bird poop instead of caterpillar poop, although placing the feeders a bit away from the deck should help with that.

Comments are closed.