What Are Some Methods Used for Identifying Caterpillars?

To identify caterpillars, compare and note their body color, main body pattern, any distinct features and hair density. These characteristics can be used in conjunction with websites such as DiscoverLife.org and BugLife.net. At DiscoverLife.org, users can check each characteristic that applies and link to a list of possible species.

Caterpillars can be found in a wide array of colors such as black, brown, grayish blue, green and red-orange. Body patterns can consist of banded, camouflage, spotted or striped. When checking hair density for identification, note if it’s dense, sparse, or in tufts. Caterpillars also have a number of distinct features such as horns, knobs, lashes, spines and split tails. DiscoverLife.org provides a list of images and species names that match a user’s description. Each listing has a photo gallery of various stages and possible varieties with a map of where each is located.

Sites such as BugLife.net consists of an online community of naturalists who share their observations about insects. The site accepts user photos of caterpillars that can’t be identified. Site visitors post the photo in an online section called ID Request. It is also helpful to note the caterpillar’s length, the plant that it is feeding on and the location in which it was found. Site naturalist volunteers can help to identify the species and, if unsuccessful, can provide a referral to a local extension office.