Texas Caterpillars (Including Hairy and Fuzzy) With Pictures – Identification Guide

Texas Caterpillars

Texas is home to several species of caterpillars that come in all shapes and sizes. Common types of caterpillars in Texas include stinging, horned, smooth-bodied, furry, and spiky caterpillars. The worm-like caterpillars are typically green, black, or yellow. It’s also possible to identify Texas caterpillars by particular markings on their body segments. 

Knowing how to identify caterpillars in Texas can help you tell the difference between stinging caterpillars and harmless ones. Additionally, it’s also good to know which furry caterpillars in the Lone Star State to avoid handling because they can cause skin irritation. 

This article is an identification guide to the types of caterpillars you’ll find in Texas. Descriptions and pictures of slender, plump, and strange-looking caterpillars will help you identify the caterpillar species. 

How to Identify Caterpillars in Texas

Caterpillars in Texas are identified by their cylindrical, worm-like bodies, six legs, and several stumpy prolegs. Identifying individual caterpillar species involves noting if they have hairy or smooth bodies, spikes, eye-like markings, or horns. In addition, many caterpillars have recognizable patterns to help distinguish them from other species.

Identifying species of caterpillars in Texas can be challenging. This is because the worm-like caterpillars go through several instars (growth stages). During these, they can change appearance, color, and shape. Also, some moth or butterfly larvae change color depending on their food source.

All caterpillars are types of crawling insects in the order Lepidoptera. These caterpillars are the larvae of moths or butterflies, and they spend most of their time gorging on plant foliage. Texas caterpillars can live in large groups or are solitary insects. Therefore, identifying the caterpillar species is often key to eradicating the pest from your ornamental shrubs, trees, or crops.

Stinging Caterpillars in Texas

Several types of moth caterpillars in Texas are stinging varieties. Stinging caterpillars tend to have a hairy or spiky appearance. Examples of stinging Texas caterpillars are the freakish saddleback caterpillar, the furry Texas southern flannel moth caterpillar, and the hickory tiger moth caterpillar.

The sting from these exotic-looking caterpillars is typically no worse than a bee’s sting. Symptoms of a caterpillar sting include localized pain, redness, blisters, hives, and itchiness. However, getting stung by a stinging caterpillar in Texas can require medical attention on rare occasions. 

Types of Caterpillars in Texas (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Texas caterpillar species can be classified by color, the presence of setae (hairs), spikes, and if they sting or not. Of course, some caterpillars have several identifying features like being black and spiky or green and horned. 

Green Caterpillars in Texas

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes)

Papilio polyxenes

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes)

The black swallowtail caterpillar is a large green caterpillar with black and yellow-spotted stripes. An unusual feature of this larva is its forked gland that it shows to release a foul stink and ward off predators. Immature black swallowtail caterpillars are primarily black and white before turning green. 

Green, black swallowtail caterpillars in Texas, grow up to 1.5” (40 mm) in their final instar when they are green with black bands. Black swallowtail caterpillars are poisonous and distasteful to bird predators. 

After pupation, the green caterpillar turns into the stunning black swallowtail butterfly. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The black swallowtail caterpillar is easy to recognize. It is a bright green color with a black bands and yellow dots traversing each plump segment. 

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar (Hyalophora cecropia)

Hyalophora cecropia caterpillar

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar (Hyalophora cecropia)

The cecropia moth caterpillar is one of the unique looking caterpillars in Texas. The unusual lime-green caterpillar has large, ridged segments with longitudinal rows of colorful blue, yellow, and orange projections. Close-up pictures of this huge green caterpillar show tiny black spikes on the tubercles. 

Cecropia moth caterpillars go through five instars where they gorge on maple, birch, and other trees and shrubs. Immature caterpillars turn from yellow-green to bluish-green. They eventually mature at 4” to 4.5” (100 to 110 mm) long, making them one of the largest caterpillars in Texas. 

After emerging from the pupa, the cecropia moth caterpillar is the largest native moth in North America. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The cecropia moth caterpillar is easily identifiable due to its enormous size, sea-green color, yellow or orange tubercles, and pronounced segments.

