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Name the Caterpillars

Updated on June 4, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia has years of experience with gardening and wild pests in New Hampshire and other locales.

This is the same caterpillar as you shown below. Since it is curled up, you can see the orange markings on its body.
This is the same caterpillar as you shown below. Since it is curled up, you can see the orange markings on its body. | Source

Can You Identify the Caterpillars?

Here's a selection of caterpillar photos that I've taken in all sorts of places from Maine to Kansas to Florida and places in-between. Some are quite unusual and I'll share what fun facts I've been able to discover about these creepy crawly creatures.

Thanks to Phoenix76, all the caterpillars have been identified.

I love taking photos of small things in nature. It might be a mushroom, a tiny flower, moss or an insect. I'll add more photos as I find new and unusual caterpillars. Some have really strange shapes, don't they!

To help you with identifying caterpillars you find, I've included some great links and also identification guides. I recommend getting one of those to keep around. That way you'll be ready when you find your next caterpillar.


Guess the name of this caterpillar - What a strange caterpillar

The black sprouts of fur sticking out on the head and tail make it pretty odd looking.
The black sprouts of fur sticking out on the head and tail make it pretty odd looking. | Source

Choose the Correct Name for This Caterpillar

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Caterpillar Identification Guides on Amazon

I really recommend having at least one of these books on your bookshelf. Just flip through looking for the caterpillars by photos and find out more about each one.

You may think you don't need an identification guide and can just look your strange caterpillar up on the Internet. Think again. It is actually quite difficult to find the name by searching on "green tufted caterpillar with black body." I know because I've tried that and you end up going through page after page of caterpillar photos online with little success.

Eastern North America Caterpillar Guide

Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides)
Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides)

A guide like this is ever so handy. You can easily flip through to find the one you are trying to identify. I keep this one on my bookshelf in New Hampshire to identify the caterpillars there.

 

A Creepy Batch of Caterpillars - Guess the Name of These Caterpillars

They were eating my blueberry bushes.
They were eating my blueberry bushes. | Source

Time to Vote for an Answer

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Black Caterpillar with Blue Stripe - Guess Its Name

It's the eastern tent caterpillar.
It's the eastern tent caterpillar. | Source
Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America
Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America

Peterson's has guides on many nature topics and they are always really good. If you want to examine the field guides before buying one, check at the public library. They usually have several on the shelf.

I have this in addition to the title featured earlier. Each guide is useful in its own way. I like consulting several guides when determining what caterpillar I've found.

 

Take the quiz below to see the name of this caterpillar.

Take the quiz below to see the name of this caterpillar.
Take the quiz below to see the name of this caterpillar.

Guess the Name of the Black Fuzzy Caterpillar

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Great Leopard Moth

This is the moth that goes with the caterpillar above.
This is the moth that goes with the caterpillar above. | Source

My Sister And Her Entomology Collection

Source

The Insect Collectors in My Family

We lived in the country growing up and one of the 4-H projects that we could choose was insect collecting. Several of my sisters pursued this project and the whole family helped them find insects for their collections.

Our youngest sister, Shannon Martin, took the project to the ultimate level, eventually winning national honors for her activities and getting to attend the National 4-H Congress in Chicago. Here she is at the Butler County 4-H Fair with her insect display.

I remember one of her research projects for entomology involved raising caterpillars and feeding them leaves until they made their cocoons. What excitement there was when they emerged and spread their wings as butterflies. She released them into the wild.

Children Learn about Caterpillars and Butterflies with This

Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit Toy - Includes Voucher Coupon for 5 Live Caterpillars to Butterflies
Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit Toy - Includes Voucher Coupon for 5 Live Caterpillars to Butterflies

This is a fun and educational activity for kids who want to learn more about caterpillars and butterflies. It comes with a certificate to send in for live caterpillars, and all the information you need to care for your insects as they go through their life stages.

My sister created her own caterpillar and butterfly living spaces but she would have loved being able to get something ready-made like this.

 

My caterpillar photo on a t-shirt

I like the Zazzle site as it lets me put my nature photos on shirts, mousepads, and other products. For this one, I added the slogan, "Don't Bug Me."
I like the Zazzle site as it lets me put my nature photos on shirts, mousepads, and other products. For this one, I added the slogan, "Don't Bug Me." | Source

Guess the name of this caterpillar

This one is from the Io moth.
This one is from the Io moth. | Source

Get Children Interested in Caterpillars

The very youngest child will enjoy The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This is a great read-aloud story for the little ones. Get them interested in nature from a young age. We used this for storytime at the library. It was very popular.

Older children get fascinated by the details of caterpillar lives in nonfiction books.

You can buy the books for your child to keep in their home library or get them on loan from the public library.

Guess the Name of This Caterpillar - Strange orange caterpillar with black tufts of hair

Orange caterpillar with black hair spikes. HINT: I took this photo in Florida. Note the leaf that the caterpillar is eating.  Answer: This is known as the oleander caterpillar..
Orange caterpillar with black hair spikes. HINT: I took this photo in Florida. Note the leaf that the caterpillar is eating. Answer: This is known as the oleander caterpillar.. | Source

Use This Website to Identify Your Caterpillars

Here's a great site to see lots of caterpillar photos and their names, Discover Life -- Caterpillars identification guide & checklist.

