Black and Yellow Caterpillars (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Black and yellow caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies or moths. Black and yellow caterpillars can be large or small crawling insects, and some may have furry bodies. Depending on the moth or butterfly species, the caterpillar could be black with yellow stripes or markings. Or some other caterpillars can be yellow with fuzzy bodies and black spines or horns. One thing in common with all black and yellow caterpillars is that they turn into spectacular winged insects.

Black and yellow caterpillars typically don’t resemble the butterflies or moths they turn into. For example, the black and yellow striped monarch caterpillar turns into the spectacular orange and black monarch butterfly. Or the black and yellow fuzzy spotted tussock caterpillar turns into the pretty brown mottled tiger moth.

This article is a guide to identifying various types of black and yellow caterpillars. In addition, descriptions and pictures of yellow and black caterpillars help know what moth or butterfly species they become after metamorphosis.

Are Black and Yellow Caterpillars Poisonous?

Most black and yellow caterpillars are harmless and won’t sting you if you touch them. However, the yellow and black hairy spotted tussock caterpillar (Lophocampa maculata) has barbed spines that can cause skin irritation. Also, the monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) and Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae) contain toxins that could poison small birds or rodents.

Some types of black and yellow spiky caterpillars could look menacing. The horns at their head or tail end, eye-like markings, fuzzy bodies, and bright yellow colors, or black and yellow stripes are to ward off potential predators. But you generally don’t have to worry about black and yellow caterpillars being poisonous. However, it’s best to avoid touching any color of caterpillar that has spines or tufts of fine hairs.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The way to identify black and yellow caterpillars is by looking at their colors, distinctive markings, six legs, prolegs (stumpy-looking legs), the presence of hairs or spines, and size. You can also identify some caterpillar species by the plant the caterpillar is feeding on. You can also measure their length for identification.

It’s also important to remember that all caterpillars go through several changes or instars. So, a caterpillar that’s just hatched from the pupa may look completely different from an adult caterpillar. This article looks at the identifying features of adult caterpillars in their last stages.

Black and yellow caterpillars are crawling, worm-like, leaf-eating caterpillars in the insect order Lepidoptera. Striped and horned yellow and black caterpillars can measure from less than an inch (2.5 cm) to 5.5” (14 cm) long.

Types of Black and Yellow Caterpillars (With Pictures) 

Let’s look in detail at the stunning and fascinating types of yellow and black striped, fuzzy, hairy, and smooth caterpillars.

Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

The monarch caterpillar has black, white, and yellow stripes on its body

The monarch caterpillar is a spectacular striped, black, yellow, and white caterpillar. The long, fat caterpillar is identifiable by its yellow, white and black bands, white prolegs, and two black tentacles at either end of its body. The black and yellow monarch caterpillar grows between 1” and 1.7” (2.5 – 4.5 cm) long.

You will find the monarch caterpillar feeding on milkweed. Unfortunately, this diet makes monarch caterpillars one of the few poisonous black and yellow poisonous caterpillars.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

You can identify monarch caterpillars by their distinguishable black, yellow, and white stripes. Look for monarch caterpillars feeding on milkweed plants.

White-Marked Tussock Furry Horned Caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)

(Orgyia leucostigma)

The furry white-marked tussock caterpillar is easily identified by its unique look

The white-marked tussock is a yellow and black furry caterpillar that turns into a giant brown moth. The spiny caterpillar is identified by its red head and tufts of yellowish hairs on a yellow and black body. You’ll also notice long black spines sticking out of the body. This unusual fuzzy caterpillar measures 1.3” (3.5 cm).

The white-marked tussock larva is a stinging caterpillar due to its urticating hairs that can cause allergic reactions in humans.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The white-marked tussock caterpillar has characteristic tufts of yellowish-white stinging hairs, a black body with yellow stripes, and a red head.

