Types of Caterpillars with Helpful Identification Chart & Pictures

Types of Caterpillars with Helpful Identification Chart & Pictures

Caterpillars come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and types. Some types of caterpillars have soft smooth colorful bodies that can be green, black, orange, or white. Some of these caterpillars may have stripped bodies or have interesting camouflage markings. Other kinds of caterpillars have furry bodies, spiky bodies, or horns on their bodies or heads. A caterpillar identification chart can help you identify the different types of caterpillars.

Caterpillars are larval creatures that turn into moths or beautiful butterflies after they metamorphose. Understanding how to identify types of caterpillar allows knowing what they will turn into. For example, one of the most striking types of caterpillar has black, yellow, and white stripes and this turns into the famous monarch butterfly.

Another reason to know how to identify certain types of caterpillars is to know which ones are dangerous or poisonous. For instance, the hair on some furry types of caterpillars can cause irritation when touched.

Types of stinging caterpillars have hollow bristles that contain poisonous toxins. When you touch these dangerous caterpillars, they release the venomous toxins that can cause a wide range of reactions from mild stinging and itching to intense pain. Some spiky caterpillars like the giant silkworm moth caterpillar can even cause death.

So you need to be careful when touching any fuzzy caterpillars even if they look harmless.

Caterpillar Identification

To identify caterpillars, it is important to take note of their size, color, type of hairy covering, and specific markings such as stripes, spots or ‘horns’. Most stinging caterpillars are identified by spine or fine hairs covering their body. Some types of furry caterpillars also look deceiving. For example, some woolly caterpillars look like soft fluffy worms. However, their bristles are a defense mechanism and it can be spiky and painful.

In this article, you will learn about many types of caterpillars and how to identify them properly. You will find out pictures of caterpillars and learn about their unique characteristics.

Types of Caterpillars (With Pictures and Names) – Caterpillar Identification

Even though many types of caterpillars look different and have various characteristics, they all have one thing in common – they love to eat. For example, some types of caterpillars can increase their weight thousands of times in a few weeks.

Let’s look in more detail at these fascinating and interesting-looking worms.

Hickory Horned Devil (Regal Moth) Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis)

Hickory Horned Caterpillar

The Hickory Horned Devil is a type of large horned caterpillar that turns to a big moth

The Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar (Citheronia regalis) has to top the list for the scariest-looking caterpillar. This green caterpillar has black-tipped orange prickly spikes at its head that look dangerous. However, despite its fierce horned appearance, this type of caterpillar is totally harmless.

Apart from being a scary caterpillar, the Hickory Horned Devil is also one of the largest caterpillars in the world. Fully grown, this horned caterpillar can grow up to 6” (15 cm). Its pale green body has small black spines sticking out of it and black markings at its head section. This enormous caterpillar is also identified by a red patch at the end of its body.

As their name suggests, this big green fat caterpillar feeds on hickory leaves as well as cotton, hazel leaves, and ash tree leaves.

The Hickory Horned Devil transforms into one of the biggest moths you can find.

Caterpillar Identification

You can identify a hickory horned devil caterpillars by its pale green, plump segments, spiny red and black horns, and black fleshy spines on its body.

Monarch Caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

monarch caterpillar

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

The monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) is quite easy to identify with its black, white, and yellow stripy appearance. Monarch caterpillars gorge on milkweed which makes them poisonous to other birds and insects.

Stripy monarch caterpillars grow to between 1” and 1.7” (2.5 – 4.5 cm) long. From its first stage, until is become a cocoon, this fascinating caterpillar will increase its weight by 2,000 times.

Apart from its soft stripped body, the monarch caterpillar has 2 pairs of tentacles. The monarch caterpillar turns into the famous monarch butterfly.

Caterpillar Identification

The monarch caterpillar can be identified by its black, white, and yellow stripes and long black fleshy tentacles. Another identifying feature of the Monarch caterpillar is the white dots on its prolegs.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes)

black swallowtail caterplillar

The black swallowtail caterpillar has green body with black stripes and yellow dots

Identifying the Black Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) is not difficult due to the black stripes and yellow dots on its lime-green body.