Polyphemus Caterpillar (Antheraea polyphemus)

Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar (Antheraea polyphemus)

The polyphemus moth caterpillar is a giant bright green silkworm characterized by rows of crimson red dots and wispy spines. The cylindrical-like green crawling insect is bright yellow when immature, gradually becoming bright green with red bumps before pupation. These fat caterpillars can grow 3” to 4” (75 – 100 mm) long.

The giant, plump silk moth caterpillar has a voracious appetite and can eat 86,000 times its own weight. After emerging from the cocoon, the green worm turns into a spectacular brown moth identified by conspicuous eyespots on its hind wings. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The polyphemus silk moth caterpillar is identified by its red spiny bumps around its engorged bright green body segments. 

Eumorpha Sphinx Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciatus)

Eumorpha Sphinx Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciatus)

Eumorpha Sphinx Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciatus)

Also called the banded sphinx caterpillar, this sizable green larva is identified by its diagonal yellow stripes, a row of black dots along its sides, and spiked tail. The enormous caterpillar is described as the most variable caterpillar in North America. Its colors can range from green to multicolored black, yellow, white, and orange. 

The long protruding horn at its rear disappears in its green larval stage and becomes a pointed tail end. Before pupation, the engorged caterpillar turns pink. The caterpillar is commonly found on plants in the evening primrose family.

Texas caterpillar identification

The banded sphinx caterpillar is described as a sausage-like caterpillar with several color variations. It is generally green with black, yellow, or orange stripes. But it becomes bright orange or pink before pupating.

Carolina Sphinx Moth Caterpillar (Manduca sexta)

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

Carolina Sphinx Moth Caterpillar (Manduca sexta)

Also called the tobacco hornworm or goliath worm, the ginormous bright green caterpillar is recognized by its tube-shaped body with white diagonal stripes and black dots. The rear end of the large green larva also has a reddish or black horn. The Carolina sphinx moth caterpillar grows up to 2.7” (70 mm) long.

The large striped, green tobacco hornworm is easily confused with the related tomato hornworm. The difference between the two caterpillars is the abdominal markings. The tobacco hornworm has a single stripe, whereas the tomato hornworm has V-shaped markings. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The Carolina sphinx moth caterpillar is a long, cylindrical green caterpillar with recognizable creamy white and black stripes along its sides.

Honey Locust Moth Caterpillar (Syssphinx bicolor)

honey locust moth (Syssphinx bicolor)

Honey Locust Moth Caterpillar (Syssphinx bicolor)

The honey locust moth caterpillar is an unusual green caterpillar with a white and red longitudinal stripe along each side. Other features of this bright green larva include red horns at either end and red or silvery protrusions on its body segments. Additionally, the green caterpillar is covered in yellowish-white spots.

The honey locust moth caterpillar is a type of green, horned caterpillar that grows up to 1.5” (38 mm). This spiky-looking caterpillar feeds exclusively on honey locust trees and Kentucky coffee trees

Texas caterpillar identification

The green honey locust caterpillar is identified by its pair of red horns at its head, a single horn at its tail, and silvery horns along its abdomen and is covered in yellowish speckles. 

Cabbage White Caterpillar (Pieris rapae)

Cabbage worms (Pieris rapae)

Cabbage White Caterpillar (Pieris rapae)

The cabbage white caterpillar is a long, slender pale green larva covered in tiny black pits. This green caterpillar also has bright yellow dots along its abdomen, a yellow stripe on its back, and is covered in fine setae. Changes in the caterpillar’s appearance are that its head changes from black in the first instar to pale green.

As a species of cabbage worm, this pest caterpillar is found destroying leaves on plants in the cabbage family. The slender worm-like creatures measure up to 1.1” (30 mm) and hide under cabbage, kale, mustard, and broccoli leaves. After pupation, the green caterpillar turns into a white butterfly.

Texas caterpillar identification

The cabbage white caterpillar is identified by its slender green body, yellow spots and stripes, and delicate white hairs. 

