Caterpillars are the larvae stage for butterflies and moths. Most caterpillars eat plant materials like leaves, bark, and flowers. Some do, however, eat insects. Caterpillars eat a lot and can cause serious damage to crops and trees. At the same time, they are a good source of silk. These worm-like insects can be found throughout the country, but in this article, we’ll be looking at some common caterpillars in Michigan.
19 Caterpillars In Michigan
You may be surprised to learn that there are over 120 species of caterpillars in the state of Michigan. Below are some great facts and photos of 19 of them.
1. Monarch Caterpillar
Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
Eventually emerging as the majestic Monarch butterfly, this caterpillar is characterized by its plump body and black, yellow, and white bands. There are also tentacles on each end of its body.
The maximum length is about 2 inches. The Monarch’s host plant is milkweed. This ends up being a defense for this caterpillar as milkweed is toxic to most animals. At the very least, it tastes horrible and, therefore, leaves these larvae alone.
2. Woolly Bear
Scientific name: Pyrrharctia isabella
Covered in dense hair, these caterpillars are black with reddish bands. This caterpillar will grow to be about 3 inches.
Living on porches and sidewalks all over Michigan, they will use just about any plant as a host. When their transformation is complete, they will become the Isabella Tiger moth.
3. Viceroy Caterpillar
Scientific name: Limenitis archippus
This caterpillar is mottled green, brown, and white. It’s often mistaken for bird poop. Which turns out, it is a great defense. Other characteristics are small spines and a horn on the head.
They prefer poplar, willow, and cottonwood trees as their hosts. Mostly found in open forest areas and fields in Michigan.
4. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Scientific name: Phyprosopus callitrichoides
Preferring the Greenbrier as a host, this caterpillar has great camouflage where it looks like a dried, curled leaf. Usually, brown and cream colored, they have many spikes covering their bodies. Growing only to 1/4 inch, they can be found in woodland areas, clearings, and even office parks and backyard gardens.
Scientific name: Manduca
The hornworm is one of the most destructive caterpillars not only in Michigan but in the United States. With its bright blue/green color, this pest will grow to be about 3.5 inches.
There is also a horn in its rear that can pop out to deter predators. Having the ability to eat 4 times its weight, it will go through tomato, tobacco, bell pepper, and eggplant, rendering them incapable of growing.
6. Bent-Line Dart Moth Caterpillar
Scientific name: Choephora fungorum
This caterpillar will become the Bent-Line Dart moth. It grows to 1.9 inches in length and is brown and tan. The markings help camouflage it among the leaves. Hosts include dandelions, clover, and trefoil.
7. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar
Scientific name: Euchartes egle
Characterized by black and white hairs with tufts of orange, the Milkweed gets its name from its host. The toxins from the milkweed plant are so strong that blue jays have been known to vomit right after eating one of the caterpillars!
8. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
Scientific name: Hypercompe scribonia
These caterpillars are usually found curled up in a defensive ball. Red rings and black bristles cover this cabbage-eating pest. They also enjoy sunflowers, willow, and cherry trees.
9. Parsley Caterpillar
Scientific name: Papilio polyxenes
These bright green larvae have black rings and yellow dots. It’s definitely a pest if you’re a grower of parsley, as that is its host plant. But it will be worth a few leaves once you see it turn into the beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly.
10. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar
Scientific name: Papilio glaucus
Without a doubt the most unique-looking caterpillar in Michigan, it inspired a Pokemon character (Caterpie). Bright green with two large eyespots, it sort of resembles a green lobster tail. Their hosts are the tulip tree and the wild black cherry tree.
11. Io Caterpillar
Scientific name: Automeris io
This caterpillar serves as a reminder to look at and not touch unfamiliar wildlife. The Io delivers a powerful and very painful sting!
However, it’s not deadly and upon removing its prickly stingers, some cold water should make the wound feel better. Human attacks aside, the Io likes hackberry and willow trees.
12. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar
Scientific name: Apatelodes torrefacta
The color of this caterpillar will vary from bright white to lemon yellow. It has black spines covered with soft hair. Found in orchards and groves, they love ash, maple, and oak trees.
13. Monkey Slug
Scientific name: Phobetron pithecium
This tan and brown caterpillar looks more like a spider with its 7 pairs of leg-like appendages sticking out of its flat body. It will choose any woody, stemmed tree as a host. The Monkey slug can be found in orchards and groves. Their sting can cause an itchy rash. Eventually, it will turn into the Hagmoth.
14. Spongy Moth Caterpillar
Scientific name: Lymantria dispar dispar
Formerly known as the Gypsy moth caterpillar, these insects have very high populations in Northern Michigan forests. Their small hairs can irritate the skin, causing a rash. They are one of the most destructive caterpillars of hardwood trees in the United States.
15. American Dagger Caterpillar
Scientific name: Acronicta americana
Found on hiking trails all over Michigan, these caterpillars’ yellow and white hairs are connected to sacks of toxins. Contact can cause burning, itching, swelling, and rash. Host trees include oak, elm, willow, and maple.
16. Large Maple Spanworm
Scientific name: Prochoerodes lineola
Gray and brown in color, they look exactly like twigs on a tree with knobby bumps all over. It attaches itself to birch, maple, and willow trees. Blueberry bushes are also a favorite.
17. Variegated fritillary
Scientific name: Euptoieta claudia
With red, white, and black stripes, this caterpillar has little spines that stick out on each segment of its body. These caterpillars live in meadows, open fields, and open lots in Michigan. Usually, they will attach themselves to any form of violet for a host.
18. Cecropia Moth
Scientific name: Hyalophora cecropia
This caterpillar grows to be about 4 inches long and turns into the largest moth native to North America. It uses fine silk to spin its cocoon. Their color is usually a combination of blue, green, and orange markings.
Black hairs cover its body and will be lost during its final growth stage. Hosts include maple, birch, and apple trees.
19. Winter Cutworm
Scientific name: Noctua pronuba
Of all the caterpillars in Michigan, this one is perhaps the most feared by farmers. These caterpillars that will eventually morph into the Yellow Underwing moth, are extremely destructive to crops.
Not picky about what they eat, they’ve caused great agricultural and therefore economic damage throughout Michigan. Like a squirmy army, they will chomp through alfalfa, grass hay, Swiss chard, squash, and beets.