There are hundreds of different types of caterpillars in Hawaii, many of which have bright and beautiful colors. Some people may choose to raise caterpillars as pets.
In contrast, others might collect caterpillar eggs to observe the hatching process and watch their tiny charges grow into magnificent butterflies or moths.
Whatever your reason, it’s important to know how to identify caterpillars before raising them and/or releasing them into nature. You want to avoid accidentally introducing invasive species!
Here are some facts about some of the most common types of caterpillars in Hawaii.
1. Spiny Elm Caterpillar
Spiny Elm caterpillars are the first on the list of types of caterpillars in Hawaii. A spiny elm caterpillar is a black-bodied caterpillar with a white stripe down its back.
This caterpillar is usually found on trees, so if you see one crawling, it’s either going to fall off the tree, or it might be looking for food. When they’re young, they eat leaves, but as they grow, they move on to bark.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii are often found on elms and other types of trees around your home. They can cause some damage to trees which is why you want to take care not just of them but also of their nests which are made up of silk webbing.
2. Southwestern Corn Borer Moth Caterpillar
The Southwestern Corn Borer Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that can be found in many parts of Hawaii. This type of caterpillar is usually found feeding on corn crops, causing farmers to lose a lot of money.
In order to stop this pest from destroying their crops, farmers will turn to pesticides or other means to combat them.
However, there are natural ways that they can get rid of them as well. One way is by using a BT product, which kills these pests by attacking their guts.
Certain plants will help keep these pests away from your crops and more. For example, planting marigolds near your garden can keep them away. Because they produce an unpleasant odor when they are disturbed or eaten by bugs or other animals.
3. Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar
The Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar is also one of many types of caterpillars in Hawaii. They are called tussocks because they have a tuft of hairs on their head like a mohawk.
There are two types, the male and female, which you can tell apart by looking for a tuft on top of their heads.
They feed on leaves from plants like guava and eucalyptus trees, so it’s important to keep your yard well-manicured to avoid attracting them.
When they’re done eating all the leaves, they’ll pupate for about 4 months before emerging as an adult moth. One fun fact about this type is that it can fly!
4. Thistle Caterpillar
The thistle caterpillar is a bright green color with black dots all over it. These types of caterpillars in Hawaii feed on Hawaiian hibiscus, so if you see this type of caterpillar, please ask them not to take any.
The acacia tree caterpillar is also a bright green color, but they have a stripe down its back. They feed on acacia trees which are found only in Hawaii.
So, if you see this type of caterpillar, please do not touch it or let your dog or cat touch it because it can cause serious skin reactions like itching and swelling.
5. Tiger Moth Caterpillar
The Tiger Moth Caterpillar can be found in many areas of the Hawaiian Islands. This caterpillar is yellow with a black spot on each side.
It has four tufts of hair at the rear end. It feeds on plants from the family Apocynaceae, including plumeria, ʻōhiʻa lehua, and lantana.
The Polyphemus Moth also makes its home on these islands, and these types of caterpillars in Hawaii can be found feeding on bougainvillea (among other things).
This caterpillar is hairy with long red bristles that cover its body. They only feed during daylight hours, so they are very hard to spot when resting during nighttime hours!
6. Unicorn Caterpillar
One of the types of caterpillars in Hawaii is the Unicorn Caterpillar. This caterpillar is only found on Kauai, so if you’re looking for one to add to your list, it may be worth a trip to that island.
They have a horn coming out of their head, which is why they are also known as Hornworms. The change from caterpillar form to butterfly form takes place over a period of up-to-nine months.
In this process, they go through four stages: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa or chrysalis (cocoon), and adult moth or butterfly.
7. Variegated Fritillary Butterfly Caterpillar
The variegated Fritillary Butterfly Caterpillar (Euptoieta Claudia) is a butterfly that is found in Hawaii. This caterpillar can also be found on flowers, which it feeds on.
They are typically brown with black or white spots on their back. This species has also been seen to have different coloration patterns depending on where they live in Hawaii.
In Maui, for example, these butterflies may appear to be predominantly yellow and green compared to Oahu’s darker-colored variants.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii have been known to grow up to 2 inches long.