Although this striped caterpillar looks similar to the monarch caterpillar, it doesn’t have tentacles at the head of its body. However, just like the monarch, the Black Swallowtail caterpillar also munches on milkweed which offers it protection from predators.

This is a type of caterpillar commonly found in North America. Other names for it include the ‘American Swallowtail’ and the ‘Parsnip Swallowtail.’ In its larvae stage, the Black Swallowtail also feeds on parsley, which is why it is also called the ‘parsley caterpillar.

The smooth green body of this caterpillar from the Papilio genus doesn’t have any hairs or venomous spikes. So, you can safely handle this caterpillar if you want to keep it in captivity.

Caterpillar Identification

The black swallowtail caterpillar has identifiable black and yellow bands on a plump lime-green body. Another characteristic of this green caterpillar is its forked tongue behind its head that sticks out when threatened.

Cecropia Caterpillar

Hyalophora cecropia caterpillar

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

Another type of very large caterpillar is the Cecropia moth caterpillar with its fat green body and scary appearance.

You can identify the Cecropia caterpillar by its long length and orange, yellow, and blue nodules (tubercles). Although not as large as the Horned Devil, this giant caterpillar can grow up to between 4” and 4.5” (10 – 11 cm). Its frightening look is due to the differently-colored tubercles. Each of these protrusions has tiny black spikes.

Despite their freakish appearance, these enormous caterpillars are harmless. They don’t bite or sting and won’t cause any problems handling them. They get to their huge size by feeding on tree and shrub leaves.

As you would expect from such a large caterpillar, the Cecropia caterpillar metamorphoses into a large moth. In fact, the Cecropia moth is the largest moth native to North America.

Caterpillar Identification

The cecropia caterpillar is identified by its large pale green body with blue and orange tubercles sprouting small black spines. As one of the largest caterpillars, the cecropia grows up to 4.5” (10 cm) long.

Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila elpenor)

Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar

The Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar has gray-brown body and black spots

Another unusual-looking caterpillar is the Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar (Deilephila elpenor). The name for this brown-colored caterpillar comes from its resemblance to an elephant’s trunk.

The moth larvae are identified by their gray-brown coloring and black spots. The brown caterpillar has an oval head with eye-spots on it. This gives the caterpillar a frightening look to predators who will tend to leave them alone. Another identifying feature of the Elephant Hawk caterpillar is the horn at the end of the body.

When fully grown, these caterpillars can measure up to 3” (7.5 cm).

Caterpillar Identification

The elephant hawk has a distinguishable brown and black body resembling an elephant’s trunk. Look for black spots along the side of its body to help identify this brown caterpillar.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio Troilus)

spicebush swallowtail

The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has markings that look like fake eyes on its head

The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio Troilus) is a type of caterpillar that looks like a tiny snake. It has a light green body with darker dots and yellow colors around its midsection. One of the more unusual features of this caterpillar is its fake eyes on its head.

Some types of this caterpillar have a yellow-green color rather than pale green. However, the distinctive markings that offer protection from predators are a common identifying feature of this caterpillar. If the caterpillar feels threatened, it will rear up and emit a foul-smelling odor to ward off birds and other insects.

It may be difficult to spot this caterpillar as it is usually feeds at night and hides during the day.

When the larvae emerge from their pupae, they are a stunning example of black-colored butterflies.

Caterpillar Identification

The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is easily identifiable due to its unusual eye spots on a bright green body. Also, look for small bluish rings around its segments and a thin line along the sides of its yellowish-green body.

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Caterpillar (Heliconius charithonia)

Zebra longwing

The Zebra Longwing caterpillar is a type of spiky caterpillar

The Zebra Longwing caterpillar (Heliconius charithonia) is identified by its long black spikes protruding from its grayish-green body. As well as these long spikes, black dots along its body adds to its scary look.

This spiky caterpillar gorges on varieties of passionflower. Compounds in the passionflower plant turn into toxic compounds in the Zebra Longwing caterpillars. This makes them foul-tasting to any potential predators.

The name for these caterpillars comes from the beautiful butterflies that emerge from the pupae. The long jaggy-looking caterpillars transform into butterflies with black and white striped wings.

Caterpillar Identification

The zebra longwing caterpillar is a scary-looking caterpillar identified by its long black spiny spikes that stick out from its whitish-gray body.

Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar (Manduca sexta)

Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar (Manduca sexta)

The Tobacco Hornworm caterpillar is a type of large green caterpillar

The large green Tobacco Hornworm caterpillar (Manduca sexta) is harmless to humans but can eat their way through your tomato plants. Compared to some other types of caterpillars, this common caterpillar species can be a serious pest in your garden.

Although not as huge as the Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar, the Tobacco Hornworm is identified among the large types of caterpillars. Fully grown, the caterpillar can reach up to 4” (10 cm) in length. Its lime-green body has 7 faint white stripes on each side of its body.

This caterpillar specimen looks quite harmless apart from its orange hook at its tail end. However, even this horned end won’t do any harm if you touch it.

The Tobacco Hornworm caterpillar transforms into a ginormous moth called the ‘Hawk moth.’

Caterpillar Identification

The tobacco hornworm caterpillar has identifiable diagonal white stripes on its light green, plump segments, large head, and curled reddish-pink tail. You can often identify this hornworm caterpillar on tomato plants.

Funerary Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta funeralis)

paddle caterpillar

The Funerary Dagger caterpillar is also called the paddle caterpillar due to its paddle-like hairs

The Funerary Dagger caterpillar (Acronicta funeralis) is a striking example of a rare black-gray caterpillar species. Vivid yellow markings develop on the back of this soft caterpillar as it matures and make it easy to be identified.

One of the unusual features of this crawling larva bug is the strange paddle-like hairs that protrude from the sides of the caterpillar, giving it also the common name the ‘paddle caterpillar’.

Funerary Dagger moths feed on, among others, the leaves of birch, cottonwood, apple, oak, and hickory trees.

Caterpillar Identification

To identify the funerary dagger caterpillar, look for its recognizable, oval red head, yellow mouth-like markings, and long black fleshy spines along its black body and yellow markings on the back.

White Admiral Caterpillar (Limenitis arthemis)

White Admiral

The White Admiral caterpillar is a horned caterpillar that looks like birds dropping

One way to identify the White Admiral caterpillar (Limenitis arthemis) is by its two horns protruding from its head. This is a type of caterpillar that camouflages itself by resembling birds’ droppings.

The jaggy-looking caterpillar has an olive-green and brown body with discolored white blotches. The brown look of these crawling larvae also acts as good camouflage on wood and trees.

You can usually find White Admiral caterpillars on aspen, birch, willow, and cherry trees.

Butterflies that emerge from the Limenitis arthemis species can be black and white, dark red, purple, or shades of blue. This type of butterfly is also known as the Red-Spotted Purple butterfly.

Caterpillar Identification

You can recognize the white admiral caterpillar because it looks like birds’ droppings. The brown and white admiral caterpillar has two identifiable black horns protruding from its head and a dark brown or olive-green body with white blotches.

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar (Battus philenor)

Pipevine Swallowtail

The Pipevine Swallowtail can be identified by its dark-brown body and orange spikes

There are a number of types of caterpillars in the Swallowtail species, and the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) is a glossy brown variety.

The Pipevine Swallowtail has a dark-brown body and jaggy-looking orange spikes. This is definitely not a large variety of caterpillar. The fully-grown larvae only reach about 2” (5 cm) in length. As the larvae mature, they develop into a reddish type of caterpillar covered in tiny fine hairs.

Other interesting types of Swallowtail caterpillars include some of the following:

  • Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar that has a pale orange or light brown body with rows of blue dots. As with some other types of Swallowtails, this has fake eyes on its head.
  • Common Mormon caterpillar is a green caterpillar with a few brown or black-colored stripes across its back.
  • Citrus Swallowtail caterpillar is a large fat lime-green caterpillar that loves to feed on the leaves of citrus trees. This type of caterpillar is slightly hairy in its immature stage and gradually develops a smooth body as it matures.

Caterpillar Identification

The pipevine swallowtail is identifiable by its dark brown, almost black body with fleshy spines and two lines of pointed bright orange bumps along its back.

Type of Furry or Fuzzy Caterpillars With Pictures – Caterpillar Identification

Hairy types of caterpillars can be some of the most fascinating larvae around. Here are some of the interesting types of furry caterpillars.

