Caterpillars in Ohio come in all shapes and sizes, but three types can be found in this state. They include the tent caterpillar, wooly bear, and luna moth caterpillars.
Each type has its life cycle and habitat requirements. Below are details on the Types of Caterpillars in Ohio.
1. Monarch Caterpillar
Monarch caterpillars are one of the most well-known types of caterpillars in Ohio. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio live as larvae and can be found throughout North America.
They eat leaves from milkweed plants, which produce a toxic substance that makes it difficult for predators to consume them.
The bright coloration helps camouflage them by blending into the surrounding foliage until they become fully-grown monarch butterflies with their wings spread out.
TherOhio has other types of caterpillars, including hairy, brightly colored ones like tiger swallowtails. If you come across any, we hope you enjoy learning about these fascinating creatures!
Cabbageworms are found across the country and throughout Ohio. They are known as cabbage worms because they eat the leaves from cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Their name comes from the fact that their pupae resemble cabbages when they curl up inside their cocoons after maturing.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio have a black head with green stripes on their upper body and a white underbelly with black lines running down it.
Cabbage worms can grow up to 3 inches long and have orange or yellow spots towards the end of their abdomen.
Caterpillar identification can be difficult, but many resources are available to help you determine what type of caterpillar you’re dealing with.
3. Woolly Bear
The woolly bear caterpillar, also known as the Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, can be found across North America. As the name suggests, these Types of Caterpillars in Ohio have a covering of white hairs that
provide camouflage against predators and allow it to blend into its environment.
The woolly bear has been observed to change colors from brown to green depending on the season. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio will also produce a foul-smelling chemical from their anal glands to scare off predators. This may not sound too appealing, but it’s an effective defense mechanism!
4. Viceroy Caterpillar
You can find these caterpillars on the leaves of trees like oak, ash, and hickory. The viceroy caterpillar has a black body with two rows of white and orange stripes on its side.
In addition, these Types of Caterpillars in Ohio have blackheads, legs, and feet with red dots on their sides.
You can find viceroys from late April to early June. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio feed on the leaves of trees like oaks, ashes, and hickories. They are also known as the milkweed tussock moth or the monarch butterfly’s worst enemy!
5. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
Variegated fritillary caterpillars are easy to identify. They are called variegated because of the white and yellow stripes down their back. However, they can be hard to spot because their colors blend well with the flowers they feed.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio feed on various flowers, including those from the parsley family, dandelion family, and aster family.
Unfortunately, their small size makes them difficult to spot, but when you see them, it’s worth taking a moment to look at their beautiful markings!
6. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar: The Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar’s diet consists primarily of dandelion, wild carrot, and mayapple.
It ranges from southern Ontario to Florida and west to Arkansas. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio have a wingspan ranging from .5 to 1 inch (1.27 cm).
Adults are nocturnal and eat honeydew and nectar; females lay their eggs on the host plants during the day.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio spend their entire lives in the foliage of trees or shrubs, where they eat leaves, flowers, and fruit.
These moths are considered pests because they feed on many crops, including tomatoes, beans, corn, citrus fruits, cotton crops, cucumbers, eggplant, and other vegetables like lettuce.
7. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
The milkweed tussock caterpillar, also known as the woolly bear, has a black head and thorax with white-creamy bands. It spends its days eating milkweed leaves.
The female will then lay her eggs on the underside of the leaf and hibernate during the winter months.
In spring, she will emerge to start a new generation of caterpillars. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio can be found across North America, but they are most abundant in Ohio, where researchers have studied extensively.
8. Large Maple Spanworm
Some Types of Caterpillars in Ohio feed on leaves and stems, while others eat fruit. For example, the Large Maple Spanworm feeds on the leaves of silver maple trees (Acer saccharinum).
When they are ready to pupate, they weave together several leaves to form a cocoon that protects their chrysalis.
Ohio has two generations per year, with adults appearing from May to July and again from August to October.
Hornworms are a type of caterpillar and are in many different types of plants. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are also one of the most commonly seen caterpillars, especially during warmer months when they tend to be more active.
Hornworms are green with black and white stripes on their body and have a horn-like protrusion at their head.
Hornworms can grow up to 5 inches long, which is why these Types of Caterpillars in Ohio sometimes get mistaken for small snakes!
Hornworm caterpillars feed voraciously on plants from the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
Unfortunately, these plants contain toxic alkaloids that poison the hornworm to predators who ingest them.
10. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar
The White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar is a common moth that lives across North America. It has a life span of one to two years. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio can reach up to five inches long when fully grown.
The head and thorax are black with white markings, while the abdomen has red stripes and spots. In addition, the larva’s body is usually covered with hair (setae) that may be brown, black, or gray.
11. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are white with black spots and have red eyespots on their last abdominal segment. They are often found on spicebush, which they feed on.
The Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar will have a black spot on the back of its head called an osmeterium which they use to emit a disagreeable smell to deter predators from eating them.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio can also use that same tail end to release a poisonous substance if threatened by a predator.
12. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar has a distinctive black, white, and yellow pattern. It can grow to be two inches long and one inch wide. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are typically found on willow trees and lilac bushes.
If you find one, I recommend that you do not touch it because the hairs on its back are poisonous! The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar will turn into a monarch butterfly at the end of its life cycle.
13. Parsley Caterpillar (Black Swallowtail)
The Parsley Caterpillar, also known as the Black Swallowtail, is a famous caterpillar for children to observe and collect. The adult butterfly emerges from the pupae with a green body and black wings.
The Parsley Caterpillar feeds on parsley plants, which explains its common name. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio can be found throughout North America and southern Canada during summer.
The larvae will pupate into an attractive black butterfly if they are not collected by humans or hungry predators first!
14. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
The Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar, also known as the Darner Dragonfly Larva, is another giant caterpillar that can grow up to six inches long. The larvae typically live from July through October and are most active at night.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are beneficial because they eat many insects that destroy crops or transmit diseases.
They are sometimes called silkworm moths because they spin a silk cocoon around themselves before they pupate into a moth.
15. Banded Tussock Caterpillar
The banded tussock caterpillar is aptly named for the tufts of black and white hairs that cover its body. It generally has a yellow head with red and blue dots near the tail end. The underside of the caterpillar also features alternating bands of black and white hair.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio can be found crawling around on low-lying vegetation like clover, grasses, and weeds. It will curl up into a tight ball to protect itself when threatened.
The banded tussock caterpillar has many predators, including birds, spiders, wasps, centipedes, shrews, moles, ground beetles, other species of caterpillars (such as the Io Moth), ants, flies, and bees.
16. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
Cecropia Moth caterpillars are easily recognizable by their distinctive green and white bands. These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are pretty significant, up to two inches long. Cecropia moth caterpillars like to crawl on leaves and feed on the underside of the leaf.
Their coloration makes them highly visible to predators, so they’re challenging to spot from below a leaf unless you look closely.
In addition, Cecropia Moth caterpillar larvae will produce silk webbing if they feel threatened, leading some people to mistake them for a type of spider.
Cecropia Moth caterpillars pupate underground in late spring or early summer and emerge as moths the following year.
17. Monkey Slug
The monkey slug, also known as the slimy slug, is a type of caterpillar that appears to be covered with a wet and slimy substance.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio appearance may be due to the secretion of mucus from special glands on its body. Its color ranges from dark green to light brown.
The monkey slug has three pairs of joint appendages on its thorax, which are used for locomotion.
18. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
The Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar is the most common type of caterpillar found in Ohio. The caterpillar has a dark head, a light brown body with white spots, and an orange tail.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are typically seen on leaves during the daytime. These caterpillars feed on oak trees like oaks, red oaks, black oaks, and others. They eat the leaves before they turn into their chrysalis stage (cocoon) to grow bigger.
These Types of Caterpillars in Ohio are not poisonous; if you touch them or get them on your skin, you should wash your hands thoroughly because they can leave behind a smelly odor from a substance called apatetic acid, which is mixed with their digestive juices.
19. Io Caterpillar
Io caterpillars are tan with black spots on their back. These types of caterpillars in Ohio can be found on oak leaves and feed by leaving patches along the leaf surface that turn brown.
They have a distinctive pair of false eyespots on each side, which is why they are called io caterpillars.
Io caterpillar larvae can grow up to three inches long and will pupate if there is a warm spell during their life cycle. If not, it may become dormant until next spring, when it will return to find food.
The best way to identify an io caterpillar is by looking for false eyespots on each side of the body or looking for signs left from feeding.
This post has discussed the different Types of Caterpillars in Ohio. If you are an educator or nature lover, you need to be able to identify these pests when they appear.
With a little bit of practice, you’ll find that it’s not difficult at all! Remember to consult your local extension service if you have any questions or need help identifying one of these Types of Caterpillars in Ohio.
You can also take photos with your phone to have evidence if there is ever an infestation!