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Black Fuzzy Caterpillar

Caterpillars curl up when they feel threatened, or, in this case, curl around twigs and sticks.

Caterpillars curl up when they feel threatened, or, in this case, curl around twigs and sticks.

Black Caterpillar with Spikes and Red Bands: What Is It?

Did you find a black fuzzy caterpillar? Does it look like this? If so, you might have a giant leopard moth caterpillar, also known as a great leopard moth or an eyed tiger moth (scientific name: Hypercompe scribonia). Take a look at the other pictures too, and you'll know for sure.

Caterpillar Description: The giant leopard moth caterpillar has black spikes (which are variously described as hairy, bristled, fuzzy, spiky, furry, or woolly) with red or orange bands around its body. Some think it looks like a woolly black bear.

What Will It Turn Into?

Moth Description: Your spiky black-and-red caterpillar will transform into a white moth with black circles or spots on its wings. Its abdomen will be blue and orange (not visible at rest).

We saw our first giant leopard moth caterpillar five years ago and are now in the process of raising our fourth moth. I'm sharing the information we've documented and collected through personal experience and research here.

Have You Found One of These?

Black caterpillar with spikes and red bands or stripes. These caterpillars can be up to three inches long. In this picture, you are seeing the rear end of the caterpillar.

Black caterpillar with spikes and red bands or stripes. These caterpillars can be up to three inches long. In this picture, you are seeing the rear end of the caterpillar.

Most Commonly Asked Questions About Great Leopard Moth Caterpillars

  • Is this black fuzzy caterpillar poisonous? No.
  • Can you touch it or handle it? Yes, you can handle it carefully.
  • Will it sting you? No.

But keep reading and confirm the ID, because some bristly caterpillars can sting!

Before the Leopard Moth Caterpillar Looks Like That, It Looks Like This

A baby black-and-orange caterpillar.

A baby black-and-orange caterpillar.

Most people find these caterpillars when they are large and solid black with red bands around their bodies, but they didn't always look like that. Before they molt, while they are still small caterpillars, they are brown (or black) and red (or orange), and the bands aren't very noticeable. This is one of the first leopard moth caterpillars we found. We named it PeeWee—in this picture, it's about 3/4 inches long—but it didn't stay a peewee! They can grow bigger because they molt (see next section).

This white moth with black spots gets its name from its leopard-like markings.

This white moth with black spots gets its name from its leopard-like markings.

Here's What That Caterpillar Turns Into: The Great Leopard Moth

Pretty amazing, huh? That's exactly what I thought. You may have never seen this moth (who could forget seeing this creature?) because they are nocturnal. The first time I saw one in person was after our first caterpillar went through metamorphosis. I've never seen one out in the yard just walking around. They must be good hiders during the day.

The Molting Process

This picture is of a molted exoskeleton I found in a tree beside our house: a black, spikey outer shell.

This picture is of a molted exoskeleton I found in a tree beside our house: a black, spikey outer shell.

How many times do they molt? I'm not exactly sure. I've seen at least two molts per caterpillar, but I think they may molt three or four times. I hope to one day have a concrete number to post here. The time between molts is called an instar for butterfly caterpillars, and I think it's the same name for moth caterpillars, but I'm still confirming that.

I remember the first time our leopard moth caterpillar molted. I was horrified! When I checked on it that morning, part of the caterpillar was on the branch and part was in the bottom of the large container. What happened? Did it break in half? That's what I thought for a split second. Then I realized that the piece in the bottom of the container was simply the molted outer skin, and that the part on the branch was the actual caterpillar, alive and well.

It's very important to note here that before they molt, they will be very still for anywhere between one and two days. They are OK! This is simply part of the molting process. As a matter of fact, our current caterpillar is about to molt as I type and hasn't moved since yesterday. He's fine! I can't wait to see the shedded "skin."

How Big Do They Get?

A full-grown bristly black caterpillar is about three inches long.

A full-grown bristly black caterpillar is about three inches long.

As far as caterpillars go, these get pretty big. They look even larger with those big bristly spikes. Here's Oscar. He grew to a length of about three inches, then shrunk a little before pupating.

Giant leopard moth cocoon

Giant leopard moth cocoon

How Long Does a Leopard Moth Stay in Its Cocoon?

When the time is right (only the caterpillar will know), it will start to build a web-like structure and make its cocoon. Sorry for the quality of this photo; I was shooting the picture through the clear container. In the cocoon, the caterpillars will make the miraculous change and eventually emerge as beautiful moths. They will be white with black spots and a bit iridescent.

We have documented that the Giant Leopard Moth will be in the cocoon for 23 days. I haven't seen this documented anywhere else on the web. However, I know temperature can affect this, and in cooler climates it may take longer than 23 days. Our records were taken during the heat of summer (June) in Florida.