Long-Tailed Skipper Caterpillar (Urbanus proteus)

Urbanus proteus

Long-Tailed Skipper Caterpillar (Urbanus proteus)

The long-tailed skipper caterpillar is a long cylinder-shaped green larva with a round black head, yellow stripes along its abdomen, and orange patches on its tail. The most unusual feature of the yellow-spotted green caterpillar is its large head that looks like a swollen coffee bean. 

Long-tailed skipper caterpillars grow up to 1.92” (49 mm). The destructive larvae munch on plant leaves in the pea family, wisteria, and other ornamental plants. Because it infests legumes, the green caterpillar is also called the bean leafroller. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The identifying features of the green long-tailed skipper caterpillar are its large round black head, longitudinal yellow stripes, spotted patterns, and orange tail end. 

Northern Pearly-Eye Caterpillar (Enodia anthedon)

Enodia anthedon

Northern Pearly-Eye Caterpillar (Enodia anthedon)

The northern pearly-eye caterpillar is a pale green butterfly larva covered in short hairs and has rows of neon-like dots along its green body. In addition, this green caterpillar has two identifiable pale pink or reddish horns on its head and a pointed tail. Northern pearly-eye caterpillars grow up to 1.77” (45 mm) before pupating. 

You will often find these pale green, almost translucent caterpillars feeding on sedge plants and various types of grasses in Texas. The green caterpillar metamorphizes into an attractive grayish-brown butterfly native to North America.

Texas caterpillar identification

The northern pearly-eye caterpillar is identified by its pale green body with two short orangey, pinkish, or reddish horns on its head. It also has rows of tiny bright yellow dots.

White-Lined Sphinx Caterpillar (Hyles lineata)

Hyles lineata

White-Lined Sphinx Caterpillar (Hyles lineata)

The white-lined sphinx caterpillar is a green, cylindrical caterpillar, identified by its abdominal black and yellow markings, black or orange horn, and orange legs. The lime green caterpillar has several variations. Some instars are dark green with black and yellow spots, whereas others are yellow caterpillars with black stripes.

The long, slender green spotted or striped caterpillar measures up to 2.7” (70 mm). Groups of these large green caterpillars can do tremendous damage to crops and ornamental plants. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The white-lined sphinx caterpillar is identified by its lime-green color, yellow, orange, and black spots, and a conspicuous orange or black horn at its rear end. 

Black Caterpillars in Texas

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar (Battus philenor)

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar (Battus philenor)

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar (Battus philenor)

The pipevine swallowtail caterpillar is a black caterpillar with fleshy dark brown spines and two rows of bright orange dots. The dark brown or black caterpillars have a velvety appearance due to being covered in fine hairs. At the caterpillar’s head are two extended tubercles that look like horns.

Black pipevine swallowtail caterpillars measure up to 2” (50 mm) long. Although black is the dominant color, the caterpillar can also be bright red in warm climates like Texas, Florida, and Arizona. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The pipevine swallowtail caterpillar is identified by its dark brown or black body with bright orange spots and slender, fleshy tubercles at its head and along its body.

Stinging Caterpillars in Texas

Texas is home to several species of stinging caterpillars, with the furry southern flannel moth one of the most common.

Texas Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

Southern Flannel Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

Also called the puss moth caterpillar or asp caterpillar, the Texas southern flannel moth caterpillar is a hairy, teardrop-shaped stinging bug. The furry caterpillar may look soft and cute, but the fine golden-brown hairs hide venomous spines. This common Texas stinging caterpillar measures between 1” and 1.5” (25 – 38 mm) long. 

Despite the southern flannel moth caterpillar’s soft, fur-like appearance, it can give a nasty sting. Even just brushing against this brown, hairy caterpillar can cause severe throbbing pain, swelling, and redness on your skin. In some cases, an allergic reaction to the caterpillar’s sting requires medical attention.

Texas caterpillar identification

The southern flannel moth caterpillar is easily identifiable due to its covering of soft furry hairs and teardrop shape. 

Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea)

Acharia stimulea

Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea)

The saddleback caterpillar is one of the most unusual Texas stinging caterpillars. The spiky rectangular caterpillar has four protruding spine-covered fleshy structures at each corner and smaller stinging organs around its sides. In addition, the brown caterpillar has a green “saddle blanket” on its back, making it easy to spot in a landscape.

