Who knew there were so many types of caterpillars in Georgia? This article will explain how to identify 20 different types of caterpillars and moths that you might find on plants in your backyard or your home.
Once you know which type of caterpillar you have, it’s easy to research the best way to kill it!
1. Monarch Caterpillar
The Monarch caterpillar is one of the most recognizable types because they are uniquely identifiable by its orange and black stripes. They measure about 3 inches long when fully grown.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia feed exclusively on milkweed plants, which contain a toxic compound that makes them distasteful to predators.
The monarch butterfly will form a chrysalis after it reaches maturity and emerges as an adult butterfly about ten days later.
The green part at the end of its body serves as camouflage while it eats and rests during the day, so birds can’t see it. It takes two weeks for a monarch to develop from egg to caterpillar.
The cabbageworm is a common pest identified by its white or yellow stripes and black spots. Females lay eggs in the leaves, which hatch into grubs that eat the plant’s tissue. The cabbage itself will become stunted, with frayed and wilted leaves.
As they mature, the grubs fall to the ground, where they pupate before emerging as an adult moths in one to two weeks. Adult cabbage worms are active at night but stay close to their host plants.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia can be controlled by handpicking from infested plants and destroying them or spraying plants with insecticide.
3. Woolly Bear
Woolly Bear caterpillars can be found across the US, but you’ll have your best luck with this species in the eastern and southeastern states. Look for them on plants like goldenrod, aster, and huckleberry.
The woolly bear caterpillar is 1 inch long when it hatches from its egg, but it will grow up to 4 inches long and densely covered with a coat of fuzzy white hairs.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia are quite variable in color and often browner than white on their head section. In the larval stage, they feed exclusively on the leaves of trees or shrubs.
Once fully grown, they drop to the ground and pupate underground. After several weeks they emerge as black moths that fly at night.
4. Viceroy Caterpillar
The Viceroy caterpillar is a striking black, yellow, and white-striped caterpillar with a v-shaped marking on the back. It is mostly found on members of the orange family, like citrus fruit trees.
The Viceroy caterpillar has become famous recently as the only butterfly that tastes bad enough to discourage birds from eating it, thus protecting its fellow butterflies from potential predators.
In addition, the Viceroy’s bright colors are believed by some naturalists to be an example of Batesian mimicry, where a harmless organism mimics the appearance of one that would be harmful if eaten.
5. Large Maple Spanworm
The large maple spanworm is a yellowish-brown moth that can reach lengths up to three inches long. It has a thin body, long wispy wings, and a small head.
This caterpillar is usually found feeding on the leaves of the sugar maple tree during the summer months.
If you’re unsure what type it is, look at the back end for a brown tail about as long as its body. You may find one on a sunny day lounging lazily on the ground or the low-hanging branches of your favorite tree.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia are also active after dark. Large Maple Spanworms love eggs, so they’ll often eat anything from aphids to other insects to themselves if they’re hungry enough.
6. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
Curve-Lined Owlet Moth caterpillar is a medium-sized caterpillar that is typically brown with light and dark green stripes.
The name suggests that it has a distinctive curve-line pattern down its back. The head is black with a white band behind it.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia feed on dogwood, hickory, and cherry trees. They are often found climbing up tree trunks and branches during daylight hours.
They spend most of their time at the base of trees, hidden from predators by being tucked away under leaves or bark scales. However, they are also known to eat dead leaves falling onto the ground.
7. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar (Erebidae: Lithacodiaptomidae) is mostly found in southern states such as Florida, Texas, and California. They’re also known as Lettuce Loopers for their habit of eating the leaves off plants.
However, they don’t eat too much; it’s rare for these caterpillars to do any permanent damage. These types of caterpillars in Georgia can be spotted from March through May.
Hornworms are some of the most common caterpillars in Georgia. These greenish-brown caterpillars have a long, curved horn on their head and are often found eating the leaves of tomato plants.
Hornworms can be identified by their thin, white stripes down the back, broken up by a thicker stripe that goes from the front of the head to just before the horn starts.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia also have two black dots on each side near where they join with the main body of their body.
Hornworms may grow as large as 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. The best way to get rid of these pests is to spray them with an insecticide.
If you do not want to use chemicals, cut off the branch they are on or pick them off individually, so you do not harm any other creatures nearby.
9. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar
White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma) is a type of caterpillar found throughout the Eastern United States.
The White-Marked Tussock caterpillar is one of Georgia’s most common types of caterpillars. It’s oval, shiny, and green with a white stripe on its back, which is how it got its name.
Some other features to look for are long black setae or bristles and a yellow-white band around its body. This type of caterpillar usually feeds on trees such as oak, hickory, apple, birch, willow, maple, and some bushes like lilac or privet.
If you come across these types of caterpillars in Georgia, you should avoid handling it. They tend to ooze an irritating liquid when they feel threatened, so you should use gloves if needed.
10. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
The Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar is a beautiful creature with alternating light and dark stripes running the length of its body.
They grow up to 2 inches long and can easily be found on milkweed plants in summer. They feed on the leaves, which causes them to form a tussock-like mass as they grow.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia are not considered harmful because they don’t harm the plant but produce an unpleasant odor when handled or disturbed.
Although these caterpillars are nonvenomous, they may release irritating hairs that could cause skin irritation.
11. Banded Tussock Caterpillar
The Banded Tussock Caterpillar is a bright green caterpillar with yellow stripes on its back.
When fully grown, the caterpillar will have a tussock-like tuft of hair on its last body segment. These types of caterpillars in Georgia are most often found feeding on cherry, apple, and plum trees.
The Banded Tussock Caterpillar has been known to feed on ornamental plants, including lilacs, peonies, and hollyhocks.
