Types of Moth Caterpillars With Their Picture – Identification Guide

Types of Moth Caterpillars

Caterpillars that become moths after pupation come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Moth caterpillars can be green, black, yellow, or striped. Some of the most unusual moth caterpillars have spiky tufts of hair, intricate patterns, or a furry appearance.

Moth caterpillars may have no resemblance to the adult moths. Knowing how to identify moth caterpillars can help you know the type of moth they turn into.

This article is a guide to identifying common types of moth caterpillars. Pictures and descriptions for many moth caterpillar varieties, including their behavior and identification characteristics, will help you recognize individual species of these crawling, worm-like creatures.

Moth Caterpillar Identification

The identifying features of moth caterpillars are their long, worm-like bodies, color, distinctive markings, presence of hairs, habitat, and plants they feed on. In addition, moth caterpillars have six legs and distinctive prolegs (stumpy false legs). After pupation, a moth caterpillar may look entirely different from the adult moth that emerges from the pupa.

For example, the unusual, white-marked tussock moth caterpillar has tufts of white hairs, and black and yellow body, and a distinctive orangey-red head. However, this caterpillar turns into an unremarkable grayish-brown furry moth.

Types of Moth Caterpillars (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Here are some of the most common moth caterpillars with their pictures.

White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)

White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)

The furry white-marked tussock caterpillar

The white-marked tussock moth caterpillar is a furry yellow and black caterpillar. It grows 1.3” (35 mm) long. The spiny moth caterpillar is identified by its red head and toothbrush-like tufts of yellowish-white hairs on a yellow and black body. You’ll find the fuzzy moth caterpillar feeding on a range of deciduous and coniferous trees.

White-Marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma)

The white-marked tussock moth has an unassuming gray appearance with feathery antennae

After emerging from the pupal stages, this once colorful hairy caterpillar transforms into a gray, fuzzy moth with black lines and a white spot on the forewing. An identifying feature of the moth is its recognizable feathery antennae.

The white-marked tussock moth is a common caterpillar found in Florida.

Moth caterpillar identification

The white-marked tussock moth caterpillar has an identifiable tuft of creamy yellow hairs, black pencil hairs, and a yellow and black body.

Isabella Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

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

Also called the banded woolly bear, the Isabella tiger moth caterpillar is a furry, black and orange moth caterpillar. The spiky moth larva measures 2.3” (60 mm) long. Covered in spines, the banded caterpillar may look menacing, but this harmless insect doesn’t sting or bite.

Isabella Tiger Moth

Isabella tiger moth has orange-yellow wings with black dots

After turning into a moth, the caterpillar now looks like a stunning orange moth with a line of black dots on its orange body. The orange moth also has black antennae and black spots on its wings.

Moth caterpillar identification

Isabella tiger moth caterpillar is easily recognizable by the broad bronze-brown band around its mid-section, and furry black head and tail ends.

Ruby Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)

Ruby Tiger Caterpillar (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)

The ruby tiger moth caterpillar has orange-brown hairs and a yellow line along its back

The ruby tiger moth caterpillar is yellow and furry, with an orangey-brown body and a blackish-brown head. The fuzzy moth larva has recognizable tufts of foxy-red stinging hairs and spines and a yellow stripe down its back. Ruby tiger moth caterpillars grow 1.2” (30 mm) long.

Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)

The ruby tiger moth has furry head and reddish-pink wings with black spots

As an adult, the moth caterpillar is a stunning red winged insect. The small furry pinkish-red moth has dark reddish-brown forewings and bright carmine hindwings with black spots.

Moth caterpillar identification

The ruby tiger moth caterpillar has a brown body with golden brown spiny tufts covering its slender body.

Rosy Maple Moth Caterpillar (Dryocampa rubicunda)

Rosy Maple caterpillar (Dryocampa rubicunda)

The light green striped rosy maple caterpillar has black dots and 2 black horns poking out from its head

The rosy maple moth caterpillar is a bright green caterpillar with a bulbous pale brown head, a pair of black antennae, and rows of spiny black dots along its abdomen. The plump green moth larva becomes darker as it matures and develops green, pale white, or black stripes along its body.

The fat green moth caterpillar measures about 2” (50 mm) before entering the pupal stage.

Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

The beautiful fluffy rosy maple moth is easily identified by its colorful yellow and pink wings

When it emerges, the once fat green larva has transformed into a stunning pink furry moth. The colorful pink and yellow moth is identified by its fuzzy pink antennae and legs and pink wings with dusty yellow patches.

