“I found this worm in my bed this morning” says this reader about the black and white-striped creature we see in the photograph below. The “worm” is approximately 1.5-inches in length and has no visible legs.
Our reader, who is based in the suburbs of Chicago, is a self-proclaimed avid gardener and states that it is possible this critter came inside her home with her. We think this is likely too, given that this looks like a redbud leaffolder caterpillar. The redbud leaffolder caterpillar is the larval form of the redbud leaffolder moth, and it solely feeds on redbud trees and shrubs, meaning that there should be nothing inside our reader’s home that would have attracted this caterpillar (unless our reader has a tree in the middle of her living room). The caterpillar, as seen above, looks quite similar to its adult form, whose wings are black with bright spots of white. What gives the redbud leaffolder its name, besides its diet, is its tendency to fold over the sides of the leaves it feeds on to protect itself from predators and the weather. After it is done with its given leaf, the caterpillar will wriggle violently in the leaf until the caterpillar slides out and falls to the soil. In fact, it will also display similar behavior if disturbed by a human, just so our reader knows that this behavior is normal.
Furthermore, as the redbud leaffolder caterpillar prefers redbud plants, and redbud plants alone, our reader has nothing to fear in terms of this creature affecting her health; they are not parasitic and do not possess venom of any kind. That being said, there is actually a drought of information on this creature, and so we still advise caution if and when handling this caterpillar. This pretty much goes for handling any unfamiliar caterpillar, especially the ones with bristles (which this one seems to lack), as there is always a risk of experiencing an allergic reaction upon skin-to-skin contact. Of course, as our reader is a gardener, she may indeed have redbuds in her garden. If this is the case, we recommend that she check for signs of infestation on her plants. To do this, she merely has to look at the leaves and see if there are any leaves with folded-over parts. That being said, infestations do not usually get out of hand, as there are species of birds that prey on these caterpillars, and it is during the winter that the caterpillars pupate, so they should not be active now at all (the one our reader found being an exception).
To conclude, the black and white-striped worm our reader found on her bed is a redbud leaffolder caterpillar. Given the nature of this caterpillar’s exclusive diet, it is most likely that it was accidentally brought into the home by our reader, or that it was running out of time to find shelter to pupate and so it wandered into the home to do so. Either way, this critter is completely harmless, and our reader does not need to worry.