How to Raise These Caterpillars: It Could Take Two Months or More!

If you have found a giant leopard moth caterpillar and want to see it change into a moth, you can. But there are some things you need to know to be sure the caterpillar gets what it needs to grow and then go through metamorphosis.

Update: I've decided to add a note here to not recommend keeping and raising the caterpillars. It takes a lot of dedication and cleaning. My best suggestion is to observe the caterpillar and let the little guy go to not endanger or alter its natural life. If you CAN commit to wandering through your yard every single day to gather fresh food, clean the cage etc etc then read on.

  1. First, you need to know what to feed your caterpillar—its diet. Caterpillars are ravenous! This is the most important thing: You need to know which plant it was on when you removed it. If it was on a plant, then that is the plant it was feeding on and that's what you need to provide for its diet. If the great leopard moth caterpillar was not on a plant, then you'll need to offer it a variety of plants to see what it will eat. There's a lot to say about this. Thankfully, unlike other caterpillars, the GLM will eat a variety of plants. I've had success with oak saplings, dandelion leaves, morning glory leaves and plants I don't even know the names of. Try different things until you see it munching down. If it won't eat, then it may be about to molt or even build its cocoon.
  2. Provide a large clear container with ventilation or a mesh container (see a good option below). We actually built a wooden framed box with mesh walls so it is almost like the caterpillar is in the open as it would naturally be. See options below for caterpillar habitats.
  3. Add a variety of sticks to the habitat so there's plenty for the caterpillar to crawl around on and make sure some of them stand up vertically. You need to add food along with these plants and sticks.
  4. Keep a fresh food supply available.
  5. Clean the cage regularly. All animals poop. Caterpillar poop is called frass and would usually fall to the ground away from the caterpillar. Since he's in a cage, you'll need to dump the container every couple of days. Simply pull out the sticks, food plants and caterpillar, dump the container and put everything back in. But if it's already started making the web structure or cocoon process, do not move anything at all.
Here's a photo I took of our latest caterpillar. Isn't it cute? It's so neat how its legs cling to the thin plant stem.

Here's a photo I took of our latest caterpillar. Isn't it cute? It's so neat how its legs cling to the thin plant stem.

Amazing Little Critter

These are really neat creatures. Their appearance is unusual, but fairly easy to ID online. They will curl up into a ball when feeling threatened, exposing those red bands. They don't bite or sting, and kids love them. I've noticed, on occasion, they will be motionless for a concerning amount of time, then take off again as usual. Sometimes this means they are molting, but not always. Maybe they are resting? Or sleeping? Or this might be a way to protect themselves from being detected by predators. Here's a photo I took of our latest caterpillar. Isn't it cute? It's so neat how its legs cling to the thin plant stem.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are black fuzzy caterpillars dangerous?

Answer: As stated in the article, if you have properly ID'ed this caterpillar, then you can know it is not dangerous. You can carefully let it crawl on you.

Question: One of these caterpillars was in my top and was crawling over my dad. Do they bite?

Answer: I've never had one bite me. If you have properly identified it, then it is safe that it was crawling on you and your dad.

Question: Does the black fuzzy caterpillar die?!

Answer: All living things die. There will be times the caterpillar is still while it prepares to molt. This is not death, this is a natural occurrence.

Question: The Black Fuzzy we found is about an inch. Will it need to grow before it molts?

Answer: There are lots of factors that go into when they molt. Patience is the key. If you are raising it, then keep offering fresh food every day and keep the container clean. And you simply have to watch and wait. Happy learning!

Question: What do black fuzzy caterpillars eat?

Answer: This specific caterpillar eats a variety of things. You have off offer several kinds of food and figure it out. The best place to start is the plant the caterpillar was on when you found it. Also try oak leaves, dandelions and morning glory leaves.

Have You Seen or Raised a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar?

GW1732 on May 19, 2020:

I just found one sitting on a log in my back yard curled up now I have him in a jar where he’s nice and safe

Jason on March 24, 2020:

feed it oak leaves

Jacob on March 08, 2020:

Can you pick it up

Adrienne on December 15, 2019:

Just found one outside. Its very alive despite being in Pennsylvania in December! What can i feed this poor guy?

Trace on November 03, 2019:

I think we have this caterpillar. My daughter saved it from a car park about 6 weeks ago.

We have been caring for it and providing fresh food, ash leaves seem to be a favourite.

It’s had one molt and boy does it poop.

Do they need to be a certain temperature to cocoon, or Will nature just take its course no matter what.

My daughter is very keen for it to turn into a moth.

