Caterpillars that become moths are a fascinating type of insect. Furry caterpillars eat the leaves of plants and trees in most cases. Although they seem ferocious, most hairy caterpillars are innocuous. Some caterpillars may be poisonous and cause skin irritation or a bee-like sting. As a result, you should avoid handling the hairy caterpillars without protective gloves until you know which species they are.
How to Identify Caterpillars
The color, type of hairy covering, and individual patterns must all be noted when identifying fuzzy caterpillars. Furry caterpillars may appear to be other kinds of caterpillars. Woolly caterpillars, for example, may be mistaken for fuzzy worms. Their bristles, on the other hand, can be sharp and painful as a defense mechanism.
Their venomous stings may cause allergic responses in some individuals, despite the fact that their venom won’t harm them for long. You will learn how to identify the many sorts of ordinary fuzzy caterpillars in this article. You’ll also learn about the poisonous tiger caterpillars, as well as other types.
Types of Furry Caterpillars With Pictures and Names – Identification Guide
This list contains descriptions of adult larvae in their final stage before pupation, as well as other caterpillars. The larvae feed on plants and expand in size every time they hatch from an egg. As a result, an juvenile caterpillar may appear as though it’s grown up.
Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar
One of the most well-known types of fuzzy caterpillars is the Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella). Because of their dark orange and black markings, identifying these fuzzy caterpillars is easy. The bodies of these orange and black fuzzy worms are known as Isabella Tiger Moths, Woolybears, or Wooly Worms. They have 13 segments and live in clusters.
The body covering of Banded Woolly Bear caterpillars is made from bristles that can penetrate your skin, despite their appearance as soft fuzzy creatures. Skin irritation can occur when you come into touch with a black and brown/tan woolly caterpillar.
Banded woollies, on the other hand, are non-poisonous. Banded Woolly bear caterpillars were once thought to foretell the harshness of the winter by some individuals. The winter would be mild, according to legend, because of a larger orange band in the center.
The black hairy coating on the ends and a large brown or tan band of hair in the middle distinguish banded woolly caterpillars. When they’re threatened, woolly bear caterpillars roll up into a ball. Before they reach the pupal stage and morph into a moth, they grow to just over 2″ (5 cm).
Salt Marsh Caterpillar
Another hairy caterpillar that feeds on tomato, cotton, soybean, and cabbage plants is the hairy Salt Marsh caterpillar, which can range in color from tan to dark brown. The Salt Marsh moth’s larvae may be yellow, brown, or nearly black in color. These are soft bristles that aren’t sharp, despite the black and brown covering looking spiky. The fine hair-like spines, like those of woolly caterpillars, may get under your skin and cause irritation.
Because of rows of black spots along their sides, you can easily identify these caterpillars from Banded Woolly caterpillars. These little dark brown fuzzy caterpillars grow to be around 2 inches (5 cm) long.
Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar
Due to two hair pencils protruding from each end, the white hairy and fuzzy Sycamore Tussock caterpillar has an unusual appearance. Long white spines with a mix of orange and white spiky protrusions protrude from the hairy yellowish-white spines. Fine white trailing setae (bristly hairs) run the length of the larva’s sides.
The hairs of Sycamore Tussock are itchy and may induce hives, as are the hairs of many other types of fuzzy caterpillars. These are not a poisonous caterpillar sort and are not a stinging caterpillars species. Since it feeds on sycamore trees, the Sycamore Tussock caterpillar (Halysidota harrisii) gets its name. The Erebidae family of crawling insects includes this species.
At the back is a set of white hair pencils, and at the front is a set of orange hair pencils. These little fuzzy white caterpillars don’t reach more than 3 cm in length.
Hickory Tussock Caterpillar
The Hickory Tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae) is also known as the “Hickory Tiger Moth” or “Hickory Halisidota” because of its black and white coloration. The Sycamore Tussock has a similar family to the hairy caterpillar, but it belongs to the Lophocampa genus.
The white hairy caterpillar Hickory Tussock has tufts of white setae on its body. The Hickory Tiger moth caterpillar has a pair of long black hair pencils on each end, similar to the Sycamore Tussock.
The white and black spines may appear smooth and innocuous, but they are very scratchy. If the microscopic hooked ends enter your eyes or get embedded in your skin, they may cause discomfort. These spiny white caterpillars, when they emerge from the pupa, are a stunning brown moth with yellow lines on its wings.
This can be distinguished from the Sycamore Tussock by black tufts of bristles along the Hickory Tussock caterpillar’s back. The black bristles on top have a diamond shape. The Hickory caterpillar grows to 1.7″ (4.5 cm) and is somewhat bigger than the Sycamore caterpillar.
American Dagger Moth Caterpillar
The American Dagger caterpillar (Acronicta americana) is easily recognized by its distinct yellow-whitish hairy look. It has a long, slender body that is covered in soft white hairs. The hairy American Dagger caterpillar is distinguished by its lustrous black head, in addition to its lengthy yellow-white fluffy hairs.
