Types of Green Caterpillars with Identification Guide and Pictures

They say that ordinary green caterpillars build cocoons and grow into beautiful butterflies. Different types of green caterpillars grow into different types of butterflies.

You need to know what the different types of green caterpillars are and how to identify them if you want to identify and categorize the types of butterflies that they will hatch into. This article will give you much more insight into this, so read on to learn more!

Different Types of Green Caterpillars

Different Types of Green Caterpillars

Green caterpillars are like monarch butterflies. Both are beautiful, and both are friendly insects. Green caterpillars eat various types of green leaves – they need the nutrients and energy to grow their cocoons and hatch into butterflies.

As you would have guessed, just as there are many different butterfly species, there are many different green caterpillars species. Note that some green caterpillars grow into different species of moths. These are also discussed in more detail below.

Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar

Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar

Scientists classify this type of green caterpillar in the Manduca quinquemaculata species. You will encounter this species most often if you take regular walks in nature or have a garden or nursery. If you have seen the Manduca quinquemaculata while taking your morning or afternoon walk, you probably marveled at its unique beauty.

However, you probably thought that this species of green caterpillar was a real scourge if you found it in large numbers in your garden or nursery. The Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar lives off a diet of tomato plant leaves, vines, and fruit – hence its name.

You could identify this species of green caterpillar even if you saw it from a mile away. The white V-shaped markings that grace its body would be a dead giveaway. The Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar has the tell-tale horn (or spike) shaped ‘protruding tail!’ This green caterpillar species does nothing but slither and eat your tomato plants – it does not bite or sting as some other insects do.

These caterpillars eat ‘like there is no tomorrow!’ However, do not think you can get rid of them with a single spray of harmless pesticides. It would help if you found these critters first, and that is easier said than done. Indeed, the Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar is complicated for the untrained eye to spot.

You are most likely to encounter this green caterpillar species if you live in the Northern part of America or the Southern part of Canada.

Winter Moth Caterpillar A.K.A. inchworm

Winter Moth Caterpillar A.K.A. inchworm

The scientific name for the Winter Moth Caterpillar is the Operophtera Brumata. It gets its name from the family and the genus it belongs to, the Operopthera and the Brumata. You will see a smaller green caterpillar if you find this inchworm in your garden. It will most likely only be one inch long. The longest inchworms only grow to be an inch in length.

This species of inchworm is the odd man out in terms of utility. It is an invasive species. A tell-tale feature of this species of green caterpillar includes two pairs of green legs towards its posterior. Another unique feature is its horizontal white stripes. 

Typical food for the inchworm includes oak, maple, willow, and beech tree leaves. This species of green caterpillar will eat the leaves of any tree that grows. It also feeds on raspberry and blueberry shrubs.

Genista Broom Moth Caterpillar

Genista Broom Moth Caterpillar

This green caterpillar belongs to the Uresiphita Reversalis species. You can tell it apart from other green caterpillars by its raised black and white dots. The Genista broom moth caterpillar has a unique brownish-green color. It also has a (unique) blackhead. Finally, its body is separated into different sections. Each of which is characterized by white, black, and yellow spots.

This species of green caterpillar has another distinct feature – protruding white wispy spines. Its food source consists of sweet peas, honeysuckle (and their plants), and other types of plants that grow fruit, vegetables, and leaves.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

The scientific name for this species of the green caterpillaris Papilio Polyxenes. Many unique and distinct features characterize it:

  • A lime-green colored body
  • Obvious black spots
  • Yellow dots on the black stripes
  • Yellow horns that protrude from the head when squeezed
  • Terrible fragrance – this is a defense mechanism.
  • A fatter and wider body
  • A protruding ‘orange’ tongue when attacked or provoked – it is shaped like a fork.

These stripes and dots are spaced closer together towards the beginning of the green caterpillar’s body.

One interesting fact about this species of the green caterpillar:  the larvae look like blackbird droppings.

Emperor Moth Caterpillar

Emperor Moth Caterpillar

The scientific name for this green caterpillar is Saturnia Pavonia. It is a large species of caterpillar. It belongs to the Saturniidae insect family. Some distinctive features of the Emperor moth caterpillar are:

  • Black and orange color as larvae (the immature stage)
  • Green color as it matures.
  • Horizontal rows of bushy orange and yellow spots
  • Distinct black rings that surround these round spots
  • Stiff and sharp spines – note that these can cause cuts, scratches, rashes, and other skin irritations even if they are not poisonous.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Its scientific name is Papilio Glaucus. This green caterpillar is part of the Pappiliondae family. Its unique markings put it in a class of its own, even among green caterpillars with ‘distinct’ features. It grows a green-colored body as larvae. However, that changes into a dark brown color just before it spins its cocoon.

These features will give you the ability to spot the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar even from a distance:

  • Markings are resembling eyes on its head.
  • Eye centers with green or yellow dots
  • Eye centers with black cores
  • White- or yellow-colored bands behind the head
  • Foul odor when provoked or threatened.
  • Protruding’ tongue’ when provoked or threatened.

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar

These green caterpillars have a bright yellow color at birth. It transforms into a caterpillar with a bright green color when it is spinning its cocoon. This species of green caterpillar can grow up to four inches in length.

They are born when spring begins and spin their cocoons as summer draws to a close. They emerge as moths whose wings can grow up to 5 and a half inches long. You will see this species of green caterpillar a lot if you live in North America.

Luna Moth Caterpillar

Luna Moth Caterpillar

You can identify this species of green caterpillar by many unique and distinct features.

  • Vibrant lime-green body
  • Red dots that appear throughout the body

This species belongs to the Saturniid family. The caterpillars molt five times before finally spinning their cocoons. They can grow up to two and three-fourths inches long as caterpillars. These moths can have wings that are up to 4 and a half inches long.

The larvae and green caterpillars feed on maple, birch, beech, oak, lemon, lime, and other citrus trees.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

This green caterpillar belongs to the Hyles lineata species. It is a hornworm with a lime-green body. There is another feature that distinguishes this species of hornworm green caterpillar from other green caterpillars – horizontal and even black and yellow markings. There are other exciting features of this species of the caterpillar: 

  • Some caterpillars in this species can be green but with orange and yellow spots.
  • It has a horn on the end of its tail – this is one of its main identifying features.
  • The horn is harmless – it cannot even poke you.
  • Each black marking will be round and surrounded by yellow rings.
  • Its back legs are covered with white-speckled black and yellow dots. 

Copper Underwing Moth Caterpillar

Copper Underwing Moth Caterpillar

The scientific name for this species is Amphipyra pyramidoides. It hatches into a moth that has copper underwings. However, it is green in color when it is in the larvae stage. You may think that this species of green caterpillar belongs to the hornworm family at first glance. However, this is deceiving. The hornworm and copper underwing moth caterpillar may look similar, but you will see some unique and distinguishing features: 

  • The copper underwing moth caterpillar has a hornless hump on its end.
  • The copper underwing moth caterpillar is born with a translucent, neon green color.
  • The copper underwing moth caterpillar’s color will darken as it matures and eats greener leaves and plants.
  • You will see a thin yellow line on its side as this green caterpillar species feeds and grows.
  • This species of green caterpillar often sits upright even when resting.
  • The copper underwing moth caterpillar can grow up to 3 and a half inches long.

The copper underwing moth caterpillar lives off a diet of leaves from raspberry, oak, maple, and apple trees.

Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar

Hickory Horned Devil Moth Caterpillar

If you were to take regular nature walks, or if you work in your garden regularly, you would see the cabbage white butterfly caterpillar often—the reason why is because it is one of the more commonly found green caterpillars in natural environments.

Some of the defining features of this green caterpillar which belongs to the Pieris rapae species, are:

  • The tendency to eat leaves all the time – these green caterpillars grow quickly. Therefore, they are always hungry.
  • They tend to be invasive – they can multiply quickly and take over your garden or a meadow/forest in a week!
  • They have long, thin bodies
  • Their bodies are green but have yellow markings interspersed throughout.
  • Their bodies look a little fuzzy.
  • You may come across some green caterpillars in this species that have bluish-green bodies with black raised polka-dots.

The larvae are born with black heads. These turn yellow and then green as the larvae mature.

Hickory Horned Devil Moth Caterpillar

Hickory Horned Devil Moth Caterpillar

Wow, the looks and appearance of this species of green caterpillar certainly live up to its name! Officially known as the Citheronia regalis, this species can look very intimidating. The following features characterize and distinguish it from other green caterpillars:

  • Large, long size
  • Blue-green color
  • Black spikes are protruding horizontally across the body.
  • Black-tipped long, spiky red horns
  • Red tipped front and rear
  • Harmless nature – it is non-stinging or biting.
  • This species of green caterpillar can grow up to six inches in length.

Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

This species of the green caterpillar is spotted most often in the American south. The states where it is found in abundance include Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and Mississippi. Scientists call this species the Manduca Rustica.

Some features define the Rustic Sphinx Moth caterpillar:

  • It has a horn on top of its head.
  • A long lime-green body
  • Unique horizontal diagonal white and maroon stripes
  • Non-stinging spiny horn at the end
  • Redheads
  • Diagonal white stripes that serve as section dividers
  • Some of these caterpillars’ horny tails can have yellow or red freckles.
  • They look like the great Sphinx in Egypt when they stand up.

European Puss Moth Caterpillar

European Puss Moth Caterpillar

This green wonder belongs to the Cerura Vinula family. You could spot it a mile away – its triangle-shaped head and long, spiked tail would be a dead giveaway. It has an interesting defense mechanism which consists of long red lashes. These are intimidating to other insects. But other exciting features are unique to this species.

  • Its face resembles that of the classic insect alien species.
  • It has long gnashing teeth that can do lots of damage.
  • It can project spit that contains toxic, poisonous acid a long distance.
  • It wags its tail sideways when it is angered or agitated.
  • It isn’t very nice.
  • It can grow up to 3 inches long.

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

You will be blown away by its gigantic size. Its transformation from larvae to green caterpillar stage truly makes it one of a kind. It morphs from a yellow-green color to a blue-green-hued caterpillar as it matures. Other features distinguish this green caterpillar.

  • Rigid and spiked sections of the body
  • Yellow, blue, or orange tubercules
  • small black spikes protruding from the tubercles.
  • It can grow up to 4.5 inches long.

Angle Shades Moth Caterpillar

Angle Shades Moth Caterpillar

This green caterpillar is of the Phlogophora meticulosa species. It belongs to the Noctuidae family. You can tell it apart from other green caterpillars with these distinct features:

  • Small larvae
  • Dull green color
  • White dorsal lines all over the body 

It is interesting to note that some of these caterpillars can have green or brown bodies polka-dotted with red spots.

Cabbage Looper Caterpillars

Cabbage Looper Caterpillars

This green caterpillar belongs to the Trichoplusia ni species. What separates them from other green caterpillars are:

  • An arched crawl
  • Hairy exteriors
  • The tendency to grow green as the larvae mature.
  • They have voracious appetites – they can eat up to 3 times their body weight in a day.
  • They grow up to 1.5 inches long.

Green Caterpillars Are Bad for Your Garden

You may think that all species of caterpillars will damage your garden or nursery, and this is especially true of green caterpillars. These types of caterpillars have a penchant for chowing down on the leaves and flowers of cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli plants.

While they are annoying for you, they can be a bane for farmers and other agricultural firms because they can destroy millions of dollars of good produce in a few weeks!

How to Drive These Green Caterpillars Away from Your Garden?

You will see them most often during the spring, summer, and autumn months. However, do not assume that they are dormant during the wintertime because this is not true. Since green caterpillars are a year-round bane, you should know how to rid your lawn, nursery, and garden of them.

You know that you have green caterpillars in your garden if you spot lots of the following.

  • Lots of green leaves that have holes in them.
  • Caterpillar poop on the bottoms of the leaves. In case you were wondering, these have a blue-green color.

Of course, you could always use a store-bought brand of pesticide, but this has many negative consequences. One of the main ones being that you will continuously be spraying your plants and growing vegetables with potent poisons.

These can make you very sick or even kill you. This is true even if you only eat the residue on the vegetables – it is impossible to wash all the pesticides off the vegetables no matter how intensively or how many times you wash them.

Use Your Hands

This may sound strange, but it is entirely possible to remove green caterpillars from your garden, nursery, or lawn with your hands. Once you have plucked them off the leaves, you can either kill them or isolate them in your compost heap.

Believe it or not, this is one of the most effective ways to get rid of green caterpillars. What is even better is that it is entirely safe because it is entirely natural.

Introduce A Species of Insect That Will Eat the Green Caterpillars

Believe it or not, many species of insects will happily munch away at green caterpillars while leaving your plants completely intact. If you are lucky, you can import them from local sources. 

If this is not an option, hop online and look for websites that sell these insects. Yes, these websites exist, and they will even drop the insects off your doorstep – thanks to contactless delivery that’s COVID-inspired.

Spray Your Plants with Harmless Chemicals

While it may seem strange that harmless chemicals exist, it was a bit of an exaggeration. The chemicals will not harm your plants, but they are toxic for green caterpillars. You can buy them from specialized websites. Look for products that have Bacillus thuringiensis in them. This is a bacterium that is deadly for green caterpillars.

Keep in mind that you will have to use it for a few days to be effective. The reason why is because it is natural and does not contain any vital ingredients.

The Meaning and Historical Significance of Green Caterpillars

Green caterpillars are beautiful. Maybe that is why they have had a special place in history and literature throughout the ages. This section is for you if you are interested in understanding the meaning and significance of green caterpillars.

The Symbolic Meaning of Green Caterpillars

Do not be angry if you see a green caterpillar in your garden. It can mean that good luck and fortune is around the corner. Caterpillars, and especially green ones, symbolize good potential and transformation in life. The reason is that caterpillars enter a new stage of life when they spin their cocoons and transform into butterflies or moths.

Green caterpillars also symbolize new and emerging horizons in your life. It can also mean that you are about to experience a sudden burst of creative inspiration and thoughts. If you see a green caterpillar, you should know that good change is about to occur in your life.

Since green caterpillars also symbolize a person’s ability to forget about past traumatic events and move on, they reflect a person’s personality. Chances are you have a strong personality with the ability to forgive people and ‘bounce back from any situation, no matter how traumatic!

People have valued green caterpillars and the moths and butterflies that they hatch into throughout history. Maybe, therefore, caterpillars, and especially green caterpillars, are mentioned throughout history.

Green Caterpillars Are A Part of Life

Ants and aphids are a natural part of life. The same is true for green caterpillars. As you saw by reading this article, there are many different species and types of these caterpillars. They have a haunting beauty.

Maybe that is why they have a special place in literature. They have also had a place in history. So, the next time you see a green caterpillar, you know that you should admire, respect, and enjoy these green beauties. However, be sure to do so in nature and not in your garden or nursery.

Leave a Comment