Types of Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the larval form of butterflies and moths and it is quite easy to mistake certain types of caterpillars for worms. Like earthworms, caterpillars have a ravenous appetite, but unlike earthworms, many people consider caterpillars pests due to the damage they cause — especially to farmer’s crops. Many moth species are better known as caterpillars because of the damage they can inflict to fruit trees and other produce. There are over 180,000 types of caterpillars throughout the world.

Caterpillars have tube-like, segmented bodies that are very similar to worms. They have legs to help them move and ten different compartments to their abdomen. Some are hairy, which can cause skin irritation if they come in contact with humans. They breathe through small openings located on their thorax and abdomen which carry oxygen throughout their bodies.


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Although there are literally 1,000s of caterpillars, some are more well-known than others. Here’s a brief list of the more common types of caterpillars.

Geometrid larva: these measuring worms feed on a lot of different plants. They are difficult to see because they are well camouflaged, meaning they are the same color or similarly colored to their background environment.

Morning cloak butterfly larva: these caterpillars are blank with orange spots and orange legs. There food consists eating from the willow, elm and poplar trees.

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Dagger moth larva: with white or light yellow hair speckled with black hairs, these caterpillars are very easy to see. They feed on several trees including the willow, apple, maple and oak.

Swallowtail larva: these brightly colored caterpillars are pale green with a brown head. They also have orange tubercles and orange scent glands behind their heads that can be retracted. They can be difficult to see if they are on leaves of a similar color. These caterpillars like to eat trees and plants including different species of fruit trees and willows.

Fall webworm larvae: these caterpillars are common garden pests as they eat virtually all varieties of ornamental and shade trees. One exception is conifers. Fall webworms are light colored with long hairs. They nest at the end of branches and can cause a great deal of damage.

Western tent caterpillar larva: these colorful (blue, black and orange) are easy to spot. They leave eggs in large quantities on twigs and make tents on the trees they feed on. Most of their food comes from woody plants and trees.

Douglas fir tussock moth larva: these caterpillars are very hairy with orange spots and frequently difficult to spot as they tend to blend into their backgrounds. They eat a variety of conifers including Douglas firs and can breed quickly creating the danger of having a large outbreak that can cause damage to many trees in a short period of time.

Author: The Top Worm

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