The Sycamore Tussock Caterpillars (Halysidota harrisii)

Sycamore Tussock

The Sycamore Tussock caterpillar is a fuzzy caterpillar

The Sycamore Tussock caterpillar (Halysidota harrisii) is a light yellow furry caterpillar common to the Eastern United States and Mexico.

The whole body of this fuzzy caterpillar is covered in long fine yellow-shite hairs. Its striking fuzzy appearance is enhanced by a few long white bristles on the body. Near its head there are 2 pairs of long orange “hair pencils.”

Although the fine hairs are not poisonous, repeated handling of them can cause skin irritation and hives.

As their name suggests, these Sycamore Tussock caterpillars feed on the leaves of Sycamore trees. A large number of these hairy caterpillars can also damage the health of a sycamore tree.

Caterpillar Identification

The sycamore tussock caterpillar is identified by its characteristic fine white hairs covering its body. In addition, look for two tufts of long fuzzy spines at its head and tail ends—two are orange, and two are white.

The Woollybear Caterpillar (Pyrrharcita isabella)

Wooly Bear

The Woollybear Caterpillar is a furry type of caterpillar with black and orange hairs

One of the identifying features of the Woollybear caterpillar (Pyrrharcita isabella) is its furry black and orange appearance. This hairy caterpillar species is also called the Isabella Tiger moth or Banded Woolly Bear.

This hairy-looking caterpillar may resemble a small bottle cleaner due to is short bristles. This black and orange fuzzy caterpillar grows to about 2” (5 cm) in length and is common in North America and Europe. This fuzzy caterpillar also survives well in cold climates.

In fact, one of the unique features of this woolly worm is its ability to survive the cold. Usually, during winter months caterpillars have to pupate to get through the winter. However, woollybears develop a chemical that acts as antifreeze in their bodies.

This caterpillar species rarely becomes a garden pest. Although they eat garden plants, they don’t consume so much as to cause damage.

Even though this caterpillar is called ‘woolly,’ it doesn’t have a soft touch to it. Its bristles have a spiky feel and may cause some skin irritation if handled too much.

Not all Woollybear caterpillars have a black-orange color. There is also the Yellow Woollybear (Spilosoma virginica) which has a pale-yellow color. This transforms into the Virginia Tiger moth after metamorphosis.

Caterpillar Identification

One of the easiest furry caterpillars to identify is the black and orange woollybear. The small caterpillar has a black fuzzy body with a dark orange band around its middle.

Puss (Southern Flannel Moth) Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

southern flannel

The Southern Flannel caterpillar is a type of small furry caterpillar

The Southern Flannel (Megalopyge opercularis) is also called the Puss caterpillar and is a small type of fluffy hairy caterpillar.

One of the identifying features of this caterpillar species is its long hairy beige-orange tail. Also, some types of this woolly caterpillar have orange line running down each side.

Even though this looks like a soft fluffy caterpillar, it is not one you want to handle. Soft-looking pale orange hairs cover rows of spines that can give you a nasty sting. In some cases, an allergic reaction to the sting of this caterpillar could have serious consequences.

Some people say that the Puss caterpillar resembles a disheveled orange toupee.

Caterpillar Identification

Southern flannel caterpillar has an identifiable fluffy orangey-brown body. However, the brown woolly stinging caterpillar is covered in spines that will give you a nasty sting if you handle it.

American Dagger (Acronicta americana)

American dagger

The American Dagger caterpillar has a distinct hairy look

The long thin spines on the American Dagger species of caterpillar (Acronicta americana) give it a distinct fuzzy look. The black markings on this white caterpillar also add to its striking fuzzy appearance. You will also notice long black pencil hairs poking out between the gray-white spines.

Some types of these caterpillars also have a yellowish color. Due to the shaggy nature of the hairs, it can be difficult to see the black head underneath its yellow “mane.” You have to handle this hairy caterpillar with care as the short yellow hairs are mildly toxic.

Fluffy American Dagger caterpillars love to gorge on oak, elm, willow, hickory, and birch leaves.

Caterpillar Identification

The American dagger caterpillar is identified by its long wispy lemony-white hairs and long tufts of black hair poking up from its back.

