Where Do Caterpillars Come From? Unveiling Nature’s Little Secret

Have you ever wondered where caterpillars come from? These fascinating creatures are not only essential to the life cycle of butterflies and moths but also play a significant role in our environment. In this article, we will explore the origins of caterpillars and their journey from eggs to full-grown larvae.

Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths, meaning they are the offspring of these captivating winged insects. The process begins when adult butterflies and moths lay their eggs on host plants, which caterpillars will later consume as a primary food source. By laying eggs on plants suitable for their future offspring, they ensure a healthy start for the next generation of caterpillars.

As the eggs hatch, tiny caterpillars emerge, ready to eat and grow. They will spend most of their time munching on leaves, flowers, and other plant material to fuel their rapid development. While their appearance may vary greatly among different species, caterpillars typically share common features such as an elongated body with multiple pairs of legs and a well-developed head for chewing. Get ready to dive deeper into the fascinating world of caterpillars!

What are Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the larval stage of insects, specifically butterflies and moths. These fascinating creatures come in various shapes and sizes, and there are thousands of different species found all around the world.

During their larval stage, caterpillars feed on leaves, flowers, shoots, fruits, and sometimes even bore into wood. This helps them grow and eventually transform into their adult forms. Here are some common features of caterpillars:

  • Soft, elongated, and cylindrical body shape
  • Distinct head with six pairs of simple eyes
  • Three pairs of legs directly behind the head
  • Leg-like appendages called prolegs on some abdominal segments

Caterpillars can be found in diverse habitats, ranging from gardens and forests to deserts and mountains. Some are tiny and well-camouflaged, making them hard to spot, while others are brightly colored and easy to notice.

Different caterpillar species have unique characteristics and feeding preferences, each playing a distinct role in the ecosystem. For example, the redhumped caterpillar primarily feeds on leaves, while the fall armyworm caterpillar feeds on corn plants.

In conclusion, caterpillars are fascinating and diverse creeping creatures that are an essential part of our environment. As the larval stage of butterflies and moths, they play a significant role in the lifecycle of these insects and contribute to the balance of ecosystems worldwide.

The Birth of Caterpillars

Eggs: You might wonder where caterpillars come from. It all starts with tiny eggs laid by adult butterflies and moths. These eggs are often laid on leaves or other surfaces where the soon-to-be caterpillars will find food.

Hatching: After a while, the eggs hatch, and new larva emerge. These larvae are what we commonly call caterpillars. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, from pink to black and half an inch to four inches long.

Feeding: Caterpillars spend most of their time eating. This helps them grow and prepare for their next stage of life, the pupal stage. They usually feed on plant leaves, but some also eat flowers and fruit.

Metamorphosis: After they’ve grown enough, caterpillars will form a cocoon or chrysalis. Inside, they undergo a process called metamorphosis, where they transform into an adult butterfly or moth.

Variables Eggs Caterpillars
Purpose Reproduce Eat, grow, and prepare for metamorphosis
Size Tiny ½ to 4 inches
Appearance Eggs laid by adult butterflies and moths Various colors, spots, and stripes

Remember, not all caterpillars are pests. In fact, only about 3% of them cause damage to gardens. Many caterpillars actually play important roles in the ecosystem, like providing food for birds or helping with pollination.

Diet and Habitat

Caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths, feed on a variety of plants and trees in their natural habitat. Their diet mainly consists of leaves, but they also munch on flowers, shoots, and fruits.

For example, the Monarch caterpillar is particularly fond of milkweed plants. You might find them chewing on these plants in your garden.

Caterpillars vary in appearance and can be found in different colors such as pink, brown, green, blue, and black. Their habitat can range from the roof of your home to the trees and shrubs in your yard.

Here are some common caterpillars and their favorite plants:

  • Monarch caterpillar: Milkweed
  • Black Swallowtail caterpillar: Parsley, dill, fennel, and carrots
  • Woolly Bear caterpillar: Wide variety of plants, including grasses and weeds

Caterpillars can also be found in various habitats like forests, meadows, and wetlands. Knowing the plants they prefer and where they live can help you identify them when you see them in your garden or during nature walks.

Caterpillar’s Appearance

Caterpillars have diverse appearances, but they share some common features. Let’s start with their legs and prolegs. They have three pairs of true legs directly behind their head and several pairs of prolegs on their abdomen. These legs help them move and grip onto surfaces.

Caterpillars’ eyes are not like ours. Instead, they have simple eyes called stemmata, which help them detect light and dark but do not see clear images. These stemmata are arranged in a semi-circle on each side of their head.

Now, let’s talk about coloration. Caterpillars come in various colors, from bright blue to green and brown. Some even have complex patterns, like the Black Swallowtail caterpillar, which has a stunning combination of black, yellow, and blue patterns. This can serve as camouflage or to deter predators.

Here are some key features of caterpillars in bullet points:

  • Legs: 3 pairs of true legs behind the head
  • Prolegs: Found on the abdomen, number varies
  • Eyes: Simple eyes called stemmata
  • Coloration: Varies widely, including blue and patterns like the Black Swallowtail

Just remember, these fascinating creatures play an essential role in our ecosystems and contribute to nature’s beauty. So next time you spot one, take a moment to appreciate their unique appearance.

Behaviour and Adaptations

Caterpillars have developed some fascinating behaviors and adaptations to ensure their survival. In this section, you will explore some of these remarkable features, such as silk production, sequestration, camouflage, hibernation, and their overall strategies for survival.

