Types of Hairy Caterpillars (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Several varieties of hairy caterpillars have stinging spines, despite their appearance as delicate and fluffy. Caterpillars covered in hairs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Long pencil setae on fuzzy white caterpillars, for example, are fuzzy. Tufts of thick hairs maycover other hairy caterpillars, giving them a hairy look. Woolly tubes might be mistaken for various sorts of hairy caterpillars.

When you handle a hairy caterpillar, not all of them are venomous, and they don’t all cause skin irritation. As a result, it is critical to avoid collecting a stinging caterpillar by identifying caterpillars that look hairy. When dealing with a hairy caterpillar you aren’t sure of, it’s generally a good idea to wear protective gloves.

This article covers identifying the most common types of hairy caterpillars that may be found on bushes in the yard, woodlands, grasslands, and parks. You may tell the difference between a harmless hairy caterpillar and one that has been stung based on descriptions and pictures of fuzzy worms.

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Hairy Caterpillar Identification

The color, shape, type of hairs, head shape, and identifying markings must all be noted to identify a hairy caterpillar. The typical look of a slender cylindrical worm is seen on most hairy caterpillars. Brown squashed spiders or fuzzy leaves are some of the stranger hairy caterpillars that look like brown squished moths.

Because of their life cycle, identifying different sorts of hairy caterpillars may be difficult. After each instar (growth stage), for example, some caterpillar species modify their appearance. As a result, a recently born butterfly or moth larva may seem unusual compared to the ripe caterpillar just before pupation.

Types of Hairy Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the caterpillars that may be seen in your garden.

Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)

The banded woolly bear caterpillar is a furry caterpillar with black and orange fibers. The black body of the hairy woolly bear caterpillar is bordered by a wide orange band. The caterpillar’s six legs, small black head, and 13 segments are all hidden under thick hairs.

The spiky hairs that cover the black and orange fuzzy woolly bear caterpillar may prick your skin, despite its fuzzy look. The prickly setae may cause skin discomfort and itching, despite the fact that the spines do not contain venom. The gorgeous orange Isabella tiger moth emerges from the hairy banded woolly bear. Woolybear and wooly worm are two other names for this ubiquitous hairy caterpillar.

Hairy caterpillar identification 

The hairy black and orange body of the banded woolly bear is up to 2″ (50 mm) long. The woolly bear’s tendency to roll up into a ball when it senses danger is one of its identifying characteristics.

Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar (Halysidota harrisii)

The sycamore tussock caterpillar features a pair of odd hairs protruding from both ends, which is unusual for a white hairy caterpillar. The caterpillar’s head and body are yellow-orange, with white bristly hairs covering them. The spiky tufts on the white caterpillar can irritate your skin if you handle it, despite the fact that it won’t sting. The caterpillar stage of the sycamore tussock moth takes place on the American sycamore tree.

Hairy caterpillar identification

A hairy white body, two long orange pencil hair tufts at one end, and two at the other are the distinguishing characteristics of the sycamore tussock caterpillar. Caterpillars with short hair and white color may grow up to 1.1″ (30 mm).

Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Halysidota tessellaris)

The hairy grayish caterpillar with long black hair tufts at the ends of each side is known as the fluffy banded tussock moth caterpillar. Tufts of long, black pencil hairs protrude from the ends of the black and white caterpillar. A black stripe runs down the back of the hair-covered worm, and a brilliant orange head is tough to discern beneath the hairs.

Birch, ash, alder, oak, and willow trees are all home to banded tussock moth caterpillars. Caterpillars seldom damage trees or shrubs, despite their tendency to chew leaves.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The hairy banded tussock moth caterpillar’s six long black lashes and two shorter white tufts are among the caterpillar’s distinguishing features. This caterpillar has a length of 0.19 inch (35 mm).

American Dagger Caterpillar (Acronicta americana)

The yellow-whitish hairy appearance of the American dagger caterpillar distinguishes it from other caterpillars. A rounded shiny black head and two sets of long black tufts on the abdomen are notable characteristics of this fuzzy worm. The hairy body of the non-venomous caterpillar may cause skin irritation. Picking up an American dagger caterpillar may feel like being stung, despite the fact that it is not venomous.

The irritating hairs may enter the skin and break off, causing it to itch. Between July and October, American dagger caterpillars can be found on oak, birch, elm, and maple leaves. The caterpillar transforms into a gray American dagger moth after pupating.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The shaggy-looking pale-yellow body and pairs of long black setae on the back of the American dagger caterpillar are some of its characteristics.