Moth caterpillar identification

The identifying features of the rosy maple moth caterpillar are the rows of shiny, fleshy spines along its abdomen, brown bulbous head, and red markings at its tail end.

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

The large imperial moth caterpillar has dark brown body with spines and pale yellow spots along its sides

The giant imperial moth caterpillar is a large, dark brown worm-like insect covered in thin, wispy filaments with a row of yellow spots along its abdomen. The brown moth caterpillar has jagged-looking spines at its head and two rows of smaller spines along its back. The large brown caterpillar measures 5.5” (100 mm) long.

Eacles imperialis moth

The imperial moth is yellow and brown and looks like autumn leaves

The emerging moth is more attractive than when in its caterpillar stage. The large moth looks like leaves during the fall. It typically has a yellow body and yellow wings with irregular reddish-brown blotches. Some species of imperial moths can be dark brown and orange.

Moth caterpillar identification

The imperial moth caterpillar is dark brown with white or yellowish-green dots along its sides and thin, wispy hairs covering its body.

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Hyalophora cecropia caterpillar

The Cecropia moth caterpillar is a large green caterpillar with yellow and blue nodules

One of the most unusual green moth caterpillars is the Cecropia moth larva. The lime green oversized, fat moth caterpillar with its bulging segments has rows of yellow and blue tubercles along its body. In addition, large orange ball-like spiny orange tubercles are found near its head.

This vast, menacing-looking but harmless moth caterpillar grows between 4” and 4.5” (100 – 110 mm) long. You’ll find the fat moth caterpillar feeding on leaves of beech, birch, cherry, dogwood, elm, poplar, willow, and oak trees.

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

The large and colorful cecropia moth has stunning shades of brown, beige and orange patterns on its wings

After pupating, the moth caterpillar turns into the cecropia moth — the largest moth in North America. The ginormous brown moth has stunning orange, beige, brown, and black patterns on its enormous wings.

Moth caterpillar identification

The cecropia moth caterpillar is one of the largest caterpillars in hardwood, deciduous forests. The caterpillar has a large, pale green body with colorful black-spined tubercles.

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Deilephila elpenor)

elephant hawk Deilephila elpenor

The elephant hawk moth caterpillar has gray-brown body and black spots

The elephant hawk moth caterpillar is dark-brown with black spots and the appearance of an elephant’s trunk. The speckled brown moth caterpillar has a brownish-gray body with eyespots near its head and a backward curving “horn” at its back. Fully grown moth larvae measure up to 3” (75 mm) long.

Deilephila elpenor

The attractive elephant hawk moth has pink and brownish wings and body

Elephant hawk moths have completely different coloring from the larval stage. The colorful fuzzy olive-brown moths have deep pale to light pink bands on its wing and a bright dotted pink line down their back.

Moth caterpillar identification

The elephant hawk moth caterpillar is identified by its speckled-brown body with eye-like markings on its head and rows of black spots along its body.

Tobacco Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Manduca sexta)

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

The tobacco hawk moth caterpillar is a type of large green caterpillar with horn at its end

Also known as tobacco hornworms, the sizable green moth caterpillar has diagonal white stripes along its sides to identify it. Apart from the diagonal striped markings, the green larvae have small horn-like protrusions at the end of the last abdominal segment. These moth caterpillars grow up to 3.1” (80 mm).

The tobacco hawk moth caterpillar looks like a tomato hornworm. The difference between the two caterpillar species is that the tomato hornworm is identified by its V-shaped markings, not diagonal white stripes.

Tobacco Hawk Moth (Manduca sexta)

The tobacco hawk moth has brown-gray wings and yellow spots on its body

After pupation, the hawk moth caterpillar is a brownish-gray moth with mottled brown, beige, and white patterns on its wings. The furry moth’s body has two rows of recognizable yellowish-orange spots. The Manduca sexta moth is also called the Carolina sphinx moth.

Moth caterpillar identification

The tobacco hornworm caterpillar is identified by its distinctive diagonal white stripes, tiny black and white eye markings, six tiny white legs, and a curved tail horn.

Funerary Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta funeralis)

Funerary Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta funeralis)

The funerary dagger moth caterpillar is also called the paddle caterpillar due to its paddle-like hairs

Also called the paddle caterpillar, the funerary dagger moth larva is a striking black caterpillar with large bright yellow markings. The unusual feature of this black moth caterpillar is the slender paddle-like protrusions from its jet-black body. The yellow and black moth larva grows up to 1.37” (35 mm) long.

