100 Species of Caterpillars in North Carolina (with Pictures)


Caterpillars in North Carolina

Surely you have seen a butterfly or moths fluttering through the landscape at least once in your lifetime, but how much do you know about them in their larval form? Caterpillars are remarkably diverse, just as varied in form and pattern as the grown-up moths. For starters, they have twelve eyes (six tiny eyelets) and six legs. They even eat their eggshell as the first meal! Luckily, you have got over a hundred species growing exponentially in North Carolina!

 

Contents

Afflicted Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Afflicted Dagger Moth Caterpillar

  • Brown-orange head with an orange body
  • The ubiquity of oak trees helps produce two caterpillar broods every year
  • Sparse whitish hair
  • Lean black dorsal stripes on the back
  • Bulging head

 

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

American Dagger Moth (Acronicta americana) caterpillars

  • Hairy, fuzzy pale yellow body with hair tufts
  • Long yellow hair cause instant itching
  • Black hair and long black lashes
  • Hair can break off into skin and sting, leaving burning sensation and skin irritation

 

American Lady Caterpillar

American Lady Caterpillar

  • Black, branched spikes stick out of red-orange dots
  • Nest built with silk makes for a safe retreat
  • Black bands alternating with thin white/yellow bands

 

American Lappet Moth Caterpillar

American Lappet Moth Caterpillar

  • Hairy legs
  • Lappers (hairy sides) present
  • Reddish-orange bands on the head
  • Wrinkled and bumpy body with two hands

 

Angus’ Datana Moth Caterpillar

Angus' Datana Moth Caterpillar

  • White wispy hairs
  • Feasts alone or in groups on leaves
  • Elongated black body with yellow/white lines
  • Red and black legs

 

Army Cutworm

Army Cutworm

  • Bear a drab grey, brown, or orange body
  • Considered an agricultural pest
  • Tiny black dots spaced throughout the body
  • A pale band that extends down the spine

 

Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  • Bristly body with distinct colors
  • Two pairs of white and black lengthy lashes on the head
  • The second pair of lashes below the first, leaning forward
  • The third pair positioned rearwards

 

Banded Woollybear Caterpillar

Banded Woolly Bear | Wooly bear caterpillar, Woolly bear, Tiger moth

  • A dense layering of rust and black colored spiky hair
  • Black rear-end and head
  • Seeks refuge under leaf litter
  • A reddish-maroonish middle band that expands on maturity

 

Bent-line Dart Moth Caterpillar

Bent-line Dart Moth Caterpillar

  • Brown bodied with a brown head
  • Cryptically-colored species
  • A slender, pointed line extending till the read-end

 

Bent-line Gray Moth Caterpillar

Bent-line Gray Moth Caterpillar

  • Burnt bodied
  • Nibbles the tree leaves as they form and fall
  • Flat face with a brown head

 

Black-blotched Prominent Moth Caterpillar

Black-blotched Prominent Moth Caterpillar

  • Brown-body with a brown head
  • A hump on the lower half
  • Elongated horn beside the head
  • Wavy speckled lines

 

Black-waved Flannel Moth Caterpillar

Black-waved Flannel Moth Caterpillar | Flannel moth caterpillar, Moth caterpillar, Beautiful butterflies

  • Full of fuzzy, frilly hair
  • Overall color varies – brown, white, rusty orange, or yellow
  • Stinging setae are concealed among the hair

 

Blinded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Blinded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

  • White freckles and specks on the green body
  • Grows into a moth with eyespots devoid of pupils
  • Lacks head
  • Brown legs with green tail

 

Buck Moth Caterpillar

Buck Moth Caterpillar

  • White dots all over the black-white body
  • A red-colored head
  • Multiple spines and their offshoots cause burning pain
  • Clusters of yellow spikes

 

Camouflaged Emerald Moth Caterpillar

Camouflaged Emerald Moth Caterpillar

  • Colorful body covered in debris
  • Uses plant parts to camouflage with surroundings
  • Spiky legs
  • Diagonally-positioned stripes and brown head

 