8. Western Tent Moth Caterpillar
The Western Tent Moth caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that inhabits forests. They are often found feeding on leaves and can be seen crossing paths with humans while they are searching for food.
They do not threaten humans, so you do not need to worry about these types of caterpillars.
The Western Tent Moth caterpillar is called such because it rests inside a tent-like cocoon made from silk that it weaves together using its spinneret.
When it feels threatened, this type of caterpillar will run quickly back into the folds of its cocoon where predators or other animals cannot reach it.
9. White Admiral Caterpillar
White admiral caterpillars are types of caterpillars in Hawaii found on plants. It can be found mostly on broad-leaf trees, where they feed on leaves. They have an orange stripe down their body, with black dots near the head and tail.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii are often seen feeding together in large groups. Another common name for this type of caterpillar is the milkweed tussock moth.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii like to eat oak leaves but will also eat other plant species.
10. White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillars are types of moth found in parts of Hawaii, North America, and Asia. They are one of many types of caterpillars found on the Hawaiian Islands.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii are most commonly seen between August and October as they migrate to warmer climates for winter hibernation.
The caterpillar is about two inches long with a white stripe running along its side from head to rear.
Also, they are green, with brown or black spots around their body. The moths have dark brown wings with dark wavy lines running through them, which is how they got their name, White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar.
11. Yellow-Necked Caterpillar
The yellow-necked caterpillar is one of the most common types of caterpillars in Hawaii. These caterpillars are usually green, with a black head, and have white spots on their sides.
They can grow to be up to 1 inch long, which is pretty big for an insect.
One common place they are found is on trees, where they eat leaves. They are not harmful to humans or other animals.
12. Yellow-Headed Hawaiian Butterfly
The Yellow-headed Hawaiian butterfly is next on the list of types of caterpillars in Hawaii. The Yellow-headed Hawaiian butterfly has orange, brown, and yellow wings. It gets its name because it has a bright yellow spot on the back of its head.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii don’t like being disturbed. So if you see them flying away from you, it’s best to leave them alone!
13. Yellow-Striped Armyworm
If you are looking for a caterpillar that is bright, vibrant, and colorful, then look no further. The Yellow-striped Armyworm is a type of caterpillar that thrives in warm climates like Hawaii.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii can be found on oak trees throughout the state as they feed on leaves.
They are not as big as some other types of caterpillars in Hawaii, such as the Giant Silkworm Moth or the Polyphemus Moth. But they make up for it with their bright yellow stripes.
Yellow-striped Armyworm is also called eldorado because it’s one of Hawaii’s most common and easy-to-find types of caterpillars.
14. Slug Caterpillar
Caterpillars are an important food source for many animals, including birds. They also play a crucial role as decomposers. There are different types of caterpillars in Hawaii that you might find.
Another type of caterpillar in Hawaii is called the slug caterpillar, which isn’t exactly what it sounds like.
A slug caterpillar gets its name from its ability to secrete slime from glands located near its mouth to protect itself against predators as it crawls over rocks and leaves on the ground.
15. Silver-Spotted Skipper Caterpillar
Caterpillars can be found worldwide, but not every species is in every location. In Hawaii, some caterpillar varieties are rather rare.
One of these is the Silver-spotted Skipper Caterpillar. There are many different types of caterpillars in Hawaii, but Silver-spotted Skipper Caterpillars are a type that you might want to keep your eye out for on your next walk through a forest or on your way to work.
16. Red-Humped Caterpillar
The Red-humped caterpillar is a very common sight on islands such as Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai, and Maui. This type of caterpillar feeds primarily on plant leaves from many different types of trees and shrubs.
Though they do not cause any major damage to the plants, their population can be very noticeable because they are easy to spot against green foliage. The bright coloration also makes them stand out against other types of caterpillars in Hawaii.
17. Red Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar
The Red Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar is one example of a caterpillar found on many Hawaiian islands. These types of caterpillars in Hawaii are typically orange, with black stripes near their head, and can be found feeding from green leaves.