Silk production is one of the most interesting aspects of caterpillar behavior. Caterpillars produce silk from glands in their heads, which is used for various purposes, such as building cocoons or securing themselves to branches. For example, Black Swallowtails create silk girdles to support their chrysalises.

Sequestration is a survival strategy that some caterpillars use. They can sequester, or accumulate, toxic compounds from the plants they consume, making them less palatable or even poisonous to potential predators.

Camouflage allows caterpillars to blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot them. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, often resembling the appearance of the leaves and branches they feed on. This adaptation improves their chances of going unnoticed by predators, such as birds or other insects.

Caterpillars also employ hibernation as a means of survival. Some caterpillars, particularly those living in colder climates, can enter a dormant state during the winter months. This allows them to slow down their metabolic processes and conserve energy until the warmer spring weather returns, providing them with a better chance of surviving harsh conditions.

In conclusion, the combination of these various behaviors and adaptations helps caterpillars increase their chances of survival and eventually transform into moths or butterflies. These fascinating creatures display an array of strategies that make them both resilient and successful in the natural world. So next time you encounter a caterpillar, take a moment to appreciate the remarkable adaptations that enable it to thrive.

Caterpillar Infestations

Caterpillars are well-known pests that can cause significant damage to plants by chewing on leaves, flowers, and fruits. An infestation often begins when adult butterflies or moths lay their eggs on the host plants. Once they hatch, the caterpillars start feeding on the foliage, resulting in plant damage.

To prevent caterpillar infestations in your garden, try these simple strategies:

  • Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests.
  • Keep your garden clean and free of plant debris.
  • Seal openings like cracks and crevices near doors and windows to prevent adult insects from laying eggs.

In case you already have an infestation, don’t worry. There are several ways to deal with it:

  • Handpick caterpillars off your plants and place them in a container with soapy water.
  • Apply a biological control product like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to affected plants, which is safe for beneficial insects and the environment.
  • You can also use other natural predators like birds or parasitic wasps to keep the caterpillar population in check.

Metamorphosis Process

The metamorphosis process is how caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies or moths. In this process, there are several essential stages that the caterpillar goes through.

In the first stage, the larval stage, caterpillars hatch from eggs. They eat a lot, growing in size, and store energy for the next stages. During this stage, they also go through a process called molt, which is when they shed their outer layer of skin to allow for further growth.

Eventually, the caterpillar will enter the cocoon phase, also known as the pupal stage. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar goes through some significant changes, developing wings and other structures to become an adult insect.

Finally, after several weeks, the cocoon will open, and the transformed insect emerges as a butterfly or a moth. This marks the adult stage of their life cycle.

Here are some important points of the metamorphosis process:

  • The larval stage is when caterpillars eat and grow.
  • Molting helps caterpillars accommodate their increasing size.
  • Cocoon formation signals the beginning of the pupal stage.
  • In the adult stage, butterflies and moths are fully developed and capable of reproduction.

The metamorphosis process in insects like butterflies and moths is an incredible feat of nature, allowing them to transform from simple caterpillars into fascinating creatures with wings. As you observe these insects, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the complexity of their life cycle.

Surviving Seasons

Caterpillars have unique ways of surviving different seasons, including winter, summer, and fall.

Winter is a challenging time for caterpillars as they face extreme temperatures and food scarcity. However, some species are highly adaptable and have developed effective strategies to thrive during this season. For example, mourning cloaks utilize their dark coloration to absorb heat from the sun and remain active during mild winter days. Additionally, many caterpillars enter a state of diapause or hibernate as pupae.

In the summer, caterpillars face different challenges, such as high temperatures, drought, and predators. To cope with these conditions, they often feed during the early morning or evening hours when temperatures are cooler. This reduces their risk of dehydration and predation.

During fall, the availability of food decreases as plants begin to lose their leaves. Caterpillars must rapidly consume as much food as possible in preparation for the colder months. Some species take advantage of the abundant fruit, such as the eastern tent caterpillars.

Weather greatly impacts caterpillar survival and growth. They rely on specific temperature ranges and humidity levels to complete their life cycles. Any significant variation in these conditions can be detrimental to their development.

In conclusion, understanding the varying strategies caterpillars employ to survive different seasons allows you to better appreciate their adaptability and resilience in the face of ever-changing environments.

Caterpillar Species

Caterpillars are the larvae of insects in the order Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies and moths. They are mainly herbivores, feeding on leaves, flowers, and other plant parts. However, some unique species, like Hyposmocoma molluscivora, actually prey on other insects.

You’ll find a variety of caterpillar species that exhibit diverse characteristics and behaviors. Some of the well-known species are Papilio (swallowtails) and Danaus plexippus (monarchs).

Swallowtails, for instance, have distinctive traits such as:

  • Brightly colored patterns
  • “Swallow-like” tail-like extensions

On the other hand, monarchs are famous for their:

  • Unique orange and black coloration
  • Long and impressive migration patterns
  • “Bird-dropping” camouflage in the early larval stages

Apart from Lepidoptera, caterpillar-like larvae can also be found in some Hymenoptera and Sawflies species. These are not true caterpillars, but they still have some similarities, such as the presence of prolegs.