Sycamore Moth (Acronicta aceris)

The sycamore moth is a hairy yellow caterpillar with brilliant orange tufts and white dots all over its body. It has orange-yellow hairs and white dots throughout. With a dark head, six prolegs, and a short body, the orange-yellow sycamore caterpillar looks like this. Sycamore and horse chestnut trees are home to these non-stinging caterpillars, which grow up to 1.5″ (40 mm) long.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The sycamore moth caterpillar’s pyramidal tufts of orange-yellow hairs and row of white dots down its back are two of the most prominent characteristics.

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Euchaetes egle)

Due to the black, white, and orange hairy tufts covering its body, the little milkweed tiger moth caterpillar is a distinctive hairy worm-like insect caterpillar. The hairy insect becomes more orangey as it matures, and is also known as the milkweed tussock moth.

The hairy leaf-eating creatures can grow to be up to 1.3 inches (35 mm) long. When skeletonizing leaves, the black and orange hairy caterpillars may wreak havoc on milkweed and dogbane plants. Furthermore, due to the chemicals in milkweed sap, hairy caterpillars become poisonous to birds and predators.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The black, orange and white tufts that cover the milkweed tiger moth caterpillar’s body are its distinguishing features.

White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)

One of the most distinguishing hairy caterpillars on this list is the hairy white-marked tussock caterpillar. Four white toothbrush tufts on the slender yellow and black woolly worm’s back, numerous red dots, and long pencil hairs at both ends. The yellow stripes on the black body of the caterpillar are another distinguishing feature.

Little barbs may get embedded in the skin of these spiky tufts, which cover this unusual-looking caterpillar. When handled, the caterpillar can cause a stinging sensation even though it does not sting. Florida has a widespread caterpillar known as the crawling insect.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The four bushy white tufts on the back of the white-marked tussock caterpillar, yellow stripes, and wispy white and black spines around its black body distinguish it.

Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

One of the fluffiest furry caterpillars is the little Southern flannel moth caterpillar, which has light brown hairs. The hairs on this hairy caterpillar conceal venom-filled spines, giving it a deceptive appearance. The stinging caterpillar is golden brown to dark gray in color and grows to be 1″ (25 mm) long.

The southern flannel caterpillar is also known as the puss moth, Italian asp, fire caterpillar, woolly slug, and asp caterpillar because of its delicate, silklike look and stinging nature.

Hairy caterpillar identification

Because of its delicate, disheveled golden-brown hairs, the southern flannel moth caterpillar is easy to identify.

Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Spilosoma virginica)

The bronze-brown tufts covering the slug-like creature are what give the yellow woolly bear caterpillar its name. The caterpillar has a soft, fuzzy appearance due to its yellowish-brown or golden-brown woolly hairs. The caterpillar may be black, orangey-red, or dark yellow and reach up to 2″ (50 mm) in length depending on its habitat.

The spiky hairs don’t sting or include venom, as do other varieties of hairy caterpillars. When handled without gloves, the hairy tufts, on the other hand, might cause skin irritation.

Hairy caterpillar identification

Tufts of yellow or orangey-brown hairs cover the brownish-tan body of the yellow woolly bear caterpillar.

Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Arctia caja)

The garden tiger moth caterpillar has hair-like spines on its black, orange, and gray hairs. The caterpillar resembles a hedgehog or porcupine with its long black and dark gray spines. The barbed hairs can irritate the skin if you pick up one of these caterpillars, despite their soft, hairy appearance.

Predators and birds are poisonous to garden tiger moth caterpillars. With black, white, and orange patterns on their wings, these enormous “woolly bears” transform into a striking moth.

Hairy caterpillar identification

With its black and orange hairy body and long grayish spines, the garden tiger moth is simple to identify.

Walnut Caterpillar (Datana integerrima)

The walnut caterpillar is a hairy black caterpillar with long whitish-gray wispy spines on its body. It has a black body. The spiky coating of the crawling caterpillar isn’t irritant to the touch, and it’s safe for humans to touch. The cylindrical, slender black caterpillars reach a length of 1.1″ (30 mm).

The habit of gathering in big groups is an identifying characteristic of walnut caterpillars. When black bugs defoliate pecan, butternut, hickory, and walnut trees, they can sometimes cover branches with their spindly hairs.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The walnut caterpillar’s slender, worm-like black body with thin hairs that give it a fuzzy appearance is one of its distinguishing characteristics.

Monkey Slug Caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium)

The monkey slug caterpillar has some of the most hairs you’ll ever come across on a caterpillar. The brown hairy larva is a one-of-a-kind caterpillar species, also known as the hag moth. The body of the golden-brown slug is flattened like that of a squashed spider, with 18 curled hairy projections.

The length of monkey slug caterpillars ranges from 0.6 to 1 inch (15 to 25 mm). The caterpillar’s body is covered with black tan hairs, which may cause an allergic reaction and skin irritation.

Hairy caterpillar identification

Since there is no caterpillar-like it, the monkey slug caterpillar is simple to distinguish. Caterpillars with nine pairs of curving hairy brush-like projections are shaggy brown.