Their bright colors are very easily identifiable, warning predators that these caterpillars are poisonous. Their bright colors also help them to blend in with leaves, so they don’t get eaten while they feed on vegetation.
The Red Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar lives for about two weeks before pupating (changing into a cocoon) to eventually emerge as an adult butterfly.
In their larval stage, they feed on plants such as mangoes, citrus fruits, coffee plants, guava trees, hibiscus plants, ficus trees, and other flowering bushes!
18. Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar
The Polyphemus Moth caterpillar, also known as Acronicta, is found worldwide but is most common in Hawaii.
They have a green body with a white to the yellow head and can be up to 5 inches long. Other colors include brown, blue, or black with red stripes.
The Polyphemus Moth caterpillar is a member of the family Noctuidae, which includes more than 2,000 species with larvae that feed on grasses.
In addition to eating plants, they also eat other insects, such as moths or butterflies, that are smaller than themselves.
19. Owlet Moth Caterpillar
The owlet moth caterpillar is a bright green color with black rings around it. It has orange-colored hair protruding from its body.
This caterpillar can be found on many types of trees, so it is hard to identify the tree that it came from by looking at the caterpillar alone.
The owlet moth caterpillar is poisonous to touch, so it is important to keep this in mind when trying to identify them.
They are also carnivores, meaning they eat other animals, such as slugs, snails, and even caterpillars. Owlet Moth Caterpillars are beautiful insects that can be found all over Hawaii!
20. Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar
The Oleander Hawk Moth caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found on many different types of plants. They are usually green with a brown head but can also be red or black.
They love to eat oleander leaves, hence their name. This type of caterpillar is toxic, so it’s best not to touch them!
If you see an Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar, stay back at least 6 feet from it because if you get too close, you might get stung.
The Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillars come out during the night and day. So you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for them during both time periods.
21. Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar
The Monarch butterfly caterpillar is one of the most recognizable types due to its iconic orange and black colors. It can be found throughout North America, including most of Canada and parts of Mexico.
The adult monarchs are able to migrate from one continent to another, making their life cycle even more unique.
In their larval stage, these caterpillars feed on milkweed plants. Their diet makes them toxic to predators such as birds and mammals.
So, when they reach a certain size, they will form a chrysalis around themselves, eventually turning into a butterfly!
One type that may not be so familiar is the Hawaiian Eupithecia moth caterpillar. These caterpillars can have either white or brown stripes running down their bodies; this helps them camouflage themselves on tree bark!
22. Mealybug Destroyer Beetle Larva
Mealybug Destroyer Beetle Larvae are types of caterpillars in Hawaii that are found mainly on pineapple plants.
These caterpillars have a black head with a white stripe down their back, while the rest of their body is dark brown.
They can be found in Hawaii but live in other tropical areas like Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. Mealybug Destroyer Beetles are voracious eaters, consuming up to 200 mealybugs daily.
23. Afflicted Dagger Moth Caterpillar
The Afflicted Dagger Moth caterpillar is one type of caterpillar that you can find on certain islands in Hawaii. They are typically found on Maui and Oahu, but they can also be found on other islands as well.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii are considered a pest because they eat leaves from plants grown for food or medicine.
This type of caterpillar is also known as a cutworm moth in the larva stage before adulthood.
24. American Lady Caterpillar
The American lady caterpillar is one of the most common types of caterpillars found in Hawaii. They are bright green with red stripes on their head.
You can find them by looking for leaves on plants that have been eaten away by a hungry caterpillar. Some people think these little creatures are cute, but they can be quite destructive when they attack your favorite plant!
25. American Lappet Moth Caterpillar
American Lappet Moth caterpillars are a type of caterpillar with a white or yellow body. They have dark spots around their body that look like eyespots.
They can be found on plants such as hibiscus, gardenia, ʻōhiʻa lehua, and maile, among others.
These types of caterpillars in Hawaii feed mostly on leaves but also eat flowers and fruits. Adults are brown with orange stripes on their backs. They fly at night to avoid predators.
The Hawaiian Hapa-haole Birdwing is a type of moth that is named for its bright colors and large size.