Rick on October 14, 2019:

I lime to lool at all types of caterpillars and i just found one of the black ones it is so cool. It feels soft and im of course gentle with it.

I also find a ton of wooly bears.

GoldenClaw5 on September 11, 2019:

My friend's dad found a black furry caterpillar with little orange spots on it's sides, and after his dad showed up at school with the caterpillar to pick him up, he ran back up the stairs to give it to me since he knew how much I love them. I named him Black Bear because he reminds me of a woolly bear and he just the cutest thing! Anyway, I am desperate to find out more about him and the great leopard moth is about the closest I've come so far. I love caterpillars so much and I would be devistated

Carole Wilmoth on July 05, 2019:

I found a small wooly crawling on the front porch last night. (N TX) I read somewhere they like violets and there was a plant close, but in an urn. I scooped him up and dropped it in the violets. Tonight there was another longer black wooly (3”) on the back patio. It may have been heading to another violet plant. I made sure by dropping it into the plant off the patio. They are very strong and squirmed quickly out of the tissue I held! I’m glad we have lots of violets which multiply around both front and backyards.

Laura on June 02, 2019:

We just found one and the kids were thrilled!

puzzlerpaige (author) on May 25, 2019:

Hi! Our caterpillar was over 3 inches so I was thinking the moth would be a really big one, but that wasn't the case. I'm thinking it was only about 2 inches when it emerged from cocoon.

Linda Eakins on May 16, 2019:

Hi~ I think I just saw my first caterpillar. Do you know if they have been seen in Central Texas? I went to let my dog out, 1:10am, and thought it was a shadow on the step. A very large, strange shadow. After looking at it through the door for several minutes trying to decide what was making the shadow, it moved and actually crawled away pretty fast. We’ve lived in our house for 20 yrs and I’ve never seen one before. They really are very cute! If the caterpillar is that large, how big has your moths been?

TarM on May 16, 2019:

Bit then what happens to the moth? How long will it live, provided it has the right environment? I have seen many a furry caterpillar but never once thought I could raise them! Thanks for any info.

Anoop Srivastava on November 24, 2018:

What to do if the black caterpillar spikes got into the human body..

Bridgett on October 25, 2018:

My kids and I found one a few days ago and have him in a cage with sticks and food. We thought we saved him from freezing to death, but I did not know some caterpillars hibernate. We caught a caterpillar in the spring and it turned into a brown moth. I am super excited about this one. I have never seen a Giant Leopard Moth in person, but the photos look awesome. Your article has given us a better idea of what leaves to feed him. Thank you for sharing.

A Miller on October 03, 2018:

I have one that started it's cocoon on Friday and built almost non stop thru Sunday. It started out almost as wide as my hand and slowly brought it in to about the size of a medium egg. Then on Tuesday morning to my surprise the hair was in a clump and the pupae had emerged. It was a light tan and by evening it had turned almost black. I, too live in Florida and it is now the first of October, so I may have a moth by the end of the month. I am excited, this is so fascinating

Buttercup55 on September 23, 2018:

Just found one in backyard grass. Lived here 25yrs, first one seen. Let it go since I do not have means to care for it . Seems a little late to pupate and turn into moth , todays date 9/23/18., but admit to not knowing much about catapillars. Lenox twp, Michigan

Chris McClelland on August 10, 2018:

I've found one in my backyard, it's been hanging around for the past three or four days. It's about 3 1/2 inches long. thinking of making a cage for it. I've taken video of it eating on my cell phone and I'll post it to facebook.

Norma Jenkins on March 23, 2018:

I found one in my utility room & am raising it now!

Thinking about giving it to my 10 yr. Old for her school science class to raise, if her teacher wants to!

Should be a great science project for them?

Rosanne M on December 05, 2017:

Seeing them in droves around the yard this year. Never noticed them before, and this is a butterfly YARD. Nature Coast of Fl. - December

Chris Branigan on November 05, 2017:

Yes I have seen one

Bill Barker on November 01, 2017:

so far have found about 50 in the last week on the side of house and garage.

Betsy Cohen on October 19, 2017:

We found one behind our trash cans tonight, all rolled up in a circle.

Baltimore, MD.

I have a picture of him if you'd like to see it.

Sherry on October 17, 2017:

My daughter found one yesterday in the parking lot at the factory where she works. St. Marys ,PA We have done different butterflies every year but he is new.

Michael Murtagh on October 09, 2017:

I saw this on my back deck....Elgin Ontario Canada.

Michelle on October 07, 2017:

Just found 1 in Hedgesville, WV. 10/7/17

Brandon on September 30, 2017:

Just found one in coplay PA. Almost October here.

