How to Identify a Fuzzy Yellow Caterpillar (2023)

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By Philippa Jones | Updated September 26, 2017

Caterpillars are commonly found in gardens and parks, and being able to identify different species will help develop your knowledge of these unique creatures. A caterpillar hatches from an egg, and then creates it creates a cocoon for itself. After it has hibernated inside the cocoon, it becomes a moth or butterfly. There are five main types of fuzzy yellow caterpillars found in North America which can be identified according to the amount of fur that appears across its body, its color and location.

Consider the shape of the creature you are looking at. A caterpillar has a small, sausage-shaped body which typically lies horizontally on a leaf or branch. It measure from 1/4 inch to 1 inch in length.

Inspect the creature and look at the way it moves. A caterpillar has a distinct body movement that involves elongating its body then scrunching it up into a bend. It repeats this in order to progress across the surface it is on. Check that you are looking at a caterpillar by checking that it moves in this way.

Confirm where you found the caterpillar. Yellow Based Tussock moths and Definite Tussock moths are only found in the eastern states of the U.S., while the other three yellow species of caterpillar are found all over the U.S. This will narrow down identifying the type of caterpillar you are looking at.

Look at the caterpillar closely. Position yourself within a few inches of the caterpillar so that you can see the texture and color of its body. View it in daylight so that it is clearly visible.

Assess how fuzzy the caterpillar is. Its fuzziness is the amount of hairiness or fur that appears across its body. Yellow fuzzy caterpillars are all covered in tufts of hairs protruding from their bodies. Make sure the creature you are identifying has these.

Check the shade of yellow of the caterpillar, by looking at the color of its body and hair. The Spotted Tussock Moth is easily distinguished from other caterpillars because it is bright yellow with black spots. The Sycamore Tussock moth is a pale shade of yellow, while the Fall Webworm has hair with an orange tinge. The Definite Tussock moth is pale yellow with egg-yolk colored dots across the top half of its body. However, the Yellow-Based Tussock moth is yellowy-brown with dark dots of orange across its back.

(Video) If You See This Caterpillar, Don't Touch It No Matter What



Writer Bio

Based in Bristol, Philippa Jones has been a music journalist and script writer since 2007, working across a range of radio programs in the U.K. and Australia. Her articles have appeared in "Impact Magazine," "The Mic" and in local newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of Nottingham.

How to Identify a Fuzzy Yellow Caterpillar (11)

(Video) Types of Butterfly Caterpillar | Different Types Of Caterpillars


How to Identify a Fuzzy Yellow Caterpillar? ›

Yellow woollies are the most common type of fuzzy yellow caterpillar in North America. You can identify these caterpillars by their short bristles together with extra-long hairs. The most striking example of these caterpillars is the kind that is black and yellow with long pencil hairs.

What kind of caterpillar is yellow and fuzzy? ›

Two species of woollybears may be found on the crop, the yellow woollybear (Spilosoma virginica) and the saltmarsh caterpillar (Estigmene acrea). Caterpillars of yellow woollybear are densely hairy and pale colored - ranging from light brown, to yellow to nearly white.

What does a yellow wooly caterpillar turn into? ›

Even though there is great interest in its caterpillar stage, very few people know what it grows up to be. Each fuzzy, 1½ inch caterpillar becomes an Isabella Tiger Moth. After wintering in its chosen spot, the caterpillar awakens on a warm spring day and continues to feed.

How can you tell if a fuzzy caterpillar is poisonous? ›

Are all fuzzy caterpillars poisonous? As a general rule, brightly-colored caterpillars with spines, bristles, or a fuzzy appearance might be venomous and should not be touched. However, knowing what caterpillars to avoid touching may not be enough to prevent a sting.

How do I identify my caterpillar? ›

Look for distinct physical features if the caterpillar has any. Check to see if the caterpillar has a curled tail, head horns, knobs, lashes, spines, or a split tail. These can all be good indicators for certain caterpillar species and will help you narrow down your search rather quickly.

