Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Noctua pronuba
(common yellow underwing moth)



Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth)


  • Last modified
  • 28 March 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Noctua pronuba
  • Preferred Common Name
  • common yellow underwing moth
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult on plant. Surbiton, Surrey, UK. September 1985.
CaptionNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult on plant. Surbiton, Surrey, UK. September 1985.
Copyright©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult on plant. Surbiton, Surrey, UK. September 1985.
AdultNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult on plant. Surbiton, Surrey, UK. September 1985.©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult. Chessington, UK. September 1998.
CaptionNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult. Chessington, UK. September 1998.
Copyright©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult. Chessington, UK. September 1998.
AdultNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); live adult. Chessington, UK. September 1998.©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); adult (museum set specimen)
CaptionNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); adult (museum set specimen)
Copyright©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); adult (museum set specimen)
AdultNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); adult (museum set specimen)©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); larva.
CaptionNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); larva.
Copyright©David Agassiz
Noctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); larva.
LarvaNoctua pronuba (common yellow underwing moth); larva.©David Agassiz


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Noctua pronuba (Linnaeus)

Preferred Common Name

  • common yellow underwing moth

Other Scientific Names

  • Agrotis pronuba (Linnaeus)
  • Euschesis pronuba (Linnaeus)
  • Graphiphora pronuba (Linnaeus)
  • Lampra pronuba (Linnaeus)
  • Phalaena pronuba Linnaeus
  • Rhyacia pronuba
  • Triphaena pronuba (Linnaeus)

International Common Names

  • English: hibon; large yellow underwing moth
  • Spanish: noctua novia; rosquilla
  • French: fiancee; noctuelle fiancée

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: smutugle
  • Finland: morsiusyökkönen
  • Germany: Bandeule; Eule, Grosse Band-; Eule, Sauerampfer-; Hausmüetterchen
  • Israel: agrotis haklulot
  • Italy: Nottua della vite; Nottua fidanzata
  • Netherlands: Hooivlinder
  • Norway: vanlig bandfly
  • Sweden: stora jordflyet
  • Turkey: kahverengi tirpan kurdu

EPPO code

  • NOCTPR (Noctua pronuba)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Lepidoptera
  •                         Family: Noctuidae
  •                             Genus: Noctua
  •                                 Species: Noctua pronuba

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page N. pronuba was first described by Linnaeus (as Phalaena pronuba) in 1758. Adults are of variable appearance and several forewing colour forms are recognized, including (in males) ab. brunnea, ab. distinctacaerulescens, ab. innuba, ab. ochreobrunnea; and (in females) ab. caerulescens, ab. ochrea, ab. rufa. Hindwing colour forms include ab. hoegi, ab. postnigra, and ab. suffusa (Heath and Emmett, 1979).


Top of page Adults

Adults have a 50-60 mm wingspan. Forewings vary from more or less uniformly ochreous through marbled ochreous and brown to blue-grey, slate-grey, deep reddish-brown, brick-red or blackish-brown, with large and prominent orbicular and reniform stigmata. Claviform stigmas are absent. The junction of the sub-terminal line and the costa is marked by a distinctive, double black spot. Crosslines are generally inconspicuous. Hindwings are typically orange-yellow, with a distinct black border (approximately one-sixth of the width of the wing). Cilia are orange-yellow with no discal spot. The general coloration of hairs covering the thorax is similar to that of the forewings. Both sexes are highly polymorphic, but the forewings of males tend to be dark and those of females tend to be pale. With rare exceptions, the hindwings show little variation. Antennae of both sexes are finely setose.


The eggs of N. pronuba are globular, strongly ribbed and reticulate. They are pale creamy-white when newly laid, but they soon become pinkish to greyish. Eggs are laid in large batches, often of several hundred and sometimes of more than 1000.


Larvae are up to ca 50 mm long, smooth-bodied and plump, and slightly tapered anteriorly. The head is light brown with darker markings. The prothoracic plate varies from brown (in green-bodied individuals) to blackish (in dark-bodied individuals), with a pale median sulcus. General body coloration varies from ochreous through brownish to bright green, with a pale, narrow dorsal line and slightly wider subdorsal lines, the latter marked above on each abdominal segment by a series of prominent black dashes. Spiracles are black. Body coloration is ventrally pale brownish. Neonate larvae are pinkish-grey, with a black head and a small, blackish prothoracic plate. They have five pairs of abdominal prolegs, and progress as a semi-looper.


Pupae are chestnut-brown, smooth and shiny and 25 mm long. The cremaster has a pair of stout, more or less divergent, tapering spines and a pair of bristles.


