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American Dagger Moth (Acronicta americana)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Dagger Moth.


 Updated: 1/30/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org



  American Dagger Moth  
Picture of American-Dagger-Moth
Picture of American-Dagger-Moth Picture of American-Dagger-Moth


The large adult American Dagger Moth may seem harmless, but its bristly, stinging caterpillar has a reputation for teaching small children not to touch everything they see.





The largest of the Dagger Moths at over 50 mm (2 inches) in length, the American Dagger Moth is found east of the Rocky Mountains. It is most active from spring to early autumn and can be found in areas with deciduous trees like parks, backyards, forests and woodlands.

The adult may be considered drab in appearance compared to its larval form, but definitely charming in its own way. Its wings and upper legs are covered in grayish-white hairs. Faint black lines zigzag up and down the forewings, and a thin, black ring is centered close to the edge of each wing. A white band scallops along the lower part of the forewings and the bottom edges of the wings have a black and white checkered fringe.

The caterpillar has a more remarkable appearance and size. Also about 50 mm (2 inches) long, it is completely covered in bright yellow/green bristles. Four long bunches of black bristles, like long eyelashes, extend from the body near the head and midsection. A fifth bunch of these extra-long, black bristles comes out near the rear of the caterpillar. The bristles break off and embed themselves into skin. Toxins stored inside the hairs have a stinging sensation if touched. Many curious children have unwittingly picked up these big, fuzzy, bright creatures and consequently experienced a burning, itching sensation on their skin which can develop into a rash. These irritating larvae feed on the leaves of a variety of popular neighborhood trees like oak, ash, elm, alder, willow and maple. They may be found on the ground near them. Since their food source can usually be found in close proximity to backyards and schoolyards, the likelihood of an encounter with people is high. The American Dagger caterpillar is a great reason why it is best to "Look it up before you pick it up"!
Basic Information
Common Name: American Dagger Moth
Scientific Name: Acronicta americana
Category: Butterfly or Moth


General Identification
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 65mm (1.95in to 2.54in)
Colorwheel Graphic
Identifying Colors: brown, gray, white, yellow, black
Additional Descriptors: speckled, flying, fuzzy, stinging




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Noctuidae
Genus: Acronicta
Species: americana


Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.


Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed below as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections below indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico


Territorial Area Map (Visual Reference Guide)
The map below showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the American Dagger Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data can be useful in seeing concentrations of a particular species over the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some species are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America.
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
State of Iowa graphic
State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


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