How many types of caterpillars are there in Virginia? Did you know that there are over 70 varieties of butterflies and moths native to our state?
These fascinating insects live from one week to several months, depending on their species.
Here’s a list of 20 types of caterpillars in Virginia: get to know them!
1. Monarch Caterpillar
The monarch caterpillar is one of the most beautiful types of caterpillars in Virginia. The Monarch caterpillar can be found on oak, cherry, birch, and other trees that they feed on in springtime. These orange larvae are covered with black markings along their sides.
They grow to 2 inches long. The pupae stage is brown, hard, and contains no frass. They make cocoons that resemble little brown cigar-shaped cases. Their cocoons are usually attached to branches or stem near where they were feeding as a larva.
In fall, monarchs migrate south; some will overwinter throughout winter in warmer climates but still within their range.
In springtime, adults appear (but are not likely) monarchs for reproduction during May and June. About two weeks after its birth, a mature larva transforms into a butterfly.
These types of Caterpillars in Virginia feed on cabbage, broccoli, and other brassicas. It is easy to identify because of its distinctive white stripes. The cabbageworm is tan-to-yellow with a length of approximately 1⁄2 inch (about 13mm).
It hatches from pale green eggs that are laid in clusters. These caterpillars feed at night and hide during the day by rolling themselves up in leaves or creating shelter in foliage. Mature cabbage worms will spin cocoons and emerge as butterflies in about ten days.
3. Woolly Bear
A giant caterpillar covered in thick, white hair makes its home on maple trees. Their name is derived from their resemblance to little bears.
Woolly Bears are also one of only three types of caterpillars in Virginia that is poisonous to humans. Don’t worry, though, because you’d need to eat about 600 for it to be harmful! But if you see them in your backyard, it might be best not to touch them or allow kids to get close.
If a dog comes across one and eats it, there can be some adverse side effects, so keep an eye out.
4. Viceroy Caterpillar
The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) caterpillar is black with two white and yellow stripes. Its name comes from its resemblance to a bird called a viceroy butterfly, which has a similar black-and-white pattern.
These types of caterpillars in Virginia are easy to identify because they will only eat leaves from ash trees. However, if you are growing other trees in your garden, it’s good to know what to look for.
Contact your local extension office if you are ever wondering whether an unfamiliar caterpillar belongs to an invasive species.
5. Large Maple Spanworm
The Large Maple Spanworm can be identified by its bright red color. These types of Caterpillars in Virginia are active during late summer when they begin to feed heavily on leaves.
The Caterpillar can grow up to four inches long and produces white cocoons about one inch in length.
Large maple spanworms overwinter as cocoons before emerging during springtime. Each year, they are an essential food source for many songbirds in Virginia.
6. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
The variegated fritillary caterpillar is a very distinctive little guy. He’s got bright orange eyes and yellow and white stripes along his body. When he becomes an adult, he has bright orange wings, so you can see why he got his name!
You will find him in early spring on apple leaves. To become a butterfly, though, he needs to build enough strength for his metamorphosis into adulthood (called pupation). It’s not easy turning yourself from a caterpillar into a butterfly!
These types of Caterpillars in Virginia spend lots of energy wandering around looking for food and shelter. Then, all that stored-up energy gets turned into wings, antennae, and legs after an entire summer as a hungry caterpillar.
7. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Some types of caterpillars in Virginia are active during spring and summer, while some are active in fall. If you live in a region with four seasons, there is something to look forward to throughout the year.
One type of Caterpillar active from April to July is the curve-lined owlet moth caterpillar.
This butterfly has a body that ranges from light brown to dark green and is covered with short hair. The surface has prominent ridges along its entire body, distinguishing it from other species (Bugwood Net).
Only six species belong to its genus Noctuidae subfamily (Net state). Adults feed on nectar, while larvae eat plant leaves at night.
One of the most common types of caterpillars in Virginia, Hornworms are an unfortunate nuisance for gardeners and farmers.
These voracious eaters can devour entire fields in just a few days if you’ve seen what a hungry Hornworm can do to your garden, you know just how damaging they can be.
Luckily, these caterpillars aren’t picky eaters; they’ll feast on almost any plant as long as it is green. Besides avoiding their favorite foods and keeping watchful eyes, there isn’t much you can do to prevent a Hornworm infestation.
9. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar
White-marked Tussock Moth has one generation yearly, but multiple generations have been recorded in warmer climates.
These types of Caterpillars in Virginia are black with four white diagonal stripes along their sides. Its body is covered in fine black hair and small spines, making it easy to identify.
This species ranges from Massachusetts to Florida and west to Arkansas and Texas. It primarily feeds on spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum), deciduous trees that shed their leaves during winter.
10. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
This Caterpillar is an impressive caterpillar with a solid black head and red, yellow, green, and white stripes on its body.
This striped Caterpillar is commonly found in areas with milkweed plants throughout much of Virginia. These caterpillars may also be seen eating other plants.
