Horned Caterpillars: Tomato Hornworm, Dragon Headed Caterpillar, and More

The larvae of moths and butterflies, the horned caterpillars are crawling insects. Some caterpillars use their horns to repel potential predators, which is how they defend themselves. Some hornworms, in order to scare other creatures, have a horn-like tail that they wave. The caterpillar has a horned appearance due to spiky-looking structures on the head.

The insect order Lepidoptera encompasses all types of caterpillars, including horned ones. Caterpillars begin as eggs and finally transform into fat worms-like larvae. Caterpillars eat a lot while they’re larvae and may grow hundreds of times their normal size. Caterpillars go through the pupal stage before becoming a moth or butterfly, during which they change into metamorphs.

Some caterpillars have horns, which is one of their distinguishing characteristics. Hairy, hairy, or striped caterpillars are available in other forms. Horned caterpillars may be black, yellow, or multicolored, in addition to green caterpillars. You’ll learn about various types of horned caterpillars, including Dragon-Headed Caterpillar, Tomato Hornworm, Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar, and others in this article. Different caterpillar species can be identified using photos, descriptions of caterpillars, and scientific names.

Horned Caterpillar Identification

All you have to do is glance for the spiny structures that resemble horns to identify kinds of horned caterpillars. Caterpillars in certain species have a horn on the end of their tails. A pair of horns on the heads of certain green caterpillars. Spiky-horned caterpillars feature horns on various body parts that are similar to those of others.

By noting the markings and types of plants horned caterpillars feed on, it is also possible to identify them. Most horned caterpillars are not types of stinging caterpillars, despite the fact that horns on Caterpillars can make them look scary.

Types of Horned Caterpillars With Pictures and Common Names

Let’s examine the several sorts of fascinating horned caterpillars that may be found in your garden or yard in further detail.

Dragon-Headed Caterpillar (Polyura athamas)

The caterpillar has white lines on its sides and a green dragon-headed caterpillar with four curled horns on its head. The head of this caterpillar has a mythical dragon-look, hence the name “dragon-headed.” This caterpillar is completely harmless and won’t sting you, despite its horns giving it a frightening appearance.

Indonesia and central Asia are home to these green horned dragon caterpillars. The dragon-headed caterpillar develops into a stunning butterfly after metamorphosis. The yellow or cream-colored patterns on the brown chocolate-colored wings are unique.

Horned caterpillar identification

A dark green caterpillar with two horns on either side of its head. The middle segments of this species are striped with lateral creamy white stripes.

Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata)

The tomato hornworm is a huge lime-green caterpillar with white markings on its tail. It gorges on tomato leaves, hence its common name. Because of their brightness, they’re hard to distinguish because they blend in with the leaves of the plants. The enormous, oversized head of tomato moth caterpillars is another way to separate them from other caterpillars.

The side of the body of tomato hornworms is cream-colored. Predators are confused by the eye-like markings. Tomato caterpillars will elevate their front portions of their bodies on occasion. This caterpillar might be the biggest you’ve ever seen in your garden.

Horned caterpillar identification

The back end of the fat slug-like tomato caterpillar bears a horn that resembles a spike. The tomato hornworm’s V-shaped markings along the sides may help you identify it. These stripes distinguish this insect from the comparable tobacco hornworm.

How to control tomato hornworm caterpillars

Tomato hornworm moth caterpillars are both a destructive garden pest and a gigantic caterpillar. They’ll eat tomato and eggplant leaves, as well as other nightshade family plants, on a regular basis. Tomato hornworms can be gotten rid of with ease by picking them off with your hand because of their huge size. The tail horn doesn’t sting, and they aren’t dangerous. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is also a natural, non-toxic caterpillar and insect pest control option.

Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis)

With its blue-green body and orange and black horns, the big hickory horned devil gives you the creeps. With its “devil-like” appearance, this definitely lives up to its name. On its head, the caterpillar has large crimson jagged horns. Smaller black horns can also be seen on each of the segments.

You might mistake this caterpillar for being hazardous because it grows up to 6 inches (15 cm) long and has a fearsome look. The hickory horned devil, on the other hand, is a very calm and innocuous caterpillar. These enormous slug-like caterpillars can be found feasting on hickory, cotton, and hazel leaves. The regal moth, named for its hickory caterpillar precursor, emerges. The wingspan of this moth is up to 6 inches (15 cm) wide. Red striped patterns and white dot patches cover the orange moth’s wings.

