Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Triton Dagger Moth
We came upon the beautiful caterpillar as it fed on the leaves of a Northern Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) at the edge of the rocky shore about one km east of Pebble Beach, in Marathon.
With no clue as to the identity of this larva, we submitted an ID Request to BugGuide.net and minutes later came the suggestion of Triton Dagger (Acronicta tritona), based on a photo in the recently published Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History by David L. Wagner, of the University of Connecticut. Within an hour, Dr. Wagner confirmed the ID and shared with us some of the species' natural history. All of its known host plants are in the Ericaceae (blueberries, azaleas, etc). While other authors have described the species as uncommon to rare, Dr. Wagner has found the species to be common over acid soils along the Atlantic coastal plain.