Catalpa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Catalpa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

  • Black body with white capsules
  • Hosts on the native catalpa tree
  • A black-colored head and tan sides

 

Cecropia Silk Moth Caterpillar

Cecropia Silk Moth Caterpillar

  • Green, white, yellow body
  • Secrets chemical for defense
  • Yellow dots with spiny orange, blue bumps

 

Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar

Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar

  • Orange/brown/multicolored head
  • Eyes morph into blue after maturation
  • Black body with white specks

 

Common Sawfly Larva

Common Sawfly Larva

  • Yellow body with black spots
  • Multiple legs
  • Matures into a wasp
  • Bends backward

 

Cross-striped Cabbage Worm

Cross-striped Cabbage Worm

  • Brown head with yellow sides
  • When young, it is small and green
  • Black dots throughout the body

 

Definite Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  • Black body with yellow cocoon
  • Black lashes
  • Holding it can cause pain and irritation.
  • Yellow bumps and head

 

Dogwood Sawfly Larva

  • Fuzzy, waxy appearance
  • It appears like plump flies and does not sting
  • Black colored head and yellow belly

 

Double-lined Prominent Caterpillar

Double-lined Prominent Caterpillar

  • A green head and black eyes
  • Red patches and stripe
  • Bears red patches that grow into a large stripe

 

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

  • Orange bumps on the body
  • Feeds on distinct wild plants and herbs
  • Causes stinky smell

 

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

  • A black-colored head
  • Its skin tents are tough to tear and offer a secure retreat for resting
  • Orange hair on feet
  • A white line on the back

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

  • Green body
  • Gazes right at you through its clear eyespots
  • Eyespot on the side
  • Speckled body

 

Eight-spotted Forester Moth Caterpillar

Eight-spotted Forester Moth Caterpillar

  • Black polka dots on the body
  • Looks more like a butterfly than a moth
  • Orange head with rings
  • Blackish-white stripes

 

Evergreen Bagworm

Evergreen Bagworm

  • Multicolored/brown head
  • An intelligent case that prevents it from drying out
  • Speckled, mottled body

 

Fall Webworm

  • Found in clusters
  • Lengthy yellow/white don’t possess stinging capabilities
  • Covers with spikes and hair

 

False Unicorn Caterpillar

  • Brown head with red bumps
  • Feeds on woody plants like Fagus and Betula
  • Sharp bristles on the body

 

Fig Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Fig Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

  • Black/green/white-colored head
  • Undergoes extreme color transitions ranging from white to two-toned
  • White diagonal lines on sides

 

Forest Tent Caterpillar

  • Black/brown body
  • Usually sticks in a herd while traveling on tree trunks
  • Light blue stripes and yellow lines
  • Feathery legs

 

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

  • Black-colored head and body
  • Surprisingly safe to touch despite deadly-looking black clusters of spikes
  • Expansive yellow-red bands on body

 

Gold Moth Caterpillar

Gold Moth Caterpillar

  • Orange head and body
  • Loses its bright colors to turn into a metallic, shining beauty
  • Black stripes with white sides

 

Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

  • Only 1.1” in size
  • Long yellow, green, white stripes and a brown line on their fleshy bodies.
  • Striped body

 

Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillar

Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillar

  • Fleshy green-green body
  • A summer moth and active during summer months.
  • Covered with black dots

 

Hibiscus Leaf Caterpillar

Hibiscus Leaf Caterpillar

  • Brown/tan body with a yellow-brown head
  • Feeds on the leaves of tropical flowers
  • Four black dots on each segment

 

Hickory Horned Devil

  • Long antennae and curved antlers
  • Despite its appearance, it is safe to touch
  • Blackish-red horns
  • Orange/red/multicolored/black-colored head

 

Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar

Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar

  • Diamond-like green body
  • Universally found in distinct habitats as it feeds on varied plant
  • Flat read end
  • Yellow bands

 

Humped Green Fruitworm

Larva is apple green, often with a milky overcast, and has a pronounced rear hump.

