18 Types of Brown Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Brown caterpillars have furred, smooth, or patterned bodies and are worm-like larvae. Although they seem to be brown and drab, the lengthy cylindrical insects develop into stunning moths or butterflies. While most brown caterpillars are harmless, certain brown hairy caterpillars have stinging hairs or spines that may lead to a painful skin rash if you touch them.

Brown caterpillars are a type of insect belonging to the Lepidoptera order, as are all caterpillar types. An egg hatches into a larva, which is the beginning of a caterpillar’s life cycle. Brown caterpillars are well-known for their voracious appetite and ability to feed on plant leaves, resulting in substantial destruction. Brown caterpillars eventually metamorphose into butterflies or moths after pupating.

It’s important to recall that brown caterpillars go through many instars (growth phases) when trying to identify them. A caterpillar’s look and color might drastically alter throughout these phases. Some big caterpillars, for example, develop bright green in the previous instars after they have pupated.

Brown caterpillars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as this article explains. Brown caterpillar characteristics may be recognized on ornamental plants, trees, and shrubs by reviewing descriptions and photographs of them.

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Brown Caterpillar Identification

Brown caterpillars have a brown color, three pairs of genuine legs, and numerous stumpy-looking prolegs (fake legs) that distinguish them. Brown caterpillars have segmented bodies that may be hairy, smooth, or thorny, and they might be green, red, or black.

Some unusual hairless brown caterpillars have bizarre patterns on their skin that resemble eyes. Stinging caterpillars may also be identified by looking at brown caterpillars. The stinging hairs on the brown hag moth caterpillar, for example, make it resemble a dried leaf. In addition, the dark brown body of the brown-tail moth caterpillar is covered in spiky tufts that cause a nasty rash.

Types of Brown Caterpillars With Names and Pictures (Identification Guide)

looking at photographs of crawling insects and understanding about their behavior and habitat is the greatest way to identify species of brown caterpillars. The following is a list of common brown caterpillar species that you may encounter in your garden.

Brown-Tail Moth Caterpillar (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)

The brown-tail moth caterpillar has stinging orange or yellow hairs on its body and two bright orange-red markings on its back. The brown-tail moth caterpillar is distinguished by two white stripes running down the back and reddish-brown markings on the segments. Brown-tail moth caterpillars grow to be 1.5 inches (38 mm) long.

Tufts of long urticating spines cover the bodies of brown-tail moth caterpillars, making them a stinging caterpillar. Oak, maple, birch, ash, and a variety of fruit trees are all home to brown larvae. Brown larvae that overwinter hang in webs at the end of branches.

Brown caterpillar identification

Brown-tail caterpillars have two large crimson patches in the centre of their backs and a dark brown body with white markings. Tufts of black or orange hairs cover the thin brown creatures.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

The woolly bear caterpillar has black and orange or brown hairs, and has an orange-brown band around the middle of its body with black bands at the head and tail. Although the black and brown caterpillars appear to be stinging, they are not. The larvae are 2.3 inches (60 mm) long, and they’re fuzzy.

The common North American caterpillar frequents milkweed, elms, aspens, birch trees, and sunflowers and is also known as the banded woolly bear or black-ended bear caterpillar. In Florida, the fuzzy caterpillar is also a common sight. The brown and black caterpillar develops into an orangey-brown moth with black markings on its abdomen after metamorphosis.

Brown caterpillar identification

Short spiky tufts of brown and black hairs cover the body of the woolly bear caterpillar, making it easy to identify.

Yellow Woolly Bear (Spilosoma virginica)

The yellow woolly bear is a hairy brown caterpillar that ranges in color from dark to light brown, with occasional yellow or orange tufts. The larva of this woolly bear species is typically dark brown to creamy yellow. The tufts may be yellow, orange-red, or even black in color, and they are sometimes found in clusters. The length of yellow woolly bear brown larvae is 2″ (50 mm).

The yellow woolly bear is not classified as a stinging caterpillar, despite having pencil-like spines. When handled, the hairy tufts, on the other hand, may cause irritation. In addition, low-growing, ground cover plants’ foliage may be damaged by fuzzy brown caterpillars. From May through November, yellow woolly bears are active.

Brown caterpillar identification

The brown to tan-colored body of the yellow woolly bear caterpillar is covered in spiny tufts of yellow or orangey-red hairs, which distinguishes it from other caterpillars.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

When it feels threatened, the brown and green eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly has an orange defensive organ (osmeteria). The caterpillar is a chocolate brown color during the first three growth stages (instars). Around the middle of its abdomen, it has a large white spot called a saddle. The caterpillar is 2.2″ (55 mm) long and brown and white in color.

