Furry Caterpillars: An Identification Guide

Caterpillars start to roam around in the open as the summers begin and are seen eating food plants during the fall. These insects can cause mild to moderate stings despite most being harmless.  The stinging hairs or spines seen on most caterpillars are hollow, filled with poison from the base of their hairs. Interesting right? Want to know more? In a life of a caterpillar, there are 4 stages and their life cycle is called “Complete metamorphosis.”

How to Identify Caterpillars

The caterpillars are very easy to identify. They all have a different color, hairy covering, and random stripes all around their body. They also have spiky bristles, which act as their defense mechanism. Some of the caterpillars have poisonous stings which can cause allergic reaction and skin irritation.

Different types of Furry Caterpillars with identification Chart and Pictures

Furry caterpillars may come across as cute and fluffy, but these furry creatures have stinging spines. These furry creatures have various types that come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Most of them are covered in dense hair giving them a furry appearance and most come across as black and brown woolly tubes.

1. Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar

The Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar, also known as Pyrrharctia isabella, is one of the most common furry caterpillars. It is effortless to identify them because of their dark orange and black pattern on their skin. The body of Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar is made up of 13 segments. Their body is made of bristles that are pointed enough to penetrate your skin.  Do you want to know something interesting? They say these caterpillars can predict the severity of winter with the orange band in the middle of the body. The Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar can roll into a shape of a ball when threatened. They can grow up to a maximum size of 2″ before turning into a moth.


2. Salt Marsh Caterpillar

Salt Marsh Caterpillar

The Salt Marsh Caterpillar, also known as Estigmene acres, is another prevalent type of furry caterpillars. These caterpillars are generally fed on tomatoes, cotton, cabbage plants, etc. They can vary in color, right from pale yellow to dark brown and black. The black  covering on their body look harsh, but are soft bristles.

You can quickly identify these caterpillars because  of their black spots along the side of their body. The Salt Marsh Caterpillar can grow to a maximum size of 2″ in length.  They mostly feed on all the different leaves and quickly grow; and spin into an orange cocoon. As adults, the moth look very beautiful  with their pale orange and white coloured wings.

3. Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar

Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar

Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar, also known as Halysidota harrisii, belong to the Erebidae family of insects. They generally feed on the sycamore trees.

These caterpillars’ are  quite unusual as they have 2 white and yellow coloured hair pencils at the end of their body. Along the side part of the larvae, fine bristle hairs are also available. The bristles are generally very irritating and may also cause hives. You can quickly identify them by their pencil hair at the rear and back of their body. The Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar can grow up to a maximum size of 1.1″.

4. Hickory Tussock Caterpillar

Hickory Tussock Caterpillar

The Hickory Tussock Caterpillar, also known as Lophocampa caryae, is considered a type of hairy caterpillar. They have black and white-colored stripes on their body, which is why they are classified in the Lophocampa genus family.

The Hickory Tussock Caterpillar is covered in the tufts. Just like the Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar, it has similar black hair pencils at each end. The black and white stripes on their body look so harmless, but they are very irritating.

The hooked ends created very trouble and pain when they lodged in the skin.

Their black tufts of bristles generally identify them. The Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar can grow up to a maximum size of 1.7″.

5. American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

The American Dagger Moth Caterpillar, also known as Acronicta Americana, is a harmless caterpillar despite its dangerous name. They have a very long body covered by pale, yellow-colored hairs, making them look very soft.

You can easily recognize the American Dagger Moth Caterpillar by its shiny blackhead. There are two hair pencils available on the rear end. There are a total of 5 black colored hair pencils, two near the head and body and one at the end.

The American Dagger Moth Caterpillar can grow to a maximum size of 2.5″.

5. Io Caterpillar

Io Caterpillar

The Io Caterpillar, also known as Automeris io, is a very unusual looking caterpillar and generally found in Texas, Colorado, and Canada. One of the most unique things about these caterpillars is their body is covered with green, black, red and white tufts all over their body.  These creatures have poisonous spikes that cause an allergic reaction or irritation, so it is suggested to keep one’s distance from them. Its bright green color can quickly identify the Io Caterpillar. They can grow up to a maximum size of 2.3″. Be careful while handling these caterpillars as they are very poisonous, and their venomous spines feel like a bee sting.