  • Green body and head
  • Features a yellow-striped triangular bump near its rear end.
  • Yellow speckles and stripes

 

Imperial Moth Caterpillar

Imperial Moth Caterpillar

  • Brown-green body with yellow/orange/black/brown head
  • Bears multiple rows with pointy horns on the head with a variably-colored body
  • Fine white hair

 

Io Moth Caterpillar

Io Moth Caterpillar

  • Green/red/white body
  • An array of green spines cover the entire body
  • White and red stripes on the side

 

Juniper-twig Geometer Moth Caterpillar

Juniper-twig Geometer Moth Caterpillar

  • White stripes on the body
  • The slender brownish-green body helps it merge with the conifers it feasts on
  • Brown head with yellow legs

 

Large Tolype Moth Caterpillar

Large Tolype Moth Caterpillar

  • Pale-colored body with bumps
  • Carries a feathery fringe around its legs to cover lichen-laced trunks
  • White/gray hairs around body

 

Long-horned Slug

  • Variety of colors on body – green, purple, brown, red, maroon
  • Develops purple diamonds on its back
  • Two orange tails and dots

 

Luna Moth Caterpillar

Luna Moth Caterpillar - Life Cycle, Habitat, Pictures, Facts in 2020 | Luna moth, Moth caterpillar, Buck moth caterpillar

  • Green/orange body with pink-red dots
  • Blackish-brown head
  • Covered in tiny red spots and stripes with yellow centers.

 

Mealybug Destroyer Beetle Larva

Factsheet: Mealybug ladybird - Cryptolaemus montrouzieri

  • White, cotton-like body
  • Devours multiple plant-attacking bugs
  • Covered with hairs

 

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Milkweed tussock moth larvae feed on common milkweed - MSU Extension

  • Marroonish-yellow body
  • Loves feeding on its host plants
  • Yellow hairs on the back
  • Black hair tufts and head

 

Mini Bagworm

Bagworm larva on side of house

  • Dried needle-like body
  • Movable cases enclosing it are built with whichever dead plant it feeds on
  • Multicolored head (black-brown striped)

 

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar

Pin on The Meditative Gardener

  • Blackish-yellow stripes
  • Two black tails
  • Favors milkweed as a host, and relies on its presence to maintain populations
  • A pair of black antennae

 

Monkey Slug Caterpillar

Phobetron pithecium - Wikipedia

  • Fuzzy, hairy body
  • Appears more like a hairy octopus than a caterpillar.
  • Snail-like bodily features
  • Brown head with black tip

 

Nason’s Slug

File:- 4679 – Natada nasoni – Nason's Slug Moth caterpillar (30872116748).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

  • Green body with orange dots
  • Appears more like a snail without a shell; less like a caterpillar.
  • Spines in the dots

 

Oldwife Underwing Moth Caterpillar

Oldwife Underwing Moth Caterpillar

  • Ivory head
  • Dark, squiggly lines embrace the head and body
  • Four white bumps on the head
  • Hair fringes by legs

 

Orangedog Caterpillar

Orange dog caterpillars | | tucson.com

  • Snake-like appearance
  • Snakes around citrus trees and feeds on leaves by sticking its tongue out at predators.
  • Wide head
  • Red tongue

 

Owl-eyed Bird Dropping Moth Caterpillar

Owl-eyed Bird Dropping Moth Caterpillar

  • White “i” on back
  • Quietly resides in oak barrens and woodlands
  • Black-colored head
  • Orange sides
  • Wispy black hair on the body

 

Pandorus Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Pandorus Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

  • Orange/green/brown body
  • Engulfs vines growing in the forests and gardens.
  • White/orange side spots
  • Green-colored head

 

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

  • Reddish-purple body
  • Mimicked by butterflies due to its reputation for tasting terrible
  • Orange tentacles and dots
  • Black-colored head

 

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar

  • Chubby green body
  • Matures into a large, curvy moth with alluring eyes.
  • White dots and red rings
  • Flat brown head

 

Puss Caterpillar

  • Brownish-orange body
  • Looks fascinating, but it’s best to avoid contact with its stinging hairs
  • Furry and soft to touch