Horned caterpillar identification

This is one of the world’s largest caterpillars, with a terrifying appearance and enormous size. Look for huge red and black horns on the head, as well as little black spines all over the body.

Other Types of Horned Caterpillars

What else might you encounter if you’re looking for horned caterpillars? Caterpillars of different types, including a poisonous horned caterpillar, may be found here.

Rosy Maple caterpillar (Dryocampa rubicunda)

Due to its fondness for all kinds of maple trees, the rosy maple caterpillar has two black horns and a light green and white striped body with black dots. This striped caterpillar is known as the “green-striped mapleworm,” and it has two jet black horns.

Greenish-white stripes go the length of the body of the fat slug caterpillar. However, throughout the larvae’s development (instars), these colors might shift. caterpillar identification is aided by the presence of black dots running around the segments.

Horned caterpillar identification

The light green-colored striped body, two black horns on its head, and smaller black spikes at the rear distinguish the rosy maple caterpillar.

Orange Striped Oakworm (Anisota senatoria)

The orange striped oakworm caterpillar has two horns and a black body with orange stripes running down it. This caterpillar has orange stripes that run the length of its body and appear to be a big slug. These innocuous caterpillars have a pair of projecting horns on their heads that look a lot like the rosy maple caterpillar.

In states such as Florida, Texas, and other southern states, these hungry caterpillars may be seen feasting on oak tree leaves. Striped oakworms become exquisite orange and pink moths once they have completed their pupal stage.

Horned caterpillar identification

The orange stripes, long antennae-like horns, and spiky rear end of these black caterpillars make them easy to distinguish when they grow to about (5 cm) long.

Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)

With horns on either end, the monarch caterpillar has yellow, white, and black stripes. The immature monarch butterfly larvae have longer antennae, which distinguishes them from the mature larvae. The monarch caterpillars have black, white, and yellow striped patterns when they are fully grown.

These are harmless caterpillars that don’t sting, despite their long horns. These feeding butterflies develop into monarch butterflies after the chrysalis stage, and some people consider them to be the planet’s most stunning butterfly.

Horned caterpillar identification

The white, black, and yellow bands that wrap around each segment make it easy to identify. In addition, one end will have two longer horns and the other will have two shorter horns. These caterpillars are also fond of milkweed and can be found feasting on it.

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

Caterpillars with a single pointed horn-like tail, such as the huge green tobacco hornworm caterpillar, belong to the Sphingidae family. The body of the big green luminous caterpillars is segmented, with a huge head and eye-like patterns down its sides. It may be tough to distinguish the head from the end of many species of hornworms. These pestiferous garden pests eat tomato plants and eggplant leaves, despite their name. They are known as the tobacco hornworm.

Horned caterpillar identification

Because they look similar to tomato hornworms, it’s difficult to tell the difference. The thin diagonal stripes on the segments of these green caterpillars are a distinguishing feature. The V-shaped markings on tomato hornworms are different.

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Deilephila elpenor)

The elephant hawk caterpillar has a tiny horn at the end of its fat gray body, which makes it resemble an elephant. The larvae are a brown-gray color with black dots down their sides when they reach 3″ (7.6 cm) in length. Some, on the other hand, are black caterpillars with a dark green coloration. A tiny black or gray spike protrudes from the caterpillar’s tail end and is called the horn. These dull-looking caterpillars become colorful pink and olive moths when they are mature.

Horned caterpillar identification

Caterpillars with large round markings around their head. They are big and smooth, gray-black. The little curving horn on the tail segment is an identifying characteristic of elephant hawk caterpillars.

White Admiral Caterpillar (Limenitis arthemis)

The white admiral caterpillar, one of the stranger-looking caterpillars on this list, looks like a horned caterpillar with birds dropping. One end of the caterpillar has two long spiky black horns protruding. Brown and white patchy markings are an unusual identifying feature. The caterpillar may disguise itself on a limb by making its droppings look like bird droppings. White admiral caterpillars feed on birch, willow, cherry, and aspen trees in most cases. These butterflies are stunning creatures with blue iridescent colors when they emerge from their pupa.

Horned caterpillar identification

This caterpillar species can be identified by its irregularly shaped olive-brown and white body with two twig-like horns.

Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Daphnis nerii)

These voracious leaf-eaters, like many green caterpillars in the Sphingidae family, have a spiked horny tail at the back. The green oleander hawk caterpillar has pale orange horn at its tail end. Oleander hawk caterpillars look a lot like tobacco hornworms when it comes to certain things. Green bodies and a strange haunting look are distinctive features of these horned caterpillars. The middle segments of the fat green “slugs” have enormous prolegs. A light blue stripe extending the length of the caterpillars’ sides, as well as blue dots in random arrangements, can also be used to identify them.

Horned caterpillar identification

At the tail end, look for a little curved light orange horn, and at the head, check out its bright blue eye markings.

Blue Swallowtail Caterpillar (Battus philenor)

The dark-brown body and orange spikes or horns make the blue swallowtail a recognized species of caterpillar. The pipevine swallowtail, sometimes known as the blue swallowtail, seems to be covered in horns. Long protruding tubercles (horns) may be seen at one end of a blue swallowtail’s lengthy black body in photographs. Its sides are also adorned with shorter horns, and its back is adorned with a line of tiny orange spikes.

A blood-red color is another form of pipevine caterpillar from the same species. Its body, like that of the black variety, seems to be covered in velvety horns. Both the black and red varieties are covered in fine hairs, as evidenced by close inspection.

Horned caterpillar identification

The bodies of these caterpillars are glossy and velvety, with rows of soft horns (tubercles) that identify them.

White-Lined Sphinx Horned Caterpillar (Hyles lineata)

The bright green body of the white-lined sphinx is marked with yellow and black stripes, and it belongs to the family Sphingidae. These horned caterpillars come in a wide range of colors. Smooth black bodies with orange dot lines are common among some types. Lime green caterpillars with red, yellow, and black speckles are among the other varieties of these sphinx caterpillars. Look also for the 4 orange prolegs that run down the length of its body.

Horned caterpillar identification

The orange horn on the back of the caterpillar’s body is a distinguishing feature of the white-lined sphinx caterpillar. This yellow spiky protrusion doesn’t hurt and may be accompanied by a black tip.

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar (Manduca rustica)

The rustic sphinx caterpillar has white stripes on its green body and a big horn. Hornworms and other sphinx caterpillars are closely related to these light-green caterpillars. The segments are separated by diagonal light-colored lines, which make the body appear bright green. Little orange-red dots on the side of each piece and little black dots in the midst of each piece will also attract your attention.

Horned caterpillar identification

The granular bumps on the rear horn of this horned caterpillar should be distinguished from those of other hornworms.

Zebra Longwing Caterpillar with Horns (Heliconius charithonia)

Zebra longwing caterpillars have sharp-looking horns protruding in all directions, and they are a kind of horned caterpillar frequently seen in Texas, Florida, and Central America. Light-colored gray to white bodies make up the caterpillars of the Nymphalidae family. The 6 rows of extremely long spines on zebra caterpillars are a fascinating feature. These horns also have little, jagged spurs on them, which you may see. The ferocious appearance of this rare caterpillar is enhanced by the black dots that cover it.

Horned caterpillar identification

The body is light gray or turquoise green, with black razor-sharp horns covering it. Passionflower family plants are eaten by it.

Saddleback Horned Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea)

The saddleback caterpillar has a distinct green patch on its back that makes it easy to identify. This is a poisonous caterpillar that can deliver a nasty “bite,” hence the plethora of horns on it. At either end of the poisonous caterpillar, there are a pair of thick horns.

When brushed against, the hairs on these cause skin irritation. Along the side of the saddleback, there are also horn-like protrusions. The distinctive markings of a saddleback cause it to be named. In reality, this caterpillar is the only one of its kind. A lime green square patch on the back of the brown spiky caterpillar’s body. The caterpillar’s back appears to be a saddle, thanks to a colored circle in the middle.

Horned caterpillar identification

With its four massive spiky horns on the head and tail end, you can easily identify the saddleback horned caterpillar.

White-Marked Tussock Furry Horned Caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma)

The white-marked tussock caterpillar has a distinct appearance that makes it easy to identify. This caterpillar has two enormous fuzzy “antennae” at the front that give it the appearance of a ferocious animal. At the end of its tail, there is also a huge fuzzy tail. The black body and tufts of white hairs on this caterpillar distinguish it. Its back and sides are covered in hairy tufts. Its back is also covered in red dots and yellow stripes. From Texas and Florida to Alberta in Canada, these furry horned caterpillars are common in many states.

Horned caterpillar identification

The identification traits of this horned caterpillar are two long hairy ‘horns,’ as well as a hairy tail that points upward and white tufts of hairs.

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