Moths of North Carolina
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Acronicta Members:
53 NC Records

Acronicta exilis Grote, 1874 - Exiled Dagger

Superfamily: Noctuoidea Family: NoctuidaeSubfamily: AcronictinaeP3 Number: 931464.00 MONA Number: 9242.00
Comments: One of 74 species in this genus found in North America north of Mexico (Schmidt and Anweiler, 2020), 42 of which have been recorded in North Carolina. This species is placed in subgenus Lepitoreuma by Schmidt and Anweiler, and within the Increta Species Group. Other members of this group in North Carolina include Acronicta albarufa , A. ovata, A. modica (=haesitata), A. immodica (=modica), A. increta, and A. tristis.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984); Leckie and Beadle (2018)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1954); Schmidt and Anweiler (2020)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Forbes (1954); Wagner et al. (2011); Schmidt and Anweiler (2020)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A relatively small, pale gray Dagger, the smallest member of the Increta Species Group. The ground color of the forewings is often yellowish and there are no extensive dark patches, including in the basal area. Lines and spots are normally developed; as in Acronicta ovata, the basal dash curves smoothly up to join the antemedian, enclosing a pale oval patch (Forbes, 1954; Schmidt and Anweiler, 2020). Also as in A. ovata, the reniform is shaded with red and there is usually a contrasting anal dash. A. exilis differs from A. ovata in its much smaller size and smaller amount of dark shading in the basal area.
Wingspan: 27-32 mm (Forbes, 1954)
Forewing Length: 14.4 mm, males; 14.8 mm, females (Schmidt and Anweiler, 2020)
Adult Structural Features: Apart from size -- which distinguishes A. exilis from the others -- members of the Increta Species Group show essentially no structural differences, including in their reproductive structures (Schmidt and Anweiler, 2020).
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: Larvae are similar to those of the other members of the Increta Species Group, but are smaller, have less extensive reticulations on the head, and lack a dark transverse bar above the clypeus (Wagner et al. 2011; Schmidt and Anweiler, 2020).
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from close inspection of specimens or by DNA analysis.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Occurs nearly statewide, with some records from the high mountains but none from the barrier islands.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ‚Č• 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Adults are found from spring to late summer, possibly with two peaks in activity.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Schmidt and Anweiler (2020) state that this species is among the most habitat-limited members of the Increta Species Group, occurring primarily in warmer and dryer examples of oak forests. Most of our records do, in fact, come from the Eastern Piedmont and Coastal Plain, but we also have several records from the Mountains, including at least one site in the Great Smoky Mountains that is above 4,500 ft in elevation.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, feeding on White Oak, and possibly also on Post Oak, Chestnut Oak, or other members of the Leucobalanus group (Wagner et al., 2011; Schmidt and Anweiler, 2020). - View
Observation Methods: Comes at least moderately well to blacklights but we have no records from bait
See also Habitat Account for General Oak-Hickory Forests
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G4 S4
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Although at best only locally common, this species occupies a wide range of habitats in the state, most of which are still extensive. It therefore does not appear to be of any conservation concern here in North Carolina.

 Photo Gallery for Acronicta exilis - Exiled Dagger

Photos: 13

Recorded by: Jim Petranka on 2024-05-14
Madison Co.
Recorded by: David George, Stephen Dunn, Jeff Niznik, Rich Teper, Becky Watkins on 2023-07-30
Swain Co.
Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2023-07-24
Wake Co.
Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2023-06-14
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2023-06-05
Wake Co.
Recorded by: David George, Stephen Dunn, Jeff Niznik on 2023-06-03
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Dean Furbish on 2021-06-06
Wake Co.
Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-05-15
Guilford Co.
Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-08-20
Guilford Co.
Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2019-07-25
Guilford Co.
Recorded by: Stephen Hall on 2017-07-25
Orange Co.
Recorded by: Robert Gilson on 2015-08-12
Mecklenburg Co.
Recorded by: Darryl Willis on 2013-07-20
Cabarrus Co.