20 Types of Caterpillars in South Carolina

types of caterpillars in South Carolina
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You may know that South Carolina has many beautiful butterflies, but have you ever seen the caterpillars that turn into them?

South Carolina has over 20 different types of caterpillars in South Carolina, and most are pretty harmless to humans.

But if you’re interested in taking pictures of yourself, here’s what to look for when you’re out and about!

1. Monarch Caterpillar

The monarch caterpillar is a good example because it is the most common caterpillars in South Carolina type of caterpillar in South Carolina.

This caterpillar can be found on milkweed plants. Monarchs are easy to identify by their bright orange and black stripes. 

The monarchs also have two sets of false eyespots to scare off predators. Several other types of caterpillars also live on milkweed, including the ruler, queen, question mark, and comma.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina all resemble each other, so it is easier to tell them apart by looking at them closely!

2. Cabbageworm

The cabbageworm is one of the most common caterpillar types found in South Carolina. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are green, with a white stripe on the side, and their wings are held over their back. 

The cabbageworm feeds on cabbage and related plants like kale, Brussels sprouts, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.

This type of caterpillar can be found anytime during the year but is more common during the early summer or fall as temperatures drop.

3. Woolly Bear

Woolly Bears are a type of caterpillar most commonly found in the summer. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are usually black, brown, or gray and have long hairs that give them the appearance of a woolly bear.

They feed on leaves and plants and can be seen lounging on tree trunks during the day. 

Wooly bears can grow up to six inches long! People should not handle them handled by people. This is because they excrete a sticky substance called urticating hairs which can cause irritation and itching.

When threatened, wooly bears will wave their tails from side to side to scare predators away.

4. Viceroy Caterpillar

The Viceroy caterpillar is one of the most recognizable types because it mimics a monarch butterfly. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina get their name from the black, yellow, and white stripes on their body that looks like a viceroy butterfly.

The Viceroy caterpillar is about 1-2 inches long and has an orange head with black antennae. 

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina have long thin bodies with two pairs of prolegs near the rear end, six pairs near the front end, and two rows on each side.

A prominent feature is a large tuft at the end of its tail, which can be seen when they are resting upside down on tree trunks or leaves.

5. Large Maple Spanworm

The Large Maple Spanworm is a moth found throughout the eastern United States. These caterpillars are fairly large, up to two inches long.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina feed on maples and other hardwood trees, including elms, birches, and oaks. 

The Large Maple Spanworm is green with many yellow spots along the length of its body. The head has a distinctive yellow neck, black at the top and white at the bottom.

The cocoon or chrysalis often has red to orange stripes thicker than other types of caterpillars in our region.

6. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar

The Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar is an amazing creature with black, yellow, and white stripes. The name fritillary comes from the word meaning small pieces of ash-colored leaves, which is where they can be found in the springtime.

The caterpillar has a long stinging spine on its tail to defend itself from predators. 

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina feed primarily on grape leaves and other plants in the family Lamiaceae.

It’s not uncommon to find these beautiful creatures near gardenias, irises, lantanas, rose bushes, or lavender plants.

Variegated Fritillary Caterpillars are most commonly found throughout central parts of South Carolina, Southern Virginia, and North Florida.

7. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The curve-lined owlet moth caterpillar is a moth in the Noctuidae family.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are called owlet moths because they have a characteristic O shape on their wings when viewed from above. The larvae are usually green but can be brownish or black with a green line along their back. 

The head is dark brown, and the body is speckled with white dots that give it an orange sheen. Their diet consists mainly of fungi.

Another interesting thing about these types of caterpillars is that the adults emit a pungent odor to ward off predators. Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t find any information about this smell.

8. Hornworms

Hornworms are one of the most common types of caterpillars in South Carolina, and they’re also some of the largest.

These caterpillars in South Carolina can grow up to six inches long with a green, brown, or gray body. Hornworms feed on leaves and fruit from trees, which makes them a problem for nurseries and farms. 

The caterpillar stage typically lasts up to two months before it turns into pupae and goes through metamorphosis.

To help decrease hornworm populations, you can use natural remedies like Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (BtK), diazinon, or spinosad as an insecticide.

9. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar

The White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar is a pretty common sight in the Palmetto State.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are about two inches long and have a light yellow body with stripes and brown knobs on their back. The larvae usually feed on plants like pine, oak, and cedar trees. 

If you see one, be careful not to touch it because they release hairs that can irritate your skin or even cause allergic reactions.

The larvae pupate in cocoons made from silk and their own discarded skin. The adult moths emerge from cocoons after a few days to a couple of weeks. 

The female White-Marked Tussock Moth will lay eggs during her lifetime, while males usually do not survive long enough to reproduce.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are native to Florida and have been spotted as far north as New Jersey. If you see one or any other caterpillar in SC, snap a picture and share it with your friends!

10. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar

The Milkweed Tussock Moth is one of the most common caterpillars in the eastern United States. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are known for their long black and white hairs that are a few inches long. 