26. Bent-Line Gray Moth Caterpillar
Caterpillars are often considered a pest, but they are a vital part of an ecosystem. Without caterpillars eating their way through leaves, the leaf litter would build up too high on the forest floor.
One type of caterpillar found throughout Hawaii is the bent-line gray moth caterpillar. This type differs from many other types of caterpillars in Hawaii because it doesn’t eat leaves.
They can be found in both humid forests and dry areas such as shrublands or coastal ecosystems such as beaches and sand dunes.
27. Black Carpet Beetle Larva
A black carpet beetle larva is a type of caterpillar found in Hawaii. Black carpet beetles are small, dark brown beetles that feed on animal products such as wool, fur, feathers, hair, and other materials made from proteinaceous fibers.
They feed on dry goods by chewing holes through them to get at their insides. Adult insects cannot fly, but they can crawl quickly, and some larvae can develop into adult beetles within as little as six weeks.
The larva is usually found crawling on floors or other surfaces where food is available to them. They are nocturnal, so they come out at night when it’s cooler and less light to hide under things or surfaces for protection from predators like ants or spiders.
28. Blinded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
The Blinded Sphinx Moth caterpillar is a brightly colored creature found on the islands of Hawaii. These colorful caterpillars can range from yellow to pink and red.
They have long, black horns or spikes coming out from their head area, resembling a crown or tiara.
Unlike most moth caterpillars, they don’t stay in one single spot while feeding. Instead, they roam around until they find an area that’s suitable for them to munch on some leaves before moving to another spot.
The Blinded Sphinx Moth caterpillar is a colorful creature found in the Hawaiian Islands. These colorful types of caterpillars in Hawaii can range from yellow to pink and red, with long black spikes coming out from their head area resembling a tiara or crown.
29. Cabbage Looper
The cabbage looper is a type of caterpillar that feeds on plants like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.
They have bright green bodies with darker green stripes down the sides. They are about one inch long when fully grown.
So, they start eating right away when they hatch from their eggs. This type has very few natural predators, which makes it easy for them to spread throughout an area quickly.
30. Camouflaged Emerald Moth Caterpillar
You may be wondering what caterpillar is green. There are a few, but one that stands out is the Camouflaged Emerald Moth Caterpillar.
This bright green caterpillar with brown markings is really hard to find, so you should stop and notice if you spot it. It grows up to two inches long, making it one of Hawaii’s largest types of caterpillars.
31. Cecropia Silkmoth Caterpillar
Cecropia Silkmoth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that can be found in many different parts of the world. They are commonly seen on the leaves or branches of trees, especially those that grow near rivers and streams.
They are most often green, brown, or yellow but may also be black or white.
Cecropia Silk Moths are often mistaken for other types, such as a polyphemus moth caterpillar. To tell them apart, look at their heads; polyphemus moth caterpillars have spikes on theirs, while cecropia silk moths do not.
32. Cimbicid Sawfly
The cimbicid sawfly is a type of caterpillar often found in Hawaii, but it can also be found worldwide. It is also known as a caterpillar killer because it eats other caterpillars, including leaf-eating species.
They mostly eat larvae but will also eat adults if they find one without a cocoon. The cimbicid sawfly pupates inside its egg until it has become an adult.
When it’s ready to emerge as an adult, it chews its way out of the egg by using its mandibles and legs.
33. Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar
The common buckeye butterfly caterpillar’s unique design sets it apart from other types of caterpillars in Hawaii. It is covered with raised scales on its body, which are very sharp.
Though it may look like this type of caterpillar could be dangerous, they don’t pose any threat to humans. They are just looking for something to eat!
The buckeye butterfly caterpillar’s head is dark brown or black and surrounded by bright orange rings. These colors help them blend in with their surroundings so predators cannot find them easily.
On their backside, two rows of bumps look like little horns.
34. Common Sawfly Larva
Sawfly larvae can be recognized by their brown, black, and yellow stripes. They are one of the most common types of caterpillars in Hawaii and are found on Hawaiian trees.
Sawflies are a large family of insects that feed on plants, mostly leaves, and soft tissue.
