Moth Caterpillars

by Jeffrey S. Pippen | Back to Jeff's Butterfly Page | Back to Jeff's Misc. Invertebrates Page | Back to Jeff's Nature Pages

Thanks to many folks who have helped me ID some of the creatures on this page, including Anurag Agrawal, John & Jane Balaban, Cheri Cameron, Pat Coin, Steve Hall, Sean Hitch, Josh Rose, and Steve & Dean.


Slug Caterpillars (Limacodidae)

Saddleback Caterpillar (Sibine stimulae) CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea, Sibine stimulea)

I found this caterpillar after feeling a painful sting on my hand while walking through a forest understory. It was using Sweetgum (Liqidambar styraciflua) as a host plant.
Orange Co., NC 9/7/2005
Saddleback Caterpillar (Sibine stimulae) CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea, Sibine stimulea)
Durham Co., NC
3 Sep 2008

On Red Hickory (Carya ovalis).

Saddleback Caterpillar (Sibine stimulae) CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea, Sibine stimulea)
Durham Co., NC
3 Sep 2008

On Red Hickory (Carya ovalis).

Saddleback Caterpillar (Sibine stimulae) CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea, Sibine stimulea)
Durham Co., NC
3 Sep 2008

On Red Hickory (Carya ovalis).

Skiff Moth (Prolimacodes badia)

Skiff Moth (Prolimacodes badia)

Using Winged Elm (Ulmus alata) as host plant

Orange Co., NC 9/23/2004

Skiff Moth (Prolimacodes badia) same individual

Note the head is totally buried under and protected by the thorax

Purple-crested Slug Moth (Adoneta spinuloides)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Purple-crested Slug Moth (Adoneta spinuloides)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Black Oak (Quercus velutina).

Purple-crested Slug Moth (Adoneta spinuloides)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Purple-crested Slug Moth (Adoneta spinuloides)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Black Oak (Quercus velutina).

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
29 Sep 2008

Found on Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata).

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
29 Sep 2008

Spines are reported to carry mild venom.

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
29 Sep 2008

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra).

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Two-tailed Slug Moth (Adoneta bicaudata)
Riparian forest in Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Different individual from above. Feeding on Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).


Puss Caterpillars (Megalopygidae)

fluffy white caterpillar

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Crinkled Flannel Moth, Black-waved Flannel Moth (Lagoa crispata = Megalopyge crispata)
Craven Co., NC
27 Aug 2006

Early instars are pure white, while later instars become more orange-gray (see below)

Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Megalopyge sp.) CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Crinkled Flannel Moth, Black-waved Flannel Moth Caterpillar, probably (Lagoa crispata = Megalopyge crispata)

Craven Co., NC 8/28/2005

Note that the hairs you see are not the ones that sting, but they are covering some nasty stinging spines underneath!

Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Megalopyge sp.) CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Crinkled Flannel Moth, Black-waved Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Lagoa crispata = Megalopyge crispata)

Craven Co., NC 8/28/2005

Tussock Moth Caterpillars (in part) (Lymantriidae)

Variable Tussuck Moth (Dasychira vagans) Variable Tussock Moth (Dasychira vagans)
Wake Co., NC
25 May 2008

Variable Tussuck Moth (Dasychira vagans) Variable Tussock Moth (Dasychira vagans)
Wake Co., NC
25 May 2008

White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma) White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)
Carteret Co., NC
26 Aug 2012

Common and widespread in woodlands of eastern North America, feeding on a wide variety of woody plant leaves.

White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma) White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)
Carteret Co., NC
26 Aug 2012

May cause allergic skin reaction if handled.


Hornworms = Sphinx Moth Caterpillars (Sphingidae)

White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata)
Missoula Co., MT
17 July 2013
Pine Sphinx (Lapara coniferarum)
Loblolly pine forest in Orange Co., NC
14 July 2009

Pine Sphinx (Lapara coniferarum)
Loblolly pine forest in Orange Co., NC
14 July 2009

Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus) Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus)
Pine forest in Orange Co., NC
4 Sep 2009

Fairly common in the eastern US, this individual was feeding on Possumhaw (Ilex decidua).

Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus) Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus)
Bottomland forest in Durham Co., NC
12 Sep 2012
Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus) Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus)
Bottomland forest in Durham Co., NC
12 Sep 2012
Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus) Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus)
Pine forest in Orange Co., NC
4 Sep 2009

These are fairly large and thick caterpillars.

Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus) Pawpaw Sphinx (Dolbe hyloeus)
Bottomland forest in Durham Co., NC
12 Sep 2012
Banded Sphinx (Eumorpha fasciata) Banded Sphinx Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciata)

Richmond Co., NC
7 Oct 2007

Fifth instar feeding on Anglestem Primrose-Willow (Ludwigia leptocarpa).
Banded Sphinx (Eumorpha fasciata) Banded Sphinx Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciata)

Richmond Co., NC
7 Oct 2007

Banded Sphinx (Eumorpha fasciata) Banded Sphinx Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciata)

Richmond Co., NC
7 Oct 2007

Probably a second instar (much younger) individual.
Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar (Xylophanes tersa)

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar (Xylophanes tersa)

Hoke Co., NC 9/12/2004

Click to see the Tersa Sphinx Moth this caterpillars becomes>

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar (Xylophanes tersa)

Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar (Xylophanes tersa)

Durham Co., NC 9/16/2005
Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar (Xylophanes tersa) same individual
Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar (Xylophanes tersa) How's this for a face?
Tomato Hornworm (Manduca sexta) Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

9/16/2005

Despite the common name, this hornworm is often found eating tomato plants (as well as horse-nettles, nightshades, and other members of the tomato/potato family (Solanaceae).
Tomato Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) parasitized by braconid wasps

9/16/2005

Tiger Moth Caterpillars & kin (Arctiidae)

Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata) Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata)
Mt. Mitchell State Park, Yancy Co., NC
13 Sep 2008

Found coast to coast in Canada & the northern tier of US states, there is a disjunct population that also occurs in the high mountains of North Carolina, presumed left over from glacial times!

Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata) Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata)
Mt. Mitchell State Park, Yancy Co., NC
13 Sep 2008

This caterpillar feeds on various woody shrubs.

Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata) Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata)
Mt. Mitchell State Park, Yancy Co., NC
13 Sep 2008

Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris) Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris)
Sandy Creek Park, Durham Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Quercus.

Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris) Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris)
Sandy Creek Park, Durham Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Quercus.

Woolly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) Woolly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella)
Found resting on Dog Fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), Sandy Creek Park, Durham Co., NC
11 Oct 2013
Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia)
York Co., VA
27 Aug 2013

Widespread in forested habitats, Giant Leopard Moth caterpillars eat a variety of plants. This individual is feeding on Elaeagnus.

Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia)
Clay Co., NC
13 May 2006
Yellow Bear Caterpillar, Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica) Yellow Bear Caterpillar, Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica)
Granville Co., NC
10 Sep 2006

Common and widespread in NC on shrubs & various wildflower, the Yellow Bear is highly variable from creamy yellow to burnt orange. This is a young individual.

Yellow Bear Caterpillar, Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica) Yellow Bear Caterpillar, Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica)
Granville Co., NC
10 Sep 2006

Yellow Bear Caterpillar, Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica) Yellow Bear Caterpillar, Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica)
Granville Co., NC
10 Sep 2006

This Yellow Bear is much older than the one above.

Probably Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea), #6371
Chatham Co., NC 9/24/2005
Probably Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea), #6371
Chatham Co., NC 9/24/2005
#5779, Perhaps a Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) or a Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)?
New Hanover Co., NC 8/27/2005
Perhaps a different Yellow-collared Scape Moth #5300
Reserva Faunuique Mastigouche, Quebec, Canada
5 Aug 2005
Mer Bleue Bog, Ottawa, Canada
7 Aug 2005

Tent Caterpillars (Lasiocampidae)

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

Orange Co., NC 5/2/2006

Prominents (Notodontidae)

White-streaked Prominent, Lace-capped Caterpillar (Oligocentria lignicolor) White-streaked Prominent, Lace-capped Caterpillar (Oligocentria lignicolor)
On Water Oak (Quercus nigra) in Duke Forest, Orange Co., NC
26 Sep 2012

Common in the eastern U.S.