Caterpillar-like Larvae Main Features
Swallowtails Bright colors, swallow-like tails
Monarchs Distinct orange and black, bird-dropping camouflage, long migration
Sawflies Prolegs, cylindrical body, chewing mouthparts

Remember, while many caterpillars are herbivores, some unique species, like the Hyposmocoma molluscivora, adopt predatory lifestyles. Each different species showcases a fascinating variety of traits that make them unique in the insect world.

Caterpillars and Predation

Caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths, often face numerous predators in their environment. Let’s explore some common predators and how predation affects caterpillars.

Birds are prominent caterpillar predators. They rely on their keen eyesight to spot and feast on these insects. Some bird species, like cuckoos and warblers, even specialize in hunting caterpillars.

Insects and spiders also prey on caterpillars. These predators include ladybugs, wasps, ants, and spiders such as the crab spider. They hunt by either actively searching for caterpillars or ambushing them in their habitats.

Due to predation, caterpillars have developed various defense mechanisms to evade or deter predators:

  • Camouflage: Many caterpillars blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to detect them.
  • Toxic chemicals: Some caterpillars, like the monarch butterfly caterpillar, consume toxic plants and store the toxins in their bodies as a defense against predators.

To protect themselves, caterpillars often must:

  • Hide in the plants they feed on.
  • Move quickly to avoid being seen.
  • Display bright warning colors to deter predators.

In turn, predators have developed strategies to counter these defenses:

  • Keen eyesight or other senses to detect hidden caterpillars.
  • Immunity to caterpillar toxins.

Remember, the world of caterpillars and predation is complex, and the battle between predator and prey is an ongoing, ever-evolving struggle.

Research and Discoveries

In recent years, scientists have been studying caterpillars and their diverse life cycles. They’ve made some fascinating discoveries in various locations, such as the Caterpillar Lab in New Hampshire. This lab focuses on native Lepidopteran species and their unique characteristics.

Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths. They typically feed on leaves, flowers, and fruits, causing damage to plants. As caterpillars grow, they shed their skin, a process called molting. They undergo several molts, called instars, before entering the pupal stage.

Here are some unique caterpillar features:

  • Bright colors and patterns
  • Wide range of sizes
  • Numerous plant preferences

Scientists have found fascinating variations in their life cycles and habits. For example, some caterpillars are known to be excellent mimics, resembling dead leaves or twigs.

Advancements in catering research:

  • More accurate species identification
  • Better understanding of life cycle variations
  • Improved control methods

Now that you have a better grasp of the amazing world of caterpillars, go out and explore! Don’t forget to appreciate the hard work these little creatures do, contributing to the beautiful and complex world of nature.

Caterpillars and Farming

Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths, which can cause significant damage to your crops. They feed on leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruits, leading to crop losses and financial difficulties for farmers. In this section, we will discuss caterpillars and their impact on farming.

When these pests infest your crops, they leave behind toxins and pathogens, negatively affecting the overall health of your plants. These infestations can spread quickly, making it crucial for you, as a farmer, to implement effective control methods.

  • Crops prone to caterpillar infestation: Some common crops that are susceptible to caterpillar damage include:
    • Fruits, such as apples and cherries
    • Vegetables, such as tomato, cabbage, and lettuce
    • Flowers, including roses

Detecting caterpillars on your plants in the early stages of infestation is vital. Regularly inspect your crops for signs of feeding damage, frass, or webbing.

To handle caterpillar infestations, you have a couple of options:

  1. Biological control: This method involves using natural predators, such as birds, wasps, and beetles, to manage caterpillar populations. These beneficial insects can be a great long-term solution for keeping the invasions under control.
  2. Chemical control: Chemical pesticides are a common approach to managing infestations, but they can pose risks to beneficial insects, the environment, and human health. Always use them cautiously and according to label instructions.

Keeping your farm healthy and free from pests like caterpillars is vital to ensure a plentiful harvest. By staying vigilant and adopting effective prevention and management strategies, you can protect your crops and decrease the likelihood of future infestations.

Conclusion

In your exploration of caterpillars, you’ve discovered their origins and their place in the life cycle of butterflies and moths. They play a crucial role as the larvae of these beautiful insects, feeding on leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruits on plants to grow and transform into their adult stage.^[1^]

You also learned how the appearance of caterpillars varies, from bright, colorful patterns to more camouflaged looks for their protection. Some even sport eye-catching features like eye spots and horns that deter predators.^[4^] Caterpillars are found in many different habitats and on various host plants, with some caterpillars preferring plants like oregano, thyme, and cilantro.^[5^]

By understanding where caterpillars come from and their part in the ecosystem, you can better appreciate their presence and even make your garden more inviting to these fascinating creatures. Just remember to keep the information accurate, concise, and easy to understand.

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 – Unknown Caterpillar from The Philippines

 

Subject: Large hairy caterpillar
Location: Mindanao Philippines
March 27, 2017 5:42 pm
Hi! We found this caterpillar in our yard today. No one here has ever seen one before. I’m guessing it is a garden tiger caterpillar but wanted to know what you think. Thanks!
Signature: Candy Dalton

Possibly Noctuoid Caterpillar

Dear Candy,
Thanks so much for including your hand as scale.  That is one large hairy caterpillar.  We believe it is a member of the superfamily Noctuoidea, probably in the family Erebidae which includes Tiger Moths, or the Owlet family Noctuidae.  We have not had any luck finding any matching images online.  Perhaps one of our readers will like to take up this challenge.

