Grey dagger

The grey dagger (Acronicta psi) is a moth of the family Noctuidae.

Grey dagger
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Noctuidae
Genus: Acronicta
A. psi
Binomial name
Acronicta psi
  • Triaena psi


This species can be found from Europe[1] and North Africa to northern Iran, central Asia, southern and central Siberia and Mongolia. In the Levant it is found in Lebanon and Israel.


These moths mainly inhabit deciduous forests, hedgerows, parks and gardens, at an elevation up to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level.[2]


Acronicta psi has a wingspan of 34–45 mm.[3] These moths have grey forewings with bold black dagger-shaped markings. (The Latin specific name also refers to these markings, as resembling the Greek letter psi ψ.)[3] The hindwings are dirty grey, generally paler in the male.

This moth is very similar to the dark dagger (Acronicta tridens) and identification is generally only possible by minute examination of the genitalia.[3] However, in general this moth is generally darker in colour than the dark dagger and always lacks the white hindwings often present in the male of that species. Moreover, the larvae of the two species are very different.

The larva of Acronicta psi is quite hairy, greyish or brownish below and black above, with red spots along the sides and a bold yellow stripe along the back. It has a distinctive horn just behind the head (absent from the larva of dark dagger).


The grey dagger flies at night from June to August [1][3] and is attracted to light and sometimes to sugar.

It feeds on a wide range of plants, mainly trees and shrubs (see list below). The species overwinters as a pupa.

  1. ^ The flight season refers to the British Isles. This may vary in other parts of the range.

Food plantsEdit

Recorded food plants include:[4]



  • Chinery, Michael Collins Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe 1986 (Reprinted 1991)
  • Skinner, Bernard Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles 1984

External linksEdit