Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Black and Orange Caterpillars

Black and orange caterpillars are the larval stage of moths and butterflies. The fat, worm-like crawling insects can have black and orange stripes, furry orange bodies with black bands, or tufts of spiny hairs sticking out from their orange and black bodies. Some scary-looking orange and black fuzzy caterpillars have black spikes on their backs and heads.

Just because a black caterpillar has orange stripes doesn’t mean that the moth or butterfly will have similar colors. For example, the hairy black and orange tiger moth caterpillar turns into the spectacular brown, white, and orange fuzzy garden tiger moth (Arctia caja). Or the orange spotted oleander moth caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais) with its long black spikes turns into a beautiful metallic blue moth. Then there is a black caterpillar with orange tufts that turn into the brown rusty tussock moth (Orgyia antiqua).

This article is a guide to identifying some of the most stunning black and orange caterpillars. Descriptions of the larval insects and pictures of the orange and black caterpillars will help determine what species of butterfly they turn into.

Are Black and Orange Caterpillars Poisonous?

Orange and black caterpillars are typically not poisonous and are safe to touch. Even though some furry black and orange caterpillars look dangerous due to their horns, bristles, prickly spines, or tufts of hairs, they don’t usually sting. However, some people may get an allergic reaction after handling a bristly caterpillar.

For example, the menacing-looking black caterpillar with black spike and orangey-red dots, the Mourning Cloak Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa), looks like it’s a type of stinging caterpillar. However, the caterpillar’s appearance is deceiving because it’s completely harmless.

Some black and orange caterpillars are poisonous to certain animals. For example, the striped black and orange Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae) feeds on ragwort and stores the poisons in its body. In large amounts, the caterpillars could poison small rodents or birds.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

Black and orange caterpillars are identifiable by their distinctive worm-like body shape, head shape, six legs, stumpy-looking prolegs, and the appearance of spines or bristles. In many cases, certain types of caterpillars only feed on a specific plant, which can help identify the black and orange worm-like insects.

When comparing pictures of caterpillars for identification, it’s essential to remember that caterpillars go through several stages called instars. Therefore, a juvenile caterpillar that’s just hatched may look completely different from a mature caterpillar that’s about to enter the pupal stage.

All caterpillars are a type of insect in the order Lepidoptera. There are over 180,000 caterpillar species in the world that turn into types of moths or beautiful butterflies. Depending on the species of caterpillar, black and orange grubs can measure less than 1” (2.5 cm) and up to 6” (15 cm) long.

Types of Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Let’s look in more detail at some spectacular examples of black and orange caterpillars. In this list, you will discover caterpillars that are described as woolly, fuzzy, smooth with spikes, bristled, colorful, and striped.

Redhumped Moth Caterpillar (Schizura concinna)

Redhumped Moth Caterpillar (Schizura concinna)

The attractive-looking redhumped caterpillar has orangey-yellow, black and white striped body with red head

The redhumped caterpillar is a long grub with longitudinal black and orange or yellow stripes, short black fleshy tubercles, and an orangey-red rounded head and hump on its back. As the striped caterpillars mature, they develop yellowish-orange bodies with black and white stripes. Redhumped caterpillars grow up to 1.5” (3.8 cm) long.

A characteristic trait of redhumped caterpillars is that they feed in clusters. Therefore, a large group of these leaf-munching grubs can quickly defoliate fruit trees, walnut trees, cottonwood trees, and willow trees.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The redhumped moth caterpillar has an identifiable red head, reddish hump, black spikes, and a yellowish-orange body with stripes.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae)

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae)

The cinnabar caterpillar has pale orange and black stripes with fine hairs on its body

The cinnabar caterpillar is a black and orange striped caterpillar with long feathery spines on its body. Up close, you’ll notice three pairs of black legs at the front and four pairs of black and orange prolegs at the middle section of its body. Cinnabar caterpillars grow up to 1.2” (3 cm) long.