The exciting thing about Milkweed Tussocks is that they use a tussock to attach themselves to vegetation while they rest.
These long-bodied types of caterpillars in Virginia are always on alert for predators. They may send out a startle display – where they inflate their bodies in preparation to roll up into a ball.
11. Banded Tussock Caterpillar
As you can see, these types of caterpillars in Virginia have distinct yellow and black patterns. They are often found on oak trees, but they also like maples, elms, and others.
The Banded Tussock will go through 5 or 6 molts (shedding its exoskeleton) before turning into a butterfly. If left alone, it has also been known to grow as big as four inches in length!
12. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
Larvae are black with white stripes and two large blue spots on their rear ends. The Giant Leopard Moth has a 12- to 15-inch wingspan.
These types of caterpillars in Virginia eat leaves from willow, poplar, birch, elm, and sassafras trees. Adults do not eat and live for about ten days during summer.
In October, they lay eggs on oak tree branches, and the eggs stay overwintered until spring. Then, caterpillars emerge from the eggs to feed on oak tree leaves again.
13. Io Moth
These moths have an interesting life cycle that makes them look like different insects at different times in their lives.
The larvae (caterpillars) look like bird droppings, while adult moths look like wasps or hornets and have stingers! Io moth caterpillars are a type of caterpillars in Virginia that feed on plants in the walnut family, including poison ivy!
14. Parsley Caterpillar
The parsley caterpillar, also called a sycamore moth (Datana major), doesn’t eat plant matter like many other species on this list. Instead, they’ll eat your clothes, especially wool sweaters and blankets!
The worst part is that they’re known to cause rashes in people who come into contact with them. Luckily, all you need to do to get rid of these moths is add some parsley around your home.
You can also find other natural ways to eliminate these types of caterpillars in Virginia.
15. Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars are yellowish-green types of Caterpillars in Virginia with white stripes running up the sides.
It has black spikes down its back, but sometimes it isn’t easy to see them against its color. It also has one pair of red ocelli on each side.
The moth looks similar but has more orange on it than green. As an adult, they are most commonly seen nectaring at lantana and honeysuckle flowers.
They can be found from April through September. They are not poisonous or harmful to humans, though some people may be allergic to their stings like other moths.
16. Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
The cecropia moth caterpillar is types of Caterpillars in Virginia with black, orange, and white banded body.
The rear end has a horn resembling a bird dropping, where they get their name. They have reddish-orange eyespots on each side of their body that look like butterfly wings.
These are not very common in Virginia because it is usually too cold for them to survive here during winter.
They pop up once in a while when the temperature gets warmer in Virginia. You can recognize them from other caterpillars because of their horns near their rear end and orange and white stripes.
17. Monkey Slug
The monkey slug (Phobetron pithecium) is one of three species native to North America, each with a different appearance and habitat.
It has a green stripe down its back, a yellow line around its neck, and blue-green markings on its sides.
These types of Caterpillars in Virginia like to hang out in trees and feed on the leaves of many species. If you live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, you may see it eating young dogwood leaves late in fall or early spring.
Other host plants include basswood and hawthorn trees; larval development occurs over two winters and summers.
18. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
This Caterpillar is native to America and has several spot markings. The Caterpillar is also known as Apatelodes torrefacto, which means it turns into a moth called Apatelodes Pausanias.
The Caterpillar can be found in many colors, including orange, red, yellow, and white, with black spots all over its body.
The scientific name for these moths is Eustixia pupula. These types of Caterpillars in Virginia are usually seen in June or July and fly around at night during mating season.
If you live in a rural area, you might want to watch these moths because they are attracted to light sources.
19. Io Caterpillar
Io Moth (Automeris io) have shared caterpillar hosts for several species of birds, including warblers. The larvae of these butterflies and moths eat leaves from trees and shrubs. If you see one on a tree, it may indicate that some branch-eating pest is nearby.
These types of caterpillars in Virginia are easy to spot because they have stinging spines all over their body. Io caterpillars are prominent for their kind – about three inches long.
Most experts advise leaving them alone because they don’t tend to cause direct harm to people or plants. If you find one on your property, there’s no need to panic; they’re generally unaggressive unless provoked.
20. Flannel Moth Caterpillar
Flannel moths are types of Caterpillars in Virginia, also known as Megalopyge opercularis. They are a species that falls under Saturniidae, or silk moths. They’re so-called for their flannel-like appearance, a trait dependent on where they reside.
Flannel Moth caterpillars in North America and Asia have black bodies with white stripes. In Europe and Australia (called Tree Moth Caterpillars), their bodies are colored yellow with black stripes.
These caterpillars feed on birch and willow trees, which contain a toxin known as salicin that helps deter predators. The toxin isn’t harmful to people and can be used medicinally to treat pain and fever in low doses.
Did you ever think you need to be aware of 20 types of caterpillars in Virginia? No! Now, you are fully aware and prepared for any potential moth invasion.