Christine (Tina) Dalecki RN on May 28, 2017:

Very numerous on our farm in Texas

Patti Murphy on April 29, 2017:

I just found one in my barn in Sweden, Maine... I've never seen one before.

Are they common in Maine?

David Foxx on April 26, 2017:

Found one in leaf litter at base of fence during clean up. Muskegon County Michigan. Western Lakeshore

Wayne Wells on April 04, 2017:

Good job with lots of good information. Just found one and decided to keep him/her around until transformation. We live in rural NY and plants are just beginning to grow. Hope it makes it.

Abigail Bass on April 03, 2017:

Thank you very much for this post it was very educational. I couldn't find this detailed information anywhere else. I am now rasing quiet a few of my own. I found they really like Holly Hawks. Good luck and keep writing!

Krysanthium on February 21, 2017:

Hey there,

I think I found one of these in Nebraska! I am going to try to get him to change. I am guessing he is a little younger because I don't see any stripes yet but it is the closest I have seen on the web. I am going to try to keep him alive and keep you posted.

Thanks for the page!

Chantal Gall on April 01, 2016:

Our garden and our houses are being invaded by these caterpillars

My first question is WHY?

Is it due to temperature or their predators disappearing?

We live at berowra Waters on the hawkesbury river and there is an invasion. We don't want to kill them, but we don't like them in our houses.

please help us to get rid of them without harming them.

Chantal herlihy

josie on January 14, 2016:

I have these little guy running around my garden eating all my plants. I have a bad habit of walking around with no shoes i get so scared when they cross my path I feel like if I step on one of them they are going to sting me

Vivienne on December 10, 2015:

I picked one up just then and after crawling around my hand for a bit it stopped and started to try to munch on my arm. The place it munched me is now pink and itchy. :(

luv-Heather on November 02, 2015:

Hello! It's around 10 P.M. I went outside to throw the trash in the can, and as I was walking back to the carport door, I saw a fully black woolly worm! I love these little guys! So, I picked him up and called for my 11 yr old daughter to check him out. When I laid him down, I noticed something strange. The little guy would ball up, sprawl back out moving in weird directions, and continue this all on his back. I tried flipping him face-down, but he just rolled back onto his back. I read the article and even the comments, but found nothing (except for the lady who said flies killed sad). Maybe that's what's wrong with this little guy..? I put him back outside, unsure of what to do. Plz enlighten me! Thanx so much! BTW, beautiful pics!

Chris on October 30, 2015:

I just found one curled up in my backyard in Alexandria, VA. It was eating all my plants.

Alyssa on October 16, 2015:

I've currently got three in a critter terrarium. I'm 99% sure i have a GLM, but that fuzzy can be prickly, not painful, just prickly, like lightly holding a handful of tacks

Katie on August 11, 2015:

I have been wondering what it was for days. I found it as i was leaving work. It was crawling on the ground not on grass. I have been trying all kinds of plants for it to eat. It has molted once since i have gottwn it. Thats good its not doesnt sting or anything,my kids keep wantung to touch it. There beautiful i cant wait till it turns into one. I figured it was nocturnel isnwas moving around the other night.

Bill on May 28, 2015:

my dog found it, she smelled it under a deck post. We got it out, didn't know what it was and then put it back.

midge on October 20, 2014:

Thank you easy to get info I have seen these on my screens usually when we have a lot of winter moths but didn't see a catapillar until a few days ago. I didn't raise it I saw it just mosying along out back. I have a pic of one I have never identified . It got in the house one night I thought it was a small bird. Is there a way I can upload it for you?

smash591 on March 31, 2014:

Tonight my daughters found a GLM crawling across the pool deck. We picked him up with a dustpan and hit the internet to find out what it was and if its dangerous. Now the girls are fighting over who will touch it first. LOL

kodiyak on February 24, 2014:

yesterday a giant leopard moth caterpillar inch right up on me while i was on the porch and tried to enter my home so i made him a habitat. i can't wait to see this 'giant' moth

mommahoss on February 19, 2014:

I found two wooley boogers on the ground yesterday afternoon. It's February. I thought it was a little early for these guys.

Dawn from Maryland, USA on November 17, 2013:

What a very, very cool lens. I just realized, last weekend, that these catepillars are different than the ones with the red band that supposedly predict winter. So cool to see a lens right after I spent time with one of these wolly bears!

CrazyHomemaker on November 05, 2013:

I've seen the caterpillars but I've never seen the moth. I definitely wouldn't forget it if I did!!! Really nice lens. Thanks.

