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15 Caterpillars in Georgia (With Pictures)

Georgia is a beautiful state in the Southern United States. Within its borders, one can find a diverse landscape with mountains, valleys, coastal plains, shores, marshlands, and swamps. These areas are lush with trees, crops, and other vegetation. These all make for great homes and food for the state’s over 160 caterpillar species. Caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. Almost all species eat plant material.

15 Caterpillars in Georgia

From fuzzy and harmless to fuzzy and venomous, caterpillars in Georgia are well represented. Read on for descriptions and photos of 15 of them.

1. Hickory Horned Devil

hickory horn devil
Hickory Horn Devil | image by Virginia State Parks via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Citheronia regalis

Growing to the size of a hot dog (about 5 inches), this caterpillar is the largest in Georgia. With its greenish blue body, black spikes, and colored horns, the Horn Devil looks like a small dragon. Despite their scary appearance, they are harmless to humans.

During the summer, the caterpillars will munch on walnut, pecan, ash, hickory, and filbert trees. Unlike other caterpillars, the Horn Devil will burrow at summer’s end and emerge next year as the Royal Walnut Moth.

2. Saddleback Moth Caterpillar

Saddleback caterpillar on leaf
Saddleback caterpillar on leaf

Scientific name: Acharia stimulea

This caterpillar is characterized by having brown on both sides of its green body. There’s a white-ringed brown spot in the middle that looks like a horse’s saddle. Horns protrude from both ends of its one-inch body.

The saddleback is venomous, which can cause a painful rash and swelling. More severe reactions have been gastrointestinal issues and even anaphylactic shock. Host trees include oak, maple, pecan, chestnut, and elm.

3. Puss Moth Caterpillar

Puss caterpillar
Puss caterpillar

Scientific name: Megalopyge opercularis

Also known as the Flannel moth caterpillar, this 1-inch-long species is known for its long, thick hair. A tannish-orange color, it resembles a wig. Their host plants include oak, elm, rose, and ivy.

Their fur contains venomous spines that are extremely painful for humans. People have described the feeling as similar to bone breaking! The sting can cause burning, swelling, rash, nausea, and headache.

4. Spiny Oak Moth Caterpillar

spiny oak slug caterpillar
Spiny Oak-Slug Caterpillar | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Euclea delphinii

This caterpillar will grow to be less than an inch. It’s characterized by a flat body with spiny horns up and down the sides and its body.

The Spiny Oak is venomous and its sting can cause mild itching to intense burning. Their preferred hosts are ash, apple, oak, ash, and birch trees.

5. American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

american dagger caterpillar
American Dagger Caterpillar | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Acronicta americana

With their long, yellow hair that looks like a wig, they look cute enough. However, contact with them will cause an immediate reaction. Those hairs will break off into the skin causing itching, burning, and hives.

At 1.9 inches, they are found in playgrounds and parks. This species will feed off of maple and boxelder leaves.

6. Luna Moth Caterpillar

Luna moth caterpillar
Luna caterpillar | image by Benny Mazur via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Actias luna

Also known as the American Moon Moth, and a giant silk moth, they can grow up to 3.5 inches long. Usually bright green, this caterpillar will eventually form yellow and magenta spots later in its growth.

A favorite of bats, the Luna moth will regurgitate its stomach contents when it feels threatened. The favorite host trees are white birch, persimmon, hickory, and walnut.

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The luna moth is the only moth to have appeared on a United States postage stamp. 

7. Queen Butterfly Caterpillar

queen butterfly caterpillar
Queen Butterfly Caterpillar on a branch | image by Renee Grayson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Danaus gilippus

Found only in Southern Georgia, the Queen caterpillar grows to be 1 to 1.5 inches. They have 3 pairs of needle-like spikes sticking out from the top of their yellow, white, and black bodies. It’s common knowledge that butterflies are insects but is a caterpillar an insect, an arthropod, or both?

Non-venomous and safe to touch, they do taste terrible to predators due to their consumption of milkweed.

8. Thistle Caterpillar

painted lady caterpillar on a branch
Painted Lady Caterpillar on a branch | image by gailhampshire via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Vanessa cardui

Also known as the Painted Lady caterpillar, it grows to be 1.75 inches long. Many branching spines cover a metallic green, blue, and brown body.

These caterpillars are safe to touch and non-venomous. Usually found in webbed leaves or on soybean, sunflower, or plain garden plants.

9. Orange Dog Caterpillar

orange dog caterpillar
Orange Dog Caterpillar aka Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar | image by Letícia Smania Donanzan via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Papilio cresphontes

This caterpillar will transform into the largest butterfly in North America, the Giant Swallowtail. A beautiful butterfly! However, in its caterpillar phase, it’s considered a giant pest to citrus farmers. This is where it gets its name Orange Dog.

Usually growing to 2 inches, it has unusual patterns and colorings that give it good camouflage from predators. It resembles bird droppings and apparently smells like them too. This caterpillar is non-venomous and not harmful to humans.

10. Red Admiral Caterpillar

Red admiral caterpillar
red admiral caterpillar | image by Dean Morley via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta

Usually found in moist woods, forests, yards, and parks. This caterpillar will be about 1 inch and is black with white spots and spines. They are non-venomous and love nettle trees.

11. Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar

pipevine swallowtail caterpillar
Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar | image by Katja Schulz via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Battus philenor

This Swallowtail species is found anywhere its preferred host, the pipevine, is found. This includes woodlands, meadows, and even backyard gardens. Reaching 2.7 inches, they vary in color from reddish brown to brown with purple edges.

This caterpillar contains an acid that acts as a defense against predators, though they are harmless to humans.

12. Cabbage Worm Caterpillar

cabbage worm caterpillar
Cabbage Worm Caterpillar | image by Dean Morley via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Pieris rapae

This caterpillar is small, thin, and velvety. Usually, green with yellow dots on the side, they’re about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. Considered pests, they were introduced to Georgia through shipments of cabbage.

A cabbage worm will eat every part of the cabbage, kale, broccoli, and chard plants except the stem. It will emerge as the Cabbage white butterfly, one of the most abundant in Georgia.

13. Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar

common buckeye butterfly caterpillar
Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar | image by Melissa McMasters via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Junonia coenia

This caterpillar prefers open areas with low vegetation. Usually growing to be 1.5 inches, they are black with light-colored markings of white, gray, and beige. Its sides have white markings and orange spots.

Harmless spines adorn their heads and they are not venomous. The Buckeye loves plain rain, but will also munch on violet, cudweed, toadflax, and false foxglove.

14. Zebra Longwing Butterfly Caterpillar

zebra longwing butterfly caterpillar
Zebra Longwing Butterfly Caterpillar | image by Kelly Verdeck via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Heliconius charithonia

This caterpillar is about 2 inches long and is white with black spots and spikes along its body. Making their homes in moist forests and meadows, their host plant is any type of passionflower. Harmless to humans, but toxic to predators.

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15. White Peacock Butterfly Caterpillar

white peacock butterfly caterpillar
White peacock butterfly caterpillar | Image by Claire Margaret from Pixabay

Scientific name: Anartia jatrophae

The White Peacock likes damp areas where its host plant grows. Occasionally, they can be found in red or cranberry, but are usually black and have spikes along their bodies.

Though it looks a bit scary, it’s harmless to humans. Their host plants are water hyssop, lemon bacopa, frog fruit, and petunia.

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