Because it is mainly found feeding on ragwort, the banded orange and black cinnabar caterpillar is poisonous to any predators who eat it. In addition, due to their voracious appetite, the destructive grubs can strip plants of leaves.

The cinnabar caterpillar can also be a type of black and yellow caterpillar.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The identifying characteristic of the cinnabar moth caterpillar is the orange and black bands around the caterpillar’s body.

Yellow-Tail Moth Caterpillar (Sphrageidus similis or Euproctis similis) 

Yellow-Tail Moth Caterpillar (Sphrageidus similis)

The hairy yellow-tail moth caterpillar is identified by its black body with orange lines on its back and white spots on the sides

The fuzzy yellow-tail moth caterpillar has a black spiny body with two orange bands running down its back. Other recognizable features of this hairy caterpillar are white patches on the segments, orangey-red bumps at its head, and a menacing look. This stunning black and orange caterpillar turns into a spectacular white moth with a yellow tail.

The yellow-tail moth caterpillar measures up to 1.2” (3 cm) long. You will find this spiny black and orange caterpillar feeding on birch tree leaves, fruit tree foliage, and the leaves of hawthorn, oak, and rowan.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The identifying features of the yellow-tail moth caterpillar are its black, orange, and white bands running lengthwise and tufts of white and black long spines.

Isabella Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Isabella Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Isabella tiger moth caterpillar is a furry caterpillar with black and orange or brown hairs

The Isabella tiger moth caterpillar has tufts of orange and black hairs covering its body. The orange and black caterpillar is unusual due to the wide rusty-orange band around its middle and fuzzy black ends. Other characteristic features of the Isabella tiger caterpillar are its orange forelegs, small head, and black and orange appearance.

Also called the woolly bear, the black and orange Isabella tiger moth larvae measure 2.4” (6 cm) long and feed on most plant leaves. This orange and black caterpillar turns into a beautiful yellow moth. Other names of this caterpillar are banded woolly bear, woolly worm, or black-ended bear caterpillar.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

Identify an orange and black woolly bear caterpillar by the tufts of short black or reddish-orange hairs covering the furry caterpillar’s body.

Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Arctia caja)

Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Arctia caja)

The fuzzy garden tiger moth caterpillar has black, orange and gray hair-like spines

The woolly garden tiger moth caterpillar is a hairy orangey-black caterpillar covered in long black, orange, and white spines. Also called woolly bear caterpillars, the long spiny hairs can cause skin irritation if you handle them. The large hairy caterpillars grow up to 2.4” (6 cm) long.

The black and orange garden or great tiger moth caterpillar transforms into the stunning brown and white moth with leopard-like patterns on its wings.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

To identify the garden tiger moth caterpillar, look for a black, hairy grub with orange coloring along its sides.

Gulf Fritillary / Passion Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary / Passion Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae)

The spiky gulf fritillary caterpillar has orange body with black or gray stripes along its sides

The gulf fritillary caterpillar is a dark orange caterpillar with grayish-black stripes and covered in black spikes that have tiny hairs on them. The orange and black gulf fritillary caterpillar grows up to 0.5” (1.2 cm) long. As the caterpillar matures, it becomes a dark, rusty orange color before it pupates.

The small orange and black gulf fritillary caterpillars mainly feed on foliage from plants belonging to the Passifloraceae family. Therefore, its other common name is passion butterfly caterpillar.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The gulf fritillary is easy to identify due to its smooth orange and black/gray body covered with shiny black spines.

Spiny Oakworm Caterpillar (Anisota stigma)

Spiny Oakworm Caterpillar (Anisota stigma)

The spiny oakworm caterpillar has pale orange body with black spikes and black horn at its head

The spiny oakworm is one of the most unusual types of orange caterpillars with black spines. The pale orange caterpillar has numerous black spines on its body. You will also see that the orange caterpillar is covered in white dots. There is also a large black horn at its bulbous orange head.

The orange and black spiny oakworm caterpillar is solitary and mainly feeds on oak trees. It is active during late July when it munches its way through oak leaves. This spiny orange caterpillar with black spikes turns into a spectacular furry orange and pink moth.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

Easy to identify, the orange spiny oakworm has recognizable black spines and is covered in tiny white dots. Also, look for the identifiable curved black horn at its head.