Fay Favored from USA on October 16, 2013:

I can't say that I have, but you made it interesting. This would be a great science lesson for the classroom.

margo-seiple on September 22, 2013:

Great info & pix! We're in Northeastern NC & we found one clinging to the side of a brick wall in our carport, surrounded by brick & concrete, not a plant in sight! So we gathered up a variety of leaves from the many plants & bushes in our yards & he's been doing fine, looking forward to seeing his transformation

anonymous on September 16, 2013:

I live in Arizona - the Phoenix area. I have a home in the mountains at 6800 ft elevation. The bristly black caterpillars are abundant there this time of year. I decided to bring a few back to the school where I work as a preschool teacher. The kids are so very excited to raise "Harry, Prickles, and Spike". I found all the information here on your sight very helpful. Thank you.

anonymous on July 21, 2013:

Thanks to your website I was able to ID the caterpillar that is devouring my Amaryllis as the Giant Leopard Moth. Plant and caterpillar have been on my kitchen counter for a week and as the caterpillar is HUGE I expect it to pupate soon. Very exciting!

anonymous on July 07, 2013:

Emily W

I just found a caterpillar that's really spikey and I named it Scruffy and

I want to raise it .

anonymous on June 29, 2013:

I recently came across several of these critters, ive seen them all my life growing up in central texas. My grandmother always told me they were little stingers that cover the worm so I never paid much mind to them.About a month ago I started catching them by hand and built a habitat for them to live in so my stepdaughter could have something neat to do this summer, we started with ten of them, and each one has a drop of fingernail polish in different colors of course to identify them and each one has been named. Atbthe moment I have 6 left. We left our habitat outbside one day and it became over run with flys. I didn't pay any attention to it just opened the lid and let them out but within a few hours several of our worms began acting strange crawling around and writhing all of the container like they were in severe agony. The first one died I threw it out, then our largest worm pinky began to lie still, and excreted a mess of frass and strange liquid. At one point the entire intestine was hanging out of its butthole, by the next morning the worm was an empty tube of an exoskeleton. I picked it up on to notice a maggot crawl out of the butt. Ive lost 3 woems like this, so be sure to make your habitat other insect proof by putting screen over the airholes. Its kinda sad to see these little guys suffer like that and not really knowing what to do or how to keep them from suffering. I guess I could have just smashed them but it was heartbreaking enough to see how upset my little girl was , she has become very attached to them. I would like to share photos with anyone interested or if anyone has any more information about caring for these woolly boogers please feel free to email me @ thanks Mike

anonymous on May 25, 2013:

@anonymous: I have a picture but no option to share it

anonymous on May 25, 2013:

I found this group on my oak tree in Virginia. They are all black no spots of any other color. Not fuzzy but have spikes with fine hairs. I never seen these before and can not match them on line. I found the black peacock butterfly catapillar but that is in Europe.

anonymous on May 23, 2013:

Our caterpillar has barely moved for 4 days! We thought he was molting and left him alone but he hasn't eaten and barely moved in 4 days. What's going on?! (Yes, he is still alive).

anonymous on May 02, 2013:

My grandson has a Leopard Moth Caterpillar...he is & and loves Mr. Fuzzy Butt

bbsoulful2 on April 30, 2013:

When my older two boys were little, we always had an assortment of bug houses on the porch, and we raised luna moths from caterpillars every year -- the cocoons have to overwinter in the refrigerator, and then the moth doesn't even emerge until July!

Congrats (belatedly) on LotD. Blessed by a Giant Squid!

PS - We found this lens because we just collected a "black fuzzy caterpillar," and we were looking it up!

anonymous on April 28, 2013:

When I was younger,I lived near the downtown district and these were quite commons(South Texas BTW). Primarily on trees.Myth was that they sting you.Thanks for clearing that up btw.Only ones that did sting were these small ones(about an inch I believe).Bright fuzzy yellow caterpillars,no visible bands.They would fall of the tree leaves and leave a burning sting.

anonymous on March 05, 2013:

I see these moths and caterpillars in my back yard all the time :) I wanna pet the fuz balls... Can I?

anonymous on February 09, 2013:

Hi, My husband found (lil jimmy) leopard moth his work he is correctional officer..out in the rec yard.. he walked around with him on his shirt.. some of the imates were freaked out by it.. my husband just laugh at them hard life crimals scared of lil jimmy.. that is his name..he brought him home.. I was like omg.. I looked up site about caterpillars.. and came across your site.. so much info thank you for that.. my lil jimmy did to so well he did molt... never went into a cocoon, its been cold.. thinking that caterpillars went into hiberantion ,, I think he died..I put him out on my flower box... outside.. its amazed me how much I got attached to him.. made me cry... I hope someday if we ever come across another we will do better..I just love watching him.. he like to climb on us...around our necks...well I thought I would say thank you for having this site so we can learn :)

anonymous on January 26, 2013:

