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6 Most Common Caterpillars in Florida

Caterpillars are some of the most exciting insects in the world. It is amazing how they turn into moths or butterflies.

There are hundreds of species of caterpillars in Florida. Since it is quite a task to list all of them in one article, we selected the most interesting and common ones to share with you.

In this article, you will know around 6 types of caterpillars in Florida.

Read also: How to Care for Bermuda Grass in Florida

1. Cabbageworm

Also known as Pieris rapae, Cabbageworm caterpillars in Florida can be identified using the following characteristics:

  • It is light green in color with tiny yellow dots along the side
  • Small and relatively thin and appears velvety
  • Its most preferred host plants are Brassicas, including kale, cabbage, broccoli, and chard

Cabbage Worms aren’t native to North America. Therefore, the ones available in Florida are imported.

It was brought in shipments of cabbage and other brassica plants and soon became an invasive species.

As a home gardener, the most excellent way to handle Cabbage Worms is to prevent a large infestation. Regular weeding, plant covers, and varied plantings can all help with preventing this dangerous invader.

Cabbage Worms develop into Cabbage White Butterflies, which are one of the most abundant butterflies in Florida. If you spot a white butterfly in the spring, it is highly likely it is a Cabbage White.

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2. Monarch Caterpillar

Also known as Danaus plexippus, these caterpillars in Florida can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • It is plump with white, black, and yellow bands
  • Has pronounced legs and pro-legs, and each end of its body has spindly black tentacles
  • Its preferred host plant is milkweed

Monarch caterpillars are toxic to many animals and also taste bad. The poison in their body comes from their diet, which is primarily made up of milkweed. Toxins from milkwood accumulate in the caterpillar, producing poisonous effects and a bitter taste.

You are likely to find Monarch caterpillars in your environment if you have milkweed in your yard or nearby.

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3. Viceroy Caterpillar

Also known as Limenitis archippus, Viceroy Caterpillars in Florida can be identified using the following features:

  • It is mottled green or brown and white in color to resemble bird droppings
  • They have two dark-colored horns on the head and small spines on the body
  • The chrysalis also resembles a bird dropping hanging from a tree branch
  • They prefer willow, poplar, and cottonwood trees as their host plants.

And by the way, they are one of the ugliest caterpillars in Florida!

Their ugly appearance is a defensive mechanism since it wards off predators.

Additionally, this caterpillar feeds on plants that are rich in salicylic acid, which they store in their bodies. 

When predators make an attempt to eat them, they are rewarded with a strong, bitter flavor and an upset stomach.

4. Wolly Bear

Also known as Pyrrharctia isabella, Wolly Bear caterpillars in Florida can be identified using the following characteristics:

  • Black in color with a wide rusty-red band in the middle
  • It is covered in dense, coarse hairs
  • It develops and transforms into Isabella Tiger Moths
  • They do not have a preferred host plant – they will live on and eat nearly any plant

The hairs of this caterpillar do not contain any irritants or toxins. Nonetheless, some people are sensitive to hair and may get a slight rash if they touch one.

5. Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar

Also known as Euptoite claudia, variegated Fritillary caterpillars in Florida can be identified using the following features: 

  • It has stripes of red, black, and white running the length of its body
  • Black branched spines project out from each body segment in even rows
  • They use any plant in the violet or alder family as a host plant. These include common blue violets, pansies, and yellow alder

Variegated Fritillary Caterpillars have the same name as their adult-form butterflies. They feed on ornamental plants like pansies, violets, and passionflowers.

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6. Curve-Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar

Also known as Phyprosopus callitrichoides, Curve-lined Owlet Moth Caterpillars in Florida can be identified using the following characteristics:

  • This caterpillar comes in shades of brown and cream, occasionally near black
  • Has a distinctive body shape that is spiky, contorted, and asymmetrical, like a dry leaf
  • Their host plant of choice is Greenbriers

This caterpillar has a coloring and texture that resembles a dry leaf. Therefore, it seems like even though the insect goes through a complete metamorphosis, it keeps some of the survival traits into adulthood.

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What to Do When You Touch Poisonous Caterpillars in Florida

Direct contact with a caterpillar, its cocoon, or its hairs can trigger an allergic reaction that can lead to the development of an itchy rash.

If you or your child gets in contact with a caterpillar, consider using the following tips to minimize any negative effects:

  • Get rid of the bug from the skin without using bare hands
  • Put any kind of tape on the exposed area
  • Pull up the tape to get rid of any spines or hairs
  • Repeat these steps with fresh pieces of tape as often as needed
  • Clean the area gently with water and soap
  • Apply an ice pack to reduce stinging, and apply a paste of baking soda and water to reduce itchiness
  • If a rash does not disappear, seek help from a healthcare provider

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