North American Caterpillar Identification

Updated on June 21, 2019
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I'm a naturalist and an enthusiastic citizen-scientist, and I have been helping people ID caterpillar specimens ever since I was a kid.

This guide includes many of the caterpillars you might find while gardening or just being outside
This guide includes many of the caterpillars you might find while gardening or just being outside | Source

What Kind of Caterpillar Is This?

"Hey, I found a caterpillar!" When I was young, we were always on the lookout for cool insects, especially cool caterpillars. Maybe you just found one and you're looking for a little help with identifying it. If so, you're are in the right place! 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 article is intended to help you identify that caterpillar you found crawling across your kitchen floor, driveway, or on the side of your house.

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.

24 of the Most Common Caterpillars in North America

  1. Banded Woolybear (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. Black Swallowtail (black and green bands punctuated by yellow dots)
  6. Monarch Caterpillar (green, black, and yellow stripes, and two black antennae on each end)
  7. Tersa Sphinx (green or brown with two large eyespots near the head capsule followed by a line of smaller eyespots)
  8. Imperial Moth (large, spiky, and hairy, with yellow horns and two black-ringed white spots per segment)
  9. Noctua Pronuba (green or brown with a row of black marks on the dorsal region)
  10. Rustic Sphinx (bright green with a textured horn and diagonal yellow stripes outlined in purplish black or dark green)
  11. Banded Sphinx (green, yellow, or reddish pink with white-rimmed black spots and diagonal white stripes)
  12. Southern Flannel Moth (V)* (hairy caterpillars with long tails and no visible segments)
  13. 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)
  14. American Dagger Moth (V) (white and fluffy, with long black tufts of hair on their backs)
  15. Saddleback Caterpillar (V) (bright green "saddle" and prickly spines protruding from various points along the body)
  16. European Gypsy Moth (V) (hairy, with five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots along their backs)
  17. Western Tent Caterpillar (A)** (hairy, with a pale blue head and a stripe of whitish-blue dashes (one per segment) along its back)
  18. Eastern Tent Caterpillar (A) (hairy, with a solid white stripe down its back and blue-patterned stripes on each side)
  19. Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth (A) (hairy, with a line of footprint-shaped white marks along its back and orange and blue stripes on either 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)

*(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!

A Guide to Stinging Caterpillars

Find out if your caterpillar can harm you (or your pets) with the help of this authoritative, illustrated guide.

CLICK HERE to see photos of the stinging caterpillars of North America.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Woolly Bear Caterpillar | Source

Banded Woolybear

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. Woolybears become the Isabella tiger moth.

How to Identify a Woolybear

Woolybears are quite easy to identify. They have 13 distinct segments in a black-orange-black pattern, though the width of the bands varies. They also have a distinctly fuzzy appearance, thought their bristles are actually quite hard.

This familiar orange and black caterpillar can often be found hustling across rural roads in late summer. Woolybears 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.

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

The Next Punxsutawney Phil?

Legend has it that the width of a woolybear's orange stripe signals the severity of the winter to come. Supposedly, a wide band indicates a mild winter, whereas a narrow band indicates a harsh one.

Tomato Hornworm (note the blue horn)
Tomato Hornworm (note the blue horn) | Source

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 brown shiny 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 in green, and its horn is blue. The tobacco hornworm, on the other hand, has six white stripes bordered in black, and its horn is red. Below are photos of both types of hornworm.

Check Out This Guide to Tomato Hornworm Identification and Control

If you think you have tomato hornworms in your garden, this guide will help you deal with the issue:

Tomato Hornworm Identification and Control

Tobacco Hornworm (note the red horn and the black-banded stripes)
Tobacco Hornworm (note the red horn and the black-banded stripes) | Source

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 | Source

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 big single 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
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail | Source
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail immediately before pupation.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail immediately before pupation. | Source

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!

Fun Fact

This cute caterpillar was the inspiration for the Pokémon Caterpie.

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, 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 the swallowtails.

Black Swallowtail Larva
Black Swallowtail Larva | Source

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.

Monarch Caterpillar
Monarch Caterpillar | Source

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 a 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.

Monarch Conservation

Climate change and human interference are causing a decline in Monarch butterfly populations. We must do what we can to protect and conserve their wintering sites in California and Mexico, migration corridors, and main breeding areas.

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar
Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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.

Banded Sphinx Larva
Banded Sphinx Larva | Source

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.

Asp Caterpillar
Asp Caterpillar | Source

Southern Flannel Moth (a.k.a. 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.

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.

White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar
White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar | Source

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 which 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 | Source

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 Acronictinae, 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 | Source

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. I handled one of these cool-looking larvae and wound up with a nasty, stinging rash. Saddlebacks belong to the Limacodidae family, which also includes other stinging specimens of various interesting designs.

These ones 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 | Source

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 Nest
Western Tent Caterpillar Nest | Source

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 | Source

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.

Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth Larva
Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth Larva | Source

Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth

Scientific Name: Malacosoma disstria

Size: 4.5 cm long

Hosts: oak, gum, basswood, plum, and trembling aspen (depending on the region)

Range: present throughout most of the USA and southern Canada

How to Identify Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth Larvae

The Forest Tent Caterpillar is often confused for the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, but an easy way to distinguish the two is to look at the markings on their backs. Whereas the Eastern species has a solid white stripe along its back, the Forest species has a line of footprint-shaped white marks instead.

Fall Webworm Larva
Fall Webworm Larva | Source

Fall Webworms

Scientific Name: Hyphantria cunea

Size: 2.5 cm

Hosts: close to 90 of 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 | Source

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 | Source

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.

When threatened, Azalea and Yellownecked Caterpillars will stand on their abdominal prolegs and raise both ends of their bodies until they nearly touch.

Contracted Datana Caterpillar
Contracted Datana Caterpillar | Source

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 | Source

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.

Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Control

I won't use chemicals or biologics in my garden, but if a pest population is out of control I will use Diatomaceous Earth. This product is not a poison or a chemical of any kind, and the way it works is quite interesting. Diatomaceous Earth is refined and filtered dirt that contains the silica shells of millions of tiny organisms called diatoms. Under a microscope, a pile of these empty shells looks just like broken glass -- which it basically is, since glass is made of the same material. When an insect crawls across diatomaceous earth, the jagged shells damage the insect's outer layer, and it dies.

This material has been used as an insecticide for over a century. It's safe for humans (although you're advised to wear a mask when applying it), and even comes in a "food grade" form that some people take as a supplement!

Best of all, there are no chemicals to get in the soil or end up in your food. Rain washes the dust away and you have taken care of your pest problem organically.

Diatomaceous Earth Controls Pests Without Chemicals or Poisons

DiatomaceousEarth DE10 FGDE10 Food Grade diatomaceous Earth, 10 Lb
DiatomaceousEarth DE10 FGDE10 Food Grade diatomaceous Earth, 10 Lb

If an insect infestation gets out of control in my garden, I will use Diatomaceous Earth to control it. This product has zero chemicals, and kills pest species with the silica shells of microscopic animals.


Questions & Answers

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

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

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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    • profile image


      12 days ago

      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!

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      13 days ago

      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.

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      2 weeks ago

      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.

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      3 weeks ago

      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....

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      3 weeks ago

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

    • profile image


      4 weeks ago

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

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      Mary Sneve 

      4 weeks ago

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

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      Kathleen Neumayer 

      4 weeks ago

      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?

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      4 weeks ago

      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. ????????????

    • profile image


      5 weeks ago

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

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      6 weeks ago

      @ 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?

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      8 weeks ago

      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?

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      2 months ago

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

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      2 months ago

      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?

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      2 months ago

      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.

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      2 months ago

      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!

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      2 months ago

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

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      3 months ago

      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!

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      3 months ago

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

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      3 months ago

      I found a small 1 cm. caterpillar in my backyard. It has red and white stripes that go all the way down his body and to little spikes on his tiny bum. I wanted to know what the little bugger was now that I let him go. If it isn't to much trouble I would love to know!

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      4 months ago

      I found a Caterpillar outside with yellow stripes white dots lined up along the back three in each section and white spikes a yellow head and the bottoms of the feet are a reddish orange

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      Annie Britton 

      4 months ago

      The caterpillar you listed above with the large prominent eye spots and blue dots is a Lindera Spice Bush Swallowtail not a Tiger.

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      5 months ago

      Im not sure if it is a catterpiller but it is fuzzy and its blue and light blue and that has big yellow dots and small black dots and green feet.

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      Rose S. 

      5 months ago

      In Fl it is March, found a red headed , white body, and blue backend caterpillar ..( it is not fuzzy) ..caterpillar or some kind of worm??????

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      Helen Murray 

      5 months ago

      My cousin has a large black caterpillar with white rings it's entire length, no fuzz that I SEE. Venemous? Allergen? Dangerous? It's eating her Jacksonville trumpet flowers.

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      Marion Mahn 

      11 months ago

      can I upload a photo of a caterpillar which I found in my backyard with wasp cocoon all over it ? I would like to know what kind of a caterpillar it is. I took the cocoons off, but it is probably too late for the poor caterpillar.

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      Sara Kelly 

      11 months ago

      My friends found this black, yellow, and white banded caterpillar in coastal San Diego County. I raise monarchs each summer, so they thought I would tecognize it, but I’m stumped! Do you recognize it?


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      11 months ago

      Do you know what is red and green caterpillar

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      11 months ago

      The one Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar with the HUGE eyespots and beautiful cartoon-like markings is actually a Spicebush caterpillar.

    • profile image 

      11 months ago

      I need an answer quickly.

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      11 months ago

      In Coastal MS, found black and white caterpillar with red horns and a limited number of spikes. Would you please tell me if it is toxic and if it is harmless or what I need to spray with. There were at least 8 in the 5 ft bush. Thank you.

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      Aden Marie 

      11 months ago

      I just found what may or may not be a Caterpillar. It looks like a furry light brown leaf or a furry light brown starfish on top and the bottom looks like a Caterpillar body, orange and underneath is white

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      Margot James 

      12 months ago

      Keep finding small caterpillars about one inch with mostly light brown colouring but back third is black. Black head with antenae. All they want is to get to that natural light and get out. They only crawl on the floor no walls or furniture. A bit hairy definitely not smooth. If this is larvae what will it become. Cannot seem to get rid of them. Help

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      12 months ago

      i found a bunch of caterpillars in my mac apple tree and have not been able to identify it. I was wondering if you could help? it is a short one with a shiny red ball for a head and a red ring around the neck area. the body is white with black stripes going in the direction of the body all parallel and some black spikes on the upper part of the body. Their is a yellow stripe with small black stripes going parallel in the dead middle of its back and a yellow leg and belly area. my email address is thank you


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      12 months ago

      I think that was the Joseph's Coat Moth Lamppost

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      My caterpillar wasn’t here. I found it on a grapevine, and it is light brown/brick red, with diagonal whit lines on it sides. On its rear it has a dot that looks like an eye..?

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      CarCar DeepLee 

      12 months ago

      My caterpillar wasn’t on here. Here’s what it looks like:


      (A picture of the caterpillar)

      Here’s a description:

      Mostly green with a reddish purple stripe down the middle with two white stripes next to it. It also has little spiked hairs.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      @CoolCat I found a caterpillar that matches your description, try looking up the Forest Tent Caterpillar.

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      Frankie Reischling 

      13 months ago

      I find dark gray worm like creatures appearing from no where, I find them on the floor, the counter top, through out the house, lately large flys also are appearing out of nowhere, I live in Louisiana, can anyone tell me what these things are?

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      13 months ago

      I found your article verry helpful, is it ok if i give my caterpillar a name, if so, what do you recomend?

      I also need help identifying the leaf, i found it in settlers ridge pittsburgh PA, oval, tiny Ridges you can only see if you look closley, the tree was kind of white yet a little pale (its not a birch because those have Black dots and this does not.).

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      I found a green/yellow caterpillar that’s fuzzy

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      14 months ago

      I found a orangey-yellowey and black striped caterpillar! Anyone know what it is?

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      I found a dark caterpillar with an orange colored head. Anyone know what it’s called?

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      14 months ago

      I found a white caterpillar while camping and it has blue dots everywhere on its back with some sploches of gray. It has two yellow numbs towards the head side by side each other. It has 2 antennas with fuzzy points. Also it has this snout like feature. And I can't find the species on the web. What could it be?

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      14 months ago

      Thanks! I found him!

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      Thanks for all the info!!

    • profile image

      Pill face 

      14 months ago

      I found a fuzzy caterpillar

    • profile image

      Debby Champ Hill 

      14 months ago

      Foubd a black caterpillar in my flower garden. It’s totally black and smooth except for what looks like bumps across the top.

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      Cool cat 

      14 months ago

      I found a caterpillar that if fuzzy blue and has white dots down its back

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      Shelby Thomas 

      15 months ago

      This helped a little bit. I would add more of a variety of catipilars. At least do one common catipilar from each state in the United States or North America. Thanks

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      15 months ago

      I still don’t know what my Catapillar

    • profile image

      got to get my big butt over here 

      15 months ago

      still didn't find out what catterpilar it is but thanks anyway

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      Yesterday i found a black catapilar with red spikes out in the desert

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      17 months ago

      Yesterday I found a big black and grey fuzzy caterpillar just resting in our driveway, it was as long as an average guys middle finger. It looked similar to the tussock caterpillar, but it didn’t have the pillars or the red head it’s head was black but it had the black two horns and back horn looking thing, and it had spiky quills in its sides when it moved, the other tussock moth caterpillars and pretty fuzzy caterpillars I used to play with as a kid all avoided it. Is it a queen or something? A huge nest of them broke in between our tree and our neighbors tree and a ton of them came out but this is the first time I’ve ever seen this thing. It looks poisonous it’s lazy and doesn’t move much but it’s huge way bigger than all the others...anyone know what kind this is? A friend of mine got a nasty rash and was admitted into the hospital a week ago from being but by a puss caterpillar that fell on him when he was biking. So wear a hood long sleeves and pants if your going to be outside. They’re bad in my area.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      I found a caterpillar on the internet that has a snake~like head?Waht is it called?

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      I found a bug in my school garden and i'm not sure if it's a caterpillar or worm but it's very small about 2 centimeters long. It has a yellow body with light orange stripes and a dark orange head. It's not furry or anything and i'm in Nevada (if that even helps). Can you help me find out what it is I would like to know. Thank you!

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      No search function?

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      my sis found a one orange striped, fuzzy, black,biting caterpillar i searched the web and all i found was a orange striped oak worm but it was not fuzzy nor it bit.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      I picked up an orange and black fuzzy caterpillar, and it left yellow stuff on my hand. I can't find any websites that tell me what it is, but do you know?

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      Found a shiny black caterpillar (?) Could have been a centipede.. ..with large orange spots...can't find anything like it ..wish I could send a pic...any idea what it could be?

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      I found a green hair less caterpillar and it has yellow slashes on it I piked it up and put it in my bug catcher any ides of what it eats or what kind of caterpillar it even is before it dies.

    • profile image

      Entomology is cool 

      22 months ago

      Maryalice BuschBacher, It is a swallowtail butterfly the spikes look dangerous but they are only to scare off predators. They love passion vine but are harmless and beautiful.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      i found the catipiller it has tiny thin strips little spikes and is't kind of greyish black.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      @Lucas Katsuki -- thanks for your input -- tomato hornworms can have black or red horns. Determining these two species is hard but tomato hw more often have a kind of "V" as part of the white diagonal markings. So it's possible that the tomato hw pictured here is actually a tobacco hw, but it's not necessarily due to the red horn. Thanks again for your comment.

    • profile image

      Jennifer Montoya 

      23 months ago

      I found a caterpillar i need help identifying. Usually I can do it on my own but I'm having some difficulty with this one. Can I send in a picture?

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      23 months ago

      I found a white hairless caterpillar in my drive way. It's a fat white with brown head. I never saw these before and would like to know what they are?

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      Wondering what kind of worm I found. Can we post pics? Thought it was a cocoon at first but then I saw legs with green body underneath. Back had white string like projections that would move freely if you blew on them. Found on black walnut tree leaf.

    • profile image

      Rocky Wright 

      2 years ago

      I was about to play with my dogs and i was about to use my dogs toy tire when i noticed a black body with dark orangish spines with a white stripe on its back i was making sure it wasnt poisoness so i got it out and didnt touch it. Look me up on facebook or instagram rocky_hnhs_2021 thanks.

    • profile image

      Lucas Katsuki 

      2 years ago

      Your "tomato hornworm" is actually a tobacco hornworm, hence the red horn.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Found a huge green cat on a pecan tree it has black thornes that almost circle each section of his body... he has a big white spotch above his head with two big black spots an the horns around that area start out orange an end black it makes the tomato horn worm look like a inch worm. Any ideas...

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Found 3 caterpillars on my fern.

      Black and fuzzy with tiny yellow stripes down each side. Need help identifying what kind it is.

    • profile image

      Jasmin and vanessa 

      2 years ago

      I found a brown and blackish caterpillar like noctua pronuba but smaller found him on my carpet

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Yesterday I was sitting under a tree when a caterpillar type thing fell on my husband. I took a picture of it. It is a rusty color very hairy long snout and appears to have 2 white eyes and dragon like or aligator type spikes across its back. What is this and was it poision.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Hey my mom was cutting grass and she found a black caterpillar with yellow bands, and it was also horned. I couldn't find its species, so I just wanted to ask if you knew any kind of caterpillar that looked like that.

    • profile image

      Maryalice Buschbacher 

      2 years ago

      I would like to know what kind of

      Caterpillar I have found. Dark brown with orangish spikes. They have eaten my entire Dutch Passion Vine here on Fort Myers Beach. Thanks

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I found a caterpillar and it has a green body brown head and no spikes or hair or anything like that any suggestions?

    • fcmosher profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from near the Equator

      Hi I think this is the caterpillar of Abbott's sphinx moth. There are two color morphs, one green/black and the other brown as you describe. Try an image search and see if it fits.

    • profile image

      Pam Hunter 

      2 years ago

      Trying to identify a caterpillar found on a virginia creeper vine in Manitoba, Canada. The closest on this website the Texas Sphinx but it says it is not found this far north.

      Who am I?...

      ..brown with a beige strip along the sides nearer the top of it's body hairs

      ..tiny white legs

      ..little black protrusion on top of head/tail - looks like a shiny bead

      ..long and fat as my index finger

      ..actually what looks like head seems to be tail as it "searches" with the other end

      ..snake like face/tail

      ..acts like a snake - rears to strike

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      The caterpillar I have on my sage plant is a small 1 inch to 1 1/2 inchs, banded yellow and black, thin body, black spines from the black bands. I cannot find what it is and if it harmful or good.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I've found a red/orange caterpillar at with antenna and knobs, along with retractable yellow/orange horns, any ideas?

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Our poor Bollock.

      R.I.P Mate!

      Gone but never forgotten, well atleast by R0b and Ty0m and the guys from work experience

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I found this bug but it looks like a caterpillar. it has a orange body with yellow dots on its side and its about three inches long.I found it on my driveway on a fall day in Virginia.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      4 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Oh my, you are a brave soul -- looking at all these photos of these caterpillars and studying them. The one hub I did on a caterpillar will be my last. But these ones you have put together in this hub are really amazing -- for the brave of heart. I'm going to post this on my insect board at Pinterest. Voting way up and Sharing.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      6 years ago from Midwest

      This is so cool! I've never seen caterpillars so close before.


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