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina, called tussock, will often cover their bodies to protect themselves from predators and regulate their temperature.

In addition, some people have been known to use these caterpillars as a food source because they contain a high protein content and are easy to catch.

11. Banded Tussock Caterpillar

The banded tussock caterpillar has a striking black, white, and yellow pattern with thin black stripes. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina can be found on oak trees and is the first stage in a caterpillar’s life cycle.

Banded tussock caterpillars will feed on oak leaves until they are ready to pupate or transform into chrysalis. 

When it is time for this caterpillar to pupate, it will create a cocoon around itself by spinning silk around its body.

This silk protects the pupa from predators while it waits to turn into an adult moth. The banded tussock caterpillar can be found throughout the eastern United States and Canada.

12. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

The Giant Leopard Moth is a member of the Arctiidae family and is found in North America. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are mostly active at night but occasionally will be seen during the day.

These caterpillars in South Carolina feed on plants, including ferns, grasses, roses, and grapevines. 

The caterpillar can be as long as five inches long and covered with tufts of hair that help protect them from predators like birds or other arthropods.

The Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar goes through five stages before it enters its cocoon stage to pupate into an adult moth: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, cocoon, and adult moth.

13. Parsley Caterpillar

The parsley caterpillar(Black Swallowtail) is a black swallowtail butterfly larva that feeds on parsley, fennel, and chervil.

It is not native to North America but is found in the Atlantic states from Maine to Florida and as far west as Wisconsin.

The parsley caterpillar is a pest that can cause significant damage to crops such as parsley, celery, dill, and anise.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are most commonly found in Maryland and Virginia. 

The larva stage typically lasts about two weeks, during which they eat up to thirty-five times their body weight daily! After that, they spend the rest of their lives eating while they grow into pupae.

14. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar is a distinctive black and yellow caterpillar with a long, green body and some red at the end.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are known for their bright coloration, which it uses to advertise that it is not toxic or distasteful like other types of caterpillars.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail gets its name from the red markings on its tail, which resemble a tiger’s stripes. 

Although many people believe that this caterpillar has the most beautiful markings out of any caterpillar, these types of caterpillars in South Carolina can be difficult to spot because they are often well camouflaged by leaves.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail also prefers to live on plants such as tulips and daffodils, so you may never see it in your garden.

15. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

This beautiful caterpillar is the Spicebush Swallowtail. The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has a green body, black bands and spots, and a pink head.

The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar is found in the Eastern US, including South Carolina. The Spicebush Swallowtail larvae eat plants from the Lamiaceae family, which includes mints and basil.

16. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Cecropia Moth caterpillars are green with a black stripe running down their back. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina also have a white line on the sides. These insects grow over an inch long and are not considered dangerous to humans. 

Cecropia Moth caterpillars can be found in the eastern United States and parts of Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

The adults are moths with wingspans up to six inches wide, mostly brown or gray, with small yellow, red, or orange markings.

Adult Cecropia Moths fly from late May through November and have been known to travel up to four miles per night looking for food plants.

17. Monkey Slug

Monkey slugs are a type of slug that lives primarily on plants. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina can be found in wet and dry areas, but they prefer moist and humid conditions.

The monkey slug is considered an invasive species because it can live outside its natural habitat without any negative effects, unlike other types of slugs. 

Monkey slugs have brownish-gray bodies with black spots all over them. These caterpillars in South Carolina also have orange heads with two small horns sticking out from them.

You will find these creatures only about three inches long as adults, but they can grow up to five inches long when young!

18. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar

The Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar is a pest of many plants, such as grapes and blackberry. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina feed by chewing the leaves off their host plant.

The caterpillar’s coloring can vary from green to brown, but it has four white spots on its back. This species is typically found east of the Rocky Mountains, but some have been found in California.

19. Io Caterpillar

The Io caterpillar is a moth found throughout the United States and Canada but is most commonly located in the Eastern part of North America.

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are yellow with black spots and have eight pairs of blue tentacles on their backs. The larvae are often seen feeding on oak trees and ash, elm, walnut, apple, and cherry trees. 

These types of caterpillars in South Carolina will also feed on plants such as asteraceae and legumes. Adult moths are believed to live for only five days after they emerge from the cocoon.

20. Flannel Moth Caterpillar

No list of caterpillars would be complete without the Flannel Moth. The Flannel Moth is unique among types of caterpillars in South Carolina because it will stay in its cocoon for a long time, waiting to turn into a moth.

It does this to lay eggs and have its offspring pupate in the cocoon. This way, when the moth emerges from the cocoon, more moths will be ready to mate and continue the cycle!

Conclusion

Caterpillars are a fascinating part of the natural world. These types of caterpillars in South Carolina are key players in the food web, but they make for an interesting study.

Knowing which types of caterpillars can be found in your backyard or local park is fun. Here are 20 different types of caterpillars that call South Carolina home

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