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11 Types of Striped Caterpillars (With PIctures)

You may have noticed that some caterpillars have stripes with different colors and patterns. While the presence of stripes may cause concern for some, it doesn’t imply that the caterpillar is poisonous or toxic to humans. Some of these caterpillars grow into butterflies, while others become moths. In this article, we’ll learn about some types of striped caterpillars that you can find in North America.

11 Striped caterpillars

1. American painted lady caterpillar

American painted lady caterpillar
An American painted lady caterpillar | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Vanessa virginiensis

American painted lady caterpillars are a common species found in North America, specifically from Canada to the United States. Different colors are present in these species. Some are yellow with thin black stripes and black bands in each body segment.

Some caterpillars, however, have more colors. Aside from the black and yellow stripes, each segment has orange or yellow bases and large spines.

Cudweed, everlasting, and other aster-family plants have all been observed to be consumed by these creatures. They can also reach lengths of up to 1.4 inches.

2. Striped garden caterpillar

Striped garden caterpillar on a leaf
Striped garden caterpillar on a leaf | image by Beatriz Moisset via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Trichordestra legitima

The striped garden caterpillar is a larva of a brown moth with a wingspan of approximately 3.9 inches. This species has a brown body with yellow dorsal stripes and a light brown head. As larvae, they’re typically 3.5 cm long.

The larvae can be found in gardens and other open areas, where they feed on plants such as asparagus, aster, goldenrod, bean, grasses, clover, milkweed, mustard, and pea. Caterpillars are typically found in late summer through fall, while adult moths emerge from June to September.

3. Black swallowtail caterpillar

Black swallowtail caterpillar
Black swallowtail caterpillar | image by Dean Morley via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Papilio polyxenes

The black swallowtail caterpillar is a common larva found from South America to Canada. They’re easily identified by their green body with black bands and yellow spots. This species can be found in deciduous forests, fields, meadows, and even parks and backyards.

The adults lay their eggs on the flowers and new foliage of the host plants, which include parsley, celery, and other carrot and citrus family plants. Once hatched, the caterpillar feeds on these plants.

4. Zebra caterpillar

Zebra caterpillar
Zebra caterpillar on fence | image by nottawasaga via iNaturalist

Scientific Name: Melanchra picta

The zebra caterpillar is a particular species of moth larva that has yellow stripes and zigzag black and white markings on its body that resemble zebra stripes. These caterpillars can be found throughout North America, including British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

You can find these animals eating vegetables, flowers, and some field crops. On the other hand, those who live on Oregon’s coast feed on searocket, and during high tide, they climb up into the trees to avoid getting wet.

5. Frangipani sphinx caterpillar

Frangipani sphinx caterpillar on twig
Frangipani sphinx caterpillar on twig | image by Bruna Buzzo via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
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Scientific Name: Pseudosphinx tetrio

This species is a caterpillar of a sphinx moth from the Sphingidae family. Frangipani sphinx moth is a large moth with a wingspan comparable to that of a hummingbird. Its caterpillar is eye-catching, with a black body, yellow bands, and bright red legs and head.

These species are known to feed on frangipani or allamanda from the Apocynaceae family. They also eat the white toxic latex from the plants’ leaves to give predators an unpleasant taste. You can also find these creatures in groups, but adults are typically solitary creatures.

6. Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar on stem
A monarch caterpillar on stem

Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus

Monarch caterpillar is one of the most eye-catching striped caterpillars you can see in your backyard. They have black, yellow, and white stripes down their backs. This caterpillar can be found in Mexico, California, and Canada.

These species feed on milkweed plants where the adult butterflies lay their eggs. The adults, on the other hand, feed on flower nectars from the surrounding flowers. The monarch caterpillar does not form its cocoon until it reaches a certain size, which is usually around 2 inches.

7. Orange-barred sulfur caterpillar

Orange barred sulfur caterpillar
Orange barred sulfur caterpillar | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Phoebis philea

The orange-barred sulfur caterpillar is a common sight in North America. The caterpillars of these butterflies can be found all over the continent, from Mexico to Florida. This species is most commonly found in lowland areas such as gardens, parks, forest edges, and roadsides.

The body of the species is typically green with black and yellow stripes. There are also very short, black spines all over its body. They grow into adult butterflies with bright yellow wings, and usually feed on Cassia species in the pea family.

8. Old world swallowtail caterpillar

Old world swallowtail caterpillar on stem
Old world swallowtail caterpillar on stem | image by Darius Baužys via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Papilio machaon

The old world swallowtail is a brightly colored caterpillar found in Europe, North America, and Asia. In North America, you’ll see them in Alaska, Canada, and the United States. This creature is typically 1.8 inches long and has a green body with black stripes and small orange spots.

They live in open areas, forest edges, and gardens, where they feed on Arctic wormwood, wild tarragon, and other parsley family plants. Young caterpillars camouflage themselves as bird droppings to avoid being eaten by predators in the wild.

9. Cinnabar caterpillar

Cinnabar moth caterpillar
Cinnabar moth caterpillar on plants | image by Lennart Tange via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Tyria jacobaeae

The caterpillar of a cinnabar moth is a creature known for its vivid orange and black stripes. They can be found in meadows, parks, mature sand dunes, and other open grassy habitats.

This species is native to Europe but you can also find them in North America, where it’s used to control the population of ragwort, which the caterpillars consume. Female cinnabar moths would lay their eggs on the underside of the ragwort leaves as well. They can lay up to 300 eggs in batches of 30 and 60.

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10. Queen caterpillar

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

Scientific Name: Danaus gilippus

The queen caterpillar is a lovely species found in the temperate and tropical regions of the United States. It’s most common in Arizona, Texas, the Gulf Coast, California, and New Mexico. Its body is black with stripes that are yellow and white.

There are also tentacles on the head, thorax, and abdomen. The caterpillar’s diet consists of a wide variety of plants, the majority of which are milkweeds and dogbanes.

11. Common buckeye caterpillar

Common buckeye butterfly caterpillar
Common buckeye butterfly caterpillar | image by Melissa McMasters via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Junonia coenia

You’ve probably seen the common buckeye caterpillar if you’ve ever seen a spiky caterpillar with a bluish-black body and white or orange stripes. This caterpillar is native to the southern United States and Mexico.

It’s most commonly found in old fields, yards, roadsides, gardens, parks, agricultural lands, and pine savannas. You will see this species feeding on the leaves of herbaceous plants like plantain, twinflower, toadflax, and American bluehearts.