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Size: The average size of a caterpillar falls in the range of 1-5 cm (0.4-2 inches)
Color: The most common colours for caterpillars are typically green and brown
Description: Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths, characterized by a soft, segmented body with a hard head, multiple legs, and often bright or camouflaged colours. They are typically soft-bodied, cylindrical in shape, and often brightly coloured or camouflaged to blend in with leaves and other plant material.

Caterpillars are the larval stage of the order Lepidoptera, which includes both butterflies and moths. They play a significant role in the ecosystem, mostly as primary consumers (herbivores), but some are also secondary consumers (carnivores or omnivores). Caterpillars have long, soft bodies that can be smooth or hairy, and their coloration varies from species to species. They often have colour patterns that serve to camouflage them or warn predators of their toxicity. The body is divided into segments, each with a pair of small, peg-like feet known as prolegs, in addition to the three pairs of true legs near the head.

After reaching a certain size, caterpillars enter the pupal stage, spinning a chrysalis (in butterflies) or cocoon (in some moths) around themselves. Within this protective case, they undergo a transformation called metamorphosis, emerging as adult butterflies or moths.

Caterpillars have various means of defence against predators. Some species have urticating hairs or bristles that can inject venom into predators, or bright coloration that signifies toxicity (aposematism). Others may mimic dangerous species or blend into their surroundings (cryptic coloration) to avoid being detected.

Caterpillars play a significant role in ecosystems. As herbivores, they’re a key link in the food chain, and their eating habits can also influence plant growth and development. Some caterpillar species are considered pests due to their impact on agriculture, while others are valued for their role in silk production or as pollinators in their adult butterfly or moth forms.

Identifying a caterpillar involves examining its various characteristics. Start by observing the caterpillar’s physical attributes. The colour, size, and pattern of its body can give you valuable information. Caterpillars come in a wide range of colours, from green and brown which help them camouflage with leaves, to vibrant yellows, reds, and blacks that indicate toxicity and ward off predators. Their size can vary as well, from tiny 1 cm long larvae to larger caterpillars that grow to several inches. Additionally, some caterpillars may display unique patterns such as stripes or spots.

Further identification involves looking at more specialized characteristics. For instance, some caterpillars have distinct hairs, spikes, or bristles which can be unique to their species. But remember, it’s important not to touch them with bare hands as some can be irritating or harmful. Caterpillar behaviour and habitat can also offer clues to its identity. Take note of the host plant the caterpillar is found on, as many caterpillar species have specific plants they feed on. Also, consider their behaviour, as some species have unique movement or feeding habits. Once these characteristics are observed, you can use a field guide or online resources to help identify the caterpillar’s species.

If you’re trying to figure out whether there are caterpillars in your garden or on certain plants, look out for the following signs:

  1. Leaf Damage: Look for holes in leaves, skeletonized leaves (where only the veins remain), or leaves that have been entirely consumed. Caterpillars are voracious eaters, and leaf damage is often a clear sign of their presence.
  2. Frass (Caterpillar Droppings): Frass, the excrement of caterpillars, looks like small pellets. If you’re seeing frass underneath or around your plants, it’s a good indication that caterpillars are present.
  3. Silk Webs or Threads: Certain species of caterpillars create silk webs or threads on the plants they inhabit. If you see these on your plants, you likely have a caterpillar infestation.
  4. Visible Caterpillars or Eggs: This may be obvious, but seeing caterpillars or clusters of caterpillar eggs (usually on the underside of leaves) is a sure sign of their presence. Caterpillar eggs are typically small and spherical or oval and can be a variety of colours depending on the species.


It’s completely normal to have a few caterpillars in your garden, and they play a crucial role in the ecosystem. However, a large infestation can damage or even kill plants, especially if they’re young or stressed. If you’re having trouble with caterpillars in your garden, consider seeking advice from a local extension service or a pest control professional.

Preventing caterpillars can be essential, particularly if you’re growing vegetables or ornamental plants that you want to protect from damage. Here are several methods you can use to prevent caterpillars:

  1. Plant Selection: Some plants are more attractive to caterpillars than others. If you choose plant varieties that aren’t preferred by the local caterpillar population, you’ll naturally have fewer problems.
  2. Companion Planting: Certain plants are known to repel caterpillars and other garden pests. These include marigolds, sage, and thyme. By planting these near susceptible plants, you may deter caterpillars.
  3. Regular Inspections:  By regularly checking your plants, particularly the undersides of leaves, you can spot caterpillars or eggs early and remove them by hand before they cause significant damage.


Remember, while caterpillars can cause damage, they’re also an important part of the ecosystem and the life cycle of beautiful butterflies and moths. Striking a balance is key, and complete eradication should not be the goal.


est. 1900

Don't Let Bugs Get the Best of You


est. 1900

Don't Let Bugs Get the Best of You