Yellow Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Lophocampa maculata)

Lophocampa maculata

The yellow-spotted tussock caterpillar has a distinctive look with its yellow and black hairs

The yellow-spotted tussock is a fuzzy yellow and black caterpillar that looks like a giant bumblebee. The identifiable features of this tufty caterpillar are its furry black ends and wide yellow band around the body’s middle. You’ll also notice thin tufts of white hairs sticking out from its ends.

Although not poisonous, the spines on the black and yellow caterpillar can give you a nasty sting if you handle one.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

You can easily identify the yellow-spotted tussock by its distinctive wide black and yellow fuzzy bands and tufts of white hairs. These caterpillars are found feeding on oak, willow, maple, and alder leaves.

Six-Spot Burnet Caterpillar (Zygaena filipendulae)

Zygaena filipendulae

The six-spot burnet caterpillar has yellow body with black markings and small spikes

The six-spot burnet caterpillar is a fat yellow caterpillar with black markings in horizontal stripes. Native to the United Kingdom, this yellow and black caterpillar measures about 0.8” (2 cm) long. Up close, you’ll notice tufts of spiny hairs covering the pale yellow and black segments.

This rare yellow and black caterpillar turns into a stunning black moth that flies in the daytime. The name “six-spot” burnet comes from the six red dots on the pretty butterfly’s glossy black wings.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

To help identify the six-spot burnet caterpillar, look for horizontal lines of black patterns on a pale, almost translucent yellow body.

Queen Caterpillar (Danaus gilippus)

Queen caterpillar (Danaus gilippus)

Queen Caterpillar has black and white stripes with yellow markings

The queen butterfly caterpillar is a sizeable black caterpillar with yellow dots, white stripes, and black tentacles. Related to the monarch caterpillar, this smooth caterpillar has a black head with white rings. The stripes are typically white, but they can be yellow, blue, green, or brown.

After emerging from its pupal stage, this black, white, and yellow striped caterpillar becomes a spectacular red butterfly.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

Identification of the queen caterpillar is by its six black fleshy tentacles, black body with white transverse bands, and two large yellow dots on each segment.

Catalpa Sphinx (Ceratomia catalpae)

Catalpa Sphinx

A mature Catalpa Sphinx caterpillar has a black body with yellow markings along each side

The catalpa caterpillar is a shiny jet black as it matures. Immature larvae are usually a light color with few markings. They become darker until they are pure black. Another identifying feature is their yellow markings along each side. These join together to become a yellow row on each side of the caterpillar.

Also called the Catawba worm, this black and yellow caterpillar has black dots along its sides. Catalpa caterpillars measure up to 2” (5 cm) long. They have a black head and tapered tail end.

You will find catalpa worms feeding on native catalpa trees or cigar trees in states such as Texas, Florida, Maine, and Iowa. The worm-like yellow and black caterpillars turn into large brown catalpa sphinx moths.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

To help recognize the catalpa caterpillar, look for the black body with yellow and black markings along the sides.

Giant Sphinx caterpillar (Pseudosphinx tetrio)

Pseudosphinx tetrio

The yellow and black striped Giant Sphinx caterpillar has red/orange head and tail

The giant sphinx caterpillar is a sizeable black caterpillar with yellowish-green bands around its segments. This giant caterpillar has identifiable orange prolegs, a red-orange head, and black horns at its orangey tail. Giant sphinx caterpillars grow up to 6” (15 cm) long.

The giant sphinx is a poisonous yellow and black caterpillar if small animals or birds eat it. Also, it has barbed, stinging hairs and has been known to bite if trapped.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The giant sphinx has distinguishable yellow bands on its jet-black body and an orange tail, head, and prolegs to help identify this enormous caterpillar.

