A Yellow and Gray Caterpillar

A reader recently sent us a very direct and simple question. The reader merely sent a picture of what appears to be a caterpillar – it was referred to as a worm, though – and asked what the “worm” was and what it ate. The caterpillar (or what we believe to be a caterpillar) is almost entirely yellow, although it has some gray stripes on it. They aren’t perfectly horizontal stripes, however, as they make more a “v” shape. There are also dozens (if not hundreds) of small black dots on the creature’s back. What is this yellow caterpillar with gray stripes and black dots on its back, if indeed it is a caterpillar at all?

First, let’s take a look at the picture our reader sent:

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Yellow Caterpillar

It’s a very beautiful creature, which is why it is frustrating that we simply don’t have any good idea what it might be. It might help if we knew more about it – the part of the world in which it was discovered, its size, and so on – but the searches we performed based on its phenotype didn’t turn up anything that looked like the creature pictured above. Periodically, we get a question that we simply have no idea how to answer. Alas, this is one of those questions.

Although this is frustrating, we should note that it is not particularly surprising, considering that there are tens of thousands of different caterpillar species in the world. Caterpillars are almost unimaginably diverse, coming in all shapes, sizes, and colors, maturing into moths and butterflies of equal multifariousness. For this reason, caterpillars are often difficult to identify. They are certainly a lot harder to figure out than, say, the many questions we receive about common worms and larva around the house.

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The reader did ask about what the caterpillar might eat, and while we can’t answer this question with any specificity, we can say a few general remarks about what caterpillars eat, which is, in a word, plants. More precisely, caterpillars rely on a host plant. Different species of butterfly have different host plants on which they lay their eggs. These eggs of course mature into caterpillars, which then feed on the host plant. While every caterpillar/butterfly is linked to a specific host plant, some are more selective than others. Indeed, there are certain types of caterpillars that can only eat one type of plant, and if they are removed from this plant, they will starve to death. Others, however, will eat from a few different types of plants that are sufficiently similar.

We don’t know what kind of yellow caterpillar our reader found, but we can open up our reader’s question to our global audience. So, readers, please post comments below if you have any idea what this caterpillar may be.

4 Comments

  1. Ray

    Hi guys! I found one in my yard as well so I decided to do some research. This is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth (in its caterpillar phase). It appears to be harmless. Google away for more info :)

  2. Penny

    We also found this catepillar on our paving in Kempton Park Gauteng and are very curious as to what this was as we gave never seen something like this and also the size. We thought someone has thrown a toy over the wall.

  3. Quintin

    Just found the same one as above in our garden in South Africa Gauteng.

  4. Laura

    A friend just sent me a picture very similar to this one and asked me if I knew what it was. My pictures are more a side view and bottom, so I’m not totally sure the markings are the same, but it is the most similar of any pictures I have found. As for location, my friend is in rural Nigeria. It’s a rainforest region, so very green and dense foliage. Does that help you identify it any more?

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