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The Basics:


  •     Does it sting? No, although the spines are sharp.

  •     What does it eat? Many plants and trees

  •     Will it seriously damage plants or trees? Yes, occasionally

  •     Is it rare? No

  •     What does it turn into? A drab gray moth

  •     Can you raise it to an adult? Yes, if you give it plenty of fresh leaves.

Smeared Dagger Moth

The adult moth of this species, like all dagger moths, is gray with black spots and chevrons, including a vaguely dagger-shaped mark at the lower corner of the upper wing; this is where the group gets its common name.


The spiny caterpillar of the smeared dagger moth feeds on many plants, and is among the more commonly found moth caterpillars in the eastern US. It has a very characteristic jagged yellow line down its side, which makes it look quite similar to another spiny caterpillar in this guide, the red admiral butterfly.


This species is common enough that it can sometimes be considered a pest in the fruit industry, due to the spiny caterpillar's ability to strip small trees of leaves if there are enough of them.

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Typical dagger moth, genus Acronicta

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