What is a yellow woolly worm? ›

Spilosoma virginica is a species of moth in the subfamily Arctiinae. As a caterpillar, it is known as the yellow woolly bear or yellow bear caterpillar. As an adult, it is known as the Virginian tiger moth. Spilosoma virginica. adult (top) larva (bottom)

What does a yellow woolly bear caterpillar? ›

The Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar will eat a wide range of plant leaves from my basil plant, to the clover in the yard, to maple trees – it will even sometimes eat milkweed plants!

Can you touch a yellow woolly bear caterpillar? ›

Although some caterpillars have stinging hairs which can be quite painful to the touch, woolly bears are safe to touch. When handled, woolly bears curl up into a tight fuzzy ball and “play dead”.

What does a blonde wooly worm mean? ›

The Wooly Worm does the same. It has 13 segments, corresponding with 13 weeks of winter. The color of each segment is supposed to represent the weather for that week. For instance, a blond color would indicate a warm week, while black means colder than usual.

Are yellow woolly bear caterpillars harmful? ›

Woolly bear caterpillars lack stinging spines and do not bite. However, the hairs can easily break off into skin when touched, which will cause pain and irritation. The stiff “hairs” (setae) of woolly bears are probably effective defenses against many invertebrate and vertebrate predators.

Should you pick up fuzzy caterpillars? ›

It's okay to be curious and observe these eyespots creatures, but a good rule to remember is do not touch or pick up any caterpillars, especially fuzzy or hairy ones.

What does the most poisonous caterpillar look like? ›

Hickory Tussock Caterpillar

The body of this caterpillar is coated in white and black setae, with two long, black spears at either end. All these setae contain venom, which causes an itchy rash when released into human skin, the extent of which can vary depending on the person's chemical makeup.

What is a fuzzy caterpillar that hurts? ›

Puss caterpillar looks innocent, but its venomous barbs have brutal sting The puss caterpillar has venomous barbs along its hairy body, and they cause extreme pain for many people who come into contact with one of the fuzzy little bugs.

What is a yellow fuzzy caterpillar with black spikes? ›

Dagger moth caterpillars are fuzzy with medium length yellow, yellowgreen, or even white setae. They also have four, elegant, slender, black "pencils" of setae that extend out from the first and third abdominal segments. A fifth pencil of black bristles extends near the rear of the caterpillar.

Is there an app to identify caterpillars? ›

Caterpillar Id USA East Coast

Focusing on the larger, commonly encountered caterpillars that are most popular with gardeners, naturalists, and children, the app is designed to be enjoyed by nature lovers, hikers, and families, as well as by field biologists, zoologists, and other professionals.

What do lawn caterpillars look like? ›

Larvae (caterpillars) have a light-colored inverted Y on the front of their heads. Caterpillars reach 11/2 inches in length and pupate in the soil. The adult stage is a moth that has a wingspan of 11/2 inches. Front wings are dark gray with light and dark spots plus a white spot near the tip and hindwings are white.

Are yellow woolly bear caterpillars safe? ›

Do Woolly Bear Caterpillars Bite? No, they are harmless except in rare cases when someone has an acute allergy to their hair. Some caterpillars have venom-filled hairs, which can be painful to humans, but woolly bears are as cute in your hand as they are on the ground.

How do you get rid of yellow woolly bear caterpillars? ›

Foraging larvae can be controlled with THURICIDE. This product uses a bacteria which young woollybears are vulnerable to and once they ingest some, they'll die in a few days. Thuricide is safe to use on any plant and can be sprayed as often as is necessary.

How do you get rid of yellow fuzzy caterpillars? ›

Vinegar spray: A vinegar and water solution will kill and repel most garden pests, including caterpillars. Mix two tablespoons of vinegar with 1 gallon of water, and spray wherever you've seen caterpillars.


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