Contracted Datana (Datana contracta) Contracted Datana (Datana contracta)
Orange Co., NC
8 Sep 2008

On Black Oak (Quercus velutina).

Angus's Datana (Datana angusii) Angus's Datana (Datana angusii)
Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2011

On Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa).

Angus's Datana (Datana angusii) Angus's Datana (Datana angusii)
Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2011

On Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa).

Angus's Datana (Datana angusii) Angus's Datana (Datana angusii)
Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2011

On Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa).

Spotted Datana (Datana perspicua)
Durham Co., NC
6 Sep 2008

On Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).

Spotted Datana (Datana perspicua)
Durham Co., NC
6 Sep 2008

On Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).

Red-humped Oakworm (Symmerista canicosta) Red-humped Oakworm (Symmerista canicosta)
Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

On Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).

Double-toothed Prominent (Nerice bidentata) Double-toothed Prominent (Nerice bidentata)
Orange Co., NC 5/2/2006
Double-toothed Prominent (Nerice bidentata)

Double-toothed Prominent (Nerice bidentata)

Orange Co., NC 5/2/2006
Variable Oakleaf Prominent, Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo) probably Variable Oakleaf Prominent, Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo) #5742

Orange Co., NC
2 Oct 2006

Variable Oakleaf Prominent, Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo) probably Variable Oakleaf Prominent, Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo)

Orange Co., NC
14 Oct 2006

This is the same species as above but a different individual.

Silkworms and Royal Moth Caterpillars (Saturniidae)

Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia) larva

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Io Moth (Automeris io) caterpillar
Mixed pine - hardwood forest in Orange Co., NC
21 Sep 2009

Click here for more photo and information on Io Moths.

Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia) larva CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Buck Moth caterpillar found on Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
New Hanover Co., NC
14 May 2013
Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia) larva CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Buck Moth caterpillar found on Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
New Hanover Co., NC
14 May 2013
Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia) larva

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Buck Moth caterpillar found on Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
Harnett Co., NC
29 May 2005
Buck Moth (Hemileuca maia) larva caterpillar

CAUTION: STINGING HAIRS!!

Buck Moth caterpillar found on Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
Harnett Co., NC
29 May 2005
Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis)

Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis)

Orange Co., NC 7/21/2004

The HUGE caterpillars form their pupa underground.

Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis)

Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis)

Orange Co., NC 7/21/2004

Despite their menacing appearance, Hickory Horned Devils are harmless to humans.

Imperial Moth caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

Imperial Moth caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

Orange Co., NC 9/23/2004
Imperial Moth caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

Imperial Moth caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

Orange Co., NC 9/23/2004
Orange-striped Oakworm (Anisota senatoria) Orange-striped Oakworm (Anisota senatoria)
Mixed woods in Chatham Co., NC
22 Sep 2013

iPhone photo.

Green-striped Mapleworm = Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

Green-striped Mapleworm = Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

Quebec, Canada 8/6/2005
Luna Moth (Actias luna) Luna Moth (Actias luna), 2nd instar
Click here to see an adult
Luna Moth (Actias luna) Luna Moth (Actias luna), 3rd instar
Click here to see an adult Luna Moth
Luna Moth (Actias luna) Luna Moth (Actias luna)
Orange Co., NC
15 Sep 2006

Normally bright green, Luna Moth caterpillars may turn brownish right before pupation

Luna Moth (Actias luna) Luna Moth (Actias luna)
Orange Co., NC
15 Sep 2006

Luna Moth (Actias luna) Luna Moth (Actias luna)
Orange Co., NC
15 Sep 2006

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
Durham Co., NC
12 Sep 2012
Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013
Tuliptree Moth <I>(Callosamia angulifera) caterpillar Tuliptree Moth (Callosamia angulifera)
Orange Co., NC
15 Sep 2012
Tuliptree Moth <I>(Callosamia angulifera) caterpillar Tuliptree Moth (Callosamia angulifera)
Orange Co., NC
15 Sep 2012

Pantheas and Yellowhorns (Pantheidae)

The Laugher (Charadra deridens)

The Laugher (Charadra deridens)

Ontario, Canada 8/7/2005

Zales, Underwings (Noctuidae > Catocalinae)

Curve-lined Owlet (Phypropus callitrichoides) Curve-lined Owlet (Phypropus callitrichoides)
Brunswick Co., NC
4 Oct 2008

On Smilax, one of the coolest caterpillars I've ever seen!