The big plump brown caterpillar develops into a dark green caterpillar with strange black, yellow, and blue eye patterns when it reaches maturity. The caterpillar’s tail has tiny antennae-like spurs as well. Eastern tiger swallowtails will revert to dark brown once they reach the pupal stage. The caterpillar may be seen as a green or brown caterpillar depending on the instar.

Brown caterpillar identification

A hairless brown caterpillar with a white band around its middle and two small false eyes, the eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar is a hairless brown caterpillar.

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar (Phyciodes tharos)

The caterpillar of the pearl crescent butterfly has a dark chocolate brown body with white dots and eight rows of spiky brown hairs, which distinguishes it from other caterpillars. A small black head distinguishes the fat brown caterpillar, which holds its front end in a defensive posture.

The pearl crescent caterpillar is approximately 1.5 inches (38 mm) long. The aster leaf caterpillar is a common sight. Defoliating plants and skeletonizing their leaves can wreak havoc on the spiky brown larvae. The dark brown caterpillars become gorgeous orange and black butterflies after pupating.

Brown caterpillar identification

The white mid-dorsal line of a pearl crescent caterpillar becomes more apparent as the caterpillar grows. They have eight rows of brown spines and little white dots.

Ruby Tiger Caterpillar (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)

The caterpillar of the ruby tiger moth has a yellow line down its back and orange-brown hairs. The bug’s body is covered in tufts of stinging hairs and spines, similar to many species of fuzzy caterpillars. Caterpillars measuring 1.2″ (30 mm) long can be found on ruby tiger moths. In the spring, Ruby tiger caterpillars are active, eventually turning into fuzzy orange moths. Ruby tiger larvae feed on willow shrubs, cabbage, berry bushes, broadleaf plantain, and clover leaves often.

Brown caterpillar identification

The light reddish-brown hair coating of a ruby tiger caterpillar, as well as a yellowish stripe along its back, distinguish it.

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (Eacles imperialis)

The imperial moth caterpillar has a dark brown body with spines and a row of yellow dots down its sides, and it has a large larva with a dark brown and burgundy coloration. The brown caterpillar is depicted as having spiky segments and being covered in thin, wispy filaments in photographs.

The big brown caterpillar can reach a length of 5.5 inches (10 cm). Before becoming a huge yellow moth, the imperial moth caterpillar goes through multiple instars. The black stripes on the larvae’s orange bodies. During each instar, they darken and expand in size. They are huge black or bright green caterpillars with spiky covers before they pupate.

Brown caterpillar identification

A row of yellowish oval circles, fine hairs, and many meaty spines covered in white dots distinguish brown imperial moth caterpillars.

Pandora Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha pandorus)

The caterpillar from the pandora sphinx moth is a huge, hairless brown caterpillar with huge five or six white oval markings on either side. It is identified by its smooth brown body and white markings. The curled horn at the tail end of the brown, white-spotted caterpillar’s abdomen is a distinctive feature.

The big, dark cinnamon-brown caterpillars are 3.5″ (89 mm) before they pupate. The huge brown caterpillar becomes an olive green moth resembling a leaf after pupation. The caterpillar can be found from Nova Scotia to South Florida and feeds on grape leaves and Virginia creeper plants.

Brown caterpillar identification

A huge, smooth-bodied cinnamon-colored larva with black dots around its head, oval white markings, and a curled tail, the pandora sphinx moth caterpillar is recognized as such.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The viceroy butterfly caterpillar has spiky horns on its head and a patchy orange and brown body with a white marking on its abdomen. It has bumps, bristles, antennae that are spikey and patchy. The brown viceroy caterpillar resembles bird droppings due to its white abdominal patch.

The brown and white caterpillar turns into an stunning orange and black butterfly that looks like the monarch butterfly, despite its unattractive appearance.

Brown caterpillar identification

With spiky horns at the head and a white and gray patch that resembles bird droppings, the viceroy moth caterpillar has an orange-brown color.

Striped Garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima)

The striped garden caterpillar has a dull brown body with light yellowish stripes that runs down its length. It is identified by this. The head of this striped caterpillar is orange-brown, rounded, and the tail end is tapered slightly. The worm-like striped caterpillar is roughly 1.4″ (35 mm) long before pupation.

Brown caterpillar identification

A light brown worm-like bug with bright yellow or creamy white stripes that go the length of its sides, the striped garden caterpillar is recognized as such.

American Painted Lady Butterfly Caterpillar (Vanessa virginiensis)

The caterpillar has crimson and white dots on a dark brownish body with yellow stripes, and it has multiple spiny spines with a crimson base. A creamy white line runs the length of its body, as well. The length of fully grown caterpillars is 1.4″ (35 mm). Ironweed, asters, and pussytoes foliage are frequently destroyed by the colorful spiky caterpillar. The colors vary, as they do with many kinds of striped caterpillars.

