20 Different Types of Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Different Types of Caterpillars
Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

Caterpillars, the larval stage of butterflies and moths, are remarkable creatures that captivate our imagination with their diversity and unique characteristics.

These small, seemingly insignificant creatures play a vital role in the natural world, undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis before transforming into beautiful winged insects.

With countless species scattered across the globe, each exhibiting its distinct features and behaviors, exploring the world of caterpillars offers a glimpse into the intricate web of life surrounding us.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of different types of caterpillars, shedding light on their remarkable adaptations and some light on their place in the intricate tapestry of nature.

Not all caterpillars turn into butterflies, but plenty of different types of caterpillars can turn into gorgeous, colorful butterflies.

Some types of caterpillars can even grow up to be moths!

1. Saddleback Caterpillar

In the realm of caterpillars, few can match the striking appearance and intriguing nature of the Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimuli). Despite its small size, this unique creature commands attention with its distinctive saddle-shaped marking and vibrant coloration. However, beneath its eye-catching beauty lies a hidden danger, as the Saddleback Caterpillar possesses venomous spines that serve as a potent defense mechanism.

This section will delve into the fascinating characteristics and intriguing adaptations of the Saddleback Caterpillar, shedding light on its biology and emphasizing the caution required when encountering this captivating insect. The Saddleback Caterpillar is native to North America and belongs to the family Limacodidae. It derives its name from the prominent greenish-brown saddle-shaped marking on its back.

This marking, coupled with its vibrant green body and rows of spines, creates a visually striking appearance that sets it apart from other caterpillar species. Its unique camouflage enables it to blend effectively with the foliage of trees and shrubs, offering protection from potential predators.

2. Stinging Rose Caterpillar

The stinging rose caterpillar(Parasa indeterminate) is a member of the family known as Lycaenidae. Lycaenidae members are commonly called blues, coppers, or hairstreaks. The caterpillar is found in eastern North America (from Maine south to Florida). 

It is named for its dark pink stripes on a yellowish ground coloration and has long black bristles at either end. The bristles contain venomous spines that can cause painful stings when touched.

3. Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar

Some caterpillars are easy to spot, but others blend in with their surroundings. The Hickory Horned Devil is one such example.

It’s a dark green caterpillar that can reaIt’sp to two inches in length, but it blends so well with its host plant (a hickory tree) that it can be challenging to spot. When fully grown, these different caterpillars will pupate and transform into tiny brown moths with black markings on their wings.

4. Monarch Caterpillar

The monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) is a type of butterfly that lives in North America. These different types of caterpillars are a great example of the metamorphosis process, as it changes from a caterpillar to an adult butterfly. This insect has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. 

The eggs are laid on milkweed plants, hatching into larvae after about two weeks. The larvae eat these plants to grow until they pupate by forming a chrysalis around themselves before maturing as adults.

5. Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

The Black Swallowtail caterpillar(Papilio polyxenes), also known as the Parsley worm, belongs to the family Papilionidae and is native to North America. Its striking appearance features a cylindrical body adorned with black and green stripes that beautifully complement its vibrant yellow dots. These intricate markings serve as camouflage, helping the caterpillar blend seamlessly into its surroundings, particularly when feeding on the foliage of its preferred host plants.

As an herbivore, the Black Swallowtail caterpillar feeds predominantly on plants from the Apiaceae family, including parsley, dill, fennel, and carrot tops. It possesses specialized mandibles that allow it to chew through tough plant materials, enabling its growth and development. Black Swallowtail caterpillars are green with brown, yellow, orange, and black stripes.

The larvae will feed on plants in the carrot family, such as parsley, dill, carrots, celery, and parsnips. If you’re lucky to see one up close, you relook like a caterpillar wearing a jaunty hat. But then, these significantly fat different types of caterpillars become pupae in late summer or early fall.

6. Oleander Caterpillar

The Oleander Caterpillar(Syntomeida epulis) feeds on plants from the Family Apocynaceae. This leaf-eating caterpillar is considered a pest in many countries because it can destroy an entire field of oleander or jatropha if not controlled. The Oleander Caterpillar is often mistaken for a moth by people who don’t know better, but there are many different types of caterpillars!

When they are in their larval stage, they tend to stay close to where they were hatched and feed on leaves from just one type of plant. For this reason, Oleander Caterpillars are pretty easy to find during their larval stage.

7. Queen Butterfly Caterpillar

Queen butterfly caterpillars(Danaus gilippus) are orange with black stripes and grow to be about 1 inch long. The queen butterfly is a type of pierid in the family known as Nymphalidae. As they grow, they shed their skin four times before pupating.

When fully grown, their wingspan can reach up to 4 inches. Queen butterflies feed on grape vines, tomatoes, eggplants, pepper plants, morning glory flowers, and many more. 

Their larvae will only eat one plant or plant family at a time because it needs a lot of nutrients for development. The queen butterfly has two life stages: larva and adult.

8. Cinnabar Caterpillar

Cinnabar caterpillars(Tyria jacobaeae) are one type of caterpillar that have a redhead, black body, and white spots. The cinnabar caterpillar has a life cycle that lasts approximately two weeks. In this period, these different caterpillars go through four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult butterfly. 

The cinnabar caterpillar’s eggs are laid on leaves or caterpillar sat at night by females. These eggs then hatch into larvae in about two days. Larvae then eat leaves for around seven days before pupating. Then, after another three days as a pupa, the cinnabar butterfly emerges from its cocoon to fly away from danger as other adult butterflies do after emerging from their cocoons.

9. Mullein Moth Caterpillar

Mullein Moth Caterpillar(Cucullia verbasci) It is a type of caterpillar, not a moth. These odd-looking caterpillars can be found throughout North America and are typically considered to be pests due to their voracious appetite for leafy green vegetables. Another interesting fact about these creepy crawlers is that they can regurgitate their droppings as a defense mechanism against predators. 

Their yellow bodies recognize them with red spots and sharp blue horns near their heads. The Madagascan Moon Moth (Argema mittrei): One of only four known species in its family, these striking caterpillars can grow up to 6 inches long and are covered in dense white hairs.

10. Cecropia Caterpillar

Different types of caterpillars can be found on many other plants. One specific type is the Cecropia Caterpillar (Hyalophora cecropia). These caterpillars are often found feeding on maple trees and can grow very large.

They are considered to be giant native North American moths. When it is time for these caterpillars to pupate, they will create a long silk mat on which they rest as their bodies undergo metamorphosis. Once this process is completed, it will emerge as a spectacular Cecropia moth.

11. Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar

The Elephant Hawk Moth is a giant, furry moth with a wingspan of up to five inches. The larvae are typically green, brown, or gray.

In North America, they feed on leaves from wild apple trees (Malus) and other members of the Rose family, such as the cherry tree (Prunus), peach tree (Prunus), apricot tree (Prunus armeniaca), ash tree (Fraxinus), willow tree (Salix), hazelnut tree (Corylus), walnut trees (Juglans). These different types of caterpillars are also known for their spectacular way of scaring off predators by making themselves look like snakes by curling their bodies into an S shape.

12. Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar

The Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar is a type of sphinx moth. Their beak has hooks that can break human skin, so be careful when handling them! They are also known for camouflage, creating a disguise by mimicking twigs or leaves. 

Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars go through four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. When they hatch from their eggs, they eat whatever leaves or plant life is available. The larval stage lasts about three weeks; then, it sheds its skin to become a pupa, where it will stay for about two weeks before emerging as an adult moth.

13. Zebra Longwing Butterfly Caterpillar

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Caterpillar (Heliconius charithonia)This beautiful caterpillar is one of 20 types of caterpillars you probably didn’t know existed. It has dark and light stripes, giving it an excellent zebra-like pattern. When fully grown, it will morph into a butterfly that feeds on passion flowers.

They’re infrequent in captivity but found in South and Central America. Unfortunately, they can only be found in temperate regions in summer, so they never spend time as butterflies in North America.

But because they’re so pretty (and endangered), captive breeding programs have been set up to help keep them alive while they travel north during their long migration period. Their entire life cycle—eggs to adult—lasts around two years!

14. Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar

This caterpillar is found in various regions, including eastern North America, South America, and Asia. Tobacco hornworm caterpillars(Manduca sexta) are green and use their large, dark-colored horns as camouflage to blend into plants. Like many other caterpillars, they have protruding eyespots to ward off predators while feeding at night.

These different caterpillars are called hornworms because their curled shape resembles an actual horn. However, they don’t have horns like a buffalo or rhinocedon’tThe young caterpillar burrows underground to pupate through winter before emerging as an adult moth or butterfly in spring or early summer.

15. Yellow Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar

The Yellow-spotted Tussock Moth(Lophocampa maculate) is a moth throughout North America. It was introduced in Europe, spreading to Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland. However, like other North American tussock moths (Lophocatamae), it is not an invasive species due to native predators in Europe. 

When fully grown, the larvae can reach a length of 13 centimeters (5 inches) and are covered mainly in hairs bearing yellow spots on black background. These different caterpillars proliferate, and pupation occurs after about two weeks. The pupae overwinter before they turn into adult moths that appear in early spring.

17. Funerary Dagger Moth Caterpillar

This species is named for its resemblance to a dagger, which it can use to defend itself when threatened. The caterpillar will rear up and attempt to stab predators with its sharp head. Sometimes it even licks the predator to make itself distasteful!

Moreover, if a predator still attempts to eat it, Funerary Dagger Moth Caterpillar(Acronicta funerals) has another trick up its sleeve. When injured or provoked, it emits an unpleasant odor from epithelial cells.

18. White Admiral Caterpillar

White Admiral caterpillars ( (Limenitis arthemis)) are also known as American whites or hickory horned devils. These different types of caterpillars have black and yellow spots that look like eyes on their heads, which may help scare away predators. They feed on hickories, walnuts, persimmons, cherry trees, and pines.

These different types of caterpillars are about 2 inches long and more significant than most other caterpillars. This species is found in Eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Florida, west to Minnesota, south to Texas, and Mexico City.

19. Azalea Caterpillar

The azalea caterpillar(Datana major) is one of more than 20 species in its family, many found in North America. These different types of caterpillars have multiple hairs that can cause dermatitis (skin irritation) and even eye infections if they are touched. In addition, the insects feed on several plant varieties, often causing damage to azaleas, rhododendrons, and other ornamental plants. 

Azaleas are most at risk between May and July during their bloom period, when they offer an abundance of new leaves to eat. At that time, it’s critical to minimize exposure by wearing gloves when handling plants or applying pesticides. It’s also essential to look for any injured leaves or wilting stems as early signs of infestation and treat them accordingly.

20. Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars(Battus philenor) feed on Pipevines (Aristolochia) and are probably one of the most well-known caterpillars. The larvae are velvety black with a bright yellow stripe down their back, which resembles a spine or a droplet, depending on your appearance. 

In addition, the caterpillar’s thorax has two spots that resemble eyes, giving them an almost alien appearance. This face makes them especially good at scaring off predators – because who would want to eat an insect that looks angry? So when not alarmed, pipevine swallowtail caterpillars will curl up into a C shape when disturbed by predators.


These different types of caterpillars come in all shapes and sizes. From the humblest inchworm to the extravagant swallowtail, the world of caterpillars is a testament to our planet’s astonishing diversity of life. Through their varied colors, patterns, and behaviors, these larvae have evolved fascinating adaptations that aid their survival and ensure the continuity of their species.

They serve as a reminder that even the most inconspicuous organisms can possess immense beauty and significance. Whether we marvel at the vibrant hues of a monarch caterpillar or are intrigued by the defensive spines of a hickory horned devil, exploring the world of caterpillars allows us to appreciate the complexity and wonder of the natural world.

As we observe these remarkable creatures, let us not forget the delicate interconnectedness of ecosystems and the need to protect and preserve the habitats that sustain them. By nurturing the world of caterpillars, we are safeguarding a magnificent part of our shared natural heritage.

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