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Copper Underwing

Common Name: Copper Underwing.

Scientific Name: Amphipyra Pyramidoides.

What to look for?  The Copper Underwing has forewings that are typically dull tan, brown, or gray with wavy lines that mimic the random patterns of tree bark. Almost all of them have hindwings that are bright coppery-orange with contrasting bold dark patterns. However, these hindwings are rarely visible in live moths, as they tend to keep their forewings together, covering the hindwings. The Copper Underwing is woodland moth which can be found walking along tree trunks, where they blend in. Legs have black and white bands on them. In larva stage, the caterpillar has a light green body with fine white spots and a pale-yellow lateral line; and a large dorsal hump on the eighth abdominal segment.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Copper Underwing will be spotted during late summer or early fall. Look for them around the trees around our pond banks and in our yards.

How big are they? The Copper Underwing has a wingspan of approximately two (2) to three (3) inches. The Copper Underwing as a caterpillar can grow to approximately one and one-half inches in length.

What are their flight patterns? The flight pattern of Copper Underwing can be characterized as a flutter.

How else do they behave? The Copper Underwing tends to keep its flashy colors under wraps, hidden beneath the drab forewings, to avoid being conspicuous. However, they will suddenly expose these colors when the moth is disturbed, startling the predator, and allowing the moth to escape. They are nocturnal (active at night) and are often attracted to lights.

What’s for dinner? Butterflies and moths have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adult Copper Underwings feed at night on the leaves of deciduous trees. Larvae or caterpillars are general feeders on leaves of many broadleaf trees and shrubs, including apple, basswood, hawthorn, maple, oak, and walnut.

Where do they take up residence? The Copper Underwing resides across most of the U.S. and southern Canada. In Illinois, they are found in all counties.  They are most common in deciduous forests and forest borders, where they typically rest on tree trunks during the day.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the life cycle of a butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. Copper Underwings are single-brooded (i.e., one brood per year). They overwinter as eggs. When the eggs hatch in the spring, Copper Underwings grow through all their multiple larval stages. Then they finally pupate, emerging as the adults that we can see flying around.

Where do they migrate? Copper Underwings do not migrate. Their eggs overwinter during winter.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Copper Underwing:

  • The species name – Pyramidoides - is probably a reference to the pyramid-shaped hump on the larva.

  • The coloration mimics the random patterns of tree bark and serves as camouflage against predators.

For more information on the Copper Underwing and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Iowa State University Bug Guide, Pacific Northwest Moths, Missouri Department of Conservation Field Guide, and Insect Identification for the Casual Observer.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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