 

Question Mark Caterpillar

Question Mark Caterpillar

  • Red, orange body
  • The head and body stick out branching spikes
  • Black and red spikes
  • Red-colored head with white dots

 

Red Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar

Red Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar

  • Black body with orange base spots
  • Gives its location away by securing leaves with silk and folding them
  • Black branching spikes

 

Red-humped Caterpillar

Red-humped Caterpillar

  • Red hump and head
  • Skeletonizes leaves, leaving behind only their veins.
  • Black spikes
  • Orange sides

 

Red-spotted Purple Admiral Caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple Admiral Caterpillar

  • Grey/white-colored body
  • Uses its own droppings to safeguard its cocoon.
  • Two black antennae

 

Retarded Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Retarded Dagger Moth Caterpillar

  • White bands and black lines
  • Usually spotted on maple trees.
  • Four red bumps with hairs
  • Brown speckled head

 

Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillar

  • Greenish-brown body
  • Touching the black ‘button’ on its back causes stinging pain
  • Bears white rings
  • Antennae by butt and head

 

Saddled Prominent Moth Caterpillar

Saddled Prominent Moth Caterpillar

  • Flat brown head
  • Characterized by its instability.
  • Diagonal dashes on the side

 

Silver-spotted Skipper Caterpillar

Silver-spotted Skipper Caterpillar

  • Reddish-maroon head
  • Loves taking daytime naps in the leaves of its host
  • Orange eye spots
  • Dark rings

 

Silvery Checkerspot Caterpillar

Silvery Checkerspot Caterpillar

  • Spiky black body
  • Inhabited in moist, somewhat open spaces like meadows and streamsides
  • A black-colored head with orange side stripes

 

Skiff Slug

Skiff Slug

  • Egg-shaped body
  • Blends well with shrub leaves and treas that it engulfs to veins
  • Flattened back
  • Raised towards the sides

 

Slug Caterpillar

Slug Caterpillar

  • Egg-shaped body
  • Possesses wide, flat body and resembles snails
  • Covered with spines
  • Green colored

 

Smaller Parasa Moth Caterpillar

Smaller Parasa Moth Caterpillar

  • Flat-bodied
  • Sluggishly moves over stems of plants
  • Short brown hairs

 

Smartweed Caterpillar

  • Black colored
  • Makes an appearance during the spring and fall seasons
  • V-shaped yellow sides

 

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Caterpillar

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Caterpillar

  • A green head
  • A harmless, sharp-looking horn stationed at its rear end
  • Carries a black tail
  • Yellow scruff neck

 

Southern Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Southern Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  • Blackish-brown head
  • It’s recommended to tread cautiously near this caterpillar.
  • Black bumps on the back

 

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

  • Carries a bulging head with multiple bright colors
  • A greenish-yellow body
  • Appears snake-like
  • Has steely blue dots on the side

 

Spiny Elm Caterpillar

Spiny Elm Caterpillar

  • Its sting causes excruciating pain
  • A black-colored head and body
  • Black spikes
  • Four red legs with a bumpy head

 

Spiny Oak Slug

Spiny Oak Slug

  • Possesses short hairs that can embed themselves and cause irritation
  • Orangish-brown body with brown bands
  • A brown-colored head with spiky hairs

 

Spotted Apatelodes Moth Caterpillar

Spotted Apatelodes Moth Caterpillar

  • Its soft, fine hairs might fasten themselves in the skin
  • Extremely fuzzy in appearance
  • Bears black antennae
  • Covered with long black hairs
  • Red legs and feet

 

Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  • It is a non-stinging caterpillar
  • A woolly-bear like appearance
  • Black dots and bumps
  • Yellowish towards the middle

 

Spun Glass Slug

Spun Glass Slug

  • Looks more like a delicate chandelier than a caterpillar
  • Oval in shape
  • Fairly transparent in appearance
  • Green-colored body

 

Stinging Rose Caterpillar

Stinging Rose Caterpillar

  • Its stinging hairs cause pain when touched
  • Yellowish-red in color
  • A purple band on the middle of the back
  • Short-sized horns