European Gypsy Caterpillar (Lymantria dispar dispar)

European Gypsy Moth

The European Gypsy caterpillar is a hairy type of caterpillar with red and blue dots

The European Gypsy caterpillar (Lymantria dispar dispar) is native to Europe, Asia, and most of the States in the US including California. The fully-grown hairy caterpillar can grow up to 2” (5 cm) in length, thus making it a smaller type of caterpillar than some of the huge varieties.

This long thin fuzzy caterpillar has a whitish appearance with what looks like red and blue LED lamps on its back. These spots are what help identify this caterpillar from other species. Long thin hairs protrude from its sides, head, and tail end. There are also clumps of shorter black hairs running down its back.

Because of the incredible damage that these furry bugs can do, the European Gypsy caterpillar is considered a pest. You should also avoid handling the spiky creature as the fuzzy hairs can cause skin irritation.

Caterpillar Identification

One of the most striking hairy caterpillars you are likely to spot is the European gypsy caterpillar. The small caterpillar’s black body has identifiable red and blue dots and tufts of white spines on its back.

Silver-Spotted Tiger Caterpillar (Lophocampa argentata)

Silver spotted Tiger

The Silver-Spotted Tiger caterpillar has black and orange furry appearance

One black and orange fuzzy type of caterpillar is the Silver-Spotted Tiger species (Lophocampa argentata). This mildly-toxic variety of caterpillar has a hairy appearance resembling the stripes of a tiger.

Usually, this type of caterpillar is found on fir trees on the West coast of North America including California, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona.

Caterpillar Identification

The identifying features of the silver-spotted tiger caterpillar are its tufts of orange and yellow spines covering its black body.

Emperor Moth Caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia)

Emperor Moth Caterpillar

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

The emperor moth caterpillar is a large green crawling insect with small yellowish spiky growths (tubercles) around its segments. Close-up pictures of this caterpillar show tufts of fine white hairs emerging from the emperor moth caterpillar’s yellowish and black bumps. The dark green caterpillars grow up to 2.4” (6 cm) long.

Emperor moth larvae can be hard to recognize during their growth stages (instars). The crawling “grubs” emerge black and gradually turn green as they fatten up. However, some species of emperor moth caterpillars stay dark, almost black with yellow dots on the bodies.

Caterpillar Identification

To identify the emperor moth caterpillar, look for a dark green caterpillar with bands of yellow spiny bumps around each segment.

Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio glaucus)

Tiger Swallowtail

The green tiger swallowtail caterpillar has eye-like markings on its head

The tiger swallowtail caterpillar is an unusual green caterpillar due to its eye-like spots on its head. Some characteristics of the swallowtail caterpillar are a yellow band behind its head, fake eyes, a smooth green body, and four pairs of stumpy prolegs. The caterpillar grows up to 2.2” (5.5 cm) long.

A defensive feature of the tiger swallowtail is that it releases a putrid odor when threatened. Like some other species of green caterpillar, it may display a forked spike like a snake’s tongue from behind its head.

Caterpillar Identification

The dark-green tiger swallowtail caterpillar is easy to identify due to its smooth green body and recognizable fake eyes on its head.

Luna moth caterpillar (Actias luna)

Luna Moth Caterpillar

The large Luna caterpillar has green ridged body with red dots

The luna moth caterpillar is a sizeable green larva with an almost translucent body with rows of red spiny bumps. Some recognizable features of the luna moth caterpillar are its oval brown head, three pair of front legs, spiny red dots, and four pairs of large prolegs.

When it reaches maturity, the luna moth caterpillar grows to around 3.5” (9 cm) long. You can spot this large caterpillar feeding on birch, hickory, walnut, and alder tree leaves.

Caterpillar Identification

The luna moth caterpillar is identified by its bright green body that appears translucent. There are also two rows of orange dots along its back and a row of orange dots along each side.

Garden Tiger caterpillar (Arctia caja)

Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Arctia caja)

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

The garden tiger caterpillar is a furry black and orange caterpillar with long feathery spines that make the grub look like a porcupine. The garden tiger has a black body, and its fuzzy spines are a grayish-white, black, or orange color. Also, the “woolly” caterpillar has an orange head and light copper-colored band along its sides.