The caterpillar pupates by spinning a cocoon of silk and leaves, usually high up in the tree branches. Adults emerge after about two weeks to mate and lay eggs before they die.
12. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
The Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar is one of Georgia’s most common types of caterpillars.
It can be found on various trees, including Blackgum, Sweetbay, and Red Maple. The larvae are 1-2 inches long, brown with white spots encircling the body.
They pupate on the branches or trunk and will form cocoons from which a female moth will emerge. These nocturnal moths come out at night to feed on rotting fruit.
Adults have wingspans up to 5 inches, and females emit pheromones that attract males for mating. There is also evidence of these types of caterpillars in Georgia being used by indigenous people as fishing bait in southern parts of the state.
13. Parsley Caterpillar (Black Swallowtail)
The parsley caterpillar is a moth that feeds on plants like parsley and dill. These types of caterpillars in Georgia are mostly green with brown stripes.
When they get ready to pupate, they will have a red stripe down their back. The larvae tend to be hairy with long spines on their bodies.
If you see one, you can tell by looking at the leaves of your parsley plant. If the leaves are eaten away or torn up in some way, there’s a good chance of parsley caterpillar infestation.
You’ll want to use neem oil to keep them from spreading. Another option is contacting an exterminator if the infestation seems too out of control.
14. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar is easy to identify because it has a yellow, black, and white color pattern. It is also known as the Spicebush Swallowtail. The caterpillar can be found on spicebush leaves.
If you are unsure whether or not the leaf is from a spicebush tree, it has a spicy smell when crushed. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar does not bite.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia can’t hurt you and are often found high off the ground, so they don’t pose much of a threat to people or animals near them.
Despite this fact, many people still try to kill them for their sheer existence. Yet, these types of caterpillars in Georgia are among the most common ones in Georgia during the summer months.
15. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly is a member of the Papilionidae family, and it’s very easy to identify because they have huge tails with distinctive patterns.
The species was originally native only to Asia but has now spread worldwide so that they can be found in Georgia.
Spicebush swallowtails are herbivores and often eat leaves from the spicebush plant. You can find these types of caterpillars in Georgia by looking for their green color as they cling to trees or bushes, especially near spice bushes.
It takes about two weeks for them to develop into pupae and adults. They emerge between late July and early September, so you’ll see them this time of year if you’re lucky enough to spot one!
16. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
The Cecropia Moth caterpillar is green with black and yellow stripes. It has a redhead and two large red spots on the sides of its body. They are very hairy and can grow up to 3 inches long.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia are often seen eating tomato plants or sometimes maple trees. Then, when they get ready to turn into moths, they wander around at night, looking for a place to create their cocoons.
If you want to collect one, put it in a jar or plastic bag and then set it outside after dark so that it can find the right spot.
It will stay there until it turns into a moth and then fly away. You might also see them hanging from your tree’s leaves because they like to hide there before turning into a moth.
17. Monkey Slug
There are many different types of caterpillars in Georgia that come in various shapes and sizes. One type that is not very common, but can be found in many Southern states, is the monkey slug.
The monkey slug gets its name from its resemblance to a banana slug with arms and legs on the side.
This type of caterpillar is about two inches long when fully grown and has an orange body with a green head. The color combination makes it hard to spot leaves or other debris that’s on the ground.
In addition, they are most active at night, making them more difficult to find.
18. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
The Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar is a yellow and black caterpillar with red spots.
It has four pairs of prolegs and feeds on the leaves of plants like hibiscus, soybeans, beans, potatoes, cottonwood, and willows. The pupae are white or brownish-yellow with a long tail.
The Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar is about 1-1.5 inches long when fully grown. They are fairly common throughout North America and usually appear in late summer or early fall.
They can be found from sea level to elevations as high as 5500 feet above sea level, making them one of the most widespread species of caterpillars.
They live for about two weeks before pupating into adult moths that only live for five days. These types of caterpillars in Georgia can impact crops if they are not controlled by predators and parasites that keep their numbers down during other parts of the year.
19. Io Caterpillar
The Io moth caterpillar is one of the most common types that you’ll find in Georgia. It has a yellowish body and reddish-brown head with black dots. The Io caterpillar feeds on oak, ash, cherry, chestnut, hickory, and more.
When it’s time for them to pupate into an adult moth, they will weave leaves from their food sources into a cocoon and then attach them to the tree branches or stems.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia spend about ten days as adults before dying off.
One species of this caterpillar lives all year long, while others may only be around during summer. Other similar-looking caterpillars include the Eastern Tussock Moth (shown above) and the White Ermine Moth.
20. Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Asp)
Flannel moths are medium-sized, brown moths with the distinguishing feature of long, white hairs covering most of their bodies.
These types of caterpillars in Georgia are also known for eating clothes and woolen fabrics such as blankets and carpets.
Flannel moth caterpillars have a dark head capsule that is hairy and has two long antennae coming from it.
The flannel moth caterpillar has five sets of fleshy prolegs (three pairs). In addition, the larva’s body is covered with black, branched spines that make the larva look like an animal.
This helps them camouflage and protects them from predators because birds or other animals can’t easily grab them.
In sum, there are about 20 types of caterpillars found in Georgia that we can identify. Some are more common than others, and some are much rarer.
What is important is that if you find a caterpillar on your property, it’s not always easy to identify its type. That’s why if you find one, take pictures and information so you can consult an expert if necessary.
But, of course, the most useful information when identifying a caterpillar is its color because many look the same otherwise.
Certain shapes may help narrow down the caterpillar type. One final way to distinguish between different types of caterpillars in Georgia is by their hairs (or lack thereof).