 

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  • The pencils and tufts on its skin may irritate the skin
  • Orange-headed caterpillar
  • Orange-colored lashes
  • Furry with black hairs

 

Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

  • A snake-like appearance
  • Brown or green bodied
  • Large eyespots are helpful for the identification
  • A black, thorned tail
  • Bears a bulging head

 

The Half-wing Moth Caterpillar

The Half-wing Moth Caterpillar

  • Thin tap stripes extending towards the back
  • Orange spots on the side
  • Black speckles on its head
  • Twig-like appearance

 

Thistle Caterpillar

Thistle Caterpillar

  • A black-colored head
  • Orangish-red nodes
  • Hairy, fuzzy face
  • Features yellow branching spines

 

Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Tiger Moth Caterpillar

  • Black-colored body
  • A yellow line running through the middle
  • A black-colored head
  • Feeds on distinct plants

 

Tobacco Hornworm

Tobacco Hornworm

  • Well known to crop farmers where it destroys plants like tobacco and tomato upon maturation
  • Bright green body and head
  • Carries seven white diagonal stripes located at an upward angle
  • Tiny black eyespots rest at the base of each angled line

 

Tulip-tree Beauty Moth Caterpillar

Tulip-tree Beauty Moth Caterpillar

  • A swollen neck provides it a snake-like profile
  • A yellow-colored head
  • Green-colored body
  • Slender black and white sidelines

 

Unicorn Caterpillar Moth

Unicorn Caterpillar Moth

  • Elevated head like that of a unicorn
  • A white V-shaped mark
  • Long, single horn
  • Bears sparse hairs

 

Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar

Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar

  • Oozes out a stinging, acidic spray that leaves handlers with blisters
  • Green-colored body
  • Paired red bumps
  • Diagonal stripes on the face

 

Variegated Fritillary Butterfly Caterpillar

Variegated Fritillary Butterfly Caterpillar

  • Red-colored body
  • Fashions long black spikes
  • Elongated yellow lines on the body

 

Virginia Creeper Hornworm

Virginia Creeper Hornworm

  • A greenish-brown body
  • Black-colored tail
  • Presence of white granules and dots

 

Virginian Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Virginian Tiger Moth Caterpillar

  • Its hairs aren’t poisonous but can irritate the skin
  • Rusty-orange body
  • Blackish rings between the orange
  • A black-colored head

 

Walnut Caterpillar

Walnut Caterpillar

  • The hairs might appear menacing, but it does not sting
  • Black-colored head
  • Whitish-black body

 

Wavy-lined Heterocampa Moth Caterpillar

Wavy-lined Heterocampa Moth Caterpillar

  • Forms antlers on its head
  • Carries two tails
  • Greenish-brown body

 

White Admiral Caterpillar

White Admiral Caterpillar

  • Does a great impression of bird-dropping
  • Features two black spiky horns
  • Two bumps on the back
  • Greyish-brown head

 

White Flannel Moth Caterpillar

White Flannel Moth Caterpillar

  • Boldly-colored body
  • Bears short and stinging hairs
  • Yellowish-red head

 

White Furcula Caterpillar

White Furcula Caterpillar

  • A long forked tail sticking straight up
  • Large brown-colored head
  • Bristles on the tail

 

White-blotched Heterocampa Caterpillar

White-blotched Heterocampa Caterpillar

  • Undergoes dramatic color transformation as it mutates into purple
  • Boasts a birthmark on the back
  • Two black bumps

 

White-marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

White-marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  • Causes pain and itching upon touching it
  • Yellow-colored body
  • Black stripe on the back
  • Black-colored antennae

 

100 Types of Caterpillars in North Carolina

So, this was all about the 100 commonly found species of caterpillars in North Carolina.

Observing a caterpillar grow into adulthood is an exciting experience, raising it is even better!

For starters, you get to testify one of the world’s most natural events. Moreover, you’ll get the opportunity to definitely distinguish among the hundreds of species around!

Black Butterfly Meaning