Moths in the Catocala genus have interesting names

Has anyone else noticed that moths in the Catocala genus have interesting names? Scrolling through the species list its like they’re characters in an insect soap opera. I made a little story too, using all real names given to these moths.

Jessica Underwing is proposed to by her highschool sweetheart, Lincoln Underwing. That was the day she joyously moved from being just his Girlfriend Underwing to a Betrothed Underwing. Jessica’s family was so proud that today she was a Bride Underwing, and soon to be a Married Underwing. Jessica’s Mother Underwing knew she had made the right choice, Lincoln was a Charming Underwing. They grew old together, Jessica has now become an Oldwife Underwing. But Lincoln wasn’t so happy. Over the years he had grown to become a Gloomy Underwing. Seeing how he had gone from being such a Youthful Underwing, to such a Sad Underwing, forced him to make the drastic decision of getting divorced. Jessica never knew anything was wrong, If only Lincoln opened up to her, maybe she wouldn’t have become a Once-married Underwing, a Tearful Underwing, some would say she had become an Inconsolable Underwing. Jessica had thought that they’d spend the rest of their insect lives toether, and that she wouldn’t feel such pain until she perhaps one day became a Widow Underwing, Mourning (underwing) the death of her Sweetheart Underwing moth husband.


As my favorite moth group, I have a soft spot for the common names of Catocala despite my usual dislike of common names in general. It is funny how many of the names have to do with relationships, like the guys who described the moths had some lady issues to deal with.


I like your melodrama! Much better than this guy’s, uh, other romantic insect naming scheme:

He proposed the following genera:
Dolichisme , Elachisme , Florichisme , Isachisme , Marichisme , Nanichisme , Peggichisme , Phyllochisme, and Polychisme

(-chisme is pronounced close to “kiss me”)


Lol I’ve read about that before. (The Kirkaldy guy and the strange names he proposed for bugs)

Those of us who have spent decades chasing after these guardians of the woods and fretted over their IDs have always found the names to be quite whimsical; though the names lend no insight into their identification with wings at rest, it is the good fortune that each in their group are paired with their underwings until death do they part. :)


I have lived in the area of Virginia Tech for a very long time, and have heard stories about the graduate student there long ago, Charles Covell, under contract to produce the Peterson series book, A Field Guide to Moths: Eastern North America. Much as I love the wonderful fanciful ways of conceiving the names proposed here, my understanding was that very late in the project, he was informed that common names would have to be produced for all of the species included. This undoubtedly would have created a rush job to produce something usable. I had heard that he and other graduate students concocted the names in their “spare” time. I personally had inquired if perhaps beer was involved, but never got an answer. Maybe Dr. Covell could actually shed light on this if consulted.


I like the scientific name Catocala aholibah, just for how it sounds. I thought it was Arabic (like the star names Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, which I also like), but it’s actually from Hebrew, I found when trying to find the origin of the word.

i love your story! there should be a movie or musical about these moths with this same storyline


Maybe if Jessica would have been a more Graceful and Precious Underwing, she wouldn’t have become such a Dejected Underwing. :sweat_smile:


This reminds me of all the WWII-era planes named after moths (Tiger Moth, Leopard Moth, Gipsy Moth, etc), supposedly due to the designer’s (Geoffrey de Havilland) side interest in moths.


Great story, and I would love to hear the details. The preface to Covell’s field guide (1st edition 1984, p. xii) says:
“Most of the common names used in this guide follow the 1978 edition of Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms by Sutherland; in some cases I have coined common names for species of macro moths that did not have them, such as many of the noctuids.”
The “noctuid” family, now a subfamily of Erebidae, would include Catocala. Some of those common names appear to predate Covell’s work. I have an older reference, W. J. Holland’s The Moth Book (1903), and many of those names are present in the long list of Catocala species.
Again, wonderful story, and I hope to hear more details.

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