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North American Caterpillar Identification

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The caterpillar of the beautiful garden tiger moth

The caterpillar of the beautiful garden tiger moth

A Guide to Common North American Caterpillars

This guide to the more common caterpillars of North America is for gardeners, students, and anyone who has an interest in the natural world. Almost everyone will come across a caterpillar at one time or another; this guide helps you identify the most commonly encountered species.

I have been helping people ID specimens ever since I was a kid. I am always happy to have friends and neighbors bring me insects for identification. Most of the time, it's something common yet cool, but once in a while, I come across a real puzzler. This guide is a bit of what I have learned over the years about caterpillars and insects in general.

Note: The following sizes and descriptions refer to full-grown larvae. Caterpillars molt up to five times before pupation, and they appear different at each stage (or instar). Interestingly, larvae don't simply shed their skins (like snakes do). They digest and reabsorb most of it.

Caterpillars in This Guide

25 of the Most Common Caterpillars in North America

  1. Banded Woolly Bear (13 fuzzy segments in a black-orange-black pattern)
  2. Tomato Hornworm (large and green, with seven white, V-shaped stripes on each side and a dark blue-black horn)
  3. Polyphemus Moth (large and green, with yellow stripes and red and orange bumps on each segment)
  4. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (green, with two false eyespots and well-defined segments)
  5. Giant Swallowtail (could be easily mistaken for bird poop)
  6. Black Swallowtail (black and green bands punctuated by yellow dots)
  7. Monarch Caterpillar (green, black, and yellow stripes, and two black antennae on each end)
  8. Tersa Sphinx (green or brown with two large eyespots near the head capsule followed by a line of smaller eyespots)
  9. Imperial Moth (large, spiky, and hairy, with yellow horns and two black-ringed white spots per segment)
  10. Noctua Pronuba (green or brown with a row of black marks on the dorsal region)
  11. Rustic Sphinx (bright green with a textured horn and diagonal yellow stripes outlined in purplish black or dark green)
  12. Banded Sphinx (green, yellow, or reddish pink with white-rimmed black spots and diagonal white stripes)
  13. Southern Flannel Moth (V)* (hairy caterpillars with long tails and no visible segments)
  14. White-Marked Tussock Moth (V) (hairy, with a red head and four tufts of white, grey, or yellow hair on their first four abdominal segments)
  15. American Dagger Moth (V) (white and fluffy, with long black tufts of hair on their backs)
  16. Saddleback Caterpillar (V) (bright green "saddle" and prickly spines protruding from various points along the body)
  17. European Gypsy Moth (V) (hairy, with five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots along their backs)
  18. Western Tent Caterpillar (A)** (hairy, with a pale blue head and a stripe of whitish-blue dashes (one per segment) along its back)
  19. Eastern Tent Caterpillar (A) (hairy, with a solid white stripe down its back and blue-patterned stripes on each side)
  20. Fall Webworm (A) (hairy and white, with black or orange heads and warts)
  21. Azalea Caterpillar (A) (black and hairy, with eight broken stripes (white or yellow) running parallel along their bodies and red legs and head capsules)
  22. Yellownecked Caterpillar (A) (black and hairy, with continuous yellow stripes, orange feet, and a yellow or orange band behind the head capsule)
  23. Contracted Datana Caterpillar (A) (hairy, with a large, black dorsal stripe and four whitish-cream and three black stripes on each side)
  24. Walnut Caterpillar (A) (black, with whitish-grey hairs protruding in rings from each segment)
  25. Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar (very furry, with black, orange, and white hairs mixed in)

*(V) = venomous

**(A) = may cause an allergic reaction

Continue scrolling for detailed descriptions and photos of these caterpillars! To see what some of these caterpillars look like when they turn into moths or butterflies, check out this guide!

Woollybear caterpillar

Woollybear caterpillar

1. Banded Woolly Bear

Scientific Name: Pyrrharctia isabella

Size: 5.7 cm

Hosts: many hosts, including herbs, birches, clover, corn, dandelions, elms, maples, grass, and sunflowers

Range: throughout the USA and southern Canada

These cats are a member of the Arctiidae family, which includes tiger moths and some of our most beautiful Lepidoptera. Woolly bears become the Isabella tiger moth.

How to Identify a Woolybear

Woolly bears are quite easy to identify. They have a black-orange-black pattern, though the width of the bands varies. They also have a distinctly fuzzy appearance, though their bristles are actually quite hard.

