11 Types of Red Caterpillars (With Pictures)

If you enjoy learning about or observing the various insect larvae found in the wild, some of the various types of red caterpillars may have captivated your attention. These insects come in various shapes and sizes, but their red colors are typically less prominent and paired with other color bases like black or green.

Let’s learn some more about red caterpillars, and look at a few pictures!

11 Types of red caterpillars

Though this color is seen in a variety of caterpillar species worldwide, it is also found in many species in North America. This list will give you a list of 11 red caterpillars you might encounter in your area, especially if you reside in North America.

1. Banded Sphinx

Banded sphinx on green leaf
Banded sphinx on green leaf | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Eumorpha fasciatus

The banded sphinx has one of the most beautiful red larvae you will ever see. It stands out in any habitat thanks to its bright red color, long black and white stripes, and distinctive pattern on its light green body.

This caterpillar is native to North America and can be found in tropical lowlands and along the coast. It feeds on a variety of plants, including magnolias, Virginia creepers, and evening primroses. The species has four stages in its life cycle, as do all caterpillars: egg, larva, pupa, and adult moth.

Banded sphinx caterpillar is also known to emit a faint glow when exposed to UV light.

2. European Gypsy Moth

European gypsy moth crawling
European gypsy moth crawling | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Lymantria dispar dispar

The European gypsy moth caterpillar is the larva of a moth species in the Erebidae family. It’s a European native that was accidentally introduced to North America in 1869.

The spots on the bodies of gypsy moth caterpillars make them easy to identify. Six pairs of red spots can be seen on their tails, and five pairs of blue spots on their heads. Their bodies are also covered in hair-like bristles known as setae.

Because this species feeds on most plants and trees, it’s also considered a pest in some areas.

3. Spurge Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Spurge hawk moth caterpillar on a twig
Spurge hawk moth caterpillar on a twig | image by xulescu_g via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Hyles euphorbiae 

Caterpillars of the spurge hawk moth are usually found in Canada and US. They’re native to Europe, but were introduced to America in the 1960s.

This species’ mature caterpillars are red on the sides with black and white spots. They also have a tail and feed on plants in the Euphorbia family. The larva can also reach a length of 4 inches. In the United States, this species is also used to control a variety of weed spurges.

4. Banded Woollybear Caterpillar

Banded woollybear caterpillar on dried flower
Banded woollybear caterpillar on dried flower | image by Benny Mazur via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Pyrrharctia isabella

The banded woollybear is a caterpillar of the isabella tiger moth in the United States and Canada. You can find it in a variety of environments, including forests, grasslands, and meadows. They prefer to stay close to the ground, where they feed on the leaves of asters, birches, clover, corn, elms, maples, and sunflowers.

These caterpillars have a fuzzy appearance with two colors divided into three sections. The black color can be seen on the front and rear of the body, while the middle is usually reddish brown.

Additionally, they are known to hibernate and nearly freeze during the winter before resuming action in the spring.

5. Question mark caterpillar

Question mark caterpillar crawling
Question mark caterpillar crawling | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Polygonia interrogationis

Question mark caterpillars are one of the red larvae you can find in North America. They can grow to be 1.4 inches long and come in a variety of colors. The bodies of these caterpillars are usually black with yellow and white lines and spots. They have spines that range in color from yellow to red all over their bodies. These larvae are most commonly found in areas with open spaces and trees, including wooded areas.

Question mark caterpillars have been observed feeding on American elm, winged elm, and false nettle.

6. Faithful beauty

Faithful beauty caterpillar
Faithful beauty caterpillar | image by dvollmar via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0

Scientific Name: Composia fidelissima

The faithful beauty caterpillar can be found from Florida to Cuba. Its larvae are bright red with five rows of dark blue spots on their bodies. This creature also has black setae covering it, giving it a spiny appearance.

You can find this caterpillar in marl prairie, pine rockland, and rockland hammock habitats where their native host plant, devil’s potato, grows. It also consumes oleander and baybean.

7. Spiny Elm Caterpillar

Spiny elm caterpillar on plywood
Spiny elm caterpillar on plywood | image by Wthrower via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Name: Nymphalis antiopa

The spiny elm larva is a hairy, red-and-black caterpillar that you can find on the branches of elms. It’s native to Canada and can be found throughout North America. The larvae have black bodies with small white spots. They are named “spiny elm caterpillars” because they have a row of black spikes with red spots running down their back.

These species consume elms’ leaves, buds, flowers, and other trees, such as birch, cottonwood, and hackberry. As they mature, these caterpillars turn into Mourningcloak butterflies.

8. Azalea Caterpillar

Azalea caterpillar on stem
Azalea caterpillar on stem | image by Kelly Verdeck via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Datana major

The azalea caterpillar is a larva that feeds and grows in groups and is common in the eastern United States. When disturbed, these caterpillars form a C shape by raising their heads and rear in unison.

The color of this mature caterpillar is black with yellow stripes down its back. Its head and legs are red, and it can grow to be up to 2 inches long. They’re named after their host plant, the azalea, but they have also been observed feeding on red oak, blueberry, and andromeda.

9. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar

Variegated fritillary caterpillar
Variegated fritillary caterpillar | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Euptoieta claudia

The variegated fritillary caterpillar, also known as pansyworm, is a North American butterfly larva. It has a red body that’s covered in black stripes with white spots. They also have rows of black spines throughout their bodies.

They’re most common in open, sunny areas like prairies, fields, pastures, road edges, and landfills. These creatures eat plants such as maypops, violets, may apple, purslane, and moonseed. The red coloration of the caterpillar is thought to be a warning signal to predators that it’s poisonous or bad tasting.

10. Io Caterpillar

Io caterpillar on coconut palm
Io caterpillar on coconut palm | image by Adam Skowronski via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Automeris io

The Io moth caterpillar is a butterfly species found from Canada to eastern Mexico. These caterpillars eat elms, cherries, maples, willows, and a variety of other plants.

This insect can reach a length of about 2 inches. Their spikes are also known for releasing venom when touched. As larvae, it’s their self-defense mechanism to avoid being eaten by predators. As an adult, the Io moth defends itself by using its large eyespot on its wings. These eyespots imitate vertebrate eyes, scaring off predators.

11. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar on the ground
Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar on the ground | image by Sean Loyless via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Battus philenor

The pipevine swallowtail butterfly caterpillar lives in North America, specifically from Connecticut to Arizona. The mature caterpillar has a black body covered in orange or red tubercles. On the other hand, the young larvae’s body is usually a rustic red color.

You can find this caterpillar in deciduous woods, gardens, and along riverbanks. Morning glory, wild ginger, and knotweed are the main foods they consume. They also grow into beautiful butterflies with blue and orange wings.