Green Caterpillar Types: 17 Different Species With Photos

In the fascinating world of entomology, caterpillars represent one of the most diverse and intriguing segments.

Among these, green caterpillars are particularly noteworthy due to their varied species, each with unique characteristics and roles in the ecosystem.

This article delves into the world of these remarkable creatures, exploring 17 different species of green caterpillars.

From the common Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar to the striking Luna Moth Caterpillar, each species is a marvel of nature, showcasing the incredible adaptability and diversity of caterpillars.

This guide offers a glimpse into their life cycles, habitats, diets, and behaviors, along with their significance or impact as pests and the corresponding control methods where applicable.

Green Caterpillar Types
Unknown Hornworm

17 Green Caterpillar Types With Details

Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar (Hyalophora euryalus)

Classification: The Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar is the larval stage of the Ceanothus Silk Moth, scientifically known as Hyalophora euryalus. It belongs to the Saturniidae family, which includes some of the largest and most spectacular moths.

Physical Appearance: This caterpillar is notable for its size and coloration. It has a robust, plump body that is typically a vibrant green.

The body is adorned with rows of blue and yellow spots, and it has a series of fleshy spikes (tubercles) along its back, which are usually orange or red.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar undergoes complete metamorphosis.

After a period of feeding and growth, it spins a cocoon in which it pupates. The transformation into the adult moth occurs within this cocoon, and the moth emerges fully formed.

Ceanothus Silkmoth Caterpillar
Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar

Diet: True to its name, the Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar primarily feeds on the leaves of Ceanothus species, commonly known as California lilac. However, it may also feed on other broadleaf shrubs and trees.

Behavior: These caterpillars are solitary feeders and are known for their voracious appetite. They can be found on the host plants, often conspicuously feeding on the leaves.

Pest Status and Control: Generally, the Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar is not considered a pest. It is more of an occasional visitor to gardens and landscapes with Ceanothus plants. Since they do not typically cause significant damage, control measures are rarely necessary. In cases of high population density, manual removal can be an effective method.

Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar (Manduca quinquemaculata)

Classification: Belonging to the family Sphingidae, the Tomato Hornworm is a larval stage of the Five-spotted Hawkmoth.

Physical Appearance: These caterpillars are known for their striking green color, with white and black markings and a distinctive horn-like appendage at the rear.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Tomato Hornworm undergoes complete metamorphosis. After the larval stage, it burrows into the soil to pupate and later emerges as an adult moth.

Spiracles of a Tobacco Hornworm

Diet: As the name suggests, they primarily feed on tomato plants but can also be found on other members of the Solanaceae family, like eggplants and peppers.

Behavior: They are voracious feeders and can defoliate plants rapidly.

Pest Status and Control: Considered a significant pest in gardens and farms, they can cause substantial damage to crops.

Control methods include handpicking, using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as a biological control, and encouraging natural predators like birds and parasitic wasps.

Winter Moth Caterpillar / Inchworm (Operophtera brumata)

Classification: Part of the Geometridae family, these caterpillars are the larval stage of the Winter Moth.

Physical Appearance: They are slender, loop as they move, and are a pale green color, helping them blend in with leaves.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Winter Moth has a unique lifecycle where the adults are active in winter, and the caterpillars appear in spring. They pupate in the soil and emerge as moths in late fall.

Winter Moth Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a variety of deciduous trees and shrubs, including oak, maple, and apple.

Behavior: Known for their “looping” movement, they can defoliate trees if present in large numbers.

Pest Status and Control: They are considered pests, especially in orchards.

Control methods include using pheromone traps for moths and applying insecticides or Bt to control caterpillar populations.

Genista Broom Moth Caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis)

Classification: This caterpillar is part of the Crambidae family and is the larval stage of the Genista Broom Moth.

Physical Appearance: They are predominantly green with light striping and a thin, elongated body.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Genista Broom Moth caterpillar undergoes complete metamorphosis, transforming from larva to pupa and then to an adult moth.

Genista Broom Moth Caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis)
Genista Broom Moth Caterpillar. Source: Jacy LucierCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Diet: They primarily feed on plants in the pea family, including brooms, gorse, and lupines.

Behavior: They are solitary feeders and can be found on the underside of leaves.

Pest Status and Control: While not typically a major pest, they can cause damage to ornamental and leguminous plants.

Control is usually not necessary, but in case of severe infestation, removal by hand or use of appropriate insecticides can be effective.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes)

Classification: This caterpillar is a stage in the lifecycle of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, belonging to the family Papilionidae.