The garden tiger caterpillar is a type of woolly bear caterpillar. The furry caterpillar grows up to 2.4” (6 cm) long. Its long whitish spines and fuzzy body help protect the larva against predators.

Caterpillar Identification

To identify the garden tiger caterpillar, look for its orange and black fuzzy body with tufts of long white spines covering its back.

Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar (Pieris rapae)

Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar

The green Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar is commonly found on cruciferous vegetables

The long, thin, green cabbage white caterpillar has an identifiable yellowish-green body and a slightly fuzzy appearance. As its name suggests, this caterpillar species gorges on cabbage leaves as it grows to maturity. Due to its voracious appetite, the green caterpillar is a significant garden pest.

The white cabbage caterpillar grows up to 1.4” (3.5 cm) long. Unlike many other types of green caterpillar, this green larval insect has a slender body without noticeable segments.

Caterpillar Identification

The cabbage white caterpillar is a green caterpillar with an identifiable yellowish shine on its fuzzy body.

Scarce Dagger Caterpillar (Acronicta auricoma)

Scarce Dagger Caterpillar

The Scarce Dagger caterpillar has pale dots on the back of its black body with orange/yellow spikes

The scarce dagger caterpillar is a furry black caterpillar with recognizable tufts of orange and yellow hairs. Looking closely at this caterpillar, you’ll notice that each segment has bands of orangey bumps with hairs (setae) growing from them. The scarce dagger caterpillar measures 1.4” (3.5 cm) long when mature.

Depending on the instar, the scarce dagger caterpillar looks like a fuzzy orange or a black caterpillar with orange hairs and bright white or yellow dots.

Caterpillar Identification

The scarce dagger caterpillar has an identifiable black body covered in orange bumps and tufts of orange hairs.

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

Also called the spiny elm caterpillar, the mourning cloak larvae is a black caterpillar with orange tufts, tiny white dots, and menacing-looking fleshy black spines. Although the black caterpillar looks like it stings, it is entirely harmless. Mourning cloak caterpillars grow up to 2” (5 cm) long.

To spot mourning cloak caterpillars, look for the spiny black larvae feeding on cottonwood, aspen, hackberry, and birch trees. As the common name suggests, Nymphalis antiopa is often found eating its way through elm tree leaves.

Caterpillar Identification

The black mourning cloak caterpillar is identified by its bands of sharp-looking spikes around its body and eight dark orange tufts of short hairs along its back.

Azalea Caterpillar (Datana major)

Azalea Caterpillar

The Azalea Caterpillar has a stripy green and black body with orange head and tail

The azalea caterpillar is a black and yellow or green striped caterpillar with a large, rounded orange or rusty brown head. The several yellowish-green stripes on the caterpillar run longitudinally. As the long stripy worm-like insect grows, long white spines and orangey-red feet develop as it matures.

Mature azalea caterpillars mature to 2” (5 cm). The hungry caterpillars can quickly skeletonize leaves, and you can see them feeding on azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries.

Caterpillar Identification

You can identify the azalea caterpillar by its shiny black body, bright yellow or green stripes running the length of its body, and a recognizable orange 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 caterpillar is a fuzzy yellow and black caterpillar covered in spines, making it look like a bottle brush. The characteristics of this small caterpillar are a furry black tail and head, a yellow central band, and four black dots on its back. You can spot this yellow tussock caterpillar feeding on oak, willow, maple, and poplar tree leaves.

Yellow-spotted tussock caterpillars grow up to 1” (2.5 cm) long.

Caterpillar Identification

The yellow-spotted tussock caterpillar is identified by a yellow and black fuzzy body, long pencil-thin spiky hairs, and black spots on a yellow back.

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 stunning zebra caterpillar has a black body with zebra-like yellow patterns running lengthwise in four stripes. The hungry grubs have a rounded orange-bronze head and tail end. Immature larvae are primarily white with black heads. By the last stage, the caterpillars turn into colorful insects with interesting striped patterns.

Zebra caterpillars grow up to 1.6” (4 cm) long. Before turning into the American noctuid moth, the caterpillar can be found gorging on cabbages, beet, and other root vegetable leaves.