Rusty Tussock Caterpillar (Orgyia antiqua)

Rusty Tussock Caterpillar (Orgyia antiqua)

The beautiful rusty tussock caterpillar is easily identified by its unique look

The spectacular rusty tussock moth caterpillar is easily identifiable by its horn-like tufts of orange and yellow hairs on a black body. However, the easiest identifying feature to spot is the four toothbrush-like yellowish tufts on the caterpillar’s back. Also, look for orangey-red tubercles along its back and side to identify this hairy caterpillar.

Also called vapourer caterpillars, the orange and black hairy caterpillar grows between 1.2” and 1.6” (3 – 4 cm) long.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The rusty tussock caterpillar has easily identifiable horns, humps, and a tail and is covered in black, orange, yellow, and white irritating bristle-like hairs with four clumps of hairs on its black body.

Fox Moth Caterpillar (Macrothylacia rubi)

Fox Moth Caterpillar (Macrothylacia rubi)

The furry black fox moth caterpillar has orange marking along its back

The fox moth caterpillar is a black hairy caterpillar with bright orange segments and covered in black hairs. The furry black and orange caterpillar measures up to 3” (8 cm) long. The black fox moth caterpillar turns into an attractive tan-colored furry moth that has a large body.

Fox moth caterpillars can be found feeding on small shrubs, flowering perennials, and trees such as birch trees, willows, and plants in the bean family.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The fox moth caterpillar is identified by its hairy black body and bright yellow or orange markings running along its back.

Oleander Caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais)

Oleander Caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais)

The oleander caterpillar has orange body with black bumps and tufts of hair

The oleander moth caterpillar is a bright orange caterpillar with tufts of long black spines growing from black bumps, making the caterpillar look like a bottle brush. This orange and black caterpillar species has a voracious appetite and quickly decimates foliage on oleander or desert rose plants. Oleander caterpillars grow up to 1.5” (4 cm) long.

Also called the polka-dot wasp moth larvae, this orange and black caterpillar turns into a stunning blue moth with iridescent coloring and polka-dot wings.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

To identify the oleander caterpillar, look for its characteristic features of a bright orange body with black tubercles growing long black hairs. Despite its spiky appearance, this orange caterpillar is safe to touch.

Drinker Moth Caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria)

Drinker Moth Caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria)

The drinker moth caterpillar is a furry orange, black and white caterpillar

The drinker moth caterpillar is a hairy orange caterpillar with a black back and lines of orange dots. You will also notice tufts of orange, white, and black hairs on its back and head. Also, look for the four pairs of hairy orange prolegs on the caterpillar’s middle segments.

Drinker moth caterpillars grow up to 2.4” (6 cm) long and turn into furry orange moths.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

You can identify the drinker moth caterpillar by its orangey tufts of hair, black and orange bands running lengthwise on its back, and a rounded head.

Cape Lappet Moth Caterpillar (Eutricha capensis)

Cape Lappet Moth Caterpillar (Eutricha capensis)

The cape lappet moth caterpillar is easily identified by its orange hairs on the sides and black and white back

The cape lappet caterpillar has clusters of brightly colored orangey hairs along its sides and a black band running lengthwise down its white back. In addition, you will notice three coppery-orange tufts of hairs at its head. One of the hairiest orange and black caterpillars, this cape lappet moth caterpillar measures up to 2.4” (6 cm) long.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

To identify the cape lappet caterpillar, look for the bright orange tufts of hair on both sides and black and white back.

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

The imperial moth caterpillar can greatly vary in color. This is a close up picture of the caterpillar’s third instar

One of the scariest-looking orange and black caterpillars is the imperial moth caterpillar. This orangey black caterpillar changes its appearance during each instar. First, the spiky caterpillars can be yellow with black stripes. Then it turns a rusty red color or orange with spiny hairs. During the last stage, the intimidating caterpillars can be brown, maroon or green.