Choose from different characteristics and colors on the chart and it will bring up the most likely caterpillars.


More Caterpillar Photos - By Virginia Allain

Source

Are Some Caterpillars Dangerous?

Watch out for very odd and spiky caterpillars, some of these caterpillars are venomous.

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Did You Know Any of These Caterpillars?

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    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      4 years ago from Connecticut

      Very interesting! I've found lots of caterpillars, and wonder what they are called and what type of moth or butterfly they will become.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I enjoyed reading about the caterpillar, what a fun learning page.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @suepogson: I had to have help naming them. You did well.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 

      5 years ago

      Oddly I got them right. Lucky guesses maybe. Caterpillars are really special little bugs. I like them - even though I generally don't go hands on with them. Fun lens - thanks.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @Annbulance2000: Wow, that would be something to see. I find it challenging to photograph moths and butterflies. Caterpillars are a bit more slow-moving.

    • Annbulance2000 profile image

      Annbulance2000 

      5 years ago

      Enjoyable lense. My sister found an elephant head hawk moth caterpillar in her garden in Ireland. It was pretty big. There certainly are a lot of caterpillars in the world.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Who knew caterpillars could make such an interesting lens. Great photos.

    • Wedding Mom profile image

      Wedding Mom 

      6 years ago

      I learned something from this lens. All along I thought there was only one kind of caterpillar.

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 

      6 years ago

      Great photos!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      Very interesting. My sister focused on entomology projects in 4-H. She had quite a collection, but this was new learning for me. Thanks!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Good information. We always just called the furry ones willy worms. Love your sister's 4-H t-shirt!

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 

      6 years ago

      I only knew the Monarch Caterpillar. Very interesting.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      6 years ago

      Not a single one.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I did not know any of these caterpillars, but I enjoyed your lens and learned a few things as well. Great photos!

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 

      7 years ago

      oh no... I couldn't recognize any of them, thank you for sharing. This is a great lens!

    • profile image

      Snakesmum 

      7 years ago

      Beautiful images of caterpillars. Thanks

    • profile image

      CanadaGear 

      7 years ago

      Lovely caterpillars pictures and names, this is such a nice tribute to them.

    • profile image

      seradis 

      7 years ago

      These caterpillars have beautiful colors, thanks!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @pheonix76: You're spot on! Thanks for coming up with all the names. I've changed the focus slightly in the lens and put all the names and an information link for each one.

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 

      7 years ago from WNY

      PS: forgot to id your caterpillars! #1: looks like Drexel's Datana or another species in the genus Datana; #2: a Banded Tussock caterpillar; #3: a tent caterpillar (possibly Eastern); #5: Oleander caterpillar (polka dot wasp moth). Hope this helps! Cheers.

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 

      7 years ago from WNY

      Wonderful lens! My brother is an avid observer of caterpillars and moths here in the Northeast. I also enjoy seeing all the butterflies and moths which visit my flower garden. I am featuring your page on my new giant silk moth lens. (:

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 

      7 years ago

      I prefer them after they become butterflies. In this stage, some look to much like tomato worms. Lots of terrific information here. I didn't know the names either.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Wow, I didn't know any of these caterpillars' names. We called them all willy worms!

    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 

      7 years ago

      I´m interested in caterpillars too (I also wrote a lens called "like small Tortoiseshell caterpillars do") but unfortunately I haven´t recognized the ones of the pictures, so I cannot tell you their names.

      I can only tell you that I loved reading your lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Sadly, I only recognize #1 right off for sure. Its the dreaded Forest Tent Caterpillar, also known as the Army Worm. These guys don't have any known predators. They come like an army and strip trees of their leaves and especially love aspens but also take most other leaves. The don't eat oak for some reason but nothing in your garden is safe. Many find that spraying them with a mix of Dawn and water kills them but then you have a bunch of dead stinky Army Worms to clean up. If you spray them on the side of a building, they drop and pile up to a point that you can shovel them up.

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 

      7 years ago

      Hmmm ... I don't recognize any of your photos, but I do love to research things so I might be back with a guess. In the meantime, wanted to let you know I'm lensrolling this to my caterpillar lens http://www.squidoo.com/a-tale-of-swallowtails-may-... better known as the Case of the Purloined Parsley. I especially like your Zazzle teeshirt with the caterpillar on it!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image

      puzzlerpaige 

      8 years ago

      Hi Villain,

      Your caterpillar photos are amazing. I'm making some guesses here.

      I think #3 is an army worm.

      #4 Great Leopard Moth (we have raised these) and my daughter LOVES them. They eat almost anything and turn into an amazing black and white spotted moth.

      I love this lens. Lensrolling to Monarch Gifts.

    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      No guesses, but my littlest son has loved looking at all the wee beasties.

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