Caterpillar Identification

The easily identifiable black zebra caterpillar has a mottled-patterns, yellow longitudinal stripes, and an unusual reddish-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 mullein moth caterpillar is a striking whitish-gray caterpillar with black-spotted yellow patches and black dots in random patterns. Pictures of this black and yellow caterpillar show three pairs of pointed feet at the head and four pairs of black and white prolegs. Mullein moth caterpillars grow to 2” (5 cm) long.

Due to its bright coloring, it’s easy to identify the mullein moth caterpillar as it munches on Buddleia plant leaves. The hungry crawling insects can quickly defoliate shrubs as they feed during July and August.

Caterpillar Identification

The mullein moth caterpillar has easily identifiable yellow and black circular patterns on a whitish body. Also, look for small tufts of white or black short spines covering its back.

Cinnabar 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 is a striped caterpillar with black and orange bands around its body segments. Characteristics of the cinnabar caterpillar include black and orange prolegs, black frontal legs, and feathery spines sticking out from its body. The black and orange striped caterpillar grows 1.2” (3 cm) long.

The cinnabar caterpillar is a type of poisonous caterpillar to predators. The stripy caterpillar gorges on ragwort which builds up toxins in the caterpillar.

Caterpillar Identification

The cinnabar caterpillar is easy to identify due to its black and orange stripes wrapping around its body.

Queen Butterfly Caterpillar (Danaus gilippus

Queen caterpillar (Danaus gilippus)

Queen Caterpillar has black and white stripes with yellow markings

One of the most striking colorful caterpillars you can see is the queen butterfly caterpillar. The traits of the queen caterpillar are long, fleshy, tentacle-like spines, a black and white striped body with yellow dots and black tentacles. In addition, the queen larvae mostly gorge on milkweed, making them distasteful to predators.

Caterpillar Identification

To identify a queen caterpillar, look for yellow-spotted black bands and white rings around its segments. This caterpillar also has three pairs of fleshy tentacles and a reddish-brown underside to help with identification.

Oleander Caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais)

Oleander Caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais)

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

The oleander caterpillar is a brightly-colored orange caterpillar with long, straight pencil-thin black tufts of hairs emerging from black bumps along its sides. Other characteristics of the orange caterpillar’s appearance are black markings surrounding the body and tufts of short black, non-stinging spines on its back. Mature oleander caterpillars grow to around 1.5” (4 cm) long.

Oleander caterpillars are common in Florida, where they feed on oleander plants. Unfortunately, the caterpillars are a nuisance in Florida gardens, where they quickly defoliate shrubs when feeding on foliage.

Caterpillar Identification

The easily identifiable oleander caterpillar has long hairy tufts growing out of numerous black bumps on the slender caterpillar’s orange body.

Stinging Rose caterpillar (Parasa indetermina)

Stinging Rose Caterpillar

The Stinging Rose caterpillar has clusters of toxic spikes along its body

The stinging rose caterpillar is a flat-looking orange or yellow caterpillar with jagged spines that cause skin irritation when handled. The appearance of the stinging rose caterpillar has a band of purple and light blue stripes running down its back. There are also small tufts of stinging spines along the caterpillar’s sides.

Like the oleander caterpillar, stinging rose caterpillars are commonly found in Florida, South Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma. You will spot the spiky orangey-yellow caterpillars on roses, where they cause severe damage to foliage.

Caterpillar Identification

The stinging rose caterpillar has identifiable spiny horns on its back, head, and tail end. In addition, the characteristic purplish band on its back contrasts with the yellow or orange color of the caterpillar.

Saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea)

Saddleback Caterpillar

The Saddleback caterpillar has spiny venomous horns that cause painful sting

One of the most unusual caterpillars is the saddleback caterpillar. This stinging caterpillar has large protruding horns with jaggy spikes on them. The identifiable characteristic of the caterpillar is the saddle-like marking on its back. This trait gives the saddleback caterpillar a look as if it has a green covering with a large brown patch in the middle.

As one of the scariest-looking caterpillars, the saddleback caterpillar has urticating bristles (stinging spines) on its body and long horns. The sting from a saddleback can cause pain, a skin rash, and possible nausea.

Caterpillar Identification

To identify the saddleback caterpillar, look for its orangey-brown spiky horns and green and brown back. You will also notice tufts of light orange spines around the side of this flat caterpillar.

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