Black and Yellow Zebra caterpillar (Melanchra picta)

Melanchra picta

The black and yellow striped zebra caterpillar can be identified by its reddish-brown head

The zebra caterpillar is recognizable by its noticeable black and yellow stripes running lengthwise. As an unusual type of caterpillar, there are also thinner black stripes around the segments, giving the caterpillar a zebra-like pattern. In addition, the zebra caterpillar’s underside is reddish-brown. These black and yellow striped caterpillars measure up 1.4” to 1.6” (3.5 – 4 cm) long.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

To identify a zebra caterpillar, look for the broad creamy-yellow stripes and thinner black stripes along the length of the medium-sized caterpillar.

Common Sheep Moth Caterpillar (Hemileuca eglanterina)

Common Sheep Moth Caterpillar (Hemileuca eglanterina)

The common sheep moth caterpillar has dark body with yellow spines

The common sheep moth caterpillar is menacing-looking with a brownish-black body and tufts of black spiky and yellow or orange spines. You will find this unusual caterpillar feeding on the leaves of bitter cherry, bitterbrush, wild roses, and mountain lilac.

This unusual-looking black and yellow caterpillar turns into a spectacular orange or pink moth.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

Look for whorls of yellowish or orange tufts on the back of this black caterpillar to help identify it.

Yellow and Black Cinnabar Caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae)

Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

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

The cinnabar caterpillar is a stunning yellow worm-like caterpillar with glossy, jet-black bands around its segments. You will also notice that thin hair-like black or white spines grow sparsely on its body. The bright yellow and black colors act as a warning to predators not to eat this poisonous caterpillar.

You will find the yellow and black striped cinnabar caterpillar feeding on ragwort leaves. The yellow and black caterpillar transforms into a stunning black and red moth.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

Look for a jet-black and yellow striped caterpillar that grows up to 1.2” (3 cm) long to identify the cinnabar caterpillar.

Brown-Hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis)

Cucullia convexipennis

The brown hooded owlet caterpillar has black body with yellow stripes and red dots

The colorful, brown-hooded owlet caterpillar is a shiny black caterpillar with short yellow and white markings along its sides. You will also notice a horizontal red line running lengthwise just above the glossy black legs. Also called the calico paint caterpillar, it has a shiny black head with yellow markings.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The brown-hooded owlet caterpillar is identified by its yellow and white markings in a wide horizontal band along the body. The small black caterpillar measures up to 1” (2.5 cm) long.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes)

Papilio polyxenes

A mature black swallowtail caterpillar has green body with black stripes and yellow dots

The black swallowtail caterpillar is a green caterpillar with black and yellow markings. The black bands traversing the caterpillar’s segments have yellow dots. You will also notice that the prolegs are white or green with black and yellow markings.

This caterpillar is an example of butterfly larvae that change appearance as they mature. Young larvae are black caterpillars with a white band around the middle.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The identifying characteristic of the black swallowtail caterpillar is the black bands and yellow dots on a bright green body.

Yellownecked caterpillar (Datana ministra)

Yellownecked caterpillar (Datana ministra)

Yellownecked caterpillar has black and yellow bands along its hairy body

The yellownecked caterpillar is a black caterpillar with yellow stripes running along the length of the body. You’ll also notice that the hairy caterpillar has white feathery spines, yellowish and black legs, and a black head. The yellownecked caterpillar curls its body if threatened, creating a distinctive “U” shape.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

To identify a yellownecked caterpillar, look for the longitudinal yellow stripes on a black hairy body and characteristic yellow and black feet.

Mullein Moth Caterpillar (Cucullia verbasci)

Mullein Moth Caterpillar (Cucullia verbasci)

The beautiful mullein moth caterpillar is identified by its white or pale green body with black and yellow spots

The mullein moth caterpillar is an eye-catching long, fat caterpillar with yellow circles and black dots on a white or pale green body. The bright colors of this 2” (5 cm) long caterpillar make it easy to spot it feeding on Buddleia plant leaves. Mullein moth caterpillars are seen in July and August and can severely defoliate bushes.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The yellow, black, and white Mullen moth caterpillar is easy to identify due to its black and yellow markings on a white or pale grayish-green body.

