Moth Caterpillar Photos

Moth caterpillars are amazingly diverse, just as varied in pattern and form as the adult moths. Here's a sampling of moth caterpillars found in North Carolina and Virginia.

Apatelodes torrefacta - Spotted Apatelodes

The Spotted Apatelodes (Apatelodes torrefacta) caterpillar is white and furry!

Carroll Co., VA 8/31/03.

Luna Moth (Actias luna)

The large caterpillars of the Luna Moth (Actias luna) are a beautiful lime green with red spots and a pale line along the length of the body.

Carroll Co., VA 8/7/10.

Anisota senatoria - Orange-tipped Oakworm

Large numbers of the Orange-tipped Oakworm (Anisota senatoria) munch on the leaves of oak trees and commonly fall onto sidewalks below.

Durham, NC 9/4/08.

Carolina Sphinx or Tobacco Hornworm - Manduca sexta

The Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) would be better called the Tomato Hornworm, since this is most commonly observed munching on garden tomato plants. The caterpillars are incredible eaters and can quickly strip a tomato plant of all its leaves — and it eats young shoots and green tomatoes, too! The adults are called the Carolina Sphinx Moth — they are large and somewhat attractive flower feeders, less commonly seen than the caterpillars.

There is another moth caterpillar that goes by the name of Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata), but this is less commonly seen on tomatoes than Manduca sexta. They are similar, but you can tell them apart fairly easily: Manduca sexta has 7 white slashes on its side, while Manduca quinquemaculata has 8 white V-shaped marks (a slash with an extra horizontal line).

On tomato in my garden in Durham, NC 9/3/2013.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is perhaps the most commonly observed moth caterpillar in the eastern US. When seen up close, they are beautifully patterned.

Durham, NC 4/17/07.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) - younger ones, still on the tent.

Durham, NC 3/28/07.

Forest Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria)

Forest Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) - a beautiful and common caterpillar, closely related to the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Like the Eastern Tent, they are often found in mass colonies, but they don't build large tents. The adults are light brown with two darker brown parallel stripes.

Pender Co., NC 4/19/2008.

Euchaetes egle (Milkweed Tussock Moth)

Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillars are commonly seen on their host plants, milkweeds, alongside caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly.

Madison Co., NC 7/28/12.

Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris)

Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillars have distinctive tufts, or "tussocks".

Carroll Co., VA 9/3/05.

Fall Webworm Moth (Hyphantria cunea) caterpillar.

Carroll Co., VA 9/24/06.

Black-spotted Prominent (Dasylophia anguina)

Black-spotted Prominent (Dasylophia anguina) caterpillar. These are frequently found on the common noxious weed Lespedeza cuneata.

Durham Co., NC 8/23/2013.

Heterocampa guttivitta - Saddled Prominent caterpillar

Saddled Prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta) caterpillar.

Columbus Co., NC 9/28/2013

Datana drexelii - Drexel's Datana caterpillar

Drexel's Datana (Datana drexelii) caterpillar. Datana caterpillars are highly gregarious when young.

Chatham Co., NC 9/20/08

Datana sp.

Unidentifield Datana caterpillars on White Oak (Quercus alba).

Chatham Co., NC 9/20/03.

Datana sp.

Unidentifield Datana caterpillars on Black Oak (Quercus velutina).

Durham Co., NC 9/6/08.

Datana sp.

Unidentifield Datana caterpillars on Lyonia mariana. When disturbed, Datana caterpillars assume a distinctive C-shaped defensive posture.

Scotland Co., NC 11/1/08.

Red-humped Caterpillar (Schizura concinna)

The Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) is quite stimulating if you touch it - it will give you a painful sting! This caterpillar is on Red Hickory (Carya ovalis).

Durham, NC 9/3/08

Euclea delphinii - Spiny Oak-Slug

Spiny Oak-Slug (Euclea delphinii) is definitely one of our coolest-looking caterpillars. Do not touch!

Chatham Co., NC 9/20/08

Isa textula - Crowned Slug Moth

The Crowned Slug Moth (Isa textula) caterpillar is another one that screams "do not touch"!

Durham, NC 9/22/2010.

Megalopyge opercularis - Southern Flannel Moth

Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis). Also known as Asp Moth or Puss Moth, this is a bizarre furry-looking caterpillar with stinging hairs. It's covered with "fur" like a pussy cat, but will sting you like an asp if you try to pet it.

Orange Co., NC 9/12/10.

Lagoa crispata - Black-waved Flannel Moth

Black-waved Flannel Moth (Lagoa crispata) - early instar caterpillar. Another touch-me-not.

Craven Co., NC 8/26/07.

All photographs and text ©2013 by Will Cook unless otherwise noted.