19 Types of Caterpillars In Michigan (Pictures)

Caterpillars are the larvae stage for butterflies and moths. Most caterpillars eat plant materials like leaves, bark, and flowers. Some do, however, eat insects. Caterpillars eat a lot and can cause serious damage to crops and trees. At the same time, they are a good source of silk. These worm-like insects can be found throughout the country, but in this article, we’ll be looking at some common caterpillars in Michigan.

19 Caterpillars In Michigan

You may be surprised to learn that there are over 120 species of caterpillars in the state of Michigan. Below are some great facts and photos of 19 of them.

1. Bent-Line Dart Moth Caterpillar

Line Dart Moth
Flannel Moth Caterpillar | image by Ben Sale via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Choephora fungorum

This caterpillar will become the Bent-Line Dart moth. It grows to 1.9 inches in length and is brown and tan. The markings help camouflage it among the leaves. Hosts include dandelions, clover, and trefoil.

2. Monarch Caterpillar

Caterpillar eating a leaf
Caterpillar eating a leaf by 631372 from Pixabay

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus

Eventually emerging as the majestic Monarch butterfly, this caterpillar is characterized by its plump body and black, yellow, and white bands. There are also tentacles on each end of its body. The maximum length is about 2 inches. The Monarch’s host plant is milkweed. This ends up being a defense for this caterpillar as milkweed is toxic to most animals. At the very least, it tastes horrible and, therefore, leaves these larvae alone.

3. Woolly Bear

Woolly
Woolly bear | Public domain image

Scientific name: Pyrrharctia isabella

Covered in dense hair, these caterpillars are black with reddish bands. This caterpillar will grow to be about 3 inches. Living on porches and sidewalks all over Michigan, they will use just about any plant as a host. When their transformation is complete, they will become the Isabella Tiger moth.

4. Viceroy Caterpillar

Viceroy
Viceroy | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Limenitis archippus

This caterpillar is mottled green, brown, and white. It’s often mistaken for bird poop. Which turns out, it is a great defense. Other characteristics are small spines and a horn on the head. They prefer poplar, willow, and cottonwood trees as their hosts. Mostly found in open forest areas and fields in Michigan.

5. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar

curve-lined owlet
Curve-Lined Owlet | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Phyprosopus callitrichoides

Preferring the Greenbrier as a host, this caterpillar has great camouflage where it looks like a dried, curled leaf. Usually, brown and cream colored, they have many spikes covering their bodies. Growing only to 1/4 inch, they can be found in woodland areas, clearings, and even office parks and backyard gardens.

6. Hornworms

Hornworms
Hornworms by Margaret Martin from Pixabay

Scientific name: Manduca

The hornworm is one of the most destructive caterpillars not only in Michigan but in the United States. With its bright blue/green color, this pest will grow to be about 3.5 inches. There is also a horn in its rear that can pop out to deter predators. Having the ability to eat 4 times its weight, it will go through tomato, tobacco, bell pepper, and eggplant, rendering them incapable of growing.

7. Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar

milkweed tussock
Milkweed Tussock | image by Kevin Ripka via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Euchartes egle

Characterized by black and white hairs with tufts of orange, the Milkweed gets its name from its host. The toxins from the milkweed plant are so strong that blue jays have been known to vomit right after eating one of the caterpillars!

8. Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

Leopard Moth Caterpillar
Leopard Moth Caterpillar by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

Scientific name: Hypercompe scribonia

These caterpillars are usually found curled up in a defensive ball. Red rings and black bristles cover this cabbage-eating pest. They also enjoy sunflowers, willow, and cherry trees.

9. Parsley Caterpillar

parsley caterpillar
parsley caterpillar by Tomek from Pixabay

Scientific name: Papilio polyxenes

These bright green larvae have black rings and yellow dots. It’s definitely a pest if you’re a grower of parsley, as that is its host plant. But it will be worth a few leaves once you see it turn into the beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly.

10. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Papilio glaucus

Without a doubt the most unique-looking caterpillar in Michigan, it inspired a Pokemon character (Caterpie). Bright green with two large eyespots, it sort of resembles a green lobster tail. Their hosts are the tulip tree and the wild black cherry tree.

11. Io Caterpillar

lo moth caterpillar
lo moth caterpillar by Petra from Pixabay

Scientific name: Automeris io

This caterpillar serves as a reminder to look at and not touch unfamiliar wildlife. The Io delivers a powerful and very painful sting! However, it’s not deadly and upon removing its prickly stingers, some cold water should make the wound feel better. Human attacks aside, the Io likes hackberry and willow trees.

12. Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar

Spotted Apatelode
Spotted Apatelodes | image by Lydia Fravel via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Apatelodes torrefacta

The color of this caterpillar will vary from bright white to lemon yellow. It has black spines covered with soft hair. Found in orchards and groves, they love ash, maple, and oak trees.

13. Monkey Slug

Monkey Slug
Monkey Slug | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Phobetron pithecium

This tan and brown caterpillar looks more like a spider with its 7 pairs of leg-like appendages sticking out of its flat body. It will choose any woody, stemmed tree as a host. The Monkey slug can be found in orchards and groves. Their sting can cause an itchy rash. Eventually, it will turn into the Hagmoth.

14. Spongy Moth Caterpillar

Spongy Moth Caterpillar
Spongy Moth Caterpillar | image by Don Henise via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Lymantria dispar dispar

Formerly known as the Gypsy moth caterpillar, these insects have very high populations in Northern Michigan forests. Their small hairs can irritate the skin, causing a rash. They are one of the most destructive caterpillars of hardwood trees in the United States.

15. American Dagger Caterpillar

American Dagger Caterpillar
American Dagger Caterpillar | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Acronicta americana

Found on hiking trails all over Michigan, these caterpillars’ yellow and white hairs are connected to sacks of toxins. Contact can cause burning, itching, swelling, and rash. Host trees include oak, elm, willow, and maple.

16. Large Maple Spanworm

Large Maple Spanworm
Large Maple Spanworm | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Prochoerodes lineola

Grey and brown in color, they look exactly like twigs on a tree with knobby bumps all over. It attaches itself to birch, maple, and willow trees. Blueberry bushes are also a favorite.

17. Variegated fritillary

Variegated fritillary
Variegated fritillary butterfly | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Euptoieta claudia

With red, white, and black stripes, this caterpillar has little spines that stick out on each segment of its body. These caterpillars live in meadows, open fields, and open lots in Michigan. Usually, they will attach themselves to any form of violet for a host.

18. Cecropia Moth

Cecropia
Cecropia moth |  by Peggy Dyar from Pixabay

Scientific name: Hyalophora cecropia

This caterpillar grows to be about 4 inches long and turns into the largest moth native to North America. It uses fine silk to spin its cocoon. Their color is usually a combination of blue, green, and orange markings. Black hairs cover its body and will be lost during its final growth stage. Hosts include maple, birch, and apple trees.

19. Winter Cutworm

winter cutworm
Winter Cutworm | image by Raleigh City Farm via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Noctua pronuba

Of all the caterpillars in Michigan, this one is perhaps the most feared by farmers. These caterpillars that will eventually morph into the Yellow Underwing moth, are extremely destructive to crops. Not picky about what they eat, they’ve caused great agricultural and therefore economic damage throughout Michigan. Like a squirmy army, they will chomp through alfalfa, grass hay, Swiss chard, squash, and beets.