Brown caterpillar identification

The dark brown to black body with yellow and black rings, red and white dots, and spiky appearance distinguish the American painted lady butterfly caterpillar.

Unicorn Moth Caterpillar (Schizura unicornis)

The caterpillar from the unicorn moth has a plump brown bug with a dark brown mottled pattern on its body and two green segments near the head. The pointed triangular tail end, thin black spines, and prominent horn in the front of this brown caterpillar are its distinguishing characteristics. This 1.5″ (38 mm) larva becomes a brown adult. From May to October, you may frequently find the unicorn moth caterpillar on birch, apple, elm, and willow trees.

Brown caterpillar identification

A mottled brown pattern, two bright green segments, and a horn-like protuberance near the rounded head distinguish the unicorn moth caterpillar.

Yellow-Striped Armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli)

The brown, yellow-striped armyworm is a huge fat caterpillar that grows up to 1.4″ (35 mm) long and bears wasp eggs on its brown body. The caterpillar has two yellow stripes on its back and is worm-like in appearance. White dots cover the caterpillar’s body, as well as little irregular black areas.

Tomatoes, cotton, onions, cabbage, and other vegetables and crops are skeletonized by the gregarious caterpillars. The brown caterpillar becomes an attractive hairy brown moth after pupating.

Brown caterpillar identification

Brown caterpillars with a continuous yellow stripe down each side are known as the yellow-striped armyworm. A tiny, spherical head and a pale inverted V-shape on the face distinguish the larva.

European Corn Borer (Ostrinia nubilalis)

The caterpillar from the European corn borer moth has a dark, yellowish-brown head and is covered in little round dots. The head of the little tan-coloured caterpillars is black, and there are no spines or hairs on them. When the larva develops, it is about 0.08″ to 0.8″ (2 to 20 mm) in length.

This plant-eating bug, which eats grain plants mostly maize, takes its name from the fact that it eats plants. As it destroys crops, the boring caterpillar burrows into plant stems and chews through different plant parts.

Brown caterpillar identification

The beige-brown, delicate body and blackish-brown head of the brown European corn borer caterpillar.

Southern Flannel Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

One of the fluffiest kinds of hairy caterpillars is the little Southern flannel caterpillar, which has light brown hairs (setae). The seemingly soft hair conceals poisonous spines, and the hairy caterpillar is a sandy-brown or golden-brown color. Just 1″ (25 mm) long, the little fuzzy venomous caterpillar is a tiny creature.

Puss caterpillar, fire caterpillar, and woolly slug are some of the other names for this unusual stinging caterpillar. The caterpillar’s resemblance to a soft Persian cat led to the moniker puss, which is derived from the caterpillar’s name. The stinging spines give the fire Caterpillar its name.

Brown caterpillar identification

A hairy caterpillar with silky golden-brown setae, the southern flannel caterpillar is a sight to see. The head of the puss caterpillar is broad and rounded, with a tapered tail end.

Puss Moth (Cerura vinula)

The puss moth caterpillar has a weirdly fork-tailed tail and white lines on its sides that are unusual for the species. Before pupating, the strange caterpillar is only chocolatey-brown. The forked tail and tendency to raise its head while extending pinkish whiplike antennae when threatened distinguish this strikingly larva.

The growth of the puss moth caterpillar varies with each stage. The caterpillar is black with a lengthy tail when it’s immature. It then develops a weird face-like pattern on its head before becoming vivid green. Before pupation, it turns blackish brown.

Brown caterpillar identification

The puss moth caterpillar is dark brown with two clear white stripes along the back in its last stage.

Pink-Spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata)

The caterpillar from the pink-spotted hawkmoth is a huge, robust caterpillar with orange streaks and creamy designs and a pointed tail. A dark brown, almost black color with cream triangle designs along its margins and two orange lines down its back is the most prevalent color of this species.

The big brown caterpillar may reach a length of 8 cm (3.14 in). Sweet potato, morning glory, and jimson weed leaves are all consumed by the big caterpillar, which can be found all across America.

Brown caterpillar identification

A dark brown, hairless body with distinct triangular markings, dorsal stripes, and a pointed tail distinguishes the pink-spotted hawkmoth caterpillar.

Monkey Slug Caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium)

The monkey slug caterpillar has an unusual form with itchifying hairs. This caterpillar resembles a squashed hairy spider and has light brownish-colored hairy arms. The monkey slug caterpillars’ stinging hairs may cause skin irritation in humans. Handling a Monkey slug caterpillar may cause an allergic skin reaction in some people.

Brown Caterpillar Identification

There isn’t another insect larva like a monkey slug caterpillar, so it’s easy to identify. Its body is a light brown, squashed hairy spider with various-sized leg protrusions along its sides. Caterpillars that are little brown, hairy, and grow to be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long.

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