The Identification of Caterpillars of Australia
  
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Most insect taxonomy has been performed using the adult forms, so basically the only sure way to determine the species of a caterpillar is to rear it through to the adult butterfly or moth, and then identify that.

Although the caterpillars of many moth species are rather similar to each other, some caterpillars are easy to identify because they have some unique characteristic, so can be identified to the individual species, some can only be identified easily to the family, but some beasties look like caterpillars but are not true caterpillars at all.

If you cannot get enough information from the rest of this page, please feel free to contact us, and tell us:-
  • country (not obvious from email!),
  • state or province or area,
  • length and diameter,
  • colour and description,
  • circumstances in which it was found,
  • possible foodplants, and
  • if at all possible: 3 photographs of it:-
        1. from the side,
        2. from on top, and
        3. of the head in close up.
  • Please note that we don't know much about non-Australian species.

    In order to simplify the searching through the caterpillar pictures here, at the foot of each of our species and family caterpillar webpages: we have links to two rings of Caterpillar Pages:-

    One ring is for individual species
    for which we have caterpillar pictures:
    previous
    back
    caterpillar
    next
    next
    caterpillar
       
    The other ring is for families
    for which we have caterpillar pictures:
    previous
    back
    caterpillar
    family
    next
    next
    caterpillar
    family

    SPECIAL CATERPILLAR SPECIES
    Chelepteryx collesi
    huge: 10 cms or more long, with many thin spines
    Uraba lugens
    has a tall hat on its head
    Plesanemma fucata
    has a spike on its head
    Polyura sempronius
    has four spikes on its head
    Euproctis melanosoma
    black and hairy, with 2 red knobs on the tail
    Spodoptera litura
    smooth, dark brown, 4 yellow spots on thorax
    Coequosa triangularis
    green with 2 black knobs on its tail
    Theretra oldenlandiae
    black, orange spots, wiggly tail spine, eats Balsam
    Endoxyla leucomochla
    Wijuti (or Witchetty) Grub


    Ochrogaster lunifer
    walks in procession
    FAMILY IDENTIFICATION
    huge: 10 cms or more long, with some floppy spines:
    SATURNIIDAE
    Big red rump:
    Day-Flying Moths AGARISTINAE
    Everts stinging hairs when disturbed:
    Spitfires LIMACODIDAE.
    Carries a silk cocoon around, often with sticks or leaves glued to it:
    Bagmoths PSYCHIDAE
    Smooth with a pointed horn on the tail:
    Hawk moths SPHINGIDAE
    Smooth, hides by day, destroys lawns and crops at night:
    Cutworms and Armyworms NOCTUIDAE
    Hairy with four tussocks on the back:
    LYMANTRIIDAE
    Just hairy: ARCTIIDAE
    also just hairy: ANTHELIDAE
    also just hairy: NOTODONTIDAE
    Smooth and walks in a looper fashion: GEOMETRIDAE
    also smooth and walks in a looper fashion: CALPINAE
    also smooth and walks in a looper fashion: CATOCALINAE
    also smooth and walks in a looper fashion: PLUSIINAE

    Rears up and pokes a forked thing out of its head when disturbed:
    PAPILIONIDAE

    also rears up and pokes a forked thing out of its head when disturbed:
    NOTODONTIDAE
    NON-CATERPILLARS
     
    Some Arthropods and their larvae look like caterpillars but are from other orders. They can easily be distinguished from the larvae of Lepidoptera (true caterpillars) because generally they have the wrong number and types of legs, and not the six true legs plus the extra ten prolegs which most caterpillars have.

    Spitfire Sawfly larvae,
    Gum Sawfly larvae,
    Bottlebrush Sawfly larvae,
    Paperbark Sawfly larvae,
    Red-Ash Sawfly larvae,
    Cherry Slug larvae,
    Other Sawfly larvae,
    'C' grubs,
    Leaf Beetle Grubs,
    Yellow Ladybird larvae,
    Fungus-eating Ladybird larvae,
    Bardee Grubs,
    Soldier Fly Maggots,
    Rat Tailed Fly Maggots,
    Silky Lacewing.
    Mealy Bugs,
    Millipedes,
    Velvet Worms,
    Magnificent Bolas Spider egg-sacs
    House Centipedes
    Bush Centipedes

    Link to
    Frequently Asked Questions about Caterpillars

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    Australian Butterflies
    butterflies
    Australian
    home
    caterpillars
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    moths

    (updated 3 June 2014, 4 September 2016)