Top of page Widely distributed throughout Western Europe, its range extends to North Africa, Iceland and central Scandinavia; it is also recorded from parts of Asia (Balachowsky, 1972; Heath and Emmet, 1979).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


MoroccoPresentBalachowsky and, 1972
TunisiaPresentSourès, 1948

North America

CanadaPresentCopley and Cannings, 2005
-British ColumbiaPresentCopley and Cannings, 2005
USAPresentWarren, 2000
-ColoradoPresentWarren, 2000


Czech RepublicPresentHrudová, 2005
FinlandPresentTuovinen, 1996
FranceWidespreadBalachowsky and, 1972
GermanyPresentPape, 1964
IcelandPresentHeath and Emmet, 1979
IrelandWidespreadHeath and Emmet, 1979
PolandPresentJakubowska, 2003
SwitzerlandPresentHächler et al., 2002
UKWidespreadHeath and Emmet, 1979
-Channel IslandsWidespreadHeath and Emmet, 1979


Top of page N. pronuba is most abundant in lowland habitats but is also found on moorland.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page N. pronuba is a polyphagous species, the larvae feeding on a wide range of cultivated and wild plants. In addition to the crops and wild hosts listed, the larvae also feed on the young stages and seedlings of many other plants, including (for example, in forest nurseries) various trees and shrubs. Egg batches may also be deposited on leaves of plants that are not necessarily larval food-plants.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Anemone (windflower)RanunculaceaeOther
Beta vulgaris (beetroot)ChenopodiaceaeOther
Buddleia (Butterflybush)LoganiaceaeHabitat/association
Calendula (marigolds)AsteraceaeOther
Chrysanthemum (daisy)AsteraceaeOther
Daucus carota (carrot)ApiaceaeOther
Dianthus (carnation)CaryophyllaceaeOther
Fragaria ananassa (strawberry)RosaceaeOther
Humulus lupulus (hop)CannabaceaeOther
Lactuca sativa (lettuce)AsteraceaeOther
Lolium (ryegrasses)PoaceaeOther
Nicotiana rustica (wild tobacco)SolanaceaeOther
Plantago (Plantain)PlantaginaceaeWild host
Poa (meadow grass)PoaceaeOther
Poaceae (grasses)PoaceaeWild host
Primula (Primrose)PrimulaceaeOther
Rumex (Dock)PolygonaceaeWild host
Solanum tuberosum (potato)SolanaceaeOther
Trisetum flavescens (yellow oatgrass)PoaceaeOther
Valeriana (Valerian)ValerianaceaeHabitat/association
Vitis vinifera (grapevine)VitaceaeOther

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage


Top of page Larvae most often occur in the soil, close to the roots of host plants. At night, they often ascend host plants to feed on the leaves, inflorescence and other aerial parts. They also attack the root system of host plants, adopting a more typical cutworm habit than do other members of the genus.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Growing point / external feeding
Inflorescence / external feeding
Leaves / external feeding
Roots / external feeding
Stems / external feeding
Whole plant / external feeding

Biology and Ecology

Top of page N. pronuba is typically univoltine. Adults occur mainly from June onwards, with a peak of activity in August. Eggs are deposited in large batches on the leaves of various plants, after an obligatory pre-oviposition period of about a month (Singh and Kevan, 1956). Hatching occurs about a month later (Scorer, 1913). The larvae feed from mid-summer or early autumn onwards, becoming full-grown in the following spring. Individuals pupate in the soil in the late spring, and adults appear a few to several weeks later; the period of adult emergence is protracted, extending over several weeks.

Although adults are nocturnal, they are readily attracted to light and to nectar sources (including flowers such as Buddleia and Valeriana). During the daytime they roost on the ground or amongst the shelter of leaves, dead grass and so on. The roosting moths are readily disturbed, individuals then flying rapidly and erratically for a short distance (the flash of colour from the hindwings making them particularly obvious) before resettling.

Unlike several other cutworm species (for example, Agrotis segetum), larvae of Noctua pronuba are less affected by adverse, damp conditions. Nevertheless, larval development varies considerably according to temperature, ranging, for example, from 32 days at 25ºC to 150 days at 10ºC (Madge, 1962), to 230 days at 8ºC (Balachowsky, 1972). The duration of the prepupal and pupal stages also varies according to temperature (see Madge, 1962 and Balachowsky, 1972).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Amblyteles quadriguttorius Parasite
Blondelia nigripes Parasite Larvae
Compsilura concinnata Parasite Larvae
Eurithia caesia Parasite Larvae
Pales pavida Parasite Larvae
Phryxe vulgaris Parasite Larvae
Plecotus auritus Predator
Ramonda spathulata Parasite Larvae
Rhinolophus ferrumequinum Predator
Rhinolophus hipposideros Predator
Wagneria dilatata Parasite Larvae


Top of page N. pronuba is a minor pest of strawberry (Alford, 1984; Tuovinen, 1997), hop (Balachowsky, 1972), potato (Wilson, 1943), grasses (Miles, 1921) and a few other outdoor crops, including seedling trees in forest nurseries (Carter and Gibbs, 1989), but it is rarely of importance on a field scale. N. pronuba is also a minor pest of protected and outdoor ornamentals such as Dianthus (carnations and pinks) (Pape, 1964; Alford, 1991).

