11 COMMON Caterpillars in Newfoundland & Labrador (2024)

What kinds of caterpillars can you find in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Kinds of Caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador

Caterpillars are some of the MOST fascinating insects in the world! It always amazes me that caterpillars eventually turn into butterflies or moths.

There are hundreds of different caterpillar species found in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Since it would be impossible to list them all in one article, I chose the 11 most interesting and common ones to share with you. 🙂


#1. Monarch Caterpillar

  • Danaus plexippus

Types of Caterpillars that live in Newfoundland and Labrador

Identifying Characteristics:

  • This famous caterpillar is plump with black, white, and yellow bands.
  • Its legs and pro-legs are pronounced, and each end of its body has spindly black tentacles.
  • The Monarch’s preferred host plant is milkweed.

Like the adult butterfly, the Monarch is one of the most well-recognized caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Common Newfoundland and Labrador Caterpillars

Their distinctive stripes and tentacles make them look cartoonish. But this highly visible coloring sends a message to predators: Back Off!

Monarch Caterpillars are toxic to most animals, and at the very least, taste bad! This poison comes from their diet, which is almost entirely made up of milkweed. Toxins from the milkweed plant stay in the caterpillar, producing a bitter taste and poisonous effects.

If you have milkweed in your yard or nearby, your chance of finding Monarch Caterpillars is excellent! Honestly, there is nothing more fun than finding these colorful insects on our milkweed plants and getting to watch them transform into adults!


#2. Woolly Bear

  • Pyrrharctia isabella

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Coloring is black with a wide rusty-red band in the middle.
  • As its name suggests, the Woolly Bear caterpillar is covered in dense, coarse hairs.
  • Transform into Isabella Tiger Moths.
  • Woolly Bears are generalist feeders, meaning they will live on and eat nearly any plant!

As a kid, I can remember hearing tons of stories about Woolly Bear caterpillars – and the coolest part about them is that most of the stories are true! One myth you might have heard is that Woolly Bears can predict the type of winter we’ll have. Unfortunately, this one isn’t true. But there’s plenty of other interesting facts about this cute little caterpillar!

The most fascinating thing about Woolly Bears is the way they hibernate.

That’s to say, they don’t hibernate at all! Instead of burrowing or pupating to escape the cold, Woolly Bears allow themselves to freeze solid. They have a unique chemical in their blood that allows them to thaw out and continue in the spring as if nothing happened!

You may have heard that Woolly Bear Caterpillars are venomous, but this isn’t entirely true. Their hairs don’t contain any toxins or irritants, but some people are sensitive to the hairs and may get a slight rash if they touch one. It’s best to observe the species without touching them, just in case.

Woolly Bear Caterpillars and their adult-form, Isabella Tiger Moths, are found in incredibly varied climates, even the Arctic! Because they will eat almost anything, including herbs, tree leaves, and grasses, they can be found pretty much anywhere plants are growing. Look for them in groups near the base of plants.

Just don’t expect them to take over for your meteorologist! 🙂


#3. Large Maple Spanworm

  • Prochoerodes lineola

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Gray-brown coloring with small black spots scattered on the body. Often this species has a bark-like pattern.
  • Thin and stick-like with a knob on each end.
  • Large Maple Spanworms use a huge variety of plants and trees as hosts: birch, maple, cherry, apple, oak, poplar, walnut, and willow trees; geranium, soybean, blueberry, and currant plants; and grass.

This species has one of the best camouflages of any caterpillar in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Large Maple Spanworms look exactly like a bit of twig on a tree, even from up close! So, it’s hard to imagine any predator observant enough to try and eat one, which is precisely its goal.

Their camouflage is the only defense Maple Spanworms have because they aren’t poisonous. They’re a favorite snack for determined birds!

When they’re not imitating sticks, Large Maple Spanworms have an interesting way of getting around! They plant their front legs, arch their back in the air, and bring their back legs forward to meet their front. Then, they throw their front forward and repeat the whole process. They’re one of many caterpillars that move like this, earning them nicknames like inchworm, looper, or spanworm.

Large Maple Spanworm Moths are just as adept at camouflage as their larva – they look exactly like dead leaves clinging to a branch!


#4. Hornworms

  • Manduca sexta – Tobacco Hornworm
  • Manduca quinquