Caterpillars are the larval form of moths and butterflies and are some of the most unusual creatures you’ll ever encounter in nature.
Here in Arkansas, caterpillars have adapted to almost every climate, habitat, and situation imaginable – we even have an annual festival celebrating these remarkable creatures!
If you’re curious about the types of caterpillars in Arkansas and what makes them so special, this guide has everything you need to know.
1. Monarch Caterpillar
Monarchs are found all over North America, but they spend their winters hibernating in the mountains and valleys of Mexico.
Then, in the springtime, they migrate north and east until they reach Canada. They can usually be seen eating milkweed plants or resting on them.
Monarchs have a wingspan that ranges from 5 to 9 inches. These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are mostly brown with orange spots, but some can also be black and white or yellow and black.
Monarch caterpillars have three pairs of true legs near the front end, six pairs of prolegs for gripping along their abdomen, and one pair of fleshy protrusions called osmeteria at the back end that emits an unpleasant odor that deters predators.
Cabbageworms are one of the most commonly found types of caterpillars in Arkansas. They are usually yellow-green with a brown stripe down the back.
Cabbageworms feed on plants like cabbage, broccoli, and kale. Females lay eggs that turn into these worms, which can make them up to six inches long.
If you find this type of caterpillar on your plant or near it, you should take a picture to document their presence and then cut off any leaves they have been eating from so that they do not eat more leaves on other plants later.
3. Woolly Bear
Woolly bears are Arkansas-native caterpillars that spend the winter underground before turning into moths. They can be found throughout the state but are most commonly seen in northern and eastern Arkansas.
Woolly bears have furry, brown bodies with black bands across their back. It’s one of the larger types of caterpillars in Arkansas.
They like to hang out on trees or bushes to catch leaves as they fall from nearby trees or to eat new leaves that grow on these plants during spring and summer.
These guys only feed for about three weeks each year–from early May through early July–so make sure you spot them while they’re around!
4. Viceroy Caterpillar
The Viceroy caterpillar is found mainly in the southeastern United States and is typically less than 1.5 inches long.
It has a black head, orange stripes on its sides, and a white band at the end of its body. These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are commonly found feeding on grape leaves or holly leaves.
They usually start green, but as they grow, they will change to brown, red, yellow, and pink colors based on their surroundings.
This type of caterpillar can be recognized by the shape of its head and the coloration pattern, which looks like an hourglass across the back end of its body.
5. Large Maple Spanworm
The Large Maple Spanworm, a moth larva, is one example of the many caterpillars that inhabit Arkansas. It has a brown body with white dots and measures 2 to 3 inches long.
These caterpillars are found on maple trees and feed on the leaves, which can cause extensive damage to the tree.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas should be monitored closely because they will defoliate their host tree if left unchecked.
Like other species of caterpillars, this insect produces silk from glands near its mouth to create a protective cocoon around it.
Once the cocoon is finished, these types of caterpillars pupate inside for about two weeks before emerging as adults.
6. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
Variegated fritillary caterpillars are beautiful, with green and brown stripes forming a perfect pattern.
Unfortunately, when disturbed, they curl up into a ball, so they can’t be easily handled. The variegated fritillary caterpillar prefers to feed on pokeweed.
Variegated fritillary caterpillars have a single generation per year and live for about two weeks before pupating and then emerging as adult butterflies.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas lay their eggs one at a time on the underside of leaves or flowers. It is important to note that not all butterflies lay eggs – some give birth to living young (like the monarch).
7. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
The curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar is a species of moth. It has a wingspan ranging from about 50 to 60 millimeters.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas have either dark brown or black markings with curves along the body.
They have long, thin antennae and four tufts of hair on the posterior end. They are found throughout most habitats in North America and eat conifers, as well as other deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines.
Reports show they also like fruit crops such as cherry and apricot. Adult owlet moths feed on flowers, including milkweed, evening primrose, violets, crape myrtle, daisies, and honeysuckle.
8. Tobacco Hornworm
One of the most commonly recognized caterpillar types is the tobacco hornworm. These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are recognizable because they have a dark brown body with two long, white-tipped horns and a curved black head that resembles an old-fashioned tobacco pipe.
They are found in many different plants, including tomatoes and eggplants, but they can be controlled by handpicking or using Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) on their favorite plant.
9. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar
This species, also known as the woolly bear caterpillar, is one of the most well-known because it’s so distinctive.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are fuzzy and brown, and their body is covered with black bristles.
They grow to be over two inches long and often curl up into a fuzzy ball when feeling threatened or cold. You’ll find them munching on milkweed plants during the warmer months.
10. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
The Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar is one of the more common caterpillars found in Arkansas. This moth is often found on milkweed plants and other types of vegetation.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are known to be the most destructive to crops, which greatly impacts farmers who use their crops for sale.
They can also be dangerous to humans as they have been known to cause allergic reactions when touched or breathed in.
These caterpillars are usually lime green with black spots all over them and measure about one inch long when fully grown.
11. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
The Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar, also known as the Lonomia obliqua, is a type of moth with a larval stage known for being very long and reaching up to three inches. It also has long silky hairs with black stripes running down its body.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas feed on leaves like oak, elm, or ash, which it wraps around before they are consumed. The Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar uses toxins from its host plant to protect itself from predators and parasites.
12. Parsley Caterpillar (Black Swallowtail)
The Parsley Caterpillar, also known as the Black Swallowtail, is a member of the Swallowtail family. It can be found on parsley plants and herbs such as dill and fennel.
This caterpillar is lime green with black spots. Other variations with brown or yellow stripes are less common than the lime green variety.
Some species have white spots instead of black ones. These types of caterpillars in Arkansas only eat the leaves of these two plants but not many others. They can grow up to 4 inches long, so they are larger than most types of caterpillars.
They pupate when they reach maturity, which happens in July or August. After they turn into butterflies, their life cycle begins again when females lay eggs for the next generation of this type of butterfly.
13. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar, also known as the black swallowtail caterpillar, has yellow bands on its body. It is one of the more common caterpillars in Arkansas.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas can be found on plants like parsley, dandelion, clover, and thistle.
They feed on the leaves or flowers of these plants, depending on what is available. They are most often found around trees such as ash, maple, and oak trees.
14. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar has black and yellow stripes. Unlike many other types of caterpillars, this one doesn’t eat leaves but eats the spicebush plant’s leaves.
You can tell this type of caterpillar from others because it is always found on these plants, and its head is covered with bristles or spines that make it look fuzzy. It spins a web to protect itself while it grows into an adult.
15. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
The Cecropia moth caterpillar is a type of moth that is also a type of caterpillar. It has an orange body with black and white stripes and a green head.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are often found feeding on leaves high up off the ground, such as those on oak trees.
They can be seen during the spring months and summer seasons. Cecropia Moth caterpillars can grow around one inch long when fully grown.
They have some natural predators, but they are not usually attacked because they are considered to taste terrible to birds and other animals that might try to eat them. The Cecropia Moth caterpillar is a moth larva that feeds primarily on deciduous trees and shrubs.
16. Monkey Slug
The monkey slug is a large, black, and yellow slug found on the underside of leaves. It is most often seen when it rains. If you find one, touch it gently with your finger to see if the yellow part feels slimy. If so, then it’s likely a slug.
Slugs love wet environments because they need moist soil to breathe through their skin. Therefore, they are invasive and should not be picked up or touched without gloves.
Likewise, if a slug is dried or dead, do not handle it without gloves, as this may lead to infection! Slugs eat small insects, rotting plants, and even fungus.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas feed mostly at night because they are nocturnal creatures like cool temperatures.
17. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
The spotted apatelodes caterpillar is one of the most common caterpillars found in Arkansas. This type of caterpillar is often seen eating the leaves and flowers on many different plants, such as those found in apple trees, blackberry bushes, hickory trees, and others.
The spotted apatelodes caterpillar has a body that ranges from green to brownish-green with yellow or white stripes running down its length. It will grow to be about 1 inch long when fully grown.
On its head, this type of caterpillar has small yellow dots that can be seen from some distance away. When this type of caterpillar hatches from an egg sac, it will have six legs for walking around on surfaces such as leaves and tree branches.
18. Io Caterpillar
Io caterpillars are brightly colored and have blackheads. These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are found exclusively on oak trees, especially red oak and blackjack oak.
They feed on oaks by eating the leaves, which can cause significant damage to the tree’s health if left unchecked.
Io caterpillars can be spotted by looking for clusters of small green eggs that they lay during their larval stage.
If you find Io eggs, it is best to use an insecticide or natural predators, such as ladybugs, to control them before they hatch into larvae.
19. Flannel Moth Caterpillar
The Flannel Moth Caterpillar is one of the many varieties found in Arkansas. It is a black, white, and red-striped caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of trees such as oak and maple.
This variety has been spotted recently in the Benton County region. These types of caterpillars in Arkansas are often confused with Woolly Bear Caterpillars, but the reddish stripe along their side can differentiate them.
Caterpillars are often considered a nuisance but an important part of the ecosystem. They play an essential role in our food chain and recycle nutrients into the soil. In many places, they’re considered a delicacy.
These types of caterpillars in Arkansas can sometimes be hard to identify if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
If you want to start your caterpillar collection, you can pick out of some of the types of caterpillars in Arkansas listed above.