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15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Caterpillars come in an incredible array of colors, patterns, and shapes. Among the most striking are those with bold black and orange markings. These eye-catching caterpillars are found throughout the United States, munching on various plants in gardens, fields, and forests.

In this guide, we’ll explore 15 different black and orange caterpillar species that you might encounter. Each entry includes a clear image, a brief description to help identify the caterpillar, bulleted key features, and more detailed information about its characteristics, food sources, and the adult butterfly or moth it transforms into.

Whether you’re an avid gardener, nature enthusiast, or simply curious about the critters in your backyard, this guide will help you identify and appreciate these uniquely colored caterpillars. Let’s get started!

1. Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Milkweed-Tussock-Moth-Caterpillar-1024x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Strikingly fuzzy black caterpillar with orange stripes and black tufts of hair.

Key Identification Features:

  • Distinct black tufts or “tussocks” of hair along its back
  • Four orange brushy strips running lengthwise
  • Black body covered in soft hairs

The milkweed tussock moth caterpillar is hard to miss with its bold, hairy appearance. It gets its name from the milkweed and other plants it feeds on. While the caterpillar’s hairs can cause skin irritation, the adult moth is harmless. Found throughout North America.

2. Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Gulf-Fritillary-Caterpillar-1024x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Bright orange caterpillar with black spiny protrusions and white markings.

Key Identification Features:

  • Rich orange body
  • Rows of black branching spines
  • White markings and lines

The gulf fritillary is a striking, spiky caterpillar that feeds primarily on passion vines and other host plants. As it matures, the orange deepens and the white markings become more distinct. Found in southern states, its adult is the beautiful gulf fritillary butterfly.

3. Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch-Caterpillar-822x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Iconic striped caterpillar with bands of black, yellow, and white.

Key Identification Features:

  • Distinct black, yellow, and white striped pattern
  • Two protruding black antennae
  • Thin yellow tentacles on body

One of the most recognizable caterpillars, the monarch is beloved for its amazing multi-generational migration. These striped caterpillars strictly feed on milkweed, which gives the adult butterflies toxicity to ward off predators. Found across North America.

In the next section, we’ll cover some fascinating black and orange woolly bear moth caterpillars…

4. Giant Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Giant-Woolly-Bear-Caterpillar 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)
BugGuide.net

One of the largest woolly bears, with dense black and reddish-orange bristles.

Key Identification Features:

  • Very thick coating of bristly hairs
  • Black on both ends, reddish-orange middle section
  • Can reach 3-4 inches long

The giant woolly bear is indeed giant – one of the biggest fuzzy caterpillars in North America. Its bristly hairs contain toxins to deter predators. These caterpillars overwinter as larvae before emerging in spring as the adult Isabella tiger moth.

5. Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Banded-Woolly-Bear-Caterpillar-1024x791 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Fuzzy black caterpillar with distinct reddish-orange banding in the middle.

Key Identification Features:

  • Black furry body on both ends
  • Bright reddish-orange banded middle section
  • Short bristly hairs

This caterpillar’s distinct segmented banding makes it one of the most recognizable woolly bears around. The banded woolly bear feeds on grasses, clover, and other vegetation before pupating into a nondescript moth. Common across most of the United States and southern Canada.

Some friends love woolly bears for their folk wisdom about upcoming winter forecasts – the wider the orange band, the milder the winter! While not scientifically proven, it’s a fun tradition.

6. Salt Marsh Moth Caterpillar

Salt-Marsh-Moth-Caterpillar-1024x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Hairy black caterpillar with vibrant reddish-orange stripe down its back.

Key Identification Features:

  • Dense black hairs
  • Single bold reddish-orange dorsal (back) stripe
  • Small tufts near head and rear end

The striking saltmarsh moth caterpillar is pretty unmistakable with its fuzzy black body and that vivid reddish-orange racing stripe down its back. Despite its ominous appearance, the hairs are not urticating (shouldn’t cause skin irritation). Adults are nondescript brown moths.

Continuing on, here are a few eye-catching black and orange inchworm varieties…

7. Elbowed Spanworm Caterpillar

Long, slender black inchworm with bold reddish-orange stripes running its length.

Key Identification Features:

  • Distinctively striped black and reddish-orange
  • Looping inchworm movement
  • Small knob-like protrusions along its body

You’ll often spot elbowed spanworm caterpillars inching along branches, moving in that classic “inchworm” looping pattern. Their contrasting striped colors make them easy to pick out. Found throughout eastern North America on various trees and shrubs.

8. Cross-Striped Cabbageworm

Cross-Striped-Cabbageworm-1024x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Pale green caterpillar with distinctive black and yellow cross-striped pattern.