The saddleback caterpillar grows 0.78” to 1” (20 – 25 mm) long. Getting stung by one of these stinging Texas caterpillars can cause intense burning and inflammation. The venom-filled spines easily break off and become embedded in the skin. The most common result is intensely itchy red welts. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The saddleback caterpillar is easy to recognize due to the bright green saddle with a brown patch in the center and its protruding brown spiky spines at the front, hind, and around the sides. 

Peacock Moth Caterpillar (Automeris io)

automeris io

Peacock Moth Caterpillar (Automeris io)

Also called the Io moth caterpillar, this spiky green caterpillar is covered in urticating spines. The venomous caterpillar is bright green with a red and white stripe along its sides. Each segment features spiky clusters of bright green, venom-filled spines. The peacock moth caterpillar measures up to 2.3” (60 mm) long.

Close-up pictures of the stinging caterpillar show that the venomous spines are bright yellowish-green with black tips. The resulting sting from this native Texas caterpillar results in a burning sensation and skin swelling that lasts for up to eight hours. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The peacock moth caterpillar is pale green with tufts of stinging spines and red and yellowish-white stripes along its abdominal sides. 

Hickory Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae)

Hickory Tussock Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae)

Hickory Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae)

The hickory tiger moth is a white fuzzy caterpillar with black diamond markings on its back and is covered in tufts of white and black hairs. Identifiable features of this white stinging caterpillar are its tufts of black hair pencils and rounded black head. The furry white and black caterpillar measures around 1.77” (45 mm) long.

Although the white hickory tiger moth doesn’t have venom-filled spines, its urticating hairs can cause an itchy rash when handled. The barbed hairs lodge into the skin, resulting in mild to intense irritation and skin rashes. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The hickory moth caterpillar has a creamy-white body, black markings, and a furry appearance due to the tufts of black and white setae covering its slender body.

Furry Caterpillars in Texas

Banded Woolly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Banded Woolly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella)

The banded woolly bear is a furry orange and black caterpillar commonly found in Texas. The black fuzzy caterpillar has a distinctive broad orange band. As the hairy caterpillar matures, it becomes less black and more reddish-orange as it near pupation. The furry caterpillar measures 2” (50 mm) when mature. 

Unlike other species of furry caterpillars, the black and orange woolly bear doesn’t sting or irritate. However, the black and orange spines are relatively sharp, despite the caterpillar’s soft, cuddly appearance. A characteristic habit of the banded woolly caterpillar is rolling into a ball when under threat.

Texas caterpillar identification

The furry, banded woolly bear is easy to recognize due to its black front and rear end and an orangey-bronze band on its middle section.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)

Salt Marsh Moth Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)

Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)

The salt marsh caterpillar is a slender black and brown larva covered in long orangey-red or black hairs. The fine wispy hairs on this Texas caterpillar grow in tufts, with several on each segment. Other characteristics of the salt marsh caterpillar are its rows of black or orange warts with white dots. 

The brown hairy salt marsh caterpillar measures 2” (50 mm) long. The furry caterpillar also has variations in color, with some looking rusty brown and others dark brownish-black. The Texas hairy caterpillar feeds on cabbage, dandelion, pea, potato, and cotton plants.

Texas caterpillar identification

The salt marsh caterpillar looks like a brownish-orange hairy worm with orange or black spots on its body.

Great Leopard Moth Caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia)

Giant Woolly Bear (Hypercompe scribonia)

Great Leopard Moth Caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia)

The great leopard moth caterpillar is a black furry caterpillar you’ll often find in Texas. A distinctive characteristic of this woolly larva is the bright red bands visible when the caterpillar rolls into a ball. The furry black larva grows up to 2” (50 mm) long. 

The fuzzy black caterpillars often feed on weeds and are not considered pests. They are generally safe to pick up because their hairs are not venomous or cause irritation. The black Texas caterpillar changes into an attractive white moth with black ringed patterns on its wings. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The identifying features of the great leopard moth caterpillar are its jet-black bristles that densely cover its tube-like body.

