Furry Caterpillar Types and Identification Guide
Identify that furry caterpillar you found with the help of this quick and easy guide!
Identify that furry caterpillar you found with the help of this lens! Caterpillars are the immature stage of butterflies and moths. Almost all of them eat leaves (very few eat clothes), and almost all furry caterpillars will grow up to become moths.
During the warm months you will sometimes find a caterpillar crawling on the ground or hanging out on a tree or bush. This guide will help you identify the furry caterpillars that occur in North America. I hope you find your furry caterpillar here, and I hope you visit my HOW TO RAISE CATERPILLARS lens to find out how you can raise it to an adult.
Also make sure you don't miss my Caterpillar Identification Hub, where you can find dozens of photos of caterpillars and the butterflies or moths that they become.
Don't see your caterpillar here? It could be in THE CATERPILLAR FILES.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Wooly Bear (Isabella Pyrrharctia)
This furry little guy is one of the most common furry caterpillars you will find. They are red, with brown on each end. Farmers used to think that the amount of brown on the caterpillar could predict the length of the coming winter. These caterpillars sometimes go out to find a place to make a cocoon, and you could see them crossing the road when you're driving. They're not very easy to raise, though, because they often overwinter as a cateprillar, which makes them vulnerable to getting squashed or otherwise hurt.
Here's the Beautiful Adult Wooly Bear Moth:
What Is It?
Visit "The Caterpillar Files" and Find Out
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Yellow Wooly Bear (Isabella virginica)
I think this is the most commonly found caterpillar in North America. These furry caterpillars eat all kinds of plants and weeds. That means that they can be found almost anywhere. The name “yellow wooly-bear” is a little misleading, because they can be any color from almost white to dark orange. The good thing about these guys is that they're really easy to raise to adult. They'll spin a cocoon among the leaves of their food plant, or among leaves on the ground. The adult moth of the yellow wooly bear is a really pretty moth. It has pure white wings with tiny black spots, and orange/black spots along the sides of its furry white body. The yellow wooly bear is a great insect, and I hope you find one!
Tropical Insects and Moths
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)
This caterpillar looks a lot like the yellow wooly bear, but you can tell them apart because these caterpillars have black spots all along the sides of the body, and they're usually a darker orange-red than the yellow wooly bears. These caterpillars are really easy to raise to adults. They eat a lot of different leaves (but be sure you always give them leaves from the same plant you found them on!). If you give them the right leaves, they'll eat for a while and then spin an orange cocoon. The adult moth that hatches out is really beautiful, with white and pale orange wings.
Some people are sensitive to the fur of these caterpillars. If you handle them a lot, you may get a little itchy rash. It's never serious, so don't worry too much. If you want to see some caterpillars that DO STING, have a look at my Stinging Caterpillars Lens.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Some furry caterpillars are found crawling down tree trunks. Much of the time this furry caterpillar is a kind of tussock moth caterpillar. The sycamore tussock moth is a pretty yellow brown caterpillar with reddish "hair pencils" on the ends. If you find one crawling on a tree trunk, it's probably looking for a place to make a cocoon. You can put it in tupperware with a folded paper towel and it will probably make a cocoon.
Here's the Sycamore Tiger Moth:
Insect Lore Giant Butterfly Garden - Shipped with Live Caterpillars NOW
You can raise caterpillars from tiny little guys to big, beautiful orange butterflies with this cool kit. It even comes with the caterpillars included. The species, the Painted Lady, is common around the world, so you can let them go when they hatch without worrying.
Collapsible and Reusable 18-inch Tall Deluxe Habitat, 10 Live Caterpillars and Painted Lady Butterfly Life Cycle Stages Figures/
Live caterpillars are shipped to destinations within the Continental USA.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- American Dagger Moth
If you find a furry caterpillar that's white with skinny black horns or hair pencils on the ends, then you've found an American dagger moth caterpillar. They eat oak and maple, and when they're ready to spin a cocoon they go for a walk down the tree trunk. That's when you're likely to find them. You can keep this caterpillar and it will spin a cocoon. The moth is a pretty grey number with pale and dark markings.
This is the American Dagger Moth:
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Hickory Tussock Moth
These furry caterpillars can be very common late in the summer, when you might find them crawling around your porch or garage. The moth these little black and white caterpillars make has beautiful wings with brown, cream, and yellow spots. You can raise the caterpillars into adults without too much trouble.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Great Leopard Moth
Some furry caterpillars aren't actually furry -- like this one, for example. What looks like thick black fur is actually a dense coat of sharp spines, and they can give you a sharp poke if you pick the caterpillar up to tightly. Plus, this species typically rolls into a ball when it's disturbed, making those sharp black spines stick out. Like the wooly bear, these caterpillars overwinter as caterpillars, so they're hard to raise into adults. It's a shame, too, because the adult great leopard moth is one of the most beautiful moths in North America.
Giant Leopard Moth
This is one good-looking moth. It's on its way to becoming more widespread as a warming climate allows it to expand its range.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Io Moth
The giant leopard moth caterpillar is spiny, but the io moth is poisonous! Each spine has a sting that's like a bee sting. It's not dangerous, but it can really hurt. There are other stinging caterpillars that you should get to know -- see my stinging caterpillars lens right here.
The io moth caterpillar grows up to be a very beautiful moth, with huge eyespot markings on the hind wings that it flashes to scare away birds and other predators. If you find one, you are lucky. But don't pick up the caterpillar with your hands!
Here's What the Io Moth Looks Like:
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- The Sycamore
This beautiful furry caterpillar is the only one in this guide from Europe -- I just couldn't resist putting it in here. This creature is the beautiful larva of a plain gray moth. It's closely related to the "dagger moths" of North America. If you find one of these caterpillars, you should try to raise it to an adult. It gets its name from the kind of tree it eats, so you'll know right away what kind of leaves to give him.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- Milkweed Tiger Moth (Euchaetes egle)
What a cool-looking caterpillar! This moth caterpillar is one of the few larvae that feed exclusively on milkweed. the plant protects itself from attackers like the milkweed tiger by having poisonous, "milky" sap. Most insects can't digest this strong sap, but a few can -- including the world-famous monarch butterfly, which feeds on milkweed and nothing else.
This striking caterpillar lives in groups on milkweed, and drops off the plant onto the ground when it feels threatened. It grows up to be one of the plainest little brown moths you can imagine.
Which Caterpillar is Your Favorite?
My Favorite Caterpillar Is the:
Sure, It's a Tractor Company, But... - I still love this shirt.
Furry Caterpillar Identification -- The Puss Moth - A cool looking bug with a wicked sting
Watch out for this one! The puss moth caterpillar, also called the "Asp," has one of the most painful stings of any insect in North America. It may look like Donald Trump's hair on a good day, but under those flowing brown (or white, or dark red) locks are hidden rows of stinging spines. They sometimes drop out of trees and may land on a person's arm or neck. If that happens, it's going to be a long day. The sting gets worse and worse over several hours before finally fading away. Allergic people may need to go to the emergency room!