Physical Appearance: They are characterized by their green body with black bands and yellow spots. In earlier stages, they resemble bird droppings for camouflage.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Black Swallowtail undergoes complete metamorphosis. After the caterpillar stage, it forms a chrysalis from which the adult butterfly emerges.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a variety of plants in the carrot family, including parsley, dill, and fennel.

Behavior: These caterpillars are solitary feeders and are known to display an osmeterium (a defensive organ) when threatened.

Pest Status and Control: While not major pests, they can be a nuisance in herb gardens. Control is usually not necessary, but if needed, can be managed through handpicking.

Emperor Moth Caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia)

Classification: Part of the Saturniidae family, this is the larval stage of the Emperor Moth.

Physical Appearance: The caterpillars are notable for their vibrant green color, with pink and yellow spots and a spiky appearance.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Emperor Moth caterpillar undergoes complete metamorphosis, forming a cocoon in which it pupates before emerging as a moth.

Emperor Gum Moth Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a variety of shrubs and heather.

Behavior: Known for their striking appearance, they are solitary feeders.

Pest Status and Control: Generally not considered pests, they are more of an interesting find due to their colorful appearance.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar (Papilio glaucus)

Classification: This caterpillar is part of the lifecycle of the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, in the family Papilionidae.

Physical Appearance: Initially resembling bird droppings, they later become green with fake eye spots to deter predators.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They undergo complete metamorphosis, transforming into a chrysalis before emerging as butterflies.

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a variety of host plants, including wild cherry and birch.

Behavior: These caterpillars are solitary and use their false eyespots as a defense mechanism.

Pest Status and Control: They are not typically considered pests and are often welcomed for their eventual transformation into beautiful butterflies.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar (Hyles lineata): Moth Green Caterpillar

Classification: This is the larval stage of the White-Lined Sphinx Moth, belonging to the Sphingidae family.

Physical Appearance: They have a variable appearance, often green or black with a yellow and white stripe and a horn at the rear.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They undergo complete metamorphosis, pupating in the soil before emerging as moths.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar (Hyles lineata)
White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar. Source: Peter Chen 2.0CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Diet: They feed on a wide range of plants, including evening primrose and grape.

Behavior: Known for their voracious appetite, they can sometimes be found in large numbers.

Pest Status and Control: In large numbers, they can be a pest, particularly in gardens. Control methods include handpicking and using Bt.

Copper Underwing Moth Caterpillar (Amphipyra pyramidea)

Classification: This caterpillar is part of the lifecycle of the Copper Underwing Moth, in the family Noctuidae.

Physical Appearance: They are green with a brown head and a faint white line down the side.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The caterpillar stage is followed by pupation, after which the adult moth emerges.

Copper Underwing Caterpillar
Copper Underwing Moth Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a variety of deciduous trees and shrubs.

Behavior: They are nocturnal and are often found hiding under leaves during the day.

Pest Status and Control: They are not typically considered major pests, but in some cases, they can cause noticeable damage to ornamental plants.

Control is rarely needed but can include natural predators or insecticides if necessary.

Luna Moth Caterpillar (Actias luna): Lime Green Caterpillar

Classification: This caterpillar is the larval stage of the Luna Moth, part of the Saturniidae family.

Physical Appearance: They are notable for their bright green color with small red spots on the sides.

Lifecycle and Transformation: The Luna Moth undergoes complete metamorphosis, pupating in a cocoon spun among leaves before emerging as a moth.

Luna Moth Caterpillar (Actias luna)
Luna Moth Caterpillar. Source: Gopp piCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Diet: They feed on leaves of walnut, hickory, sweet gum, and paper birch trees.

Behavior: They are solitary feeders and are not often seen due to their nocturnal nature.

Pest Status and Control: Luna Moth caterpillars are not considered pests and are admired for their beauty.

Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar (Pieris rapae): Tiny Green Caterpillar

Classification: This is the larval stage of the Cabbage White Butterfly, in the family Pieridae.

Physical Appearance: They are velvety green with a faint yellow stripe down the back and sides.

Lifecycle and Transformation: After the caterpillar stage, they form a chrysalis from which the adult butterfly emerges.

Cabbage White Larva

Diet: They primarily feed on cabbage, kale, and other cruciferous plants.

Behavior: They are known for their tendency to feed in groups, especially on cultivated brassicas.

Pest Status and Control: Considered a significant pest in agriculture, control methods include handpicking, using floating row covers, and applying Bt.