We found one 2 days ago. It was curled up under leaves on the ground. We temporarily have him in a jar and are working on a new habitat. Luckily, we found what he likes to eat. He's climbing around pretty well. Gonna keep him to watch the change. Can't wait to see the beautiful Giant Leopard Moth he turns into.

anonymous on January 25, 2013:

She was on a log so today I went and collected lots of different stuff :) thanks so much this is really cool

puzzlerpaige (author) on January 25, 2013:

@anonymous: Hi. When they are in the cocoon, they don't need any mist. The best clue for food is the plant it was on when you found it. Other than that, yes try different things. I don't have any experience with rose flowers or leaves etc. Good luck with everything!

anonymous on January 25, 2013:

Wow this is really cool I found one of these yesterday my buddy sent me a link to your site :) I have mine in a jar but after reading all the comments Im going to try to make him a nice habitat :) I read someone say they gave it rose flowers to eat did they like it I put some palm leaves I think she liked those I will check more closely today so when they cacoon do you still mist water in the cage or just leave them alone the whole time? Thanks for this site its very helpful :)

May Matthew on January 25, 2013:

So beautiful and informative. Thank you from a fellow insect lover!

anonymous on January 03, 2013:

Hi! I've learned SO much from your site, thank you! I found one of these caterpillars a few days ago in my garage in San Antonio, Tx. We set up a habitat indoors to observe with my little girl & it was thriving. Now the weather changed & it's finally winter here! We added lots of old leaves to the habitat for it to overwinter in & it's back in the garage to keep real cool. I'm trying to keep things as natural as possible. My question what to look for next? It's buried deep in the leaves & we can't see it anymore - how do we care for it now & for how long? Do we continue to provide food if its hibernating? Thanks in advance, we're fascinated with this little dude!

anonymous on December 13, 2012:

Hi there, we found one yesterday at the park. I then found this site :-). We went back today and it's still there, it have kinda buried itself under grass on the ground. Up here in VA we now have below freezing temp. Will sleep throu winter ? Can we put it in a container and watch it turn into a moth ?

anonymous on December 07, 2012:

I found one by my front door and put it in a clear plastic container with holes for air,,it built a cacoon and is now a white with black spots moth. I don't know wht to feed it now that it is a moth,,a fed it roses and leaves from my bushes out front..and how long does it live as a moth,,and do I give it water?

anonymous on November 25, 2012:

I just read your excellent article on planting milkweed from seed. I just took some seeds off of my milkweed I bought and planted a month ago, so thank you!

They are seeding now in central Texas, so that's obviously when nature "plants" them, and I did put some in the ground, hoping for luck. But now I'm eager to try to raise the next batch of seeds by hand.

Thank you for the warning about looking for organically raised plants. I had bought the first milkweed plants I've ever been able to find in a nursery, and it never dawned on me to ask if they were pesticide-free. I did notice some large caterpillars on them, and they disappeared right after I noticed them. I didn't know if they got eaten or made a chrysalis. I found no evidence of that or of dead caterpillars.

So sorry about your disaster with your storebought plants, that's so heartbreaking, when you've watched those little miracles grow from eggs.

Does anybody have experience with storebought milkweed plants, status unknown? If we wash the leaves and stems off with Dr. Bronners or some other organic soap, is it possible to get the poison off, does anybody know?

Thanks for making this forum possible! It is so fun to learn and share with other butterfly lovers!

anonymous on November 25, 2012:

@puzzlerpaige: Puzzlemaker, this is such a wonderful site, especially the question and answer page! I'm an ex-teacher, now working in a park near Fredericksburg, TX, and find myself looking up so many things I'm seeing in nature, that I want to share with children. We are seeing these caterpillars by the score this week, and I'm so happy to know what lovely moths I'll be seeing soon! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

anonymous on November 25, 2012:

@anonymous: Valerie, it's wonderful that you are interested in moths and caterpillars. Yes, outside is always best, when you find a caterpillar. I put mine under a shelter like on a porch to protect them a bit from the weather, since they are in a cage.

If you find a caterpillar eating a plant, then those are the leaves you feed her with. I know that most butterflies lay their eggs only on their own special plant, and that's all the caterpillars will eat when they hatch out. Moths may not be quite so particular, we'll have to see.

If you find one in the street, like you did, you'll have to experiment with the plants mentioned on the website and see what she will eat.

By the way, a cage out of netting (like for dance skirts) makes a good cage they can't get out of....You can cover the lid of a wide jar or box with it, and keep it tight with a big rubber band, so she can get air. I put a coffee filter in the bottom...That makes it easy to clean out her frass and the old branches. We use a paint brush to gently pick up the caterpillars so we can clean house.

