Louisiana has an amazing range of caterpillars, with over 20 types.
While many people associate caterpillars with cocoons and butterflies, these types of caterpillars in Louisiana are diverse, beautiful, and often plentiful in the state.
Here’s a look at 20 types of caterpillars in Louisiana that you might encounter while on your hiking trip or day in the garden.
1. Monarch Caterpillar
The monarch caterpillar is easily spotted by looking for its orange and black, spiky hair that resembles a fuzzy pom-pom.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana feed on milkweed, common mullein, and various other plants native to North America.
From these plants, monarch caterpillars also develop a toxin called cardenolide that protects them against predators while in their cocoon stage.
Adult monarch butterflies get their bright colors from ingesting these toxins after they emerge from their cocoons as adult butterflies.
The monarch butterfly is one of many animals that relies on caterpillars to protect from predators during its life cycle, so it’s important to take care when picking which types of caterpillars you eat!
Cabbageworms are large green caterpillars that are a common sight throughout much of North America.
Unfortunately, these types of caterpillars in Louisiana like to feed on plants from a wide variety of plant families and can become real pests for gardeners or farmers.
Luckily, cabbage worms have very few natural predators, so controlling them is relatively easy for most people with a little time and patience.
One good way to control these and other caterpillars are by hosting their natural predator: parasitic wasps that lay eggs inside cabbageworms’ bodies, killing them before they can get out into your garden and start feasting.
You may be able to purchase these wasps online or through gardening centers if you live in an area where cabbage worms are prevalent.
3. Woolly Bear
They may look scary, but woolly bears aren’t so bad. These fuzzy little types of caterpillars in Louisiana are more cute than creepy and can be found across Louisiana.
Woolly bears are not a bear at all. Instead, they’re part of an insect family called isopods, meaning equal feet. When these bugs grow up, they become pill bugs or sowbugs!
You can find woolly bears across grassy areas and forests during springtime though you may also notice them inside your home around windowsills or outside on bushes or plants.
Don’t worry; these critters prefer to avoid human contact and won’t bite! Here are 20 types of caterpillars in Louisiana that will blow your mind
4. Viceroy Caterpillar
The Viceroy Caterpillar, sometimes called a butterfly or an impostor, is one of 20 types of caterpillars in Louisiana that most commonly appear on oak trees.
As you might have already guessed, there are two specific varieties: an orange and black banded form that is mostly harmless to humans and another (known as a white admiral) with similar appearance traits but can cause harm to people.
Since it’s so difficult for humans to tell them apart, it makes sense that these creepy crawlies are often found on trees.
Thankfully, they don’t seem to bite; instead, their venomous hairs only give some people intense reactions if their skin comes into contact with them.
5. Large Maple Spanworm
The Large Maple Spanworm is one of Louisiana’s many types of caterpillars that feed on maples, but it’s a little more dangerous than others.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana tend to like to rest at night on trees and move to feed by day.
A seemingly harmless caterpillar, they sport bright colors such as yellow, black, and orange.
But if you touch them, you will find that these colors are poisonous quills used for defense.
Other caterpillars in Louisiana with similar features include the tent caterpillar (of eastern deciduous forests) and the oak leaf roller caterpillar (of oaks).
This species has a pale brown body with bright orange legs, abdominal prolegs, and head capsules.
6. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
One of Louisiana’s most recognizable caterpillars, and a model organism for its scientific name, will probably wind up as someone’s dinner.
The variegated fritillary caterpillar resembles bird droppings, so it blends into its surroundings when it feeds on milkweed or other toxic plants.
This cryptic defense mechanism saves it from being gobbled up by predators such as ladybugs, lacewings, and predatory wasps.
All five stages (called instars) of its life cycle, eggs, larva (caterpillar), pupae (chrysalis), imago (adult), and nympha (the first stage after hatching) are eaten by birds or are parasitized.
7. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Often seen in gardens and house plants, members of the Lonomia genus are native to North America.
Although they are called caterpillars, they are not related to moths or butterflies but leaf-rolling sawflies.