Hickory Horned Devil Moth Caterpillar (Citheronia regalis): Green Caterpillar with Black Spikes

Classification: This caterpillar is part of the lifecycle of the Regal Moth, belonging to the Saturniidae family.

Physical Appearance: One of the largest caterpillar species, they are striking with a bright green body, red and black spikes, and a horn at the rear.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They burrow into the ground to pupate and later emerge as large moths.

Hickory Horned Devil

Diet: They feed on leaves of hickory, walnut, and other deciduous trees.

Behavior: Despite their intimidating appearance, they are harmless and solitary.

Pest Status and Control: They are not considered pests due to their rarity and minimal impact on trees.

Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar (Manduca rustica)

Classification: This caterpillar is the larval stage of the Rustic Sphinx Moth, in the Sphingidae family.

Physical Appearance: They are large and robust, with a green or brown body, diagonal stripes on the sides, and a horn at the rear.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They undergo complete metamorphosis, pupating in the soil before emerging as moths.

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a variety of plants, including jasmine, honeysuckle, and willow.

Behavior: They are solitary and are known for their rapid growth.

Pest Status and Control: Not typically considered pests, they are more of an occasional garden visitor.

European Puss Moth Caterpillar (Cerura vinula)

Classification: Part of the Notodontidae family, this is the larval stage of the European Puss Moth.

Physical Appearance: They have a unique appearance with a green and white body, a “tail” that splits into two, and a threatening red “face” pattern when disturbed.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They pupate in a hard cocoon attached to tree trunks or other structures before emerging as moths.

European Puss Moth Caterpillar. Source: Tiia MontoCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Diet: They feed on willow, poplar, and aspen leaves.

Behavior: Known for their defensive posture and ability to eject acidic liquid when threatened.

Pest Status and Control: They are not generally considered pests and are more known for their unique defensive behaviors.

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar (Hyalophora cecropia)

Classification: This is the larval stage of the Cecropia Moth, the largest North American moth, belonging to the Saturniidae family.

Physical Appearance: They are large and colorful, with a bright green body and conspicuous tubercles of red, yellow, and blue.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They spin a large, tough cocoon in which they pupate, emerging as moths in the spring.

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Diet: They feed on a wide range of deciduous trees, including maple and cherry.

Behavior: They are solitary and grow to a substantial size before pupating.

Pest Status and Control: Not considered a pest, they are often raised by hobbyists for their impressive size and beauty.

Hackberry Emperor Caterpillar (Asterocampa celtis)

Classification: This caterpillar is part of the lifecycle of the Hackberry Emperor Butterfly, in the Nymphalidae family.

Physical Appearance: They are green with small spines and a white stripe down the side.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They undergo complete metamorphosis, forming a chrysalis before emerging as butterflies.

Hackberry Emperor Caterpillar

Diet: They feed exclusively on hackberry leaves.

Behavior: They are gregarious in early stages but become more solitary as they mature.

Pest Status and Control: They are not considered significant pests, as they rarely cause substantial damage to their host trees.

Green Cloverworm (Hypena scabra): Green Caterpillar with White Stripes

Classification: This is the larval stage of a moth in the family Erebidae.

Physical Appearance: They are slender, light green caterpillars with white stripes running down the length of the body.

Lifecycle and Transformation: They undergo complete metamorphosis, pupating in the soil or leaf litter.

Diet: They feed on clover, soybeans, and other legumes.

Behavior: They are known for their “looping” movement, similar to inchworms.

Pest Status and Control: They can be pests in soybean and clover fields. Control methods include crop rotation, biological controls, and chemical insecticides when necessary.

Conclusion

Each of these 17 species, with its unique characteristics and life cycle, plays a vital role in its respective ecosystem, whether as a pollinator, a food source for other animals, or even as a challenge for gardeners and farmers.

As an essential part of our ecological system, green caterpillars are undeniably fascinating creatures that continue to captivate and educate us about the natural world.

Thank you for reading.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Ceanothus Moth Caterpillar

Ceanothus Silkmoth CaterpillarSubject :  Caterpillar identification
Geographic location of the bug:  Bonners Ferry ID
Date: 08/01/2022
Time:
Your letter to the bugman:  Found this climbing on a hardy kiwi we introduced this year, under birch, surrounded by ocean spray, serviceberry, and thimble berry.
How you want your letter signed :  Idaho homestead

Ceanothus Silkmoth Caterpillar
Ceanothus Silkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Idaho homestead,
We are nearly positive that this is the Caterpillar of a Ceanothus Silkmoth, a large gorgeous moth that is found in western North America.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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