A lone solitary single one sits behind the front of the head end, containing two pairs of long dark hair pencils. These fuzzy yellowish caterpillars may be found most often on tree leaves. Ash, birch, hickory, and oak trees are among the species’ favorites.
Due to five long black hair pencils, you can identify the American Dagger caterpillar. On the head and in the middle, there are two, and on the tail, there is one. The caterpillar of the American Dagger moth reaches a length of 2.5 inches (5 cm).
The Io caterpillar (scientific name Automeris io) is a huge green poisonous spiky caterpillar. Texas, Colorado, Canada, and Florida are all home to this fuzzy-looking worm. A plump green caterpillar with tiny lime-green tufts has a segmented body.
Black tips decorate some of the spiky tufts. A crimson and white line runs the length of its body as well. You should stay away from one of these big green caterpillars if you see it. The poisonous spiky spikes of the Io caterpillar will give you a bee-like sting, making it a stinging insect. The sting may hurt you and even cause an allergic response, despite the fact that it won’t kill you.
Immature larvae are orange in color when they first emerge, then turn bright green as adults. The Io caterpillar likes to feast on tree and plant leaves when it reaches a length of 2.3 inches (6 cm).
Milkweed Tiger Caterpillar
The Milkweed Tiger (Euchaetes egle) is a tiny fuzzy caterpillar that may be found from Texas to southern Canada. It has white, black, and orange hairy tufts. The larvae are gray and hairy, and are also known as the Milkweed Tussock moth caterpillar. The Milkweed Tussock moth caterpillar is identified by black and orange hairy tufts.
This caterpillar also has a few white setae tufts that give it an unusual appearance. The orange patterns on the larvae become more apparent as they grow up. This caterpillar species, like the name suggests, exclusively feeds on milkweed. The caterpillar is unaffected by this poisonous sap, which serves as a deterrent to predators.
This caterpillar is covered in black, white, and orange fuzzy hairs and has a black head that is difficult to see. Caterpillars of this size, which can only grow to 1.3 inches (3.5 cm) in length, are one of the smallest caterpillar types.
European Gypsy Caterpillar
The European Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) is another hairy caterpillar with red and blue dots. Europe, Asia, and North America are all home to this caterpillar species. Setae like whiskers protrude out in all directions from this long moth caterpillar’s body.
The vivid red and blue dots on this species’ back distinguish it from other species. Tufts of fine black hairs are intermingled throughout them. They are a destructive caterpillar, despite their innocent appearance. By devouring all of the tree leaves, they can quickly damage huge swaths of woodland. Their light fine spines may cause contact allergies, as they do in most fuzzy caterpillars.
Identifying features of the European gypsy moth caterpillar
It has two rows of colorful dots on its back. There are 12 red and blue dots in total. They grow to be about 1.5 inches (4 cm) long.
White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar
The White-Marked Tussock caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma) has a distinctive appearance that distinguishes it from other caterpillars. This caterpillar has a wide range of colors on almost every part. Its head is bright red, with antennae on both sides that look like tufted feathers.
Yellow and black stripes run down the length of this moth caterpillar’s rear. There are brown and black bushy tails at the end of the head, which are topped by four bushy white tufts. Fine white setae tufts can also be found along the sides. Because of their small barbed spines, handle these prickly caterpillars with caution.
This caterpillar has a variety of bright-colored tufts of exquisite hair that seem to protrude from various areas. A little fuzzy caterpillar that grows to be about 1.3 inches (3.5 cm) in length.
Southern Flannel Caterpillar
The Southern Flannel moth caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis) is a tiny and hairy venomous caterpillar that can be found in the southern states such as Texas and Florida. Setae, which resemble chaotic beige-orange hair, cover the larvae. This species has been compared to a Persian cat in certain reports. Several species have a grayish or beige speckled black appearance, with vibrant orange hair. Furthermore, each side of this woolly caterpillar has an orange line.
Some might have lemon-yellow hair with a long hairy tail, and you may even come across some. The hairy look of the caterpillars changes as they reach pupation. Hairs that are longer and strewn orange or brown emerge from the sides. The spines are poisonous, and your skin will experience a painful response if you touch them, even though this caterpillar seems soft and fuzzy.
This is one of the fluffiest caterpillars you’ll find, beige or orange. Southern Flannels grow to be 1.3″ to 3″ (3.5 cm) long, making them a medium-sized caterpillar.
Western Tent Caterpillar
The Western Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) has a lengthy black and orange body. One of six subspecies in the Lasiocampidae family, this caterpillar is from the family’s sixth subfamily. A long black and orange body distinguishes this tent caterpillar species.
The body has a slightly hairy appearance due to the presence of fine orange or dark yellow spines. Other Western Tent caterpillars, on the other hand, may be gray or white with an orange stripe. The pale blue head of Western Tent caterpillars is another distinguishing characteristic. Large numbers of tent caterpillars live in tent-like formations, hence the name.