Grapeleaf skeletonizer (Harrisina americana)

Grapeleaf skeletonizer (Harrisina americana)

The grapeleaf skeletonizer has yellow body with black dots and small irritating hairs

The grapeleaf skeletonizer has yellow bands and lines of black dots that help to identify this stout yellow caterpillar. You can find the leaf-munching pests on the underside of grapevine leaves. A characteristic trait of these caterpillars is that they line up in a row when feeding.

Although not a poisonous yellow and black caterpillar, the grapeleaf skeletonizer is covered in irritating hairs that can give you a nasty rash.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

It’s easy to identify a grapeleaf yellow caterpillar by its bands of black dots.

Redhumped Caterpillar (Schizura concinna)

Redhumped Caterpillar (Schizura concinna)

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

The redhumped moth caterpillar has a bright yellow body with black and white horizontal bands and black lines. The common name of this striped, yellow caterpillar comes from its distinguishable red humps on its back. You can spot yellow and black redhumped caterpillars feeding in groups on cottonwood, fruit trees, willow trees, and walnut trees.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The identifiable features of the redhumped caterpillar are its yellow and black stripes, short, black fleshy tentacles, red head, and red humps.

American Dagger Caterpillar (Acronicta americana)

Acronicta americana

The American dagger caterpillar is identified by its yellow-whitish hairy look with black tuft on the back

The American dagger caterpillar is covered in fine, yellow hairs and two pairs of long, black hair-like spines on its back, and one at its tail. The pale yellow hairy caterpillar has a recognizable glossy black head. The dagger moth is commonly found on hickory, birch, maple, oak, and poplar trees.

After emerging from the pupa, the furry yellow caterpillar turns into a majestic brown moth.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The yellow American dagger moth caterpillar has long, fine feathery hairs covering its body. Its length is 2” (5 cm) long and sometimes it causes skin irritation after handling it.

Smeared Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta oblinita)

Acronicta oblinita

The smeared dagger caterpillar has poisonous spine tufts around its black, yellow and white body

The smeared dagger moth caterpillar has a black body, covered in tufts of spines, white markings on its back, and a yellow wavy line along both of its sides. As a method of defense, this dagger moth caterpillar has jaggy-looking tufts of white or reddish-brown spines. This spiny caterpillar can also give a nasty sting if you handle it.

You will usually find this pesky black and yellow caterpillar on fruit trees, shrubs, strawberry plants, willows, and oaks.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

To identify the smeared dagger moth caterpillar, look for the yellow longitudinal bands along the bristly black body with white markings on the back.

Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea)

Hyphantria cunea)

The fall webworm is a type of a small yellow hairy caterpillar with black dots and long spikes

Fall webworms come in a wide range of colors. Some of these small fuzzy caterpillars can be pale yellow with black dots, and others can be dark gray or green with light markings. Each segment of these insects has a black dot and tufts of yellow or white bristles. The yellowish hairy larvae create tent-like structures, like the ones called tent caterpillars create.

These yellow hairy caterpillars love to munch their way through leaves on walnut, cherry, crabapple, and other deciduous trees

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

Identifying fall webworms is easy if you notice web nests hanging from the tips of hardwood tree branches in late summer and fall. The fall webworms measure 1.4” (3.5 cm) long, have a yellow, bristly body with black dots and long yellow spines.

White Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Norape ovina)

Norape ovina

The venomous spines on the white flannel caterpillar can cause a painful sting

The white flannel moth caterpillar is a black fat venomous caterpillar with pairs of bright yellow dots on each segment and yellow underside. This stinging black and yellow caterpillar also has tufts of long feathery spines that can cause skin irritation. So, you should avoid touching it to prevent getting stung.

These yellow-dotted black caterpillars turn into spectacular white hairy moths.

Black and Yellow Caterpillar Identification

The white flannel moth caterpillar is identifiable by its yellow spots on a black body and tufts of stinging spines. The underside of the black and yellow caterpillar is also yellow, and it has yellow feet.

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