Possibly Noctuoid Caterpillar

Letter 2 – Unknown Caterpillar from Australia is Coequosa australasiae

 

100_0461, 100_0466, 100_0465, 100_0464, 100_0463, 100_0462
Hey Daniel
I’m feeling like I live in the land of the giants, after seeing the biggest butterfly ever, we found this 3-4 cm long caterpillar in the garden today, pictures attached.  Are you able to identify it for me?  I didnt want to get too close to him, he wasnt happy about being found I think and went back under the retaining wall as soon as we started to walk away.
Many thanks again
Gayle Downey

Coequosa australasiae Caterpillar

Hi Gayle,
Please provide a location before we begin any research.

Coequosa australasiae Caterpillar

Sorry Daniel!!
This photo was taken today at our home at Horsfield Bay on the NSW Central Coast.  We are approx 50 – 60kms north of Sydney.  Our home borders on the bush and we have an Australian Native Garden, this encourages a lot of natural wildlife which we are thrilled with.
Regards
Gayle Downey

No problem Gayle,
We will begin research tomorrow morning.  Though this caterpillar resembles a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar except for the absence of a caudal horn, and though some Sphinx Caterpillars, which are commonly called Hornworms lack a caudal horn, we do not believe your caterpillar is a Sphinx, and we also have our doubts that it is a Giant Silkworm.

Caterpillar

Letter 3 – Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil

 

August 4, 2011
Location:  Cristalino River, Brazilian Amazon
Dear Daniel,
Attached are the larvae I mentioned last night. They were following each other around on the bole of the tree with long setae waving. I do have a little video of them – if your are interested. Nice to see you – have a nice time with your Mom.
Kathy

Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation

Hi Kathy,
Julian mentioned that he thought they were Saturniidae.  We don’t think they are Saturniids.  We will post them and try to do some research.  Often our readership jumps in and assists with identifications.  We are very sad they were not to be found on the Social Caterpillars web page.

unknown Caterpillar Aggregation

 

Letter 4 – Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation from India

 

Subject: Caterpillar ID
Location: Sikkim, India
October 27, 2015 3:00 am
These orange and black caterpillars were found aggregated on what i believe to be a magnolia tree
Signature: Richard Gunner

Caterpillar Aggregation
Caterpillar Aggregation

Dear Richard,
This is a beautiful image of some stunning Caterpillars, but alas, we have not been able to identify them. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck while we are out of the office.

Subject: Please ID
Location: Sikkim, India
November 9, 2015 4:51 am
Black and white longitudinal stripes, orange bands, arch their backs when threatened
Signature: Richard Gunner

Dear Richard,
This image has been posted to our site since November 1.  We were not able to identify the caterpillars and no readers have written in with comments.  At this time, we are not able to provide you with an identification.

Letter 5 – Unknown Caterpillar from Brazil

 

Subject: Unknown Caterpillar
Location: Juiz de Fora-MG Brazil
December 28, 2014 2:26 am
Hello, I would like to know what is this caterpillar that I found in a Cecropia´s leaves. Thanks very much, Marcelo Brito – Juiz de Fora-MG Brazil
Signature: Marcelo Brito

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Marcelo,
We just posted a very different looking caterpillar from Argentina that was feeding on Cecropia leaves.  We have not had the opportunity to research your request, but we will do so in the near future.  Meanwhile, we are posting your images in the hope that one of our readers can assist in this identification.

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

Letter 6 – Unknown Caterpillar from Japan

 

red hairy caterpillars devouring my plum tree
Location:  Yamanashi, Japan
August 20, 2010 10:25 pm
I found these red, hariy caterpillars devouring my plum tree. I live in Yamanashi, Japan, and haven’t been able to identify these guys. They are about 3 cm long,”stand at attention” when threatened, and loved the leaves on my plum tree. They seem to be able to make a sliken thread to hang on to the leaf if I try to knock them off. On the same tree, on the reverse side of a leaf, I also found some peculiar red and black beetle-like bugs, surrounding what appear to be a groupf of very small, pearly white eggs. My concerns are: are the caterpillars dangerous, and what are the names of my bugs? I’d so appreciate any help you can give! I can send more pics if needed.
Thanks, Melony Ward

Unknown Caterpillar from Japan

Hi Melony,
We do not recognize your caterpillar and we were unable to identify it in a quick internet search.  Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck.  Your other bugs are newly hatched Stink Bugs.

Letter 7 – Unknown Caterpillar from Uganda

 

Subject:  White Caterpillar
Location:  Uganda
October 18, 2015
For some reason I don’t think my submission went through so I am trying again. So I am in Uganda came across this White creature.
It is 3 cm wide and 7-8 cm long. Couldn’t identify it so here I am.

There is no photo attached.

Dear Daniel
Well okay I am an idiot… I am sorry for wasting your time here are the pictures. I am so sorry!!
-Bethel-

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Bethel,
Thanks for resending your images.  Knowing the food plant often helps tremendously in identifying insects.  We have no idea what kind of caterpillar you observed, but its white, feathery appearance are distinctive.  Our initial search turned up no matching images.  We are going to presume that this is a Moth Caterpillar and not a Butterfly Caterpillar.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in an identification.  Sometimes we get a proper identification many years after posting the images.

