Saturday, October 8, 2011

Smeared Dagger Caterpillar

Smartweed Caterpillar - Acronicta oblinata
Also known as the Smartweed Caterpillar.  The caterpillar is fairly variable in it's coloration, but seems to usually show the yellow blotches along its side and the reddish hairy warts (a little more clear in the second picture).  It's a member of the Noctuidae, the largest moth and butterfly family in the world.

Along with its coloration, its food preferences are also variable.  The name, Smartweed Caterpillar might lead you to think it favors Smartweeds (Polygonum spp), but it eats a wide variety of forbs, shrubs and trees.  This one was munching on Cattails (Typha).  The adult moth is pretty drab, with  variously shaded, nondescript brown markings on a whitish background.  This caterpillar was found at Westwood Hills Nature Center; next time I find a vaguely brownish moth at Westwood, I'll see check first to see if it's a Smeared Dagger.