When they hatch from their eggs, sawfly larvae typically spend a few days crawling around before spinning cocoons, where they will pupate into adults.
35. Common Sawfly Larva
The Common Sawfly Larva is a type of caterpillar found in Maui. These caterpillars are typically green or black with red spots, though they can also be yellow, brown, or pink.
When threatened by predators, they release a smelly yellow liquid from their thorax as a defense mechanism.
While these common sawfly larvae are common on Maui year-round, they are most prevalent during late summer and early autumn. They feed on the leaves of plants like koa trees and ohia lehua trees.
36. Cross-Striped Cabbageworm
The cross-striped cabbageworm is a type of caterpillar that feeds on cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kohlrabi, turnips, rutabagas, and related plants.
They are considered to be pests because they can cause significant damage to crops. It has two color forms: one with a light green body with a brown head; the other more common form has a greenish body with bright red stripes.
37. Fall Webworm
The fall webworm is a type of caterpillar that can be found on many different plants, but it prefers to feed on apples, peaches, plums, apricots, blackberries, figs, and even grapevines.
They are bright green with yellow stripes, about one inch long, and have a white stripe along their sides.
There are usually between 10-60 eggs on each individual tree branch. When they hatch from their eggs, they start by spinning a silk web around leaves or fruit as a way to protect themselves from predators while they grow their wings.
They then start eating their way through leaves or fruit until they reach the size of an adult moth (about half an hour). They pupate for about two weeks before emerging as mature moths.
38. False Unicorn Caterpillar
The false unicorn caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that is found on the Hawaiian islands. It has been given this name because it looks like it could be related to a horse or mule, which are called unicorns in some parts of the world.
This caterpillar does not bite or sting, but you might find it unpleasant if you touch its hairy body with your bare hands. Because it can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Its body is mostly black, with what looks like a yellowish stripe running down its back. This type of caterpillar feeds on plants such as koa and ōhia lehua trees, among others.
39. Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillar
The Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillar is a beautiful creature native to the Hawaiian Islands. It’s not commonly seen by humans, as it lives in high-elevation forests that are difficult to access.
The caterpillar feeds on loblolly pine trees, which are common to higher elevations but not found on all islands.
As such, these types of caterpillars in Hawaii can be found only on Maui and Kauai, and you’ll rarely see one!
40. Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar
The Hitchhiked Arches Moth Caterpillar is a bright orange-brown moth caterpillar with white rings on its back. It has an ugly appearance that resembles a snake.
This type of caterpillar is found in wet forests, but some have also been found in dry areas. It feeds on plants like Hala, maile, and kukui.
41. Humped Green Fruitworm
The Humped Green Fruitworm is one of the most common types of caterpillars in Hawaii. This caterpillar feeds on plants from families, including Moraceae, Salicaceae, Rutaceae, Magnoliaceae, Myrtaceae, and Ulmaceae.
It is known for its bright green color with dark patches on its underside. Although this species does not sting or bite people, they are covered with hairs that cause itchiness when handled.
42. Leopard Slug
Leopard is the last on the list of types of caterpillars in Hawaii. The Leopard Slug is a type of caterpillar that can be found on some Hawaiian Islands. Leopard Slugs are carnivorous, feeding primarily on snails and slugs.
These caterpillars are mainly black with yellow stripes along their sides. They are active hunters, moving stealthily through leaf litter or garden soil to find their prey. When they locate a snail or slug, they will pounce quickly before it can escape.
These beautiful creatures come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the most common types of caterpillars in Hawaii include the Koa moth, the Melemele moth, and the Pulelehua butterfly.
Each type of caterpillar has its own unique pattern and coloration. Caterpillars are an important part of the Hawaiian ecosystem and play a vital role in the life cycle of many plants and animals.
Whether you call them caterpillars, inchworms, or something else entirely, the fact of the matter is that these fascinating little creatures are an absolute delight to discover in nature.
While most people are used to spotting the large green pincher-like caterpillars of the caterpillar family.
There are many other bright and beautiful types of caterpillars in Hawaii that you’re sure to love as well!