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This familiar orange and black caterpillar can often be found hustling across rural roads in late summer. Woolly bears often hibernate during winter under a rock or in a sheltered place. When they spin a cocoon, it includes the stiff bristles from their body. This makes handling the cocoon tricky and can leave you with tiny hairs stuck in your skin, like fiberglass insulation or some kinds of cactus. Not fun!

Note: While some people report handling these cats and their cocoons without any issues, touching banded woolly bears will often result in a hand full of little slivers, a little like what you might get from handling fiberglass insulation.

Tomato hornworm (note the blue horn)

Tomato hornworm (note the blue horn)

2. Tomato Hornworms

Scientific Name: Manduca quinquemaculata

Size: 10 cm

Hosts: plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), including potato, tobacco, and tomato

Range: Northern Mexico, most of the United States, and occasionally southern Canada. Uncommon in the Southeast and the Great Plains.

This caterpillar becomes a big, strong moth known as a hawkmoth. You can raise one or two to adulthood very easily if you're curious. Give them fresh tomato leaves and keep them in Tupperware. They'll turn into shiny brown pupae, then hatch into cool, big moths.

How to Identify a Tomato Hornworm

Tomato hornworms are often mistaken for tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta). The two look remarkably similar, and it can be very difficult to tell them apart. To make matters worse, the internet is completely unreliable on this subject, and the photos are very commonly mislabeled.

The best way to distinguish the two is to look at their stripes. The tomato hornworm has seven white stripes bordered by green, and its horn is blue. The tobacco hornworm, on the other hand, has six white stripes bordered by black, and its horn is red. Below are photos of both types of hornworm.

Tobacco hornworm (note the red horn and the black-banded stripes)

Tobacco hornworm (note the red horn and the black-banded stripes)

How to Get Rid of Hornworms

Both types of hornworm are familiar pests throughout North America. These big guys can completely destroy a tomato or tobacco plant (not to mention many other kinds of plants), and they eat both the leaves and the fruit.

If something is eating the leaves of your plant down to the stem, and there are big holes being gnawed in the tomatoes, then these big green crawlers are probably to blame. Have a look around the base of the plant for big caterpillar poops; they look a little like hand grenades. If the poops are there, there's no doubt that you have hornworms.

The best way to deal with them is to find them and pick them off by hand. Then you can drop them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them. You won't find every one, but you'll get enough to save your crop.

Polyphemus caterpillar

Polyphemus caterpillar

3. Polyphemus Moth

Scientific Name: Antheraea polyphemus

Size: 7 cm

Hosts: A wide variety of trees and shrubs, including oak, willow, maple, and birch

Range: Canada (except Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island), the United States (every state except Arizona and Nevada), and Mexico

The adult moths are truly spectacular. They're various shades of soft brown, with a big smokey eyespot on each hindwing. The single big eye gives them their name, Polyphemus, which refers to the one-eyed cyclops in The Odyssey.

How to Identify Polyphemus Moth Caterpillars

This big, green caterpillar has yellow stripes punctuated by red and orange bumps on each well-defined segment.

I used to find these crawling on the side of my house. They can sometimes be found in late summer, wandering around looking for a place to pupate. They spin oval cocoons, sometimes under your house's eaves or in evergreens near the crop plants.

Eastern tiger swallowtail immediately before pupation.

Eastern tiger swallowtail immediately before pupation.

4. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Scientific Name: Papilio glaucus

Size: 5.5 cm

Hosts: Leaves from plants including wild cherry, sweetbay (Magnolia), basswood, tulip tree, birch, ash, cottonwood, mountain ash, and willow

Range: eastern North America from Ontario south to the Gulf coast and west to the Colorado plains and central Texas

This pretty green species turns into the tiger swallowtail, a truly spectacular butterfly with bold yellow and black stripes. I once found a number of these big beauties clustered around an outhouse. They're also attracted to cigar smoke!

How to Identify Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillars

Mature larvae are green and have two false eyespots on their thoraxes. Fully grown caterpillars turn brown before pupation (i.e., immediately before forming a chrysalis).

All swallowtail caterpillars have a red or yellow forked organ behind their heads called an osmeterium. While it is normally hidden, caterpillars can evert (push out) their osmeteria if they feel threatened. The osmeterium looks like a small snake tongue, which might scare off predators. It smells bad too. This defensive organ is unique to swallowtails.

