White caterpillars are in the larval stage of many moths and butterflies. There are several distinct types of white caterpillars, each of which may be identified by a particular set of distinguishing features.
When handled, several species of fuzzy white caterpillars, such as hickory tussock moth caterpillars, contain spines that can sting and cause skin irritation.
Some, like the white flannel moth’s caterpillars, have venom spines. However, there are kinds of white hairy caterpillars that do not have stingers. Some species of white caterpillars, such as the silkworm, have smooth bodies marked in different ways.
The Lepidoptera insect order is responsible for the development of white caterpillars. White caterpillars can be either smooth or fuzzy and go through a few distinct stages of development (instars).
The white worm-like bugs can undergo various color and appearance changes during these instars. For instance, some caterpillars are white when they first hatch, but they turn yellow or brown as they mature.
On the other hand, certain species of caterpillars reach a stage where they are white and fuzzy in their final instars.
The caterpillars have no means of self-defense. As a result, they have developed a wide variety of defense mechanisms to protect themselves from potential threats.
Some white hairy caterpillars, for instance, are armed with long, pencil-like spines that are poisonous. Other smooth-white caterpillars have chemicals in their bodies that have a bitter flavor and are repulsive to birds, insects, and other small critters.
This post provides a guide to identifying common types of white caterpillars. It also includes descriptions of the distinctive traits of these caterpillars, which can help you identify the species of caterpillar you have found in a garden, woodland, or park.
Different Types of White Caterpillar
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the many types of white caterpillars, shall we? Some of them have white and fuzzy bodies, while others have white and smooth bodies with distinct markings.
1. Domestic Silk Moth Caterpillar
The larva of the domestic silk moth (Bombyx mori) is referred to as a white silkworm and consumes mulberry leaves as its food source.
The white caterpillars have smooth bodies with a little horn protruding from the top, a single black dot on each segment, and feet that are a yellowish-white color. The white worm-like bugs develop to a length of approximately 1.5 inches (40 mm).
Domestic Silk Moth Caterpillar, famed for its role in silk manufacturing, is also known as the mulberry silkworm. Their cocoons are useful for generating raw silk of the highest possible quality.
The body of the domestic silkworm is white and thin, and it has a yellowish horn at the end of its tail. The domestic silkworm also has three pairs of front legs and a series of black spots along its sides.
2. Catalpa Sphinx Caterpillar
The body of the huge catalpa sphinx caterpillar (Ceratomia catalpa) is white and covered with black spots. Its head is yellow and black, and bears a black horn on its tail.
The caterpillar of the catalpa sphinx moth is a huge, white hornworm with a sturdy body and a striking black tail horn.
It has a pale yellow and black head, three rows of black dots, and a prominent black tail horn. The characteristic creamy-white caterpillar can reach up to 3 inches (75 mm) in length and turns yellower as it progresses through its final instar.
Catalpa trees are a common host for the white grubs, and they may frequently feed on the leaves of these trees. These caterpillars are the only ones that are white and stay on catalpa trees. They are also known as the Catawba worm.
This smooth white caterpillar will eventually metamorphose into a light brown sphinx moth with a round, hairy body and wings in the shape of a triangle.
3. Virginia Ctenucha Caterpillar
The Virginia ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) is a kind of fuzzy white caterpillar you can find in the United States. Its black body has dense tufts of hair that are a creamy-white color, giving it the illusion of being white.
The fuzzy caterpillar also has a black and red lustrous head, white and yellowish tufts of bristles, and dark red prolegs. These are some of its other distinguishing characteristics. The length of these types of white caterpillars ranges from 0.2 to 0.5 inches (5 – 13 mm).
These hairy caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses and iris plants. They can be found all around the world.
The hairy larvae are immediately identifiable due to their bristly white and yellow appearance and are caterpillars.
The tiny white caterpillars will eventually mature into the larger, darker black caterpillars. The Virginia ctenucha begins life as a white, fuzzy caterpillar but transforms into a black moth as it gets closer to the pupal stage.
4. Hieroglyphic Moth Caterpillar
The hieroglyphic caterpillar (Diphthera festiva) has a smooth white body with black and gray stripes on it. Its head is a reddish color.
The caterpillar of the hieroglyphic moth is white and has bands of black and gray circling its body. One can also recognize the gorgeous white caterpillar with black stripes by its legs, which are white and black, as well as its orange-red head. The giant caterpillars can reach a maximum length of 1.77 inches (45 mm).
