Black caterpillar with barbed spines & red dots on its back
Dear BugMan,
Your site is FABUOLOS! I found this caterpillar in my backyard the other evening and took these pictures of it. I then proceeded to neglect my family because I spent a few hours browsing your site trying to identify it – I’m not a bug lover but I’m not a bug hater, either! Cool bugs are cool bugs and thank you for having so many bugs, cool & not so cool on your site! The closest I could find was the Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar. I do have a couple of Dutchmen’s Pipe vines so I was hopeful. Upon closer examination, it’s really only close, no cigar! The spines are barbed and I hope you can see from these pics that the spots are on the top of the body.. maybe I have a baby – still hopeful! The three caterpillars I’ve seen range in size from 1” to 1 1⁄2”. We live on Long Island, NY. I’ve seen 3 of these critters – never on any thing that they might eat – crawling across the patio, for example. Also not on or near my Dutchmen’s Pipe vines. The pictures I’m sending were taken of the caterpillar resting on a dead stick, also not near the Dutchmen’s pipe or near any other plants; the stick was on top of some rocks. Thank you for help with identifying this caterpillar and thank you for having such a fantastic website!

Hi Patsy,
This is a Mourning Cloak Caterpillar, which will become a beautiful dark butterfly with cream colored wing edges and blue spots. As the butterfly hibernates as an adult, it is often the first butterfly seen in the spring. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of willow, elm and poplar.

4 Responses to Mourning Cloak Caterpillar

  1. zaleski1214 says:

    my son has about four of these in a jar they change in to crystiles? how long befor they change to a butterflies

  2. Coraley Rentas says:

    I live in Henderson NV and I spotted this unusual caterpillar on my sidewalk. I had never seen a black caterpillar with red dots on his back. . my friends keep saying that it was not a caterpillar. they said it may be a cendipede and I begged to differ. it wasn’t moving until I put water on it.
    what’s going to happen to it now? do I just leave it alone?

    my email address is

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