The gorgeous tiger swallowtail butterfly

The gorgeous tiger swallowtail butterfly


5. Giant Swallowtail

Scientific Name: Papilio cresphontes

Size: 6 cm

Hosts: Citrus, especially orange and lemon trees

Range: eastern North America from Wisconsin south to the Gulf coast and west to the Colorado plains and central Texas

How to Identify Giant Swallowtail Caterpillars

These cool caterpillars look a lot like bird poop, which may deter or fool birds and other predators. If that fails, they can deploy their osmeterium, a gland behind the head that pops out and looks like a snake's tongue. Special bonus: it also smells like rotting fruit!

Black swallowtail larva

Black swallowtail larva

6. Black Swallowtail

Scientific Name: Papilio polyxenes

Size: 5 cm

Hosts: leaves of a number of different umbelliferous species, including Queen Anne's Lace, carrot, celery, and dill; and plants in the citrus family (Rutaceae)

Range: most of the eastern USA, north into Quebec, west into southern Saskatchewan, Colorado, and southeastern California, and south to northern South America

The black swallowtail butterfly is gorgeous, flying among gardens and forest edges in mid-summer. It's one of the most common swallowtail butterflies in North America.

How to Identify Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

I have had these pretty green-and-black caterpillars—sometimes known as parsley worms—on my carrots every year since I can remember. They can be identified by their distinctive black and green bands, which are punctuated by yellow dots. Like the above species, this swallowtail has an osmeterium as well.

The Black Swallowtail

The Black Swallowtail

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

7. Monarch Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus

Size: 2.5–4.5 cm

Hosts: Milkweeds! (Interestingly, adult Monarch butterflies feed on milkweed nectar, so the food source for Monarch butterflies and their larvae is nearly identical.)

Range: Southern Canada through the USA, Central America, and most of South America. Also present in Australia, Hawaii, and some Pacific Islands.

One of the best-known butterflies in North America, the monarch is famous for its astounding winter migration across half a continent to the piney mountains in Mexico. That feat is enough to make the monarch impressive, but there is more.

How to Identify Monarch Caterpillars

Monarch caterpillars sport many narrow bands of black, yellow, green, and white. They also have four distinctive 'antennae,' two on each end.

Why Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat Milkweed?

The monarch caterpillar eats only milkweed plants, which have toxic white sap that flows when a leaf or branch is broken, giving the plant its common name. It's thought that this species takes on the poison of the milkweed's leaves, which protects it from predators; since the big orange butterfly is toxic, other butterflies try to copy it. This is called mimicry, and there are many species that look like the monarch for this reason.

The Monarch

The Monarch

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar

8. Tersa Sphinx

Scientific Name: Xylophanes tersa

Size: 10 cm

Hosts: smooth buttonplant, starclusters, Borreria, Catalpa, and Manettia

Range: From Massachusetts south to Florida and west to Nebraska, New Mexico, and southern Arizona. Also present in Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, and Argentina.

This cool-looking caterpillar belongs to the sphinx moth group, which includes the tomato hornworm and many other big species. The false eyes on the head may scare away predators, and it acts like a small snake when threatened. The moths are sleek and streamlined and look like a little jet plane.

How to Identify Tersa Sphinx Caterpillars

These caterpillars can be either green, black, or brown, though all have two large false eyespots near the front of their heads, followed by smaller eyespots in lines down their bodies. These eyes follow a whitish line that runs the length of their bodies and spreads downwards in diagonal slashes.

Imperial Moth Larva

Imperial Moth Larva

9. Imperial Moth

Scientific Name: Eacles imperialis

Size: 7.5–10 cm

Hosts: conifers and deciduous trees and shrubs including pine, oak, sycamore, maples, sweet gum, and sassafras

Range: from Maine west to eastern Nebraska and south to the Florida Keys and central Texas

This caterpillar is huge (one of the largest in North America!). It eats maples and sycamores, and when it leaves the tree to look for a place to pupate, you may find it roaming around outside.

The moth that this big crawler becomes, Eacles imperialis, is known as the imperial moth. It's mottled orange and yellow and looks a lot like a big fallen leaf—an example of effective cryptic coloring.

How to Identify Imperial Moth Caterpillars

This spiky caterpillar has yellow horns and two black-ringed white spots per segment (one on each side of its body). These cats can be either brown or green.

Note: Despite its horns and size, it's completely harmless.