Wormwoods, Sharks, Owlets (Noctuidae > Cuculliinae)

Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis) Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis)
Quebec, Canada 8/6/2005

Fairly common from Canada to the Carolinas, Brown-hooded Owlets feed on flowers in the Asteraceae.

Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis) Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis)
Quebec, Canada 8/6/2005

Flower Moths (Noctuidae > Hadeninae/Xyleninae)

Striped Garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima) probably a Striped Garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima) #5781

Orange Co., NC
15 Oct 2006

possibly a Southern Armyworm (Spodoptera eridania) #1750
Clay Co., NC
13 May 2006

Thanks to Stephanie DePoma for the suggestion!

Armyworm possibly a Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)
Jordan Lake, Chatham Co., NC
16 Sep 2007

Hundreds of these were seen along the newly exposed mudflats with grassy vegetation along the edge of the lake.

Armyworm possibly a Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)
Jordan Lake, Chatham Co., NC
16 Sep 2007

possibly a Yellow Striped Armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli), #5044
Durham Co., NC
24 July 2005

Thanks to Steve Nanz for the ID suggestion!


Flower Moths (Noctuidae > Heliothinae)

Tobacco Budworm (Heliothis virescens)
Chatham Co., NC 9/17/2005

On Verbena

Tobacco Budworm (Heliothis virescens)
Chatham Co., NC 9/17/2005
Tobacco Budworm (Heliothis virescens)
Chatham Co., NC 9/17/2005
Tobacco Budworm (Heliothis virescens)
Chatham Co., NC 9/17/2005
Flower Moth caterpillar Perhaps this is another Flower Moth species?
Buncombe Co., NC
8 July 2006

Hadenines (Noctuidae > Hadeninea)

Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta) Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta)
Eno Division Duke Forest, Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Roundleaf Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia)

Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta) Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta)
Eno Division Duke Forest, Orange Co., NC
11 Oct 2013

Feeding on Roundleaf Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia)


Inchworms, Loopers, Spanworms (Geometridae)

Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata) Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata)
Durham Co., NC 8/5/2006

One of the few caterpillars that attaches bits of flowers and other plant parts to its body for camouflage!

Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata) Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata)
Orange Co., NC 8/2/2005

Another individual. Note its head and true legs are visible in the lower right.

Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata) Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata)
Orange Co., NC 8/2/2005

dorsal view

Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata) Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata)
St. Clair Co., MI
7 July 2012
Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata) Camouflaged Looper (Synchlora aerata)
St. Clair Co., MI
7 July 2012

On Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).

#2945
One of the twig mimic loopers
Pine forest with a few hardwoods in Orange Co., NC
6 Mar 2008

#2945
One of the twig mimic loopers
Pine forest with a few hardwoods in Orange Co., NC
6 Mar 2008

Pyralids (Pyralidae)

Asimina Webworm Moth (Omphalocera munroei) Asimina Webworm Moth (Omphalocera munroei)
York Co., VA
28 Aug 2013

Locally common in the eastern US, this species can be a pest on Pawpaw.

Asimina Webworm Moth (Omphalocera munroei) Asimina Webworm Moth (Omphalocera munroei)
York Co., VA
28 Aug 2013

Asimina Webworm Moth (Omphalocera munroei) Asimina Webworm Moth (Omphalocera munroei)
York Co., VA
28 Aug 2013

They form "nests" at the tips of Pawpaw twigs where they fold leaves with silk.


Unidentified Caterpillars

unidentified caterpillar #0966, possibly a buck moth, Haploa, or a nymphalid?
Orange Co., NC
25 Apr 2006
unidentified caterpillar #0966, possibly a buck moth, Haploa, or a nymphalid?
Orange Co., NC
25 Apr 2006

Is this an Imperial Moth, a Tiger Moth, or something else?? #3761

Orange Co., NC
27 May 2005


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Created on ... October 15, 2005 | jeffpippen9@gmail.com