If she has made her cocoon, let her sit undisturbed until she hatches out. As soon as she hatches out, and her wings dry out, you need to let her climb up a stick to get out, or fly out if she can, so she doesn't hurt her wings trying to fly out of the cage...and she will lay some eggs on her favorite plant! Then when new caterpillars hatch out, you can begin again. Good luck!

anonymous on November 19, 2012:

@anonymous: Hi, I am currently raising a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar and yes Dana it does drink water. I usually use a clean misting bottle. A couple squirts usually does the trick. I have let it drink from the palm of my clean hand, about 6 to 8 drops and it seems to have had enough.

anonymous on November 17, 2012:

Can you put multiples of these caterpillars in one big cage? I have about 10 and do they need any water at all??

anonymous on November 17, 2012:

Can you put multiples of these caterpillars in one big cage? I have about 10 and do they need any water at all??

anonymous on November 12, 2012:

Hi im 11 and my mom just found one on the street and we put it in a jar. Then we found this site. We live in San Diego California and it's hot out but my house is cold. I now keep Moldy in a pet career with a lot of greens. Should I put him outside? He is only 1inch and when he's a moth will he give me any eggs? Should I let him go? Plez respond I need the awnsere! Thx!

anonymous on November 11, 2012:

there are hundreds on our farm. cute little guys who love it when you stroke their backs

anonymous on November 10, 2012:

Just found one today!!!!! And my kids are loving him like a pet! We are keeping him outside in a big plastic ventillated bowl along with grass since we found him eating grass and leaves with sticks. We are in central Texas so the weather changes often! Thank you for the website and information on these creatures!

anonymous on November 09, 2012:

What do you feed them when the leaves turn?

puzzlerpaige (author) on November 07, 2012:

@anonymous: Hi Sam,

Although it is tempting to bring the little guy inside, personally, I would leave him out in the garage (same temp as outside). Just make sure his tank is a good replica of his natural habitat in your area. In other words, dirt in the bottom, then leaves and sticks etc. so he can do what he would naturally do. Remember, we want to enjoy watching the natural process without altering it. This can take lots of patience! Don't worry about him. When he gets cold enough, his body will slow down etc. naturally. I hope everything goes well!

You are a budding entomologist! I encourage you to keep up the good work and continue studying moths, butterflies and other insects.

anonymous on November 07, 2012:

I'm 12 and found a Great Leopard Caterpillar on September 2nd. I have been keeping him in a tank in my garage, but it is getting really cold out, much colder than it should be for November. In fact, it is snowing outside (i live on Long Island, New York) as i type this. I'm worried it is too cold for him, but my house has the heat on and i worry it will be unnatural for him. Should I keep him in my garage or move him in my house? Please respond ASAP, since i want the best for him. Thanks!

anonymous on November 07, 2012:

I found one of these at my job, on one of those parking things. He was crawling around, loking at everything. I found some leaves and he seemed to like them. But I'm confused. Instead of little orange stripes he has dark orange polka dots on him. Does that mean that my little Resees Cup is sick? Please let me know.

anonymous on November 04, 2012:

@anonymous: outside is where he would naturally be and survive so he shouldn't have any problems coping with it. :)

anonymous on November 04, 2012:

do caterpillars drink water? or will he get it from the leaves?

anonymous on November 04, 2012:

I am in WI and found 1 in my window well last week,I never seen 1 like this before,so big and fuzzy,I think he fell into the well twice,the 2nd time I put him in a bucket with grass and a variety of leaves and sticks,I do not know how common they r around here,he does not seem to be moving much,I want to put him back out in the environment but I feel it might be too cold,any advice?

WinWriter on October 30, 2012:

What an interesting topic. We saw one of these little guys yesterday while walking in our side yard. It was crawling along in the grass. A little alarming-looking at first. I'm so glad to have found your lens. *Blessed *

puzzlerpaige (author) on October 29, 2012:

@anonymous: We are homeschoolers too :). I hope it all goes well. Please report back with any successes and/or issues. All info helps!

puzzlerpaige (author) on October 29, 2012:

@anonymous: You are asking all of the right questions. I've never overwintered one here in Florida, but everything I read says pretty much the same thing...exactly what you have stated. Don't mess with nature - let the caterpillar do what he would normally do.

I'd say yes to the porch if you have some way of making a dirt bottom with lots of leaves. I wouldn't make it warmer.

I'd also offer some food, but since you found him in the driveway there's no way to know what he was eating. Do some research and offer him as many food options as you can in case he still needs food.

Please let us know what happens this coming spring, or whenever you see him active again. If you are successful with this, I'd like to add your specific procedure here to help others who want to do the same.