Acronicta funeralis moth

The funerary dagger moth is gray and black with furry head

The common black moth caterpillar is native to North America and feeds on apple, alder, birch, cottonwood, elm, hickory, and maple trees. After pupation, the caterpillars turn into gray and black moths with faint, dark-gray watermark-like patterns on their wings.

Moth caterpillar identification

The funerary dagger caterpillar has distinctive yellow markings with a faint black line in the middle. The most recognizable feature of the black caterpillar is the long black paddle spines along its black body.

Regal Moth (Royal Walnut Moth) Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

Regal Moth Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

The regal moth caterpillar has a scary look with blue-green body and orange and black horns

The regal moth caterpillar is one of the scariest and largest types of moth larva you’ll find. The fat, turquoise-green moth caterpillar has fiery-colored, black-tipped arched horns, rows of menacing black spines, and an orangey-red head. Fully grown, the royal walnut moth caterpillar grows up to 6” (150 mm) long.

Citheronia regalis moth

The beautiful regal moth has orange and gray wings with pale spots

Also called the hickory horned devil moth caterpillar, the green caterpillar is harmless. But, being the most enormous caterpillar you’ll find, it turns into one of the largest, and most spectacular moths. The orange and gray-brown moth has dark orange veins in rows on the wings. There are also white-yellowish patches on the wings to identify this regal moth.

Moth caterpillar identification

Hickory horned devil caterpillars are easily identified by their pale green, engorged segments, black fleshy spines lining the body, and a crown of jagged red and black horns.

Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

Southern Flannel Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

The small southern flannel moth caterpillar is one of the fluffiest types of furry caterpillars with light brown hairs

The southern flannel moth caterpillar looks brown, soft, and fluffy but is a type of stinging caterpillar. The hairy caterpillar ranges in color from golden brown to dark gray. You’ll often notice an orange stripe running down its disheveled-looking body. The puss moth caterpillar measures up to 1” (25 mm) long.

Other names for the southern flannel moth are Italian asp, woolly slug, puss mother, or asp caterpillar. These names refer to the caterpillar’s hairy appearance, like a tiny Persian pussy cat or its singing setae that resemble a snake bite.

Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis)

The fluffy southern flannel moth has furry body with brown wings and white edges

The southern flannel moth has a hairy appearance, fuzzy black feet and is typically covered in a furry coat in shades of brown, white, and orange. It also has distinctive white comb-like antennae.

Moth caterpillar identification

The southern flannel moth caterpillar has a distinctive appearance, covered in a hairy brown or orangey cloak masking the larva’s worm-like body.

Emperor Moth Caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia)

Emperor Moth Caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia)

The emperor caterpillar has yellow and black dots on its large green body

The emperor moth caterpillar is a giant green segmented worm-like insect with transversal rows of hairy tufts emerging from black tubercles. The young moth caterpillars emerge black and orange and become green as they mature. Eventually, the mature green moth caterpillars grow a sizable length of 2.4” (60 mm).

Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia)

The attractive large emperor moth is active during the day and is characterized by its hairy body and brown and orange wings with eye markings

The green caterpillar turns into a spectacular brown and bright orange moth with distinctive feathered antennae. The medium-sized, fuzzy emperor moth has large, eye-like spots on its wings. The forewings are brown with dull red patterns, and the eye-catching hindwings have bright orange and brown markings.

Moth caterpillar identification

The emperor moth caterpillar is identified by its dark green body with spiny yellow and black bumps around each segment. Some varieties of these green moth caterpillars have thick black bands on a lime green body.

Luna moth caterpillar (Actias luna)

Actias luna moth

The large luna moth caterpillar has green ridged body with red dots

The luna moth caterpillar is identified by its oval brown head, six brown front legs, and rows of red spiny bumps. Also characteristic of this lime-green, almost translucent moth larva is its unusually large four pairs of prolegs. Just before pupation, the plump green moth caterpillar turns a reddish color.

Luna moth (Actias luna)

The green luna moth has tail-like hindwings and it looks like a leaf

The luna moth caterpillar grows from 0.23” (6 mm) to 2.55” (65 mm). After that, it turns into one of the most beautiful green moths with long tails. The long-tailed moths have light green wings with one unusual eyespot on each wing. The large green moth also has two short comb-like antennae.

Moth caterpillar identification

The bright green luna moth caterpillar is identified by its rows of orange or red dots along its back and sides, contrasting with its green body and brown head.

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 large worm-like creamy-white moth caterpillar has patches of yellow and black on its body. The mullein moth larva markings are yellow blotches with irregular black dots. Additionally, fine setae feature along the black and white caterpillar’s back. The moth caterpillar measures 2” (50 mm) and is easily recognizable.

