Caterpillar identification help

Alder moth 25mm caterpillar reared from 6mm second instar Acronicta alni  © 2015 Steve Ogden

We enjoy receiving caterpillar identification requests and at times receive up to 40 a day from all over the world. Some of these can be seen in British moth caterpillar Gallery, Europe, United states, South Africa, other African countries and Asia.

Your images are welcome and with your consent may be shared with others by adding to the appropriate countries caterpillar gallery with accreditation.

Please note we’re adding images as fast as we can but there are many awaiting processing and it can take time.

Identification requests and photographs can be sent to Steve – email address – PLEASE include location (country, province, state, county) – see below other useful information to provide

Unfortunately not all caterpillars are as distinctive and well studied as The Alder moth and The Lackey caterpillars shown.

Consequently, although we are successful in identifying the majority, some can be tricky and even impossible unless reared through.

It may also be worth checking the latest news and caterpillar sightings to see if your caterpillar is featured.

It is also worth remembering that caterpillars can dramatically change appearance as they grow and moult into another instar.

And in some countries the life cycles of many species are under researched.

In most cases a photograph helps. Preferably both a side-on shot showing legs and one taken looking down on the caterpillar’s back.

If the species is of particular interest we may ask your permission to share the photograph and sighting information on the site with others, just as we did with this Convolvulus Hawk-moth image.

Helpful information to send with your request

Date of sighting, location and habitat.

Photographs (both from above and side on, if possible)

The size, colour and number of legs of the caterpillar.

If it was hairy or smooth skinned, any distinctive markings, bumps or tail extensions.

If it was on a particular plant.

See information on caterpillar legs.

How to send caterpillar identification requests

However little information is provided we’ll do our best to identify your caterpillar so please keep sending them in.

Identification requests and photographs can be sent to Steve – email address

Please note

that whilst every effort is made to provide accurate identifications and information errors could occur.

Please also note

comments have been closed due to excess spam but caterpillar identification requests are still welcome and we continue to receive them daily by email.

A number have been of particular interest and we will do periodic updates of some of the most noteworthy sightings.

Is a caterpillar a pest or a health hazard?

Many identification requests that we receive are from people understandably concerned as to whether their caterpillar will damage their vegetables, fruit trees or shrubs.

Most caterpillars are harmless and form a vital part in the food chain supporting many animals. However, there are a few caterpillars that can cause severe damage to vegetables fruit crops, trees and shrubs.

These include caterpillars of two ‘White butterflies’, often referred to as Cabbage Whites, which can cause severe damage to the Brassica family of vegetables.

Saddleback caterpillar Acharia stimulea Pennsylvania US photo Katie Boyle
Please also be aware that there are a few caterpillars that on occasions can become a health hazard.

The hairs of some caterpillars such as the Brown-tail Moth have hairs that can cause intense irritation.

Stinging slug caterpillars of the Limacodidae moth family are known in many countries for their urticating hairs. Some such as the Saddleback featured left and in the American caterpillar gallery cause painful skin reactions to many people in the States every year.

In general, and to be on the safe side, hairy caterpillars should be treated with caution and direct skin contact avoided.

See identification guide to some of the most frequently seen hairy caterpillars.

Other sections in our popular Illustrated Guide to British Caterpillars

Our caterpillar and larvae galleries