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

 

Letter 8 – Unknown Caterpillar from Zimbabwe

 

Caterpillar
Location: Zimbabwe
January 31, 2011 9:56 am
Hi we found this caterpillar in Harare, Zimbabwe, dying to know what it is. Its about 9cm long. Hope you can help.
Signature: Dana Lister

Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Dana,
We don’t recognize your caterpillar, which we believe will metamorphose into a moth and not a butterfly, but we love your photo.  We will post your letter and images and continue to search for the identity of this stunning creature, and we hope that our readership will assist us in scouring the internet for a possible identification.

Unknown Caterpillar

Letter 9 – Unknown Caterpillar on Aster or other composite flower

 

An Artful Presentation:

What's That Caterpillar???

Caterpillar, Unknown
Location: Hawk Point, Lincoln CO, MO
March 19, 2011 3:42 pm
Hello! I have been trying for the past 1 1/2 yrs. to get an ID on this beautiful caterpillar, but to no avail. It was in a field of dying wildflowers in Sept. I also found a tan/brown one, same markings. The last photo is to show how the colors of the indiv. matched it’s surroundings, and it’s posturing makes it almost invisible.
Hoping someone will know who he/she is.
Thank you for your valuable time.
Signature: Pat

What Caterpillar is That???

Hi Pat,
We don’t recognize this caterpillar, which means web research.  It appears to be feeding on an aster, sunflower or other composite flower, which should aid the identification.  We are posting your letter first and we welcome the assistance of our readership.  We also hope your location in Missouri will be useful information, though it might also be a new recording.

What's That Caterpillar and Composite Flower???

Letter 10 – Unknown Caterpillar Outbreak in Hawaii

 

Infestation of caterpillars

Unknown Caterpillars

Infestation of caterpillars
Location: hawaii, big island
February 27, 2011 6:52 pm
Help…i live in hawaii, and in the 7 years i have been there i have never seen anything like these caterpillars…there seems to be a fe different types, none of which i can identify, but they are everywhere, even inside! what do i do, what are they
Signature: ryan Williamson

Unknown Caterpillars

Dear Ryan,
Alas, your photos are quite blurry, but we believe there is a resemblance between your caterpillars and the members of the subfamily Erebinae, which includes the Underwings.  You can see some of these North American species of Moths on BugGuide.  Many endemic species on Hawaii are being displaced by opportunistic invasive exotic species, and it is entirely possible that these caterpillars have been introduced.  Often populations of insects peak during certain years, and it is also possible that this is a native species that has suddenly experienced a population explosion due to ideal conditions.  Knowing the plant that they are feeding upon may help with the identification.

Unknown Caterpillar Outbreak

thanks for your response…i can tell you they are eating (almost exclusivly) what we call “Christmas berry” trees, or “brazilian Pepper”, or “Florida holly”….i heard the trees called all of these names…its a sappy tree, with red pepper corn berries, white blossoms, and an invasive tree itself. There are hundreds of acres of this tree where i live….They(caterpillars) do not like oleander, but are eating orchids as well….hope this helps to identify them better…there seems to be a few different types of caterpillars, but they may be different aged or something….any ideas what to do to get rid of them?

Letter 11 – Unknown Caterpillar from Peru

 

Subject: Caterpillar from Peru
Location: Central Peru
January 9, 2014 6:26 pm
Dear Bugman,
today I am sending you a pic of a caterpillar from the cloudforest of Central Peru. Would you be able to identify the species? Thanks you in advance for your always great help!
Signature: Frank

What's That Caterpillar???
What’s That Caterpillar???

Hi Frank
We don’t recognize your caterpillar, but we can tell you that it will metamorphose into a moth rather than a butterfly.  We will be out of the office in mid January, and we like to postdate some submissions so that there are daily updates in our absence.  Your request will go live sometime next week.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in its identification.

Of course! I hope it is ok with you that I am sending you so many ID requests. I am well aware how popular your site is and that you cannot attend every request. But I still have a lot of unresolved (bug) issues, haha! And maybe some of my submissions will also be interesting for you.
So thank you very much, Daniel, and have a good trip, wherever you’re going!
Frank

Your photos are lovely Frank, and they are a marvelous addition to our site.  January is the slowest time of the year for us, so right now, we are not troubled by the additional time it takes us to do some of your identifications.  Summer would be a totally different situation, as we sometimes get nearly 150 identification requests in a single day.

Letter 12 – Unknown Caterpillars and Chrysalis from Mexico: Same species or not???

 

Bright Geometrid Caterpillar from Mexico
Hi Daniel and Lisa,
I’ve finally got my pictures of the geometric caterpillars and pupae clean up to submit and am anxious to see what you have to say. These are from our front yard in central Mexico in Guanajuato State. There were TONS of them on a particular woody “weed” which I’ve captured in one of the photos so you can see what they’re eating. Whatever it is must have been particularly tasty as they weren’t the only ones munching away. There were also a couple of other unidentified larvae that looked perhaps to be some type of sawfly. But I digress. These act like inch-worms, hence I figure they must be geometrid of some sort. The final instars are approx 1 1/2″ in length and the diameter of a slender pencil. They’re kind of a snake mimic with the black, red and whitish stripes since we do have coral snakes in the area. After searching your site and bugguide and the web, I’ve come up empty-handed. The pupa turns into a small black and yellow one. Any ideas?
Stefanie
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Unknown Mexican Caterpillars
Unknown Mexican Caterpillars

Hi Stephanie,
We aren’t sure what you did to “clean up” your photos, but the digital files are very tiny and it is difficult to see anything. We agree that the caterpillars resemble Geometrid Moths, but the chrysalis is definitely that of a butterfly. Are you certain these are the same species? A photo of the adult is the easiest way to identify your subjects. Sadly, we don’t know what you have, but we will post the images in the hopes that someone can provide an answer.