Imperial moth caterpillars grow between 0.4” to 4” (1 – 10 cm long).

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The imperial moth caterpillar is challenging to identify because it changes so often. However, the spiky caterpillar has four large spiny black horns at its head and several shorter spikes and hairs on its body.

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa)

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa)

The spiky black mourning cloak caterpillar has orange-red markings and tiny white dots on its body

The mourning cloak butterfly caterpillar is a spiky black caterpillar that has eight orangey-red dots on its back. Up close, white dots and tufts of short hairs and black spine help identify the spiny mourning cloak caterpillar. The caterpillar’s black body measures 2” (5 cm) long.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

To identify the mourning cloak caterpillar, look for a black body with orange dots on each segment. The body is covered in white hairs and soft black spikes.

Spurge Hawk-Moth Caterpillar (Hyles euphorbiae)

Spurge Hawk-Moth Caterpillar (Hyles euphorbiae)

The large spurge hawk-moth caterpillar has black and orange body with white spots and a horn at its rear

The spurge hawk-moth caterpillar is a smooth black and orange caterpillar with an orange head, orange legs, and orange prolegs. At its tail end is a black-tipped orange horn. Other identifiable features of the black caterpillar are bands of white dots and a yellow abdomen.

The enormous black, orange and white caterpillars can measure up to 4” (10 cm) long and are found feeding on sea spurge plants.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The spurge hawk-moth caterpillar is easy to identify thanks to its smooth black and orange body, numerous white dots, and orange legs, head, tail, and horn.

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Euchaetes egle)

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Euchaetes egle)

The unusual looking milkweed tiger moth caterpillar has tufts of orange, black and white-gray hairs

The milkweed tiger moth is a type of black hairy caterpillar with bright orange tufts of hair in its final instar. The fuzzy black, orange, and grayish larvae can grow to 1.4” (3.5 cm) long. You will often find this hairy caterpillar feeding on dogbane and milkweed plants where it skeletonizes leaves.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

To identify the milkweed tiger moth, look for black hair tufts covering the larvae and orange clumps of hairs growing on its back, and a few tufts of grayish or whitish hairs.

Tetrio Sphinx Caterpillar (Pseudosphinx)

Pseudosphinx

The yellow and black striped giant sphinx caterpillar has red/orange head, tail and prolegs

The enormous black and yellow striped tetrio sphinx caterpillar has a bright orange head, eight orange prolegs, and an orange tail with a long black spike. Close-up pictures of this striped caterpillar reveal it’s coated in urticating barbed hairs that can cause severe irritation. The tetrio sphinx caterpillar measures 6” (15 cm) long.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

One of the most easily identifiable caterpillars due to its jet black body, orange legs, head, and tail, and yellow bands separating the segments.

Old World Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio machaon)

Old World Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio machaon)

The colorful old world swallowtail caterpillar has green body, black stripes and orange dots

The old world swallowtail caterpillar is a green caterpillar with orange and black bands wrapping around its segments. This fat caterpillar has a plump body that measures 1.8” (4.5 cm) long.

This colorful caterpillar turns into a beautiful swallowtail butterfly with creamy white and black wings with blue and red markings.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The old world swallowtail caterpillar has a bright green body with bands of black and orange markings. You can identify the plump caterpillar by its raised front section when it feels threatened.

Regal Moth Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

Regal Moth Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

The regal moth caterpillar is a very large caterpillar with orange and black horns on its head

The regal moth caterpillar is a fearsome-looking bluish-green grub with short black spikes, black-tipped orange horns, and an orange tail end. The identifying feature of this huge horned caterpillar is the several arched spiky horns near its head. Also called the hickory horned devil, this insect is the largest caterpillar in the world, measuring a whopping 6” (15 cm) long.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

Regal moth caterpillar identification is by its bright green body, prickly orange and black horns, and small black spikes on its body. Despite its frightening appearance, the caterpillar is harmless and is relatively placid.

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