Key Identification Features:

  • Light green base color
  • Intricate black and yellow/orange cross-striped markings
  • No visible protrusions or hairs

The cross-striped cabbageworm is a real beauty with its delicate cross-hatched striping. As its name suggests, this is a major garden pest, feeding on cabbage, broccoli, and other brassica crops. Found across North America, the adult is a small white butterfly.

I love how plump and almost cartoonish these caterpillars look! Handpicking and using row covers are best for control instead of pesticides, to protect pollinators.

Up next, some boldly patterned slug moth caterpillars…

9. Monkey Slug Caterpillar

Monkey-Slug-Caterpillar-1024x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Colorful caterpillar with black and reddish-orange alternating segments.

Key Features:

  • Reddish-orange and black segments alternating down its body
  • Pair of large protruding eyespots
  • Rounded slug-like shape

Monkey slug caterpillars are real oddballs, with their slug-like shapes and eyespots that almost give them a mischievous look. These caterpillars feed on maple, oak, and other deciduous trees, eventually becoming nondescript drab brown moths.

Increasingly, let’s look at some beautiful swallowtail butterfly caterpillars…

10. Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Tiger-Swallowtail-Caterpillar 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Large green caterpillar with distinct black and yellow striped pattern.

Key Features:

  • Bright green base color
  • Banding of black and yellow stripes across segments
  • Two large protruding eyespots

One of the largest caterpillars around, the tiger swallowtail sports an eye-catching striped pattern that mimics a snake – a clever defense mechanism to scare off predators. These caterpillars feed on willow, ash, and other trees before forming sleek black swallowtail butterflies.

11. Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Black-Swallowtail-Caterpillar-819x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Plump green caterpillar with rows of black and yellow spots.

Key Features:

  • Bright green body
  • Bands of black spots alternate with yellow spots
  • Protruding black osmeterium (“forked tongue”) defense

Black swallowtail caterpillars are pretty unmistakable with their spotted patterns. When threatened, they can stick out their forked osmeterium organ behind their heads to release foul-smelling chemicals. Found across North America on plants like parsley, dill, and carrots.

Moving along to some fuzzy tiger moth caterpillars…

12. Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hickory-Tussock-Moth-Caterpillar-819x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Black caterpillar with white tufts alternating with orange and black tufts.

Key Features:

  • Dense black furry body
  • White tuft protrusions alternate with orange/black tufts
  • Long black hairs

Hickory tussock moth caterpillars are real “lookers” with their alternating tufted fur coats. The hairs can cause skin irritation, so best admired from a distance. These caterpillars feed on various nut and fruit trees across the eastern U.S. before becoming nondescript tan moths.

13. Virginia Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Virginia-Tiger-Moth-Caterpillar 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Fuzzy black caterpillar with long black hairs and reddish-orange stripes.

Key Features:

  • Dense black hair covers body
  • Two reddish-orange lengthwise stripes
  • Long black bristly hairs protrude from sides

These fuzzy caterpillars look like little furry creatures scampering across branches and tree trunks. The virginia tiger moth’s bristly hairs can cause skin rashes and eye irritation, so avoid direct contact. Found throughout eastern North America.

Finally, let’s cover a few more unique orange and black sphinx moth caterpillars…

14. Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Rustic-Sphinx-Moth-Caterpillar-1024x1024 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Large green caterpillar with black and orange striped horn.

Key Features:

  • Light green body
  • Striped black and orange “horn” protrusion
  • Pair of circular eyespots

Rustic sphinx moth caterpillars have a classic sphinx form, with their plump green bodies and that amazing striped horn. These feed on plants like elm, ash, and cherry across central and eastern North America before becoming heavy-bodied rustic sphinx moths.

15. Waved Sphinx Caterpillar

Waved-Sphinx-Caterpillar-1024x776 15 Black and Orange Caterpillars (With Pictures)

Large green caterpillar with yellow stripes, black transverse lines, and upturned tail.

Key Features:

  • Bright yellowish-green body
  • Black transverse lines across segments
  • Upturned black tail segment

The colors and patterns on these large waved sphinx caterpillars are just beautiful. You’ll find them feeding on plants like elm, cherry, ash, and others, eventually transforming into the plain but heavy-bodied waved sphinx moth.

Closing Thoughts

There’s no shortage of stunning black and orange caterpillars to discover across the United States! From the iconic woolly bears to the gigantic swallowtail caterpillars, these colorful larvae are true natural wonders.

When out exploring, remember that many caterpillars are protected by bristles, hairs, or toxins, so it’s best to admire them from a distance. Take photos, observe them in action, and appreciate the incredible colors and patterns evolution has produced.

I hope this guide has helped you learn more about some common black and orange caterpillar species in your area. Whether you’re an avid wildlife watcher or backyard gardener, keep an eye out for these beautiful, miniature marvels – you never know what you might find munching away!

Let me know if you have any other questions about identifying these caterpillars. And feel free to share any cool sightings or pictures you’ve captured too. Happy caterpillar watching!

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