Unknown Chrysalis from Mexico
Unknown Chrysalis from Mexico

Hi Daniel,
Sorry about the photo sizes, I must have not sized them correctly.  And unfortunately I don’t have a macro lens so these are the best I could do.  As to whether or not the chrysalis is from the caterpillar observed I have to say I’m not 100% sure.  Besides the chrysalis pic I sent I did see some of the caterpillars form a kind of “netting,” like a cocoon.  But I didn’t see any other caterpillars crawling up the wall where these were.  Sadly, I don’t have pics of the cocoon structures.  In any case, thanks for looking at these and hopefully someone will have an idea.
Stefanie

Letter 13 – Unknown Caterpillars from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Large gregarious caterpillar
Location: La Selva Biological station, Costa Rica
June 25, 2017 11:44 am
Hello bugman,
My wife Kathy and I found several congregations of these 4 inch long ringed caterpillars at La selva biological station in Costa Rica. Any idea what the species is?
Thank you for your input.
George Grall
Signature: George

Unknown Caterpillars

Dear George,
WE would have thought that caterpillars this strikingly marked and colored would be easy to identify, but alas, that is not the case.  We cannot even state for certain if they will metamorphose into butterflies or moths.  We will post them as unidentified and perhaps on of our readers will have better luck with an identification than we have had.

Hi Dan,
Thank you for your appraisal of the image.   I tried on the internet and could not find another image of these caterpillars.  I will keep trying.
George

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 – Unknown Caterpillar from The Philippines

 

Subject: Large hairy caterpillar
Location: Mindanao Philippines
March 27, 2017 5:42 pm
Hi! We found this caterpillar in our yard today. No one here has ever seen one before. I’m guessing it is a garden tiger caterpillar but wanted to know what you think. Thanks!
Signature: Candy Dalton

Possibly Noctuoid Caterpillar

Dear Candy,
Thanks so much for including your hand as scale.  That is one large hairy caterpillar.  We believe it is a member of the superfamily Noctuoidea, probably in the family Erebidae which includes Tiger Moths, or the Owlet family Noctuidae.  We have not had any luck finding any matching images online.  Perhaps one of our readers will like to take up this challenge.

Possibly Noctuoid Caterpillar

Letter 2 – Unknown Caterpillar from Australia is Coequosa australasiae

 

100_0461, 100_0466, 100_0465, 100_0464, 100_0463, 100_0462
Hey Daniel
I’m feeling like I live in the land of the giants, after seeing the biggest butterfly ever, we found this 3-4 cm long caterpillar in the garden today, pictures attached.  Are you able to identify it for me?  I didnt want to get too close to him, he wasnt happy about being found I think and went back under the retaining wall as soon as we started to walk away.
Many thanks again
Gayle Downey

Coequosa australasiae Caterpillar

Hi Gayle,
Please provide a location before we begin any research.

Coequosa australasiae Caterpillar

Sorry Daniel!!
This photo was taken today at our home at Horsfield Bay on the NSW Central Coast.  We are approx 50 – 60kms north of Sydney.  Our home borders on the bush and we have an Australian Native Garden, this encourages a lot of natural wildlife which we are thrilled with.
Regards
Gayle Downey

No problem Gayle,
We will begin research tomorrow morning.  Though this caterpillar resembles a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar except for the absence of a caudal horn, and though some Sphinx Caterpillars, which are commonly called Hornworms lack a caudal horn, we do not believe your caterpillar is a Sphinx, and we also have our doubts that it is a Giant Silkworm.

Caterpillar

Letter 3 – Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil

 

August 4, 2011
Location:  Cristalino River, Brazilian Amazon
Dear Daniel,
Attached are the larvae I mentioned last night. They were following each other around on the bole of the tree with long setae waving. I do have a little video of them – if your are interested. Nice to see you – have a nice time with your Mom.
Kathy

Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation

Hi Kathy,
Julian mentioned that he thought they were Saturniidae.  We don’t think they are Saturniids.  We will post them and try to do some research.  Often our readership jumps in and assists with identifications.  We are very sad they were not to be found on the Social Caterpillars web page.

unknown Caterpillar Aggregation

 

Letter 4 – Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation from India

 

Subject: Caterpillar ID
Location: Sikkim, India
October 27, 2015 3:00 am
These orange and black caterpillars were found aggregated on what i believe to be a magnolia tree
Signature: Richard Gunner

Caterpillar Aggregation
Caterpillar Aggregation

Dear Richard,
This is a beautiful image of some stunning Caterpillars, but alas, we have not been able to identify them. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck while we are out of the office.

Subject: Please ID
Location: Sikkim, India
November 9, 2015 4:51 am
Black and white longitudinal stripes, orange bands, arch their backs when threatened
Signature: Richard Gunner

Dear Richard,
This image has been posted to our site since November 1.  We were not able to identify the caterpillars and no readers have written in with comments.  At this time, we are not able to provide you with an identification.