Noctua Pronuba Larva

Noctua Pronuba Larva

10. Noctua Pronuba

Scientific Name: Noctua pronuba

Size: 4.5 cm

Hosts: weedy and cultivated plants, including cherry tomatoes, beets, and grapes

Range: native to Eurasia and Africa, but were accidentally introduced to Nova Scotia in 1979 and have since spread to Alaska, California, and British Columbia

This species is a kind of cutworm, a group that feeds on low plants, often eating through the stem near the ground and cutting down the plant like a lawnmower. Noctua pronuba was unknown in North America until the 1970s, when it was introduced on the east coast. Within a few decades, it had spread all the way across the continent, feeding on all kinds of plants.

This is a pretty moth that has quite a variety of colors. The forewings, or primaries, may be dark brown or light tan. The underwings are bright yellow, which is how it got its name in Britain, "the large yellow underwing."

How to Identify Noctua Pronuba Larvae

These cats come in various shades of green and brown and can be identified by the row of black marks on their dorsal region.

Rustic Sphinx Larva

Rustic Sphinx Larva

11. Rustic Sphinx

Scientific Name: Manduca rustica

Size: 9 cm

Hosts: fringe tree and jasmine, bushy matgrass, knockaway, and Bignonia species

Range: From Virginia to south Florida and west to Arkansas, Texas, southern New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. South through Central America to Uruguay. Occasionally present in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.

Another large hornworm, Sphinx rustica, has become quite common across the South and parts of the West. The caterpillar is gorgeous, but the moth is really cool-looking too—big and thick-bodied, with rich, rusty brown wings and black and white markings.

How to Identify Rustic Sphinx Larvae

These bright green cats have diagonal yellow stripes outlined in purplish-black or dark green. They also sport the typical hornworm horn, though unlike other hornworm species, theirs has a granulated texture. In their final cat stage, their dorsal surfaces turn a reddish-brown color.

Sphinx rustica caterpillar

Sphinx rustica caterpillar

Banded Sphinx Larva

Banded Sphinx Larva

12. The Banded Sphinx

Scientific Name: Eumorpha fasciatus

Size: 7.5 cm

Hosts: plants in the evening primrose family

Range: From northern Argentina through Central America and Mexico to southern California and southern Arizona, and from southern Arizona east to Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina. Occasionally present in Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Nova Scotia.

This gorgeous specimen can be fairly common in Florida and other southern states, though this species is essentially tropical, ranging through the Caribbean and into Central and South America. It becomes a truly spectacular moth. This caterpillar is big and bright enough that people often find it on branches of their preferred food plant, water primrose.

How to Identify Banded Sphinx Caterpillars

The appearance of these cats is quite varied, from mostly green to yellowy with pink and black cross-stripes, red feet, and red-edged green stripes. Their most common features are white-rimmed black spiracles (they look almost like tiny eyes) and diagonal white stripes.

Banded Sphinx Caterpillar

Banded Sphinx Caterpillar

13. Southern Flannel Moth (a.k.a. The Asp)

Scientific Name: Megalopyge opercularis

Size: 3.5–4 cm

Hosts: shrubs and trees, including almond, apple, hackberry, oak, orange, pecan, persimmon, and rose

Range: From Maryland to Florida and west to Missouri and Texas. Occasionally present in New York and Pennsylvania.

This stinging species sometimes drops out of trees and onto people. The sting of the asp, which is also known as the puss caterpillar, can be quite severe. Pain can radiate into other limbs and can last for a day or more. These are more common in the South, where their appearance—and their stings—are often well known.

How to Identify a Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar

Asps come in many colors, from grey-flecked black and golden brown to fiery orange. It often has a bright orange streak running along its side. Their bodies taper into a long tail. Young larvae may have very curly hair, giving them a fluffy look.

Asp Caterpillar

Asp Caterpillar

What to Do if You're Stung by a Puss Caterpillar

While being stung by a puss caterpillar is incredibly painful, it won't kill you, so don't panic. This procedure applies to the asp as well as all other stinging caterpillars!

  1. Place tape (any kind works, but Scotch or duct tape are ideal) sticky side down on the affected area and pull it off to remove the spines. Repeat until spines are gone.
  2. Apply ice packs to the affected area.
  3. Make a paste with baking soda and water, and apply it to the affected area.

Note: If you have a history of asthma, hay fever, or allergies, or if you develop an allergic reaction after being stung, call your doctor immediately.

The Asp Caterpillar

The Asp Caterpillar

White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

14. White-Marked Tussock Moth

Scientific Name: Orgyia leucostigma

Size: 3.5 cm

Hosts: more than 140 known hosts, including apple, alder, birches, balsam fir, and larch

Range: Eastern North America

This cool-looking species can be commonly found on trees in urban areas. They eat almost anything—including decorative hawthorns and acacias—and when they have a population explosion, they can strip the leaves off of entire trees.