Striped Caterpillars in Texas

Monarch Caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch Caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

The monarch caterpillar is a tube-like insect with black, white, and yellow stripes. The striped Texas caterpillar also has a pair of fleshy horns at either end of its stripy abdomen. This southern caterpillar can grow into a harmless bug, with its length reaching up to 1.7” (45 mm) long and 0.3” (8 mm) in diameter.

The monarch caterpillar is a poisonous variety—a defense mechanism to protect it from predators. The giant, striped caterpillar feeds on milkweed, making it distasteful to birds and other predators. 

However, the beautiful black, yellow, and white striped caterpillar is entirely harmless to humans, and you can safely handle it. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The monarch caterpillar is easily recognizable due to its striped appearance with yellow, black, and white bands wrapped around its fleshy segments.

Passion Butterfly Caterpillar (Dione vanillae)

Dione vanillae

Passion Butterfly Caterpillar (Dione vanillae)

Also called the Gulf fritillary caterpillar, this spiky black and orange striped caterpillar is common in Florida and Texas. The small, slender worm-like larva has a spiked appearance due to the soft spiny black protrusions poking out from its orangey abdomen. The passion butterfly caterpillar measures 0.5” (12 mm) long.

After emerging from the pupation stage, the orange caterpillar becomes a stunning orange butterfly with attractive black and white markings on its wings. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The passion butterfly caterpillar’s identifying features are spiny black spikes on its orange body with black stripes.

Unusual Caterpillars in Texas

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio glaucus)

Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio glaucus)

The eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar is classed as an unusual Texas caterpillar due to its large, realistic eye markings on its head. The short, stumpy green caterpillar starts off looking like bird droppings. It then becomes greener and develops eyespots on its thorax to deter birds. It becomes brown before pupating.

The eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar grows up to 2.2” (55 mm) long. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar is a strange-looking larva with a dark green color and two black, yellow, and blue eyespots in its final two instars.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio Troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio Troilus)

The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is pale greenish-yellow with recognizable yellow and black eyespots on its thorax. It’s one of the most unusual caterpillars in Texas. Other identifying features of this strange caterpillar are tiny blue and black markings and a longitudinal line along its abdomen.

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars measure 2.1” (5.5 cm) long when mature. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The identifying features of the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar are its characteristic large eyespots on a pale lime-green or yellow-green body.

Stinging Rose Moth Caterpillar (Parasa indetermina)

Stinging Rose Caterpillar (Parasa indetermina)

Stinging Rose Caterpillar (Parasa indetermina)

The stinging rose moth caterpillar is one of the strangest caterpillars in Texas. Identifying features of the crawling larvae are protruding spiny spikes and a band of purple stripes along its back. There are color variations with stinging rose moth caterpillars, with some being yellow, orange, or orange and yellow. 

The small orange and yellow spiky caterpillars measure 1” (25 mm) long. They will often feed on dogwood, maple, oak, poplar, and apple trees. 

As the common name suggests, the unusual Texas caterpillar is also a species of stinging larvae. 

Texas caterpillar identification

Stinging rose caterpillars have identifiable fleshy spike-covered spines and a band of thin stripes along their backs. 

Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio cresphontes)

Papilio cresphontes

Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio cresphontes)

The giant swallowtail caterpillar is a Texas caterpillar that looks like bird droppings. The nocturnal larvae have intricate camouflage patterns to protect them from predators. Sometimes the brown caterpillars have a saddle pattern; other times, it’s mottled shades of brown and white. 

Before pupating, the unusual brown and white caterpillars measure 2” (50 mm). After emerging from the pupa, the distinctive caterpillars become one of the largest butterflies in North America—the giant swallowtail. 

The giant swallowtail caterpillar also goes by the names orange dog, orange puppy, and bird poop caterpillar.

Texas caterpillar identification

The giant swallowtail caterpillar is identified by its camouflage brown and white markings making it look like bird droppings.

Monkey Slug Caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium)

Monkey Slug Caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium)

Monkey Slug Caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium)

The monkey slug caterpillar is unique because no other one looks like it. The hairy brown caterpillar has a flattened body with 18 hairy curled projections from its sides. This makes the weird caterpillar look like a squashed hairy spider or old leaf.