Cucullia verbasci moth

The mullein moth has brown patterns along its wings

The caterpillar turns into a boldly-marked brown moth with tan and light brown streaks along its wings. Another identifying feature of the brown mullein moth is its long slender antennae. However, it’s usually the brightly-colored moth caterpillars on butterfly bush plants that are easiest to recognize.

Moth caterpillar identification

The mullein moth caterpillar is identified by its white or pale grayish-green body covered in yellow, black-spotted patches.

Brown-Tail Moth Caterpillar (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)

Brown-Tail Moth Caterpillar (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)

The brown-tail moth caterpillar has white marking and stinging hairs on its body

The brown-tail moth caterpillar is a reddish-brown caterpillar with rows of white patches and long stinging pencil hairs. Brown-tail moth larvae grow up to 1.5” (38 mm) long and are commonly found on birch trees, as well as ash, oak, maples, and various fruit trees.

Euproctis chrysorrhoea

The brown-tail moth is hairy white with brownish furry tail

After emerging from the cocoon, the brown hairy caterpillars become stunning fuzzy white moths. As the name suggests, the white moths have a recognizable brown tail, as well as two comb antennae, furry wings, and a fuzzy white head.

Diamondback Moth Caterpillar (Plutella xylostella)

Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella)

The small pale green diamondback moth caterpillar has dark head and tiny black hairs on its body

The diamondback moth caterpillar is a slender, worm-like insect with a sparse covering of dark spiny hairs. Other features of this green caterpillar are a dark-colored greenish-brown head, irregular whitish dots, and faint yellow bands between its segments. The small green moth grows up to 0.4” (11 mm) long.

Plutella xylostella

The slender diamondback moth is gray-brown and has a short life-cycle

The diamondback moth emerges as a type of leaf-mining larva and destroys the leaves of various kinds of trees and shrubs. When the caterpillar becomes a moth, it’s a slender grayish-brown flying insect with long pointed antennae. The moth’s wingtips have a lightly-colored band and turn upward slightly.

Moth caterpillar identification

The diamondback moth caterpillar is identified by its greenish body, V-shaped rear end, and tiny black hairs growing out of white patches.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar (Tyria jacobaeae)

Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

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

The stunning caterpillar of the cinnabar moth is a bright yellow and black striped larva with a glossy sheen to its body. The stripy body is sparsely covered in black and white spines. Its dramatic contrasting colors warn predators to stay away from this poisonous insect. The cinnabar moth caterpillar grows 1.2” (30 mm) long.

Tyria jacobaeae moth

The beautiful cinnabar moth has bright red and black wings

The cinnabar moth is a spectacular red and black moth that flutters around gardens during the day. Each forewing of the moth is black with a red band and two bright red blotches. Its hindwings are crimson red with a black margin. The beautiful moth has a jet-black body.

Moth caterpillar identification

The cinnabar moth caterpillar is easy to spot due to its instantly recognizable black and yellow striped segments.

Io Moth Caterpillar (Automeris io)

automeris io

The Io moth caterpillar has green spikes that feel very unpleasant if their venom penetrates your skin

Io moth caterpillars grow up to 2.3” (6 cm) long. They emerge from the eggs a rusty-brown color with thin black stinging hairs. The venomous caterpillars gradually turn green and develop the characteristic stinging needle-like green tufts that look like pine needles.

The spines of io moth caterpillar contain toxic substances that cause a lot of skin irritation. The urticating spines can give you a nasty “bite” if the venom gets into your skin. Even just the slightest touch of these stinging caterpillars can cause a lot of pain that lasts an hour or so.

You can identify this species by the red and white stripes running the length of its side. Green spikes stick out from all parts of its body. There are even tiny spikes on the 4 pairs of prolegs on its central segments.

Io Moth (Automeris io)

Io moth (Automeris io): female (top) and male (bottom)

After metamorphosis, the male spiky green caterpillars turn into spectacular orange or yellow moths with huge eye-like markings on the hind wings. Female Io moths have brown wings. Both species of Io moth are identified by an eyespot and circular markings on each hind wing.

The colorful Io moths have a plump furry body with a wingspan of 2.5” to 3.5” (6 – 9 cm). The large bluish-black eyespots on the fuzzy moths are a defense mechanism.

Moth caterpillar identification

To identify the Io moth caterpillar look for the recognizable tufts of stinging green spines covering the fat, lime-green body with red and white stripes running along its sides.

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