Thank you!

anonymous on October 29, 2012:

(10.29.2012) We are in PA, and today it is cold (42 degrees), and extremely windy & rainy. (hurricane sandy rain...) We found "Bear" (that's what my daughters named him because he's so bulky!) in our driveway, soaking wet. We brought him in and put him in a mesh butterfly house we had. I know we can't allow him to not hibernate and to change into a moth at this point because we're heading into winter, so what should we do? I've read that you say to put him outside to allow him to follow the temperature changes. So should I just put the butterfly mesh house outside on our porch? What do I need to put in it? Jt sticks, leaves or do I need to make it warmer?

anonymous on October 26, 2012:

I just found one in my yard today and thought my son would love it! I have to say its the largest catapillar I've ever seen. I wanted to make sure it wasn't poisonous before letting him handle it and came across your site. We live in central Kentucky and its starting to get chilly, so I hope everything goes well with it. My son has named him Alexander (his middle name lol). We homeschool and are using this as a learning experience. I'm so excited for him to be able to see this moth! We're going to keep pictures of the process! Thanks for the wonderful information!

anonymous on October 22, 2012:

I found one of these caterpillars outside eating some grass last night near my sidewalk, he's huge probably about 3 1/2" long, it was so cute I grabbed my kids bug catcher bucket and put it in front of him and he went crawling right in! Lol I'm in baltimore, md and the nights are gettingchilly, I read about keeping him outside and about hibernating, but what if I keep him indoors and he does change early, could I just keep him inside til spring? How long is their lifespan after becoming a moth?also then I'm wondering if I do that and its dead of winter there will be no flowers! So if I put him outside then around what temperature is toooo coldto survive? Although in the wild he would be out in the elements...sorry for the hundred questions, just trying to be the best mommy I can :) I btw have never seen this moth before either. Very beautiful! I'm excited thanks!! -Jamie

anonymous on October 18, 2012:

I found a few here in Worcester County in Mass. Will they make it through the winter, have never seen this type of moth, or caterpillar before..

anonymous on October 18, 2012:

I just found one today outside in my back yard. It's about 5:30pm. I came straight inside to check to see about it either being poisonous or stinging and your site here was the first I chose to look at. Amazing creatures! Thanks for all of the information. I wish I had something to keep it in so my daughter (3 years old) and I could watch it change into a moth. What a beautiful moth it becomes! Thanks again.

anonymous on October 16, 2012:

We found one yesterday in Central Massachusetts in the mulch on the side of our house. So cool!! We have it in a butterfly habitat with a variety of leaves. Looking forward to seeing the process!

puzzlerpaige (author) on October 16, 2012:

@anonymous: I am so sorry for the late reply. Yes, you are right. If you keep him indoors he probably will not overwinter. It is best to keep him outdoors (out of the sun) so he will do what his inner clock/thermostat tell him to do. The concern is that if he changes, and is released into the freezing temps, he may die. I hope all is going well with it.

puzzlerpaige (author) on October 16, 2012:

@anonymous: Christine,

Depending on where you live, your caterpillar *may* overwinter (hibernate) to survive the freezing temps of winter. Where I live (warm sunny Florida) the temperatures do not get extreme so we can raise these amazing little critters and release them most times of the year. The temperature where you are is the key.

puzzlerpaige (author) on October 16, 2012:

@anonymous: I'd say the most important thing is for the caterpillar to experience the normal temperatures/changing of the seasons for your area. This means leaving him outdoors during the process. But NOT in the sun. If you want to watch him change, you may have to wait until spring. He *may* overwinter where you are.

A concern with keeping it inside (when it gets cold outside) is that this may cause it to change into a moth before the time is right. If it changes into a moth, and is then released into freezing temps, it will die.

If you are willing to wait it out (and it *is* worth the effort!) Make sure it has plenty of food, sticks, dirt, leaves in its container. Its food is most likely the plant you found it on. Keep check on it and it will do what is normal and natural for the temperature. Good luck with your little critter!

anonymous on October 14, 2012:

We found one tonight in Western Massachusetts crawling up the siding of a house toward a light. Excited to watch the process. Please offer advice...will follow as much as we can from the article.

anonymous on October 14, 2012:

@anonymous: I found a large one of these today 10/14/12.. I have him in a jar with plenty of air holes and some grass and leaves and sticks for him to climb onto. I have named mine Charley... I am anxious for him to start building his wed and to transform to that beautiful moth... Can not wait to watch this.

anonymous on October 14, 2012:

I think I saw one today, here in West Virginia. I haven't seen that type of moth though.

puzzlerpaige (author) on October 10, 2012:

@anonymous: Please let us know how many days it takes. And let us know your location. Thanks!