In Texas, the tiny brown furry spider is also a stinging spider that measures up to 1” (25 mm). 

Texas caterpillar identification

The monkey slug caterpillar is a distinctive fuzzy brown caterpillar with curved, hairy tubercles that looks more like a spider than a moth larva.  

Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

Regal Moth Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

The hickory horned devil caterpillar is one of the scariest caterpillars in Texas. However, the horned caterpillar is harmless and gentle despite its menacing appearance. The unusual Texas caterpillar has a bluish-green body, several curled, fiery-colored fleshy horns, and black spines along its abdomen. 

The enormous green caterpillar with its red head, red horns, and black spikes measures 5.5” (140 mm) long. The giant caterpillar is often found feeding on hickory trees in Texas. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The hickory horned devil is one of the easiest caterpillars in Texas to identify due to its hooked, black-tipped red horns, plumb turquoise body, and small red head.

Red-Spotted Purple Caterpillar (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

White Admiral Caterpillar (Limenitis arthemis)

Red-Spotted Purple Caterpillar (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

The red-spotted purple butterfly larva is a Texas caterpillar that looks like bird droppings. The weird brown caterpillar has a jagged appearance and white blotches. Apart from its irregular brown and white patterns, an identifying feature of the caterpillar is its thick black antennae-like horns. 

The strange ugly caterpillar measures 1.6” (40 mm) long. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The identifying characteristics of the red-spotted purple caterpillar are its brownish-olive abdomen covered in creamy-white blotches and two large spiny horns.

Orion Cecropian (Historis odius)

Historis odius

Orion Cecropian (Historis odius)

The Orion cecropian butterfly larva is a freakish-looking orange caterpillar with a distinctive spiky appearance. Characteristic features of the large, stumpy caterpillar are yellowish spines along its back, zebra-like marking on its thorax, and a shiny black head with dull orange dots. The large caterpillar measures 3” (75 mm) long.

The native North American orange and black caterpillar emits a repelling smell to ward off predators—a reason it’s also called the stinky leafwing caterpillar. As the sizable spiky caterpillar reaches its pupal stage, it becomes a spiky green caterpillar with yellowish spines. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The Orion cecropian caterpillar is easily recognizable with its bright orange body covered in spiny tubercles. 

Spiky Caterpillars in Texas

Zebra Longwing Caterpillar (Heliconius charithonia)

Heliconius charithonia

Zebra Longwing Caterpillar (Heliconius charithonia)

The zebra longwing caterpillar is a cream-white plump worm-like caterpillar with huge spiny spikes covering its body. The distinctive features of the white caterpillar are its black spots that turn deep red as the caterpillar matures. The white or grayish-white and black tube-like insect measures 0.5” (12 mm) long.

The spiky Texas caterpillar feeds on plants in the Passiflora genus. Compounds in the plant’s foliage create toxins in the larva, making the zebra longwing caterpillar poisonous to birds. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The zebra longwing caterpillar is described as a white and black spiky caterpillar covered in long spikes.  

Crimson Patch Caterpillar (Chlosyne janais)

Chlosyne janais

Crimson Patch Caterpillar (Chlosyne janais)

The crimson patch butterfly larva is a pale blue caterpillar with bands of black spikes around its abdomen. The slender, cylindrical crawling insect has an orange head, contrasting with its light blue and black colors. The native Texas caterpillar feeds primarily on scrubby plants in the Acanthaceae family. 

Crimson patch caterpillars are found throughout Texas. However, the grayish-white tube-like larvae are most prolific in the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas caterpillar identification

The crimson patch caterpillar is a pale blue worm-like caterpillar with transverse rows of fleshy black spines between each segment.

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa)

Black Spiny Elm Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa)

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa)

The mourning cloak caterpillar is a spiky black caterpillar covered in tiny white dots and deep reddish-orange patches along its back. The slender cylindrical caterpillar also has tufts of small white setae on its black body. This jet-black caterpillar grows up to 2” (50 mm) long.

