You may not be aware of the fact, but Oklahoma has its species of caterpillars. You might think this is only limited to tropical climates and places like the Amazon or Africa, but it’s not!
Here in Oklahoma, we have our unique types of caterpillars that are so much fun to spot during your next walk in the woods or on a nature hike.
This guide will show you the types of caterpillars in Oklahoma and how to identify them!
1. Monarch Caterpillar
The Monarch caterpillar is among the most well-known types of caterpillars in Oklahoma.
When it hatches from its egg, the Monarch caterpillar is green, but as it grows, it turns a brick-red color with black spots. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma eat milkweed plants.
The Monarch caterpillar’s life cycle lasts about three weeks, during which time it will shed its skin four times before becoming a chrysalis.
During this process, the Monarch will turn orange/brownish and form a hard shell around itself until it becomes an adult butterfly.
The Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar starts out white with black stripes along its body when it hatches from the egg.
Their green body can identify types of caterpillars in Oklahoma, but the Cabbageworm is one of the most well-known.
This type will only eat cabbage, kale, or related vegetables. Their green body can identify them with white stripes running along the length. Their heads are yellow with black spots on them.
The Cabbage Worm has a head that is yellow with black spots on it. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma will only eat cabbage, kale, or related vegetables like Brussel Sprouts.
The green body also has white stripes running along the length with a circular section around its head which is black with red or brownish-red eyespots. The caterpillar has six short legs and two long ones at the front near its head.
3. Woolly Bear
Woolly Bears are brown with long white tails. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma look like the furry animal we call a bear.
But, when they’re cold, their hairs stand on end, so it looks like they’re wearing a fuzzy sweater. Woolly Bears live in nests underground, under leaves or stones.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma can also be found near woodpiles or logs during the summer months.
However, during the winter, you will only find them inside homes where it is warm and dry. Oklahoma has many different types of caterpillars in Oklahoma, but woolly bears are the most common ones you will see this time of year.
4. Viceroy Caterpillar
The viceroy caterpillar is a striking-looking insect with a black head, black stripes down its back, and a bright yellow-orange body. It’s easy to mistake the ruler for the monarch butterfly because it has similar markings.
However, monarch butterflies have an orange spot near their head, while turbulence does not. This can be helpful if you’re trying to identify them but need to figure out which insect it is.
Another way that people sometimes confuse these two insects is by their habitat – both tend to feed on milkweed plants.
The monarch butterfly lays eggs on the plant, which hatch into larvae that eat the leaves. These caterpillars in Oklahoma grow larger before pupating inside a chrysalis made from silk and leaves for about 2 weeks before emerging as adults.
5. Large Maple Spanworm
The Large Maple Spanworm is found throughout the eastern United States. It is typically about 1.5 inches long and has a brown body with orange or yellow markings. It has a distinct head capsule that makes it easier to identify than other caterpillars.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma can be found feeding on maple trees but will eat many different types of trees, shrubs, vines, and herbs if available.
The Large Maple Spanworm pupates underground during the fall months. The moth emerges from the ground as a giant moth during early spring. They mate and lay eggs on branches close to the ground before dying off soon after mating.
The adults feed on nectar from flowers like lilac, evening primrose, honeysuckle, goldenrod, blackberry blossoms, Virginia creeper blossoms, and Queen Anne’s Lace flowers before laying their eggs among twigs near water sources. Adults are mainly active at night when seeking food sources.
6. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
The Variegated Fritillary caterpillar is a bright green color with orange stripes on its back.
In addition, these types of caterpillars in Oklahoma have two pairs of red dots on the underside of their body, one towards the head and one near the end. Its head is black but will turn light brown when it prepares to pupate.
The Variegated Fritillary caterpillar can be found from May through July, usually on various species of violets.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma are considered a pest because they feed on violets or other plants that share their habitat. When they overeat plants, they can cause them to die.
You may find these types of caterpillars in Oklahoma by looking for freshly-eaten leaves on your violets.
If you have trouble identifying them, get out your magnifying glass and look closely at their heads; if you see one dot next to another, you have found what you were looking for!
7. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
The Curve-Lined Owlet moth caterpillar is a species of the moth Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma can be found in North America, Central America, and South America.
The Curve-Lined Owlet Moth caterpillar has a brown hairy body with two curved lines on its back that mimic the shape of an owl’s face.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma curves are more pronounced from top to bottom than side to side. They range in color from light tan to dark brown and have a white line running down their backs.
In addition, they have black spines or hairs coming out of their skin that serve as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened by predators.
Their spines cause minor skin irritations but do not pose significant health risks to humans or other animals.
8. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar
The white-marked tussock caterpillar is among the recognizable types of caterpillars in Oklahoma. They are bright yellow with white markings on their back, and the hairs on their body can cause a mild rash if they come into contact with skin.
The larvae feed primarily on grasses, often found around lawns or pastureland.
When fully grown, these types of caterpillars in Oklahoma turn into dark brown moths that fly at night. Unfortunately, the adult moth will only live for about a week because there isn’t much food available.
So if you see an abundance of white-marker tussock caterpillars in your yard, it’s likely due to turfgrass nearby.
9. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
The milkweed tussock caterpillar has a white body with black or brown spots. The head is darker than the rest of the body.
This species feeds on plants from the Asclepias family, which includes milkweed, dogbane, and silkweed.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma can grow up to 2 inches long. It pupates inside a cocoon covered with leaves. Adult moths emerge after about two weeks. Look at its back end;
There should be five pairs of prolegs behind the anus, which are feather-like structures used for crawling on vegetation or flats like a leaf or a tree ted Tussock Caterpillar.
The Banded Tussock caterpillar is one of 17 different types of caterpillars in Oklahoma living in Oklahoma.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma can also be found under rocks or leaves near the ground, where they lay their eggs.
The eggs hatch into larvae which then go through metamorphosis into a pupa before emerging as adult moths.
After mating, females lay more eggs and die. The pupae then become dormant until the following s, spring when they turn into moths again.
11. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
The Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar is a large green caterpillar with yellow spots. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma can grow up to four inches long, making them one of the most prominent types of cater. You can find them on oak, hickory, walnut, and pecan trees.
The larvae feed on these trees from April through June. So if you see a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar, be sure not to touch it!
These large green caterpillars have sharp spines designed to protect themselves from predators.
Fortunately, these types of caterpillars in Oklahoma won’t sting humans unless stepped on or grabbed firmly by hand. Instead, the spines will break off and stick to your skin.
12. Parsley Caterpillar
A parsley caterpillar(Black Swallowtail) is a butterfly larva found in Oklahoma. It is typically green, brown, or black with red, orange, or yellow stripes.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma feed on plants from the carrot family, such as parsley, celery, and carrots.
Parsley caterpillars are often mistaken for other types because they may look similar at first glance. One way to tell if it’s a parsley caterpillar is by looking at the head and legs. If it has two pairs of prolegs resembling tiny legs, it’s likely a parsley caterpillar.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma also have a small horn-like projection sticking out of their head called an osmeterium. The osmeterium is used to release chemicals when they feel threatened or disturbed.
13. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar is a beautiful creature with a black body that can identify with yellow stripes.
In addition, it will have six bright red spots on its body and a black head with two orange antennae.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma feed on plants in the carrot family, like parsley, dill, fennel, carrots, celery, and parsnips.
It also has an interesting defense mechanism: when threatened, it curls into a tight spiral resembling a bird’s nest.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma will release an unpleasant odor called ‘skunk cabbage’ when touched. When disturbed again, it will produce this stinky substance again.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail pupates near its food plant or nearby plants similar to the food plant, usually high in vegetation or near trees.
When the pupa becomes an adult butterfly, it will eat pollen from flowers and sip nectar from flowers while spreading its wings wide open to capture as much sunlight as possible.
14. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar is also known as the hickory tiger. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma are typically brown or dark green with black stripes down their sides, but they can sometimes be yellow or red, depending on the season.
In addition, they have a pointy head, which may distinguish them from other similar species.
The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has long spikes on its back that are covered with bristles that produce a stinging sensation if touched by humans.
The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar feeds exclusively on plants within the genus Lindera, including spicebush, sassafras, northern spicebush, and southern spicebush. These plants are found across much of Eastern North America.
15. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
Cecropia moth caterpillars are one of the most unusual-looking creatures in the state. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma have green, red, yellow, or black bodies with long, thin legs and antennae.
Cecropia moth caterpillars also have a distinctive white stripe that runs along their back from head to tail.
This stripe is called an alar mark because it is found on all members of the Cecropia family. Cecropias are active during the day and do not like dry conditions.
Therefore, they sometimes feed at night when they can’t find enough food. During their larval stage, they eat leaves by cutting off pieces with their mandibles (jaws)
16. Monkey Slug
The monkey slug is one of the most exciting caterpillars in Oklahoma. It is called a slug because its body is shaped like a slug or snake, with an oval-shaped head at one end.
The slug’s body has no legs. Instead, it moves by pushing off its head while using its tail as a balancing pole.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma spend most of the day hanging upside down from a leaf or twig, waiting for nightfall when they will climb up the treetrunk to feed on leaves and flowers.
First, it feeds on leaves high off the ground, where other animals cannot reach it. Then, it burrows into moist soil during winter months to hibernate.
17. Io Caterpillar
The io caterpillar is a brown, hairy caterpillar with a black head. These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma have a white stripe that runs down the length of their back.
The io caterpillar is about an inch long when it’s full-grown, and it can live anywhere from two weeks to three months.
In the last stage, before pupating into a butterfly or moth, the io caterpillar will stop eating and start wandering around, looking for a place to pupate. Ios are primarily found in oak trees but have also been seen on other trees.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma have never been observed feeding on any leaf or fruit. Instead, they use their strong mandibles to attack aphids (a type of insect) and eat them alive!
So if you find one in your backyard, don’t worry; they do not sting humans like other caterpillars.
If you find a caterpillar in your yard, porch, or garden, it can be challenging to identify it. To help you, we’ve compiled this list of Oklahoma’s 17 most common types of caterpillars.
These types of caterpillars in Oklahoma are usually found on trees and other surfaces like fences and buildings. The larvae create webbing tents on tree branches with thin silk strands.
In some cases, they will also dangle down from their webbed nest while they munch away on leaves below.