The moth that these ones become is fairly plain, and the female doesn't even have wings—just a furry body that never really leaves the cocoon. The males fly to the female, they mate, and the female lays a foamy mass of eggs right on the cocoon!

How to Identify White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillars

These cats are known for their distinct red head (with two hairy 'antennae') and four tufts of hair (either white, grey, or yellow) on their first four abdominal segments. They have a broad black stripe along their back, with yellow stripes on either side and two red glands towards the end of their abdomen. They have many other tufts of hair near their legs and abdomen.

Note: White-marked tussock moth caterpillars also have irritating spines that can cause a rash in some people, so handle with care!

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

15. American Dagger Moth

Scientific Name: Acronicta americana

Size: 5 cm

Hosts: various trees, including alder, ash, birch, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, walnut, and willow

Range: Eastern North America

The American dagger moth is a member of the very large genus Acronicta, a group that has interesting caterpillars and fairly drab adult moths. Other members of this group, such as the funerary dagger moth, feature caterpillars that are truly weird looking. I always thought it odd that cool caterpillars make "boring" moths, but the pattern is often repeated across the insect world.

How to Identify American Dagger Moth Caterpillars

These fluffy, white caterpillars are characterized by several long, black tufts (or setae) on their back. These setae are what can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillar

16. Saddleback Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Acharia stimulea

Size: 2.5 cm

Hosts: many plants, including aster, blueberry, citrus, corn, dogwood, elm, grape, linden, maple, oak, and sunflower

Range: from Massachusetts to Florida and west to eastern Missouri and Texas

This one can sting, as I found out by accident when I was a boy, and I handled one of these cool-looking larvae carelessly—I wound up with a nasty, stinging rash on my hands. Saddlebacks belong to the Limacodidae family, which also includes other stinging specimens of various interesting designs.

These caterpillars turn into a pretty brown moth with a variety of green and orange patches on the upper wings.

How to Identify Saddleback Caterpillars

These cats are hard to miss! They sport LOTS of poisonous spines, the largest of which project from the head and abdomen. The "saddle" refers to the green patch on this larva's back, which has a large, purple-brown spot in the center.

European Gypsy Moth Larva

European Gypsy Moth Larva

17. European Gypsy Moth

Scientific Name: Lymantria dispar dispar

Size: 4–5 cm

Hosts: hardwood trees, including apple, oak, poplar, alder, willow, hawthorn

Range: Native to Europe and Asia, this species has since spread to North America. They are present from New England west to Michigan and south to Virginia, as well as from California north to British Columbia.

How to Identify European Gypsy Moth Caterpillars

Though these cats are often confused for tent caterpillars, they are easy to identify because of the distinctive pairs of blue and red dots (five and six pairs, respectively) that run down their backs. They don't make webs ("tents"), either.

Western Tent Caterpillar Larvae

Western Tent Caterpillar Larvae

Western Tent Caterpillar Nest

Western Tent Caterpillar Nest

Western Tent Caterpillar Nest

Western Tent Caterpillar Nest

18. Western Tent Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Malacosoma californicum

Size: 4.5–5 cm

Hosts: a range of tree and shrub species, including aspen, willow, crabapple, poplar, and mahogany

Range: from southeastern Canada to New York and west to the Pacific Coast

How to Identify Western Tent Caterpillars

These cats are extremely variable in appearance, which can make them challenging to identify. Most mature larvae have a pale blue head followed by a stripe of whitish blue dashes (one per segment) that runs along their back. This stripe is outlined on either side by black-bordered bands of black or orange, below which tufts of white-tipped orange hairs run the length of their bodies.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

19. Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Malacosoma americanum

Size: 5.7 cm

Hosts: trees belonging to the rose family, such as apple, cherry, and crabapples

Range: from central eastern USA up to the Rockies, and Canada from Nova Scotia to Alberta

How to Identify Eastern Tent Caterpillars

These larvae have blue-patterned stripes running along each side and a solid white stripe running down the center of their back. Tufts of hair (ranging from whitish to orangey-brown) run below the blue stripes on both sides.

Fall Webworm Larva

Fall Webworm Larva

20. Fall Webworms

Scientific Name: Hyphantria cunea

Size: 2.5 cm

Hosts: close to 90 species of deciduous trees, including walnut, cherry, and crabapple

Range: present throughout the USA and in southern Canada

How to Identify Fall Webworms

Fully-grown larvae are covered in whitish hairs that protrude from pairs of warts along their backs. In northern regions, these warts are black, as is the head capsule, whereas both the warts and head capsule are orange in southern regions.

