Smeared Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Mystery caterpillar
Dear Bugman,
I’m hoping you can identify this caterpillar. We found it in our native plant nursery outside of Annapolis, MD and the closest picture I can find that looks like it is the Western Tussock Moth. Is there an eastern version, or is this one a vacationer here on the Chesapeake Bay? Or is this a totally different moth/butterfly? We have found many different caterpillars and have been able to figure out the parents of most of them, but this one has us stumped. (The farmer who leases the land to us is amazed that we are growing “weeds” but delighted by the butterflies.) Any help you give us would be greatly appreciated…we like to be able to tell children what the “bugs” are when they find them on the plants. The plant the caterpillar is sitting on is a Shining Sumac, Rhus copallina. Thanks….your website is amazing!

Hi Ann,
Thank you for getting back to us with the host plant, shining sumac. We were not going to give up until we identified your caterpillar because we love your letter. Long live the native weeds and thank you for sharing such a wonderful viewpoint with your children. We finally located your caterpillar on BugGuide. It is a Smeared Dagger Moth Caterpillar, Acronicta oblinita. Caterpillars of the Eastern Forests notes: “Pattern highly variable but always handsomely marked: generally dark, with dark or reddish dorsal warts bearing tuft of short bristly setae. Head black, shiny. Dorsum with or without abundant white speckling. Yellow, inverted V-shaped blotches separate white spiracles. Four fine setae extend out from others at either end of body. Food: many forbs, shrubs, and trees.”

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