Letter 5 – Unknown Caterpillar from Brazil

 

Subject: Unknown Caterpillar
Location: Juiz de Fora-MG Brazil
December 28, 2014 2:26 am
Hello, I would like to know what is this caterpillar that I found in a Cecropia´s leaves. Thanks very much, Marcelo Brito – Juiz de Fora-MG Brazil
Signature: Marcelo Brito

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Marcelo,
We just posted a very different looking caterpillar from Argentina that was feeding on Cecropia leaves.  We have not had the opportunity to research your request, but we will do so in the near future.  Meanwhile, we are posting your images in the hope that one of our readers can assist in this identification.

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

Letter 6 – Unknown Caterpillar from Japan

 

red hairy caterpillars devouring my plum tree
Location:  Yamanashi, Japan
August 20, 2010 10:25 pm
I found these red, hariy caterpillars devouring my plum tree. I live in Yamanashi, Japan, and haven’t been able to identify these guys. They are about 3 cm long,”stand at attention” when threatened, and loved the leaves on my plum tree. They seem to be able to make a sliken thread to hang on to the leaf if I try to knock them off. On the same tree, on the reverse side of a leaf, I also found some peculiar red and black beetle-like bugs, surrounding what appear to be a groupf of very small, pearly white eggs. My concerns are: are the caterpillars dangerous, and what are the names of my bugs? I’d so appreciate any help you can give! I can send more pics if needed.
Thanks, Melony Ward

Unknown Caterpillar from Japan

Hi Melony,
We do not recognize your caterpillar and we were unable to identify it in a quick internet search.  Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck.  Your other bugs are newly hatched Stink Bugs.

Letter 7 – Unknown Caterpillar from Uganda

 

Subject:  White Caterpillar
Location:  Uganda
October 18, 2015
For some reason I don’t think my submission went through so I am trying again. So I am in Uganda came across this White creature.
It is 3 cm wide and 7-8 cm long. Couldn’t identify it so here I am.

There is no photo attached.

Dear Daniel
Well okay I am an idiot… I am sorry for wasting your time here are the pictures. I am so sorry!!
-Bethel-

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Bethel,
Thanks for resending your images.  Knowing the food plant often helps tremendously in identifying insects.  We have no idea what kind of caterpillar you observed, but its white, feathery appearance are distinctive.  Our initial search turned up no matching images.  We are going to presume that this is a Moth Caterpillar and not a Butterfly Caterpillar.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in an identification.  Sometimes we get a proper identification many years after posting the images.

Unknown Caterpillar
Unknown Caterpillar

 

Letter 8 – Unknown Caterpillar from Zimbabwe

 

Caterpillar
Location: Zimbabwe
January 31, 2011 9:56 am
Hi we found this caterpillar in Harare, Zimbabwe, dying to know what it is. Its about 9cm long. Hope you can help.
Signature: Dana Lister

Unknown Caterpillar

Dear Dana,
We don’t recognize your caterpillar, which we believe will metamorphose into a moth and not a butterfly, but we love your photo.  We will post your letter and images and continue to search for the identity of this stunning creature, and we hope that our readership will assist us in scouring the internet for a possible identification.

Unknown Caterpillar

Letter 9 – Unknown Caterpillar on Aster or other composite flower

 

An Artful Presentation:

What's That Caterpillar???

Caterpillar, Unknown
Location: Hawk Point, Lincoln CO, MO
March 19, 2011 3:42 pm
Hello! I have been trying for the past 1 1/2 yrs. to get an ID on this beautiful caterpillar, but to no avail. It was in a field of dying wildflowers in Sept. I also found a tan/brown one, same markings. The last photo is to show how the colors of the indiv. matched it’s surroundings, and it’s posturing makes it almost invisible.
Hoping someone will know who he/she is.
Thank you for your valuable time.
Signature: Pat

What Caterpillar is That???

Hi Pat,
We don’t recognize this caterpillar, which means web research.  It appears to be feeding on an aster, sunflower or other composite flower, which should aid the identification.  We are posting your letter first and we welcome the assistance of our readership.  We also hope your location in Missouri will be useful information, though it might also be a new recording.

What's That Caterpillar and Composite Flower???

Letter 10 – Unknown Caterpillar Outbreak in Hawaii

 

Infestation of caterpillars

Unknown Caterpillars

Infestation of caterpillars
Location: hawaii, big island
February 27, 2011 6:52 pm
Help…i live in hawaii, and in the 7 years i have been there i have never seen anything like these caterpillars…there seems to be a fe different types, none of which i can identify, but they are everywhere, even inside! what do i do, what are they
Signature: ryan Williamson

Unknown Caterpillars

Dear Ryan,
Alas, your photos are quite blurry, but we believe there is a resemblance between your caterpillars and the members of the subfamily Erebinae, which includes the Underwings.  You can see some of these North American species of Moths on BugGuide.  Many endemic species on Hawaii are being displaced by opportunistic invasive exotic species, and it is entirely possible that these caterpillars have been introduced.  Often populations of insects peak during certain years, and it is also possible that this is a native species that has suddenly experienced a population explosion due to ideal conditions.  Knowing the plant that they are feeding upon may help with the identification.