This caterpillar is distinguished by an orange stripe and long, fine orange hairs down its length. The larvae may reach a length of 2.5 inches (5 cm) when they are fully developed.
Eastern Tent Caterpillar
The Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is a huge black furry tent caterpillar with a conspicuous white line on its back. It has a unique white stripe running down its back, which looks similar to its Western cousin. The caterpillar’s side has distinctive blue lines that may be seen closely at this stage.
The tufts of fine spines just below the light blue markings are what differentiate this caterpillar from others. These silvery-white to light brown hairs may be of any hue. Crab-apple, aspen, willow, and mahogany trees are all favorites of these caterpillars when it comes to tent construction.
These caterpillars are distinguished from other tent caterpillars by their tiny tufts of silky hairs on a black body with white stripes. The Eastern tent caterpillar grows to be 2.3 inches (6 cm) in length and is one of the largest tent caterpillar species.
Forest Tent Caterpillars
Forest Tent caterpillars (Malacosoma disstria) have blue and yellow stripes on either side of their backs, similar to their Eastern and Western cousins. Tufts of fine hair run down the length of their bodies, and they are similar in size. The white footprint-shaped markings on each segment are one of the identifying features of Forest caterpillars.
The caterpillar’s back has white markings that run up. The sides of this crawling larvae have light blue segmented stripes as well. These larvae don’t live in tents, unlike other tent caterpillar species in the Malacosoma genus.
These caterpillars don’t bother most individuals. You might, however, get itchy red patches of skin irritation after handling one if you have sensitive skin. Other tent caterpillars are similar in this regard.
This type of caterpillar is identified by markings that resemble white footsteps and blue and yellow stripes. The ‘Forest’ type grows to 2.3 inches (6 cm) and is similar to other tent caterpillars.
Fall Webworms (Hyphantria cunea) caterpillars feature long hairs and spiky spikiness at the same time. They are a little yellow hairy caterpillar. Fall Webworms come in a variety of colors, which is an appealing characteristic. Some are light gray with small markings, while others are pale yellow with black dots.
A wart develops tufts of fine hairs on each segment of these insects. Yellow to white is the range of coloration. On walnut, cherry, crab-apple, and other deciduous trees, these yellow hairy caterpillars delight in chewing their way through leaves.
Caterpillars with long tufts of setae protruding out from their sides are fuzzy yellow and black. Only grows to 1″ (2.5 cm) in length and is one of the tiniest of the hairy caterpillars.
Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar
The Yellow Woolly Bear (Spilosoma virginica) is a hairy caterpillar that you’ll find all over the place. The Erebidae family of caterpillars has a hairy look to this subspecies. The Virginia Tiger moth is another name for it. Color ranges from yellow to brown in the Yellow Woolly bear. Beige ‘Yellow Woollies,’ black and yellow caterpillars, and bright orange-colored caterpillars are uncommon to come across.
Caterpillars that feed on yellow woolly prefer to eat practically any sort of plant. As a result, in practically every location, you may find these spiky ‘yellow caterpillars’ eating foliage. Like their cousin, the Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar, they have soft bristles on their bodies.
The fluffy hairs of yellow woolly larvae are single in color rather than being a multicolored caterpillar. These big, fluffy caterpillars grow to be approximately 2 inches (5 centimeters) long.
The Saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) has a distinctive green patch on its back that makes it easy to identify. The green saddle-like patterns on the back of this caterpillar give it its name. Two terrifying eye-like markings appear on the Saddleback caterpillar’s head. The larva’s ends are adorned with spiky brown horns that give them a fierce appearance. This caterpillar is, in fact, poisonous. This caterpillar’s hairs possess a venom that may make humans nauseous.
A white circle and a brown-colored center are printed on a square lime-green patch on its back. This little caterpillar grows to 1 inch (2.5 cm) and is more spiky than hairy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are caterpillars insects?
Caterpillars are members of the Insecta class of moths and butterflies in their larval stage. Caterpillars go through a pupal stage before becoming lovely flying insects, during which they change into butterflies.
Do furry caterpillars sting?
Just a few caterpillars have venom in them, and they’re all furry. Skin irritations, contact dermatitis, and hives are most common among hair-covered caterpillars.
Are caterpillars worms?
Caterpillars are not worms, despite their appearance. Worms are not classified as insects, whereas butterflies are members of the Lepidoptera order.
How to identify poisonous furry caterpillars?
It’s impossible to tell which caterpillars are deadly and which aren’t without some experience. That’s why understanding about poisonous caterpillars requires using an identification chart. The irritant venom usually present in brightly colored and hairy caterpillars is usually mild to moderate.
Do furry caterpillars turn into moths or butterflies?
As the caterpillars emerge from the pupa, they turn into moths.
Why are some caterpillars hairy?
Caterpillars with spiky hairs around them use them as a defense mechanism. Some poison or irritation to animals and birds that prey on them is found in their hairy spines.