Azalea Caterpillar Larvae

Azalea Caterpillar Larvae

21. Azalea Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Datana major

Size: 5 cm long

Hosts: Azaleas

Range: from Nova Scotia to Florida and west to Kansas and Arkansas

How to Identify Azalea Caterpillars

If your dwindling crop of azaleas isn't clue enough, these cats are easy to identify (though they do look strikingly similar to the next caterpillar on this list). Their base color is black, with eight broken stripes (either white, yellow, or somewhere in between) running parallel down their bodies. Their legs and head are red, and sparse tufts of feathery white hair protrude from their sides.

Yellownecked Caterpillar Larva

Yellownecked Caterpillar Larva

22. Yellownecked Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Datana ministra

Size: 5 cm long

Hosts: many trees, such as birches, elms, maples, and apple

Range: throughout the eastern United States

How to Identify Yellownecked Caterpillars

This cat, while quite visually similar to Datana major, can be distinguished by several distinct features. It differs from the latter in the following ways. It sports a yellow or orange band behind its head, and while the Azalea Caterpillar's stripes are broken, those of the Yellowneck are not. Its feet are also orange rather than red.

Contracted Datana Caterpillar

Contracted Datana Caterpillar

23. Contracted Datana Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Datana contracta

Size: 5 cm long

Hosts: trees, such as sycamores, chestnuts, and oaks

Range: from Maine south to Florida and west to Arkansas and Wisconsin

How to Identify Contracted Datana Caterpillars

These cats look quite similar to Yellownecked Caterpillars, but they can be distinguished by their stripes. Contracted Datana Caterpillars have a large black stripe along the center of their backs, with four whitish-cream and three black stripes on each side.

Walnut Caterpillar Larva

Walnut Caterpillar Larva

24. Walnut Caterpillar

Scientific Name: Datana integerrima

Size: 5 cm long

Hosts: leaves of trees in the walnut family, such as walnut, hickory, and pecan

Range: From Minnesota to Texas and Quebec to Florida. Also present in Arizona.

How to Identify Walnut Caterpillars

These caterpillars have black bodies with whitish-grey hairs that protrude in rings from each segment.

The garden tiger, a mostly western species, is one of the most spectacular moths in North America.

The garden tiger, a mostly western species, is one of the most spectacular moths in North America.

25. Garden Tiger Moth

Scientific Name: Arctia caja

Size: 5 cm long

Hosts: Many different plants, from foxgloves to plantain

Range: Northern areas of North America, including Canada

These very furry caterpillars are typically dark brown to black, with orange near the ventral (under) side of the body. They are part of the large group of tiger moths (Arctiinae) that are found worldwide. The moths are strikingly beautiful.


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The following sources were consulted for this guide:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: What kind of caterpillar is brownish-black with a single white or yellowish band right in the middle? I've only seen it on my dill plants.

Answer: That's the immature form of the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.

Question: I have a caterpillar with a black body and uniform gold dots all over. Can you identify it? It's on dill.

Answer: Yes, this is the black swallowtail in its immature form. It won't really hurt your dill, and the adult butterfly is gorgeous.

Question: What kind of caterpillar has a white body with black spikes?

Answer: That's the caterpillar of the very cool zebra butterfly.

Question: My caterpillar is not on here! It is striped yellow-orange and black. Can you tell me what it is?

Answer: It could be what's known as a "zebra caterpillar." Check it out on Google.

Question: There is a brown caterpillar with a big diamond on its back edge with a white line. Any thoughts on what it might be?

Answer: Could be a kind of "prominent" caterpillar. Check out genus "Heterocampa."

Question: Do you know what a brown caterpillar with yellow vertical stripes turns into?

Answer: It could be a "zebra caterpillar," and it turns into a pretty brown moth.

Question: What caterpillars feed on pecan trees? They have a black body with white hair.

Answer: Sounds like a kind of webworm -- maybe fall webworm.

Question: Are puss or ASP caterpillars found in the Northeast?