Unknown Caterpillar Outbreak

thanks for your response…i can tell you they are eating (almost exclusivly) what we call “Christmas berry” trees, or “brazilian Pepper”, or “Florida holly”….i heard the trees called all of these names…its a sappy tree, with red pepper corn berries, white blossoms, and an invasive tree itself. There are hundreds of acres of this tree where i live….They(caterpillars) do not like oleander, but are eating orchids as well….hope this helps to identify them better…there seems to be a few different types of caterpillars, but they may be different aged or something….any ideas what to do to get rid of them?

Letter 11 – Unknown Caterpillar from Peru

 

Subject: Caterpillar from Peru
Location: Central Peru
January 9, 2014 6:26 pm
Dear Bugman,
today I am sending you a pic of a caterpillar from the cloudforest of Central Peru. Would you be able to identify the species? Thanks you in advance for your always great help!
Signature: Frank

What's That Caterpillar???
What’s That Caterpillar???

Hi Frank
We don’t recognize your caterpillar, but we can tell you that it will metamorphose into a moth rather than a butterfly.  We will be out of the office in mid January, and we like to postdate some submissions so that there are daily updates in our absence.  Your request will go live sometime next week.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in its identification.

Of course! I hope it is ok with you that I am sending you so many ID requests. I am well aware how popular your site is and that you cannot attend every request. But I still have a lot of unresolved (bug) issues, haha! And maybe some of my submissions will also be interesting for you.
So thank you very much, Daniel, and have a good trip, wherever you’re going!
Frank

Your photos are lovely Frank, and they are a marvelous addition to our site.  January is the slowest time of the year for us, so right now, we are not troubled by the additional time it takes us to do some of your identifications.  Summer would be a totally different situation, as we sometimes get nearly 150 identification requests in a single day.

Letter 12 – Unknown Caterpillars and Chrysalis from Mexico: Same species or not???

 

Bright Geometrid Caterpillar from Mexico
Hi Daniel and Lisa,
I’ve finally got my pictures of the geometric caterpillars and pupae clean up to submit and am anxious to see what you have to say. These are from our front yard in central Mexico in Guanajuato State. There were TONS of them on a particular woody “weed” which I’ve captured in one of the photos so you can see what they’re eating. Whatever it is must have been particularly tasty as they weren’t the only ones munching away. There were also a couple of other unidentified larvae that looked perhaps to be some type of sawfly. But I digress. These act like inch-worms, hence I figure they must be geometrid of some sort. The final instars are approx 1 1/2″ in length and the diameter of a slender pencil. They’re kind of a snake mimic with the black, red and whitish stripes since we do have coral snakes in the area. After searching your site and bugguide and the web, I’ve come up empty-handed. The pupa turns into a small black and yellow one. Any ideas?
Stefanie
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Unknown Mexican Caterpillars
Unknown Mexican Caterpillars

Hi Stephanie,
We aren’t sure what you did to “clean up” your photos, but the digital files are very tiny and it is difficult to see anything. We agree that the caterpillars resemble Geometrid Moths, but the chrysalis is definitely that of a butterfly. Are you certain these are the same species? A photo of the adult is the easiest way to identify your subjects. Sadly, we don’t know what you have, but we will post the images in the hopes that someone can provide an answer.

Unknown Chrysalis from Mexico
Unknown Chrysalis from Mexico

Hi Daniel,
Sorry about the photo sizes, I must have not sized them correctly.  And unfortunately I don’t have a macro lens so these are the best I could do.  As to whether or not the chrysalis is from the caterpillar observed I have to say I’m not 100% sure.  Besides the chrysalis pic I sent I did see some of the caterpillars form a kind of “netting,” like a cocoon.  But I didn’t see any other caterpillars crawling up the wall where these were.  Sadly, I don’t have pics of the cocoon structures.  In any case, thanks for looking at these and hopefully someone will have an idea.
Stefanie

Letter 13 – Unknown Caterpillars from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Large gregarious caterpillar
Location: La Selva Biological station, Costa Rica
June 25, 2017 11:44 am
Hello bugman,
My wife Kathy and I found several congregations of these 4 inch long ringed caterpillars at La selva biological station in Costa Rica. Any idea what the species is?
Thank you for your input.
George Grall
Signature: George

Unknown Caterpillars

Dear George,
WE would have thought that caterpillars this strikingly marked and colored would be easy to identify, but alas, that is not the case.  We cannot even state for certain if they will metamorphose into butterflies or moths.  We will post them as unidentified and perhaps on of our readers will have better luck with an identification than we have had.

Hi Dan,
Thank you for your appraisal of the image.   I tried on the internet and could not find another image of these caterpillars.  I will keep trying.
George

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.

13 thoughts on “Where Do Caterpillars Come From? Unveiling Nature’s Little Secret”

    • The caterpillar in the photo on the link you provided looks nothing like the caterpillar we posted. Also, the site is in Japanese, and we cannot understand how to navigate it. A photo we located on Wikipedia does look like the photo submitted to us.

      Reply
  1. Oh, I guess it wasn’t a direct link to “Phalera flavescens” pictures on the website. I can’t seem to get a link to the specific page (only get the link to the top page). I am sorry for the confusion.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your input on the possible Australian Hawk Privet Moth Caterpillar. We are having a difficult time making out the caudal horn in the photo on this posting, so that makes the possibility of this caterpillar being a Hornworm questionable at best.

      Reply
  2. Hello we also saw like this caterpillar on our parking lot todAy. Im not that sure if its like this. Wer from Mindanao also.thanks!

    Reply

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