6. Milkweed Tiger Caterpillar

Milkweed Tiger Caterpillar

The Milkweed Tiger Caterpillar, also known as Euchaetes egle, is a small species of furry caterpillar found in Texas and southern areas of Canada. One can easily identify these creatures with their black, white and hairy orange tufts. The Milkweed Tiger Caterpillar can grow to a maximum size of 1.3″.

7. European Gypsy Caterpillar

European Gypsy Caterpillar

The European Gypsy Caterpillar, also known as Lymantria dispar, is a rare species of caterpillar generally found in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The European Gypsy Caterpillar has whisker-like setae that are sticking out in all directions. Despite their harmless appearance, they are very destructive types of caterpillars. They can quickly destroy large wood Aries by eating out all their leaves. It is recommended not to come in direct contact with them. Otherwise, it will result in contact allergies.

The European Gypsy Caterpillar can be easily identified by their 12 red and ten blue colored dots on their back. They can grow to a maximum size of 2″.

8. White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar

The White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar, also known as Orgyia leucostigma, is a unique looking caterpillar. Every part of the caterpillar has a different color. The head of the caterpillar is bright red, and the back is yellow. There are

four white-colored tufts available on the back of the head and brown colored tails at the end. Its unique look can quickly identify the White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar. You must be careful while handling spiky caterpillars as they can cause a lot of irritation. They can grow up to a maximum size of 1.3″.

9. Southern Flannel Caterpillar

Southern Flannel Caterpillar

The Southern Flannel Caterpillar, also known as Megalopyge Opercularis, is a tiny looking caterpillar. The larvae of the caterpillar are all covered with orange-colored hairs. There is also some lemon-yellow colored hair at the tail end.

Even the caterpillar looks so harmless, but it can cause painful irritation to your skin. Its orange-colored look can quickly identify the Southern Flannel Caterpillar. They can grow up to a maximum size of 3″.

10. Western Tent Caterpillar

Western Tent Caterpillar

The Western Tent Caterpillar is another black species of furry caterpillar, also known as Malacosoma Californicum, is from the Lasiocampidae family. They have a long black and orange body. Some of the other varieties of Western Tent Caterpillar are of grey and white color.

They live together in a large population and constitute a tent-like structure. The Western Tent Caterpillar can be easily identified by its orange stripes. They can grow up to a maximum size of 2.5″.

11. Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

The Eastern Tent Caterpillar, also known as Malacosoma Americanum, is another type of furry caterpillar and has a distinct white stripe on the back of its body. There is also a blue marking on their body, which is noticeable by looking closely. There are also some fine hairs of silvery-white color present on their body. The Eastern Tent Caterpillar can be easily identified by the white stripes available on their black body. These caterpillars love to build their tents on different trees. They can grow to a maximum size of 2.3″.

12. Forest Tent Caterpillars

Forest Tent Caterpillars

The Forest Tent Caterpillars, also known as Malacosoma Disstria  have white marking on its back with blue and yellow stripes on each side. If you have sensitive skin, then it is recommended that you do not touch them as it causes itchy red patches or skin irritation. One can easily identify these caterpillars with their yellow strips and can grow to a maximum size of 2.3″.

13. Fall Webworms

Fall Webworms

The Fall Webworms, also known as Hyphantria Cunea, is a small yellow hairy caterpillar with long spikes.  One of the most common colours people have often seen in this type of caterpillar is pale yellow with black dots.

They are seen nestled on various kinds of leaves like walnut, cherry, crab-apple, etc. The Fall Webworms can be easily identified by their long tufts of setae coming out of their body. They are tiny caterpillars and can grow to a maximum size of 1″.

14. The Drinker

The Drinker


Also known as Euthrix Patatoria, the Drinker is one of the most common caterpillars known to drown their heads in water.  These moths are beautiful and glow at night. The Drinker can be easily identified by their brown and white fur in the tufts along all the sides. They are generally found in Southeastern England and some parts of Europe. They can grow up to a maximum size of 6 cm. The Drinker generally feeds on various kinds of grasses and reeds.

15. Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillar

The Saddleback Caterpillar is one of the dangerous looking caterpillars, also known as Acharia stimuli. These caterpillars have green saddle-like markings on their back, which gives them a fantastic look.

They have two menacing eye-like structures on their head, and at the end of their body, they have long spiky brown horns, which look dangerous. They come in the poisonous species of caterpillars. Direct contact with their hairs on the human body can also cause nausea. The Saddleback Caterpillar can be easily identified by their lime green patch, available on their bodies. They are more spiky than hairy and can grow up to a maximum size of 1″.

16. Yellow Wooly Bear

Yellow Wooly Bear

The Yellow Wooly Bear, also known as Spilosoma virginica, is a widespread type of caterpillar and is found mostly in North America. They mostly feed on all kinds of plants and weeds. Apart from their name “Yellow Wooly Bear,” they can vary in different colours. The Yellow Wooly Bear can be easily identified by its short bristles, which are very similar to those of banded wooly bears. They can grow up to a maximum size of 5 cm. These insects are very easy to raise to an adult. The Yellow Wooly Bear moth is gorgeous as it has white wings with tiny black spots on them.

17. Buck Moth Caterpillar

Buck Moth Caterpillar

The Buck Moth Caterpillar, also known as Genus hemileuca. These caterpillars are generally found in groups and mostly feed on trunks of the trees. These are very slow-moving caterpillars with a robust appearance. They can be easily identified by their short- medium bristles, which could cause skin irritation. The Buck Moth Caterpillar is generally found in the USA along with some parts of Central America. They can grow to a maximum size of 6 cm.

18. Giant Leopard Moth

Giant Leopard Moth

The Giant Leopard Moth, also known as Hypercompe scribonia are known for their unique ability to roll into a ball and protrude their sharp spines from their body when disturbed. These creatures can be identified by their thick black setae and a pair of red bands between each segment of their body. They can grow up to a maximum size of 5 cm. These caterpillars are very hard to raise as adults.

19. Fall Webworm

Fall Webworm

The Fall Webworm, also known as Hyphantria cunea, is similar to the eastern tent caterpillars. They love to make tents at the tree crotches. Their tents are transparent, which allows you to see inside them. You will see caterpillars eating leaves and forming larvae. These are mostly found in the USA and Southern Canada. The Fall Webworm can be easily identified by their pair of warts located at the back of their body.  They can grow up to a maximum size of 2.5 cm.


Furry caterpillars are some of the most stunning creatures that grow into breathtaking butterflies. These are some of the most fascinating creatures that only seen in millions during the summers. Some of the most common types are the furry caterpillars who have their own kind.  


Other Frequently Asked Questions about Furry Caterpillars

Are Caterpillars Considered as Insects?

The answer is Yes. At the beginning of their larvae stage, they belong to the class of Insecta. Before turning into beautiful butterflies, they are in the pupal stage of metamorphosis.

Do Furry Caterpillars sting?

It mostly depends on the species of the caterpillars. Only some of the caterpillars are stinging. But it is recommended that everyone not touch them with their bare hands; otherwise, it will result in skin irritation, dermatitis, etc.

How to Identify Poisonous Furry Caterpillars?

It is tough to notice which caterpillars are poisonous and which are not. To know about this, you will need to use the identification chart to learn more about poisonous caterpillars. Generally, it is found that those caterpillars which are brightly colored are found to be poisonous.

Why Are Some Caterpillars Hairy?

Most of the caterpillars are hairy because the spiky hairs in their body act as a defense mechanism. All the poison is contained in their hair, which in direct contact will result in irritation or other skin diseases.

Are the moths also poisonous?

The answer is no, moths are not poisonous, but some species can irritate the skin when they come in direct contact.

What Do Furry Caterpillars Eat?

The Furry Caterpillars mostly reside on the tree leaves and feed different plant leaves such as apple, oak, etc.

Is it safe to raise Furry Caterpillars as a pet?

It mostly depends upon the species of the caterpillar. The caterpillar you are choosing to raise as an adult must be non-poisonous. Some of the caterpillars are very easy to raise as an adult.


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