Answer: Yes, but only occasionally.


mj finken on August 17, 2020:

I found a black caterpillar with white dots.It is on my oregon maple bush

Ken on August 13, 2020:

We have Black swallowtail here in the Peace Country of BC

Nancy Schiesl on August 11, 2020:

Near Plattsburgh, NY - large, fat black/dark brown caterpillar with white spikes/knobs in rows and some hair. Cannot find identification anywhere.

grant on August 06, 2020:


? on August 01, 2020:

My caterpillar is a camouflage green with a head about the same color with the smallest hint of orange it also has two faint gray stripes down it's sides and a blue dot near it's rear end. Do you know what it is?

ryan on July 19, 2020:

i cant even find my caterpiller on google

Elena on June 26, 2020:

I found a caterpillar that I haven't seen before. It's mainly black, and has a yellow line running down the sides of it. It also has white and orange hair sticking out of it. Can you help me identify it?

Gregg Shepherd on June 25, 2020:

I Found one of those gray camouflage ones too! Mines pretty big though. Looks just like realtree camouflage! Can’t identify it anywhere.

Brandi on June 07, 2020:

Red head and yellow stripes and eating every leaf on my liquid ambers. It’s some kind of tent moth. I see the tents but they are not in them anymore. No leaves left second year in a row.

Luna on May 31, 2020:

My caterpillar is small and light green with faint light green spots and a black shiny head it came out of a silver maple helicopter seed.


Madison Carstens on May 04, 2020:

I have found a caterpillar and have not been able to identify the caterpillar do have any ideas on how to identify it

Nella on April 18, 2020:

Found a green caterpillar with single horn on back end, light brown stripe on back from tip to tip, each segment has two black stripes forming an open "v" shape towards the back of each segment. Can send picture if needed.

Lea on April 13, 2020:

I can't seem to find out what kind of caterpillar ive found. Its mainly a grey camouflaged color, no hair, small, and doesn't have any thing like horns or a tail

Beca on March 24, 2020:

I found an orange caterpillar with a football lace like black stripe all the way down it’s body with little white pin point dots around it can you help me identify it?

Bella V. on March 22, 2020:

I found a brown caterpillar with a lighter brown line along its back.

Cool pool on February 25, 2020:

My catierpiller or worm is brown with a little fur and spikes on its back

kiwwi on February 19, 2020:

My caterpillar is brown without fur and has a camouflage design, do you know what it could be?

Velvet Mikesell on December 23, 2019:

Do you know what kind of bug this is It is the size of a caterpillar but not fuzzy at all and they’re black like the little ripples in appointed knows I would love to be able to send a picture but I don’t know how to do it

DannyT on October 14, 2019:

I found a caterpillar that is light brown fuzzy with a single dark brown stripe down it’s back. It has a black head and does not have long spikes. All the fuzziness is same length. Do you know what caterpillar this is?

chris lowry on October 09, 2019:

i found a large mostly yellow caterpillar with red and white striping very similar to the tomato horn worm with 7 white stripes on the sides yet it lacks a horn and is yellow not green i have looked and looked and i still cannot find an id

Ms. A on October 02, 2019:

I have a caterpillar that is green and has a red-brownish stripe going down its back. What is this one? Is it poisionous?

June Marie on October 01, 2019:

Fabulous site!

Evelyn on September 29, 2019:

Thank you for sending the article on identifying black caterpillars. I’d already read it, and thought that the cutworm was the closest match, but still not right.

I have a photo of the caterpillar I’m trying to id, but can’t seem to post it here. How do I send you the photo?

BTW, the caterpillar we’re trying to id is located in the Hudson Valley, New York.

Thank you.

Ihavenoaccount on September 26, 2019:

I found a bright green caterpillar with a bit of brown near its face and two red spots, with white and a couple red stripes. It’s face is green with a “y” kind of imprinted on it. I kind of think it’s an army worm, but now so sure.

Gianna on September 21, 2019:

I found a Dagger moth caterpillar

Betty Lusby on September 20, 2019:

In my photos I have a picture of a huge 5 to 6” green caterpillar. Big around as my thumb. I saw it in my photos today and am trying to learn what this monster is. Not having any luck.

emily l Massey on September 13, 2019:

caterpiller is all black with one whit stripe around the the center

Ellen Lander on September 12, 2019:

I found a white caterpillar with black dashes on its back in a straight line.

jam on September 12, 2019:

have a bunch of these yellowish long spikey haired caterpillars all over my front porch,

my 11 month either touched it or accidentally ate tiny piece before her daddy cld get it

ahe is broke out in red splotches n rashes

Sara McIntyre on September 10, 2019:

Found a catapillar that seems to be a cross of 2 kinds. It is yellow with 4 white tufts. Like a cross between a tussock and a yellow wooly .

Simon on September 10, 2019:

I found a caterpillar that looks like a giant swallowtail but smaller. When I gave a leaf to it, two red antennae came out of its head and it had shot a web at the leaf. It is brown with white or yellow splotches around it

Mary on September 07, 2019:

I has a smooth light turquoise caterpillar on my driveway. I believe it had yellow/ green eyes.

Amber on September 06, 2019:

Found a 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch long caterpillar red with yellow spots orange horns very little fuzz and only has six legs on the middle segments with horns on its chin and a hard stubby rear end, what type is it?

Abigail on August 24, 2019:

I found a caterpillar that has a wide very dark orange stripe down it’s back and black on the bottom. It has 9 tufts of fluffy fur. From the back, the first, 6th, and 8th tufts have black little spike hairs. Could u help me identify it? Thank u

Myrna Bramson on August 24, 2019:

Tomato red,smooth caterpillar with 2 rows of yellow dots down the back. Do you know it. Found it on milkweed.

Al Robinson on August 22, 2019:

I found two caterpillars that are all yellow fury, with black spikes sticking out of the body. What are these and are they harmfull.

Erika on August 12, 2019:

I found a caterpillar that has a yellow line cross its back and black dots near that line , it is blackish/grey in colour and has hairs. Could you please tell me what kind of caterpillar is that?

Thank you!

Maddy on August 11, 2019:

I found a caterpillar today on my porch. It was reddish white with black spots. It went into the wall or under a ladder so I couldn't identify it anymore.

Amy on August 10, 2019:

I found caterpiller and its not on your list. It has a brown line running down its back with small white lines on each side of the brown line. Then the rest is a light green. It also has a reddish brown but and feet with small black hairs (it has a very small amound of hairs. Its head is yellow-green with two very very thin lines going from the back of its head to each side of its jaw about.

Michael on August 03, 2019:

I have white fuzzy caterpillars with no black identifiers eating pot plants only. I find this strange because there are no other plants affected and I grew them from government authorized seeds....

Sandi on July 31, 2019:

What is a purple & pink caterpillar?? Smooth not furry..

addison on July 26, 2019:

so i found a caterpillar that was green with yellow lines down its sides and tiny red dots under what is it?

Mary Sneve on July 26, 2019:

2” orange caterpillar. Hairless. Narrow black strip down the length and several narrow black stripes running perpendicular. In Minnesota on a basswood tree.

Kathleen Neumayer on July 25, 2019:

A friend found several caterpillars (?) that are a whitish grey with tiny black spots scarsely scattered all over and has a lomg pointy tail that curls and goes straight. What is it?

spottedDOUG on July 22, 2019:

My son had a black caterpillar with a yellow end, fall from a tree, and every place that it touch his skin, it looks like blisters , or a poison ivy look. ????????????

Name on July 17, 2019:

I found a caterpillar with white fuzz and tan lines with a black body and red feet what is my caterpillar?

Leann on July 09, 2019:

@ Serra i found a caterpillar that was brownish but its very small and left yellow stuff on my hand when i first picked it up too. still trying to figure out what this is. ive looked everywhere but nothing came up. may be some sort of worm?

Fascinated... on June 26, 2019:

I have a Noctua pronuba and found out that, it can be violent to things that move and touch them. My caterpillar used its head and kept slamming at my spoon that I was using to scoop it out. Is this normal?

Trish on June 18, 2019:

What is a black and orange, non-hairy caterpillar? It was crawling on my porch steps in Central NY.

Kari on June 17, 2019:

I saw a larger black caterpillar with spikes and two rows of uniform yellow dots running length of body. Also has a larger hump on head end. What kind is it?

MonkeyGirl on June 09, 2019:

My sis found this ugly little one that was orange and kinda scaly and was oozing this brown stuff. Even INaturalist could not identity it.

Amy on June 03, 2019:

You didn't have my caterpillar! It's black and white it maybe a light yellow stripes across it's body and really furry. It eats the leaves off my mulberry trees these things will strip the trees in just a few weeks. Someone please tell me what this is!

Deb on June 03, 2019:

What is my orangebodied caterpillar with thousands of black spikes and black eyes and head

callie on May 05, 2019:

I COULDNT FIND WILLIAM(my caterpiller) he is grey, hairy, has 10 segments, each one has a horizontal black line going across it, a white line going down his back and two orange lines on either side of the white line. please help me identify him!

Alyssa on April 29, 2019:

Spikey/furry caterpillar. Mostly yellow with black. Deep red color head/underbelly/feet??

Nightlight_Dragons on April 28, 2019:

I found a small 1 cm. caterpillar in my backyard. It has red and white stripes that go