How many different species of British caterpillar are there?

There are over 2,600 species of moths and butterflies in the British Isles alone. Worldwide there are likely to be hundreds of thousands. How many is uncertain as in many countries little is known about this early stage of a butterfly or moth’s life-cycle. The caterpillars of this large family of insects known as Lepidoptera can vary greatly in size, colour, shape, pattern and behaviour. Even the number, position and type of legs can vary between species and features such as this can help with identification.

Caterpillar identification queries

We welcome identification queries some of which are featured on our latest sightings and in the picture galleries (with appropriate accreditation).

Please note

There is still much to learn about the early stages of many moths and butterflies. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate identifications and information errors can occur. Should an error be spotted please let us know.

PLEASE NOTE - we have closed comments due to excess spam but are still identifying many caterpillar queries sent by email to Steve - - see our page on help with caterpillar identification for more information.

Guide to rearing caterpillar

This Introduction to rearing caterpillars and step by step guide on How to rear caterpillars of butterflies and moths has been added in response to the many questions asked.

Butterfly and moth caterpillar galleries

The galleries of Butterfly caterpillars and Moth caterpillars contain images of many of the caterpillars most likely to be seen in the British Isles. Galleries for many other parts of the world are being added including The States and North America, Africa and Asia. Many of the caterpillar photos received from abroad will be featured in galleries and latest sightings.

Hairy caterpillars

Although in general caterpillars are not a danger to our health there are some species of hairy caterpillars that can cause unpleasant skin irritation unless care is taken.

Latest caterpillar sightings

See reports of the Latest caterpillars sightings from around the world

Caterpillar pests

Certain species of caterpillars can at times become so prolific that they can cause significant damage to vegetable crops, garden shrubs and trees.

Other sections in our popular Illustrated Guide to British Caterpillars

Our caterpillar and larvae galleries