These black and white caterpillars have the potential to do significant harm to agricultural crops. These types of white caterpillars feed on the leaves of sweet potato, pecan, and soybean plants, are prevalent in Florida and other southern states.
The body of the hieroglyphic moth caterpillar is cream-colored, with bands of a grayish-black coloration that go around the body in a cylindrical pattern.
5. Rubber Tree Caterpillar
The larva known as the rubber tree caterpillar (Lymire edwardsii) has a spiky look and can be yellowish-white or pale yellow.
The spines on the hairy caterpillar are initially white but darken to a deeper yellow as the caterpillar grows older.
In addition, One can identify the caterpillar by its head, which is crimson red and white, and its orange tufts. These white, hairy caterpillars are harmless and non-venomous, and relatively small.
Rubber tree caterpillars are common pests of Ficus species, as one might guess from the insect’s name. The ravenous furry bugs gnaw the ficus leaves’ edges, resulting in holes in the leaves. These fuzzy, yellowish-white caterpillars are common on Florida plants and have hair-filled bodies.
The Edwards’ wasp moth is the adult form of the hairy, white, or yellow caterpillar known as the rubber tree caterpillar.
6. Dogwood Sawfly Caterpillar
The dogwood sawfly caterpillar (Macremphytus testaceus) is unique due to its bright white color and fluffy appearance. Its legs are yellow.
The white larvae with a fuzzy appearance can frequently be spotted curled up behind the dogwood leaf. As the insects mature, their bodies become more transparent, and their heads turn yellowish. The length of the little white caterpillars is about 0.8 inches (20 mm).
Because they are exclusive to dogwood bushes and trees, these white caterpillars that resemble worms are easy to recognize.
The leaves are skeletonized by the white bugs while they are active in the middle to late summer. The sawflies emerge the following spring after the creamy-white caterpillars have overwintered in the rotten wood they have been feeding.
7. Figwort Sawfly Caterpillar
The body of the figwort sawfly caterpillar (Tenthredo scrophulariae) is white and wrinkled with black dots. The figwort sawfly caterpillar is a huge, stout, white caterpillar that can grow to be 1.18 inches (30 mm) in length.
The white larva has a unique crinkled look, a grayish-black head, and a tail end that is somewhat tapered. The larva is plump and sausage-like in appearance.
Late in the summer and towards the beginning of October, you can find these types of white caterpillars eating on figwort bushes.
These big caterpillars, white with black spots, eventually metamorphose into small sawflies resembling wasps and black with yellow stripes.
The absence of a narrow waist, which is typical of wasp species, is a distinguishing feature of figwort sawflies in comparison to other species of wasps.
8. Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar
The hairs of the black and white hickory tussock caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae) are venomous. The caterpillar of the hickory tussock moth has tufts of white and black hair that cover its body.
A distinct black stripe is formed on the back of the caterpillar’s white body by the hairy clusters that are black in color. In addition, a few lengthy black pencil hairs protrude from the sides.
In addition to its hairy, black and white body, the hickory tussock caterpillar also has a black head and markings along its sides. This species of hickory tussock moth, which is black and white, can grow to be up to 1.77 inches (45 mm) long.
The caterpillar of the Hickory Tussock Moth is not a poisonous kind of caterpillar. However, the caterpillar possesses hairs on its body that can sting if they come into contact with your skin and embed itself there.
This can cause allergic responses and severe pain in some individuals. According to information provided by poison control centers, contact with a hickory tussock moth caterpillar can result in skin reactions ranging from mild to severe, including rashes and irritation.
The caterpillar of the White Hickory Tussock Moth matures into a stunning moth that is orange-brown and has white markings on its wings.
This lovely moth has a head that is tan in color and hairs all over its body that is a light brown color. You can find these types of white caterpillars feeding on hickory, walnut, oak, maple, birch, and willow trees. It also feeds on birch.
9. Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar
You can find a peculiar pair of spikes on each end of the fuzzy sycamore tussock caterpillar (Halysidota harrisii), which can be white or pale yellow in color.
The caterpillar of the sycamore tussock moth is a fuzzy, yellowish-white insect that can range in size from tiny to medium.
This white fuzzy caterpillar has two pairs of orange pencil hairs on either end of its body and two pairs of white pencil hairs on either end of its body. The white fuzzy sycamore tussock moth caterpillar length ranges from 25 to 35 mm (1 to 1.4 inches).
The tussock moths of this species are typically found defoliating sycamore trees and might be white or pale yellow.
Even though these types of white caterpillars do not have a stinging version, it is possible to experience skin irritation if you handle one. The white caterpillar will eventually metamorphose into a moth with light blue wings.