The long, black spiky caterpillar is common throughout Texas and the southern United States. The plant-destroying black “worms” feed on willow, elm, hawthorn, and birch tree leaves. You will often see the black caterpillars living in silken nests on the host trees.

Texas caterpillar identification

The mourning cloak caterpillar is a white-spotted black insect covered in protruding black fleshy spikes.

Red Postman Caterpillar (Heliconius erato)

Heliconius erato

Red Postman Caterpillar (Heliconius erato)

The red postman butterfly larva is a white caterpillar with black dots and branched black spines on its sides and back. The colorful caterpillar also has a yellow head, amber-colored legs, and yellowish spots at the base of the black spiny spikes. A unique identifying mark of the white caterpillar is its black stripe along its side. 

The black-spotted white caterpillars are common in south Texas, Mexico, and Central America. These leaf-devouring caterpillars mainly feed on passiflora plants. After pupation, the white spiky caterpillar turns into a stunning black, red, and white butterfly. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The red postman butterfly caterpillar is a slender white caterpillar covered in black spikes and yellow and black dots. 

Bordered Patch Caterpillar (Chlosyne lacinia)

Chlosyne lacinia

Bordered Patch Caterpillar (Chlosyne lacinia)

The bordered patch butterfly larva is an eye-catching orange caterpillar with several tufts of short black spikes traversing each segment. Other identifying features of the orange larva are dark, chocolatey-brown patches and a row of short, branched spines along its side. 

The Texas orange bordered patch caterpillar feeds on various plants like Texas blueweed, ragweed, sunflowers, and Jerusalem artichoke. Another name for this spiky orange caterpillar is the sunflower patch caterpillar. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The bordered patch caterpillar is an easy to identify orange caterpillar due to its black, branched tufts of spikes in rows around its abdomen. 

Other Common Caterpillars in Texas

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar (Phoebis sennae)

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebis sennae)

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar (Phoebis sennae)

The cloudless sulphur butterfly larva is a spectacular yellow caterpillar with black stripes across its back. Close-up pictures of the yellow-colored caterpillar show it’s got tiny spines on its black patches, and there are several black dots around its head area. The yellow caterpillars measure between 1.6” and 1.8” (41 – 45 mm) long.

Yellow cloudless sulphur caterpillars are usually found in Texas, feeding on plants in the legume family. 

Texas caterpillar identification

The cloudless sulphur is an unusual caterpillar due to its bright, golden-yellow color and greenish or black stripes. 

Orange-Barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea)

Phoebis philea

Orange-Barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea)

The orange-barred sulphur butterfly larva is a pale-yellow greenish caterpillar with thick black bands. The caterpillar’s abdomen and the head base are a leafy-green color. The striped Texas caterpillar also has several short, stumpy spines covering its yellowish-green body.

The color of orange-barred sulphur caterpillars depends on what they eat. Caterpillars that eat flowers are a yellower color, and caterpillars that eat leaves are a greener color. After pupation, the striped caterpillar turns into an eye-catching yellow butterfly.

Texas caterpillar identification

The orange-barred sulphur caterpillar is identified as a yellow-green tube-like caterpillar with two black stripes running from head to tail and covered in short spiky spines. 

Silver-Spotted Skipper Caterpillar (Epargyreus clarus)

Epargyreus clarus

Silver-Spotted Skipper Caterpillar (Epargyreus clarus)

The silver-spotted skipper caterpillar is a plump, yellowish-green caterpillar with dark green stripes around its tube-like abdomen. This green caterpillar’s identifying feature is its round reddish-brown head with conspicuous orange eye-like spots. This crawling yellowish-green insect grows up to 2” (50 mm) long.

Silver-spotted skipper caterpillars are found throughout North America and feed on wisteria plants, legumes, locust tree foliage, and deciduous plants. After pupation, the yellow-green striped caterpillar turns into a brown butterfly that feeds on the nectar from red, pink, blue, and white flowers—but never yellow flowers.

Texas caterpillar identification

The identifying characteristics of the silver-spotted skipper caterpillar are thin green bands traversing a plump yellow body, a spherical reddish-brown head with two bright orange eyepatches. 

Related articles:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *