Have you ever seen black hairy caterpillars and wondered what they were? If so, you’re not alone!
There are many different types of black hairy caterpillars worldwide, each with unique characteristics and behaviors.
In our blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common black hairy caterpillars.
We’ll discuss their physical features, life cycles, and how they impact the environment.
So read on to learn more about these amazing creatures!
1. The Red Admiral
The Red Admiral is first on our list of black hairy caterpillars. Various types and subspecies of this butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) can be found worldwide, and it is one of the most prevalent in the eastern US.
A golden stripe or pattern may run down either side of this spiky, black caterpillar.
They consume stinging nettles and build webbed nests that can house dozens of individual caterpillars for protection.
These nests may have been seen on stream banks or at the sides of roadways. The butterfly is stunning as an adult, sporting vivid red bands and blue dots.
Late in the day, the males like patrolling their territory, frequently returning to the same location and frequently landing on people!
This starts off our list of the different types of black hairy caterpillars.
2. Great Spangled Fritillary
This black caterpillar (Speyeria Cybele) eats mostly violets and has yellow or orange spines.
This indicates that it dwells near the ground, which is where you may occasionally encounter it. This comes second on our list of the types of black hairy caterpillars.
The adult version, a stunning orange and black butterfly with gleaming silver dots on the underside of the wings, is much more typical to observe (hence the “spangled” part of the name).
These mid-summer butterflies may be mimics of the monarch butterfly. The monarch butterfly is thought to be protected from predators by toxins obtained from its feeding plant, milkweed.
3. Black Swallowtail
A typical garden butterfly notable for its caterpillar is the black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).
It consumes the green and black caterpillars that gardeners frequently see on the dill, parsley, and carrot plants.
The immature, little, and black hairy caterpillars have a white “saddle” insignia.
At this stage, they mimic bird droppings quite precisely; subsequent instars have an exact replica of a green leaf pattern.
In the vicinity of dill and parsley plants, where it is probably depositing eggs that will hatch into “baby” caterpillars, the large, lovely adult butterfly can be seen fluttering about.
4. White-Lined Sphinx
This species (Hyles lineata) is typically the most prevalent and extensively distributed sphinx moth globally, occurring practically everywhere in the Western Hemisphere.
Because it flies at dark and dawn, it is frequently referred to as the “striped morning sphinx.”
It’s likely a white-lined sphinx moth that you observe soaring around your flower bed in the evening as it feeds on nectar from the blooms.
The caterpillars’ propensity to repose with the front portions of their bodies raised in a “sphinx-like” posture gives sphinx moths their name.
Like many other sphinx moth caterpillars, this species’ caterpillar appears in various color variants. If you are getting to know black hairy caterpillars, this is interesting.
5. Tersa Sphinx
Similar to the catalpa sphinx (below), this species of hawkmoth has a caterpillar that is not just green but also has a black shape.
The striking fake eyes that span the length of the tersa sphinx (Xylophanes tersa) caterpillar’s body may scare away or frighten potential predators like birds.
This species is primarily found in the southern United States, although in the late summer, it can be found as far north as Canada.
The moth that this caterpillar on our list of the different types of black hairy caterpillars evolves to is awesome. Because of its upswept wings and aerodynamic body, it resembles a fighter jet.
6. Catalpa Sphinx
This species (Ceratomia catalpae), also known as catalpa worm or catawba worm, consumes catalpa trees almost exclusively.
Catalpa trees are more common in the South than in the North.
They frequently appear in huge groups and, in some situations, have been known to remove leaves from trees.
The catawba worm is a favored lure for anglers in the South due to its abundance and visibility as a huge, mobile caterpillar.
Although this caterpillar’s most common form is black, it also comes in variants that range from almost entirely black to almost entirely white.
The torpedo-shaped adult moth is enormous and hefty, with dark wings. It belongs to a class of insects known as “hawkmoths” because of their powerful, swooping flight.
7. Woolly Bear
The woolly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) is one of the most well-known sights in the late summer and early fall.
It can be seen trucking across rural roads, searching for a location to hibernate for the winter.
These floppy, black-and-orange caterpillars, on our list of black hairy caterpillars, can occasionally be found everywhere, from urban backyards to rural farms.
According to woolly bear tradition, farmers are even said to be able to forecast the severity of the upcoming winter by the width of the bands on the caterpillar.
Of course, using this method to forecast the weather is inaccurate. Most people seldom see the woolly bear’s attractive moth, yet it exists.
The adult moth lives its life out of sight of people because it flies at night and does not frequently approach lights.
8. Walnut Caterpillar
This species shares many traits with the azalea caterpillar, such as wandering in packs and consuming anything they come across.
Although this species (Datana integerrima) will attack many different types of trees and can be a major pest, its name implies that it consumes walnut leaves.
Equally important to note, it is one of the black hairy caterpillars you may not know of.
Several Datana species, including walnut caterpillars, will occasionally walk in packs or long lines, snout to tail.
(The comparable European “pine processionary caterpillar” got its name because it liked to move across the forest floor in long rows.)
The moth has a body covered in thick fur and is warm brown in color, like all Datana species. They resemble a dried, curled leaf very much when resting.
9. Scarce Dagger Moth
Even though the Acronicta genus has members all throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Acronicta auricoma caterpillar of the scarce dagger moth is only found in Europe.
This species consumes roses, oaks, and other kinds of vegetation. It displays the typical yellow-on-black coloring of wasps and bees, which may deter a predator from striking.
Even though the larvae of the many moths in the genus have nothing in common, the adult moths of all the other species are similar.
Because most of the moths have a little dagger-like marking in the corners of the upper wings, they are commonly known as “dagger moths.”
There are still more types of black hairy caterpillars coming up on our list!
10. Azalea Caterpillar
Next to the black hairy caterpillars is the azalea caterpillar (Datana major), which naturally feeds on azaleas, appears in large numbers, and does significant harm.
It belongs to a genus of moths called Datana, and these moths often feed in groups. You’re in for a fight if a group of Datana caterpillars chooses your plant or tree as a food source.
The caterpillars can vary a bit and frequently have more black than the one shown. The attractive, soft-brown adult moth has a hairy, rust-colored “collar.”
However, it is of little comfort to the gardener who goes outside to find his prized azaleas under attack by a swarm of Datana larvae.
11. Garden Tiger Moth
Although this species (Arctia caja) is uncommon, it can be found if conditions are favorable, typically throughout the northern states of Canada, into the western mountain ranges, and in the correct season.
Unlike many other black hairy caterpillars in this guide, the caterpillar has orange and frequently gray hairs in addition to its base color of black.
The popular “woolly bear,” which has red in the middle and black ends, is linked to this caterpillar and is frequently seen crawling across highways in the late summer.
The Arctia Caja adult moth is enormous and stunning, with vivid orange-red hindwings with deep blue-black spots.
12. Black Cutworm
This bug is quite prevalent, and other species are similar that are found worldwide. The caterpillar (Agrotis ipsilon) belongs to the group of insects known as “cutworms.”
They are so named because of their propensity to attack plants from the ground up, gnawing through the stem and figuratively “cutting down” the plant.
Moreso, they can completely destroy entire fields of crops when they appear in huge numbers, making them a major pest in particular circumstances.
When digging in the dirt, where the cutworms spend the day hiding, gardeners occasionally come across them.
These moths are typically brown or gray, and even experts can struggle to distinguish between them.
Due to their propensity to mill about lights at night, they are black hairy caterpillars that are frequently referred to as “miller moths.”
13. Pipevine Swallowtail
The Papilionidae family, which has a relatively wide number of members that may be found worldwide, includes the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor).
The existence of the osmeterium, a protective organ, is the most notable trait that all of the caterpillars in this group have in common.
Swallowtail caterpillars have the ability to exert or extend an orange-forked “tongue” when they feel threatened.
Although it originates beneath the insect’s head and is not actually a tongue, it resembles a snake’s forked tongue.
This illusion of an enraged snake rather than a delectable caterpillar is complete in many species with convincing fake eye patterns. And to top it all off, osmeteria have an overripe fruit fragrance!
Due to the poisonous sap of its foodplant, the pipevine swallowtail, one of the black hairy caterpillars, probably tastes awful as well.
It also possesses the traditional red-on-black coloring that deters predators. One of North America’s most beautiful butterflies, the mature butterfly is a regular sight in the southern states.
14. Mourning Cloak
The name “mourning cloak butterfly” refers to the butterfly’s underbelly, which is an extremely gloomy gray-brown.
However, the butterfly’s upper side is magnificent, sporting a deep maroon background, golden wing edges, and deep violet dots.
Sometimes, this butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) overwinters and is visible flying quite early in the spring.
The caterpillar, also called “the spiny elm caterpillar,” consumes elms.
The red specks contrast with the black ground hue. To fend off predators, the caterpillar bears razor-sharp black spines.
15. Giant Leopard Moth
Of the black hairy caterpillars, this caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia) is big, black, and spiky.
The spines resemble needles in their extreme sharpness and stiffness. The caterpillar curls into a ball with its spines protruding when it senses danger.
Additionally, it has vivid crimson bands running across its body parts. As universal warning colors, red and black could make predators believe they are dealing with wasps. They will only receive a mouthful of spines if they attempt to bite.
These gorgeous moths overwinter as full-grown caterpillars, typically under rocks where you may find them curled up in the dead of winter.
They are huge and vividly patterned with black circles and iridescent blue patches. They spin a cocoon in the spring, which the adults emerge from.
16. Peacock Butterfly
One of the most beautiful insects on the planet is the Peacock butterfly (Aglais io). This species’ caterpillar is a relatively unassuming black caterpillar with many spines on its body.
This caterpillar is not poisonous and does not sting despite having spines. Moreover, it consumes nettles, sheds its skin in the fall, and develops into a chrysalis.
The cycle is eventually completed when the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and flies off to mate and deposit eggs. This ends our list of black hairy caterpillars!
If you’re looking for interesting caterpillars to watch and learn about, you should definitely check out the black hairy caterpillars.
These fuzzy creatures come in various shapes and sizes and have unique characteristics that make them stand out from other caterpillars.
Above, we discussed the different types of black hairy caterpillars and some fun facts about these fascinating insects.