It is possible to recognize the larva of the sycamore tussock moth by its fuzzy white body and the two long tufts of orange and white hairs at either end.
10. American Dagger Moth Caterpillars
The larva of the American dagger moth (Acronicta Americana) is a hairy creature that is pale yellowish-white in color and has many tufts of black hairs that resemble pencils.
The caterpillar has white hairs all over its body, a shiny black head, and two greenish stripes running along its back. The pale yellow or white bugs can reach up to 2 inches (50 mm).
The larva of the white American dagger moth does not produce a poisonous substance. Even though the fine setae will cause a great deal of irritation to the skin, the spines on this species do not contain any venom.
Thse types of white caterpillars resides in deciduous forests and woodlands, where you can find it munching through the leaf.
The larva of the American dagger moth is identifiable by its covering of tiny white hairs, two pairs of long black tufts, and one longer, more prominent black tuft at the end of its tail.
11. Fall Webworm
The white-haired fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) is capable of causing significant harm to bushes as well as trees.
The fall webworm is a native hairy caterpillar that can be white or pale yellow. It weaves distinctive webs in the shape of tents in which swarms of other caterpillars live.
The fall webworm has long setae, which are white and grow from yellowish tufts on an otherwise dark body. Depending on the temperature, the heads of fall webworms might be a bright red color or a dark, lustrous black color.
The maximum length of the fall webworm is approximately 1.4 inches (35 millimeters). Ornamental trees and shrubs might lose their leaves when pests attack them.
After going through the process of pupation, these hairy, white caterpillars transform into beautiful white moths, which may or may not have black speckling on the forewings.
12. Virginian Tiger Moth Caterpillar
The Virginian tiger caterpillar (Spilosoma virginica) is known for its irritating hairs, which can be white, light to dark brown, or even yellow or orange. Its color can also range from very light to very dark.
The Virginian tiger moth caterpillar is a woolly bear larva that is completely white and coated in tufts of hair ranging from pale tan to white.
There is also a possibility that the fuzzy caterpillar will be a pale yellow or rusty brown color. The caterpillar can reach a maximum length of 1.77 inches (45 mm) and is also known as the yellow woolly bear.
The fuzzy caterpillar, which can be white, light brown, or dark brown in color, will eventually metamorphose into a beautiful white moth with a line of black dots running along its back. In the late summer, the larvae that cause damage skeletonize the leaves.
The larva of the Virginian tiger moth is identifiable by its characteristic spiky appearance, comprised of tufts of hairs that are either creamy-white or tan-white in color. The hairy caterpillars are always a single hue, although different insect species have different coloring.
13. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
The spotted apatelodes caterpillar (Apatelodes torrefacta) begins life as a white fuzzy caterpillar and eventually molts into a brilliant yellow adult.
The hairy white caterpillar known as the spotted apatelodes is the larval stage of a rare gray moth. The young, fuzzy caterpillars are brilliantly white, but with time they will change to a creamy white color and finally a neon yellow color.
The woolly white caterpillar has black spines all over its body, and its head has a cluster of grayish-black spines that are lengthy.
Compared with the greenery, the white hairy caterpillar is difficult to overlook. Maple, ash, and oak trees are common hosts for these peculiar caterpillars, which do not have stinging hairs.
Expect the fuzzy white caterpillars, which are easily recognizable, to grow to a length of between 0.78 and 1.77 inches (20 and 45 mm) as they progress through the phases of development from white to bright yellow.
The larva of the spotted apatelodes moth has fine white hairs, and you may be able to identify these types of white caterpillars by the long black tufts that run along its back and the black dots that run along its flanks.
14. White-Marked Tussock Furry Horned Caterpillar
One of the most peculiar and odd fuzzy caterpillars you will encounter is the white-marked tussock-horned caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma).
The caterpillars have huge tufts of white hair, their hair pencils made of black setae, red heads, and their stripes of black and yellow. The bizarre and colorful caterpillars grow to be between 1 and 1.5 inches (25 and 38 mm) in length.
A typical Florida caterpillar is the hairy tussock larva, which has a white mark on its back. The spiky caterpillar consumes the needles and needlelike structures of both deciduous and coniferous trees.
Hickory, larch, birch, black locust, and elm trees are all susceptible to having their leaves eaten off by the pesty larvae. It can also destroy the leaves of many kinds of fruit trees.
The caterpillar of the white-marked tussock moth is easy to recognize because of its vivid colors, the four fluffy white tufts on its back, and the tufts of pencil hairs located all about its body.