Salt Marsh Moth Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)

The salt marsh caterpillar is a brown hairy moth larva with sharp-looking spines protruding from its body that may range in color from tan to dark brown. The bristles are soft and won’t sting, despite how they appear to be sharp. The irritating setae, like those seen on many species of hairy caterpillars, can make your skin feel itchy after touching one.

The hairy orange-brown caterpillars have a 2″ (50 mm) long cylindrical, plump body. A row of orange warts with a white dot is another characteristic feature of the segmented larva. Soybean, cabbage, cotton, and tomato plants are all eaten by dark hairy caterpillars.

Hairy caterpillar identification

A slender, dark brown hairy bug with a row of black or orange spots down the middle of its abdomen, the salt marsh caterpillar is one of several caterpillars found in marshes.

Hickory Tiger Moth Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae)

The hairy white caterpillar is recognized by its diamond-shaped black patterns down its back, which are similar to those of the hairy hickory tussock moth caterpillar. Tufts of black pencil hairs and a rounded glossy head, as seen in many tussock caterpillars, are also found on this fuzzy bug.

These 1.7″ (45 mm) long black and white hairy caterpillar Barbed spines cover the Hickory Tiger Moth Caterpillars. The hairs may become embedded in your skin, resulting in mild to severe discomfort, despite their delicate look. Pecan, walnut, hickory, willow, and other deciduous trees are eaten by the hairy white larvae.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The white caterpillar with tufts of white hairs and distinctive black stripes on its back is known as the hickory tiger moth.

Yellow Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Lophocampa maculata)

Because of its bold black and yellow coloring, the hairy yellow-spotted tussock moth has a unique appearance. The brilliant white hair pencils on the yellow caterpillar’s jet back ends. The caterpillar is easily seen on shrubs and trees because of its dramatic yellow and black colors.

Due to their hairy look, yellow-spotted tussock moth caterpillars are also known as yellow woolly bears. The caterpillars grow to be 1.1″ (30 mm) long and have hairy yellow and black tussocks.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The yellow-spotted tussock moth larva is distinguished by its yellow and black hairs with white lashes at the front and rear ends.

Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea)

Fall webworms are hairy white or pale-yellow caterpillars with thin whitish filaments that can wreak havoc on shrubs and trees. Hairy white fall webworms have a common pattern of building tent-like structures in which they dwell. Fall webworms’ rounded glossy black or crimson heads are also a giveaway.

The huge nests hanging from the ends of trees are easy to find this autumn. The web tents are where the fuzzy white larvae spend the majority of their time as they grow up to 1.37″ (35 mm). The slender hairy bugs become beautiful white moths after pupating.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The thread-like hairs that cover the slender black or dark brown bodies of the fall webworm are one of its identifying features.

Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Calliteara pudibunda)

The pale tussock moth caterpillar is a yellowish-green hairy caterpillar with black stripes on its body. The hairy larva has tufts along its back, as do other tussock caterpillars. A large crimson tuft of lashes at one end distinguishes this yellowish-green caterpillar.

When the caterpillar coils, black stripes are revealed. The caterpillars of the big yellow and pale tussock moths grow between 1.5 and 1.7 inches (40 and 45 mm) long. Depending on the instar, the hairy caterpillar can be red, light brown, or green. Yellow and green, on the other hand, are the most popular hues.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The toothbrush tufts of bright yellow setae, black stripes, and a projecting tuft of hair pencils at the rear end distinguish the brightly colored pale tussock moth.

Fox Moth Caterpillar (Macrothylacia rubi)

The fox moth caterpillar has a bright orange back with black hairs and orange markings along its back. The caterpillar grows to be 3 inches (8 cm) long and is black and orange in color. The black fox moth caterpillar develops into a big, fuzzy moth with a lovely tan coloration. Little shrubs, flowering perennials, and trees like birch trees, willows, and beans are all eaten by pattern moth caterpillars.

Black and Orange Caterpillar Identification

The hairy black body and vivid orange stripes down the back of the fox moth caterpillar help to identify it.

Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica)

The fuzzy larva has a creamy white appearance, with white and yellow hairs covering the little Virginia ctenucha caterpillar. A red head and crimson red prolegs distinguish the hairy, spiky caterpillar. Against green foliage, the white caterpillar is readily visible.

Between 0.8″ and 1″ (20 – 25 mm) long, these little hairy caterpillars develop. The colorful hairy caterpillar becomes one of North America’s largest wasp moths after pupation. It’s helpful to remember that this caterpillar can be identified as a hairy black caterpillar with a white stripe down each side in some instars.

Hairy caterpillar identification

The Virginia ctenucha caterpillar is easy to identify due to its white and yellow tufts of hair that cover its slender body.

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