New York Natural Heritage Program
Barrens Dagger Moth
Acronicta albarufa Grote, 1874

General Description [-]
This is a small dagger moth, about the size of the common Acronicta ovata. The adult does not vary much except in the extent of dark on the hindwings. The larva has not been described in detail, but is similar to related species such as Acronicta ovata, and the Acronicta increta complex.

Identifying Characteristics [-]
This species is difficult to identify and must be verified by an expert. A collected specimen is very strongly recommended since a field photo taken at night under artificial light could leave room for doubt.

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
The realtively smooth, slate gray color of the forewing is distinctive to one familiar with the group. Note the conspicuously brown to slightly orange reniform spot, prominent rounded orbicular spot containing a darker spot, dark brownish hindwing of female, and almost white hindwing with dark veins on most males. A few males have the outer portion of the hindwing somewhat rust tinted and this is quite distinctive. Specimens suspected to be this species should be confirmed by an expert. The larva is similar to some other species in the Acronicta ovata group, a small North American group of this holarctic genus, and should be reared to an adult for confirmation. This moth is illustrated by Holland (1903), Rings et al. (1992), and Rockburne and Lafontaine (1976).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
The best life stage for identification is the adult stage. Identification should be based on an actual specimen and be confirmed by an expert.

Behavior [-]
The adults are nocturnal and are most often found at lights, but they do sometimes show up at bait.

Diet [-]
The caterpillar feeds on summer foliage of scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), post oak (Quercus stellata), dwarf chestnut oak (Quercus prinus), and probably black oak (Quercus velutina). As with most moths, it is unknown what the adults feed on, but their diet most likely includes honey dew on leaves from aphids and other sucking insects and sap oozes on trees.
Barrens Dagger Moth Images
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The Best Time to See
The adults likely occur in New York from approximately mid-June to at least mid-July and probably into early August. The egg stage is only about six days and the larvae mature in about 29 to 35 days (Dale Schweitzer), so the larvae would be present from about late June through August or into September. There probably is not a second brood in New York. Adult eclosion (emerging from the pupal case) is quite staggered and the pupae are present almost the entire year.
Reproducing Larvae present and active Pupae or prepupae present
The time of year you would expect to find Barrens Dagger Moth reproducing (blue shading), larvae present and active (green shading) and pupae or prepupae present (orange shading) in New York.