Detection and Inspection

Top of page At night, the larvae may be found feeding on the aerial parts of host plants or on the root system. During the daytime, the larvae are most often found within the root zone of host plants.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Noctua orbona is similar in appearance to N. pronuba but is noticeably smaller (38-45 mm wingspan) and has a large discal spot on each hindwing. Noctua comes (38-48 mm wingspan) has a large discal spot on each hindwing and lacks the double black spot on each forewing. Noctua fimbriata is of a similar size to N. pronuba but the black border on the hindwings is very broad (almost one-half width of the wing).

The larvae are distinguished from those of typical cutworm species (for example, Agrotis segetum) by their more pronounced (often distinctly greenish) body coloration, by the characteristic bold, dash-like markings on the abdominal segments, and by their habit of frequently ascending plants to feed on leaves.

Prevention and Control

Top of page On strawberry, larvae of N. pronuba may be controlled by drenching infested plants (Alford, 1984); suitable insecticides include chlorpyrifos and cypermethrin. Drenching treatments are also recommended for use in forest tree nursery seedbeds (Carter and Gibbs, 1989). Handpicking of larvae is often the most suitable way of eliminating larvae in gardens and allotments (Gratwick, 1992). Specific control of larvae on field crops is rarely necessary.


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Alford DV, 1984. A Colour Atlas of Fruit Pests. Their Recognition, Biology and Control. London, UK: Wolfe Publishing Ltd, 320 pp.

Alford DV, 1991. A Colour Atlas of Pests of Ornamental Trees, Shrubs and Flowers. London, UK: Wolfe Publishing Ltd.

Balachowsky AS, ed. , 1972. Entomology applied to agriculture. Tome II. Lepidoptera. Second volume. Zygaenoidea-Pyraloidea-Noctuoidea. Entomologie appliquee a l'agriculture. Tome II. Lepidopteres. Deuxieme volume. Zygaenoidea-Pyraloidea-Noctuoidea. Paris, France: Masson et Cie, pp 1059-1634.

Carter CI; Gibbs JN, 1989. Pests and diseases of forest crops. In: Scopes N, Stables L, eds. Pest and Disease Control Handbook. Thornton Heath, UK: British Crop Protection Council.

Copley CR; Cannings RA, 2005. Notes on the status of the Eurasian moths Noctua pronuba and Noctua comes (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia, 102:83-84.

Gratwick M, 1992. Crop pests in the UK: collected edition of MAFF leaflets. Crop pests in the UK: collected edition of MAFF leaflets., x + 490 pp.; [Co-published with Van Nostrand Reinhold, Inc., New York, USA].

Heath J; Emmet AM, ed. , 1979. The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume 9. Sphingidae - Noctuidae Noctuinp and Hadeninp. London, UK: Curwen Books, 288 pp.

Hrudová E, 2005. Nontarget Lepidoptera species found in the pheromone traps for selected tortricid species in 2002 and 2003 years. Acta Universitatis Agriculturae et Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, 53(1):35-44.

Hächler M; Bloesch B; Mittaz Ch, 2002. Migration of noctuid moths. Observations at the Grand-Saint-Bernard pass. (Migration des lépidoptères nocturnes: observations au col du Grand-Saint-Bernard.) Revue Suisse d'Agriculture, 34(3):137-145.

Jakubowska M, 2003. Warning, forecasting and control of cutworm. (Sygnalizacja, prognozowanie i mozliwosci zwalczania rolnic.) Gazeta Cukrownicza, 111(9):279-281.

Madge DS, 1962. The biology of the cutworm Tryphaena pronuba L. (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae). Part I. Laboratory investigations. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 5:261-269.

Miles HW, 1921a. Observations on the insects of grasses and their relation to cultivated crops. Annals of Applied Biology, 8:170-184.

Pape H, 1964. Krankheiten und SchSdlinge der Zierpflanzen und ihre BekSmpfung. 5th edition (revised). Berlin, Germany: Paul Parey. 625 pp. (In German).

Scorer AG, 1913. The entomologist's log-book, and dictionary of the life histories and food plants of the British Macrolepidoptera. London, UK: Routledge.

Singh MP; Kevan DKMcE, 1956. Notes on three common British species of noctuid moth. I. Longevity and oviposition. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation, 68:233-235.

SourFs B, 1948. Contribution á l'étude des LépidoptFres de la Tunisie. Ann. Serv. Bot. Agron. Tunisie, 93-96, 130-133.

Tuovinen T, 1997. HedelmS- ja Marjakasvien tuhoelSimet. Kasninsuojeluseuran julkaisu No 89.

Warren AD, 2000. .

Wilson GF, 1943. Potato injury due to soil pests. Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 68:206-214.

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