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.
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
Charaxes 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,
Fig Leaf Beetle Grubs,
Dendrobium 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
Praying Mantis egg case


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


    Link to
    Frequently Asked Questions about Caterpillars

    Australian
    Australian Butterflies
    butterflies
    Australian
    home
    caterpillars
    Australian
    Australian Moths
    moths

    (updated 3 June 2014, 8 April 2017)