Dark crimson underwing moth (Catocala sponsa)

Dark Crimson Underwing
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Dark crimson underwing moth fact file

Dark crimson underwing moth description

GenusCatocala (1)

The generic name of the dark crimson underwing moth, Catocala derives from the Greek 'katõ' meaning below, and 'kalos' meaning beautiful. This refers to the brightly coloured hindwings of underwing moths. The specific name sponsa means 'betrothed woman' or 'bride'; this may be a reference to the gaudy underwear worn by Scandinavian brides (1). The dark crimson underwing has mottled brown to greyish forewings which provide good camouflage against tree bark, and brilliant red and black-banded hindwings which can be suddenly revealed when the moth is threatened; this often startles predators such as birds. The caterpillar is grey-brown with raised red spots from which black bristles protrude (4).

Wingspan: 5.8 - 7.4 cm (2)

Dark crimson underwing moth biology

This single-brooded moth flies between August and early September. Larvae occur on oak between April and June, and the overwintering stage is the egg (2).


Dark crimson underwing moth range

In the UK the dark crimson underwing breeds only in the New Forest, Hampshire. It was formerly known from Wiltshire, London (3), Kent and Sussex (2). It has been recorded from most European countries; the range extends north to Siberia and south to North Africa, but it is local or rare in many areas (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.

Dark crimson underwing moth habitat

This species needs extensive areas of mature oak woodland, (3) and prefers oaks with deep furrows in the bark (5).


Dark crimson underwing moth status

Classified as Rare in Great Britain (3).


Dark crimson underwing moth threats

The species underwent a decline in numbers during the 1970s, but has since resurged somewhat. The causes of the decline are thought to be due to widespread felling and fragmentation of mature oak woodland and replanting with other tree species (3).


Dark crimson underwing moth conservation

The Species Action Plan for the Dark Crimson Underwing, produced as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) aims to maintain all current populations. Proposed long-term aims include the re-introduction of this moth to two sites within the former range, and the enhancement of the sizes of all existing populations before 2010 (3). This may be aided by replanting oaks in ways that increase the size of mature oak woodlands, and by linking currently isolated patches together (3).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.

Find out more

For more information on moths see:

  • Leverton, R. (2001) Enjoying Moths. Poyser, London.
  • Skinner, B. (1984) Moths of the British Isles. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.



Information authenticated by Sean Clancy.



Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
An attempt to establish a native species back into an area where it previously occurred.
Also known as ‘univoltine’. Referring to an organism which has just one brood each year.


  1. Butterfly Conservation. (September, 2008)
  2. Skinner, B. (1984) Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles. Viking Press, London.
  3. UK Biodiversity Action Plans (December, 2001)
  4. South, R. (1961) The Moths of the British Isles. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., London.
  5. Butterfly Conservation. (2001) Moths. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

Image credit

Dark Crimson Underwing  
Dark Crimson Underwing

© David Green / British Butterfly Conservation Society Ltd

Butterfly Conservation
Manor Yard
East Lulworth
BH20 5QP
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1929 400 209


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