The larvae grow up to 5 long and feed on various host plants, including nettles and dogbane plants.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana make their home by webbing leaves together with silk before forming a pupal case.
They come out of their protective cocoons at night and eat leaves using two sharp mandibles. They may bite if handled!
8. Tobacco Hornworm
These leaf-eating caterpillars have a voracious appetite and gobble up anything in their path.
Unfortunately, they’re not picky about what they consume and will chow down on any plant or vegetable matter available.
This includes tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, peas, and garden favorites.
If you find these bright green worms on your plants, you should pull them off with your hands instead of using pesticides that may kill beneficial insects and caterpillars.
Otherwise, their numbers will continue to grow! These types of caterpillars in Louisiana are typically found from May through September because they overwinter as eggs before turning into moths that lay more eggs that hatch next spring.
9. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar
Just like its namesake, this caterpillar has a tuft-like appearance.
While there are quite a few caterpillar varieties with white and black markings, I don’t think any look as unique as these guys!
Commonly found near milkweed plants, these little types of caterpillars in Louisiana will wow your friends and family when you introduce them.
Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar: Like its namesake, this caterpillar has a tuft-like appearance.
While there are quite a few caterpillar varieties with white and black markings, I don’t think any look as unique as these guys!
Commonly found near milkweed plants, these little caterpillars will wow your friends and family when you introduce them.
10. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
As larvae, these types of caterpillars in Louisiana are active at night and feed on milkweed plants.
Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) contain cardiac glycosides that serve as a defense mechanism for monarch butterflies.
The plant’s toxins prevent vertebrate predators from eating adult monarchs, but young caterpillars must eat toxic plants to build up their defenses against predators.
When alarmed, these young types of caterpillars in Louisiana appear to bleed from their spiracles holes on each side of their abdomens and can exude long strands of dark liquid.
These defense mechanisms help protect them while they feed and rest during daylight hours inside protective tents made with folded leaves.
All species pages are currently being updated with more useful descriptions and information. Please check back later.
11. Banded Tussock Caterpillar
The banded tussock caterpillar is so distinct it almost looks Photoshopped.
Small cream spots on a tan-colored body make it look like an intricate design. The caterpillar can grow to be an inch long (2.5 centimeters).
What makes these types of caterpillars in Louisiana unique is that they eat the leaves and stems of trumpet creeper vines (about 15 species within four different genera).
Strangely, only one caterpillar species eats these specific plants, but researchers think it has something to do with chemical protection from predators and competition for food with other caterpillar species.
These guys turn into moths about 1 1⁄2 inches long and have black wings with white wingtips; females are larger than males.
12. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
The giant leopard moth caterpillar is a stunning creature.
Its large size, black and yellow coloration, and great eye spots make it one of our state’s most easily recognized caterpillars.
Its appearance may be daunting, but it is completely harmless to humans, despite its name.
Giant leopard moths are common throughout Louisiana and feed exclusively on plants in the Asclepias genus (milkweeds).
These wildflowers are extremely poisonous to most animals, but caterpillars of both species learn to safely eat them while they are young to survive to adulthood when they need to breed.
13. Parsley Caterpillar (Black Swallowtail)
The parsley caterpillar is named for its main food source; when it matures, it’s a butterfly.
When people think of caterpillars, they typically envision wormlike creatures that devour trees and plants.
In actuality, many types of caterpillars in Louisiana species feed on a wide range of foods, including herbaceous plants, trees and shrubs, grasses, conifers, and aquatic vegetation.
Some even eat insects (caterpillars can eat pretty much anything!). Here are some common species you may encounter around your garden or while hiking.
14. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, also known as Papilio glaucus, is a butterfly found in North America.
It is black with white markings and yellow spots on its wings that can be seen from above.
You might recognize these types of caterpillars in Louisiana by their beautiful colors or long tails.
Their name comes from these tails because they look like tiger’s claws ready to attack.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana are poisonous, so don’t touch them! But if you ever come across one, watch where you step so you don’t accidentally crush it.
So, the next time you see a butterfly flying around, check out its full body to appreciate its coolness!
15. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
It is about two to two and a half inches long. It has black-and-white markings on its back, two red dots on each side, and a yellow-orange head.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana are found around spicebush trees, hence their name.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana are mostly found in mid to late July.
However, due to warmer summers, they can be seen in May and June as well. These types of caterpillars in Louisiana have been spotted from New York to Florida.
These caterpillars feed on plants like azaleas, blueberries, butterfly bushes, cherries, dogwood, honeysuckle, and viburnum.
If you see these caterpillars or any other type of caterpillar during your travels in Louisiana, make sure you snap some pictures!
You never know what kind of interesting facts you will learn!
16. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
This caterpillar, known as a saddleback caterpillar, can be found hanging out on the underside of oak trees (particularly oak leaf and live oak trees) and hickory and sweet gum trees.
They’re typically gray or brown and have dark lines running down their backs.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana are most active from April through early May, which is also when they’ll undergo their metamorphosis into adult Cecropia moths.
So while they may resemble woolly bears or wooly worms, don’t let that intimidate you. They’re harmless little guys!
17. Monkey Slug
The monkey slug is more than a foot long and brown with white spots.
Unfortunately, it’s rare to see because it avoids humans living in hardwood forests, where you can only catch a glimpse if you’re lucky enough to spot them. Don’t worry, though. They don’t bite or sting.
Plus, they are said to be delicious when cooked! These types of caterpillars in Louisiana live in wooded areas and enjoy snacking on saw palmetto berries.
They have distinctive wings with three yellow lines running across their back that help them stand out from their surroundings.
18. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
The caterpillar for The Apatelodes Moth, a sphinx moth, is truly amazing. It has these stunning black and orange spots that stand out.
These feed on cherry trees, so if you want to see them, you should check your local Cherry trees for them.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana have hooks near its mouth to help them latch onto leaves so they can’t be pulled off easily by predators.
Also, it will fall from trees when disturbed or threatened. The adult moth is a brownish-orange color with small white dots on its wings.
This species lives all over North America and parts of Europe and Asia. It feeds at night on nectar from flowers like redbud, dogwood, lilac, honeysuckle, and others.
So if you have one in your yard, keep an eye out for their eggs!
19. Io Caterpillar
It may not be easy to imagine, but that caterpillar will eventually turn into an Io moth. The Io is a giant brown caterpillar with yellow and black eyespots on its back.
Adult moths are so large (five inches long!) that they’re sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds!
At one time, only five known Io moth populations were left in North America, but conservation efforts have brought their numbers back up to safe levels.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana moths live entirely off of eucalyptus trees and can even release toxic chemicals if they feel threatened.
20. Flannel Moth Caterpillar
The flannel moth caterpillar is a beautiful caterpillar with green, yellow, and white markings.
These types of caterpillars in Louisiana feed on over 300 plant species and can often be found on backyard plants like roses, lilacs, birch trees, and sycamores.
A sign that these caterpillars are around is often a web-like nest near your prized plants.
Don’t disturb or touch these nests, as they can release an irritant to protect themselves from predators!
The flannel moth has been reported to eat more than 300 host plants, such as privet shrubs.
These caterpillars’ most well-known feeding characteristic is their constant need for movement.
Although there are plenty of types of caterpillars in Louisiana, only a few seem to get all the attention.
If you love caterpillars or want to take your knowledge to new heights, it’s time you learned more about these interesting insects and butterflies. So next time one flies by, check out its wings.
You might be surprised by what you find! Most butterflies belong to two families: Nymphalidae (brush-footed) and Papilionidae (swallow-tailed).
The former family includes the most common butterflies like monarchs, rulers, admirals, and tortoise shells, whereas swallowtails include fritillaries and red admirals.
However, each family contains many subfamilies that house other species like fireflies (also known as lightning bugs), which are beetles belonging to Lampyridae.