(return to Table of Contents)
THE UNDERWINGS (Catocala) are among the largest and most showy of North American moths. Their size and beauty, and their incredible diversity, have attracted considerable popular attention. They have long been favorites of collectors, and scientists have been fascinated by the challenge of explaining their profusion and variety.
These moths have not been treated in a popular work since Holland's Moth Book (1903) and Barnes & McDunnough's Illustrations of the North American Species of the Genus Catocala (1918). Both of these works were intended primarily as identification guides, but both have become less useful in that regard, as many changes in nomenclature, and various additions to our fauna (particularly melanic forms), have been made since their publication. These works contained very little information on the life-histories, behavior and ecology of these moths, and neither stressed the interesting biological questions that are posed by such a complex assemblage of closely related species.
The present book is intended to be a popular, up-to-date, and comprehensive treatment of the Catocala of eastern North America. It includes (1) a complete survey of the species occurring in that region, (2) a summary of current biological information on those species, and (3) an introduction to the scientific investigations which are being conducted on these moths. I hope that this comprehensive approach will be interesting and useful to both amateur collectors and professional biologists, as well as to persons with more general natural history interests.
A first step in the study of any group of organisms is the correct identification of its members, and an important aim of this book is to provide a guide to the identification of all of the Catocala found from Canada to Florida east of the Mississippi River. Toward this end, eight color plates depicting 126 specimens and a series of 71 species accounts are included. The species accounts contain sections on the range, seasonal occurrence, status, larval foodplants, and behaviors of the various species, and so should provide the kinds of information that collectors often desire. Considerations of bait and light collecting (chapters 3 and 4), and a discussion of aberrations and other freakish specimens (chapter 5), should also be of particular interest to collectors. For those persons whose interests extend to rearing and mating studies, the discussion of life-histories (chapter 6) may contain material of value.
Ecologists and evolutionary biologists are particularly impressed with the enormous diversity of the Catocala, and a number of suggestions regarding the origin and maintenance of this diversity are included in the chapter on life-histories. The book concludes with a consideration of the functional significance of the forewings (chapter 7) and hindwings (chapter 8) of these moths. Particular emphasis is placed on the potential role of diversity in these structures as a foil to the conservative hunting strategies of predators, particularly birds. These final chapters draw heavily upon my own researches, which have focused on the behavioral adaptations of the Catocala.
The results of scientific studies on these moths are often unavailable to collectors, as such results are usually published in relatively inaccessible professional journals. Another important aim of this book, then, is to summarize and interpret these scientific studies, hopefully in a fashion that will encourage and direct the efforts of collectors who wish to contribute to our knowledge of the biology of these moths.
I have not hesitated to include extensive data throughout the book. I feel that such data have great value in providing the facts against which various scientific hypotheses may be tested and upon which future studies may build. I also believe that such data are of interest to many readers, and that the authors of popular books often underestimate the interests and capabilities of their readers in this regard.
This book is based in large part on the observations and experiments I have carried out around my home in Leverett, Massachusetts, over the past eight years. I hope that this emphasis will serve to convince amateur naturalists that important scientific contributions can still be made in the "backyard laboratory," and without the use of complicated and expensive equipment. Patient observation, complete recording of data, and careful execution of simple experiments are the means by which our knowledge of the Catocala will most surely be advanced.
I am indebted to many persons for assistance in the preparation of this book. I would particularly like to acknowledge the contributions of the late Sidney A. Hessel, who kindly provided his complete collecting records from Washington, Connecticut, for the period from 1961 to 1973. Charles G. Kellogg provided similarly valuable records from his collecting sites in West Hatfield,
Massachusetts, for the years 1968 to 1973. Additional field data were supplied by a number of my present and former graduate students, including Denis E. Berube, Ronald R. Keiper, and Dale F. Schweitzer. Conversations and correspondence with a number of collectors yielded many valuable facts, and I would like to express particular thanks to John Bauer, Auburn E. Brower, Charles V. Covell, Jr., Richard B. Dominick, Douglas C. Ferguson, Sidney A. Hessel, Charles G. Kellogg, Wayne A. Miller, Mogens C. Nielsen, Charles L. Remington, and Dale F. Schweitzer.
A number of persons supplied specimens for use in the color plates and figures. Among the individuals who loaned specimens from their private collections were Sidney A. Hessel, Charles G. Kellogg, Mogens C. Nielsen, J. B. Paine, Jr., and Dale F. Schweitzer. The following individuals kindly made specimens available from the museum collections under their care: Harry K. Clench (Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh), Douglas C. Ferguson (United States National Museum, Washington, D.C.), and Charles L. Remington (Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University).
The manuscript was read in its entirety by Donald Fairbairn, Denis F. Owen, and Oswald Tippo, and I am grateful to them for many helpful comments and corrections. The errors that remain are, of course, my responsibility.
The staff of the University of Massachusetts Press aided in many ways, and I am particularly grateful for their constant enthusiasm and encouragement.
Publication of this volume was made possible through the generous support of the Bache Fund of the National Academy of Sciences, the University of Massachusetts Foundation, Inc., and individual patrons including David Agricola, Lincoln P. Brower, Robert Dirig, Richard B. Dominick, and Mr. and Mrs. John B. Paine, Jr..
I am happy to express my appreciation to Harold J. Vermes for the skill and dedication with which he carried out the photography for this book. And to my wife, Katherine, for the drawings which add so much to these pages, I extend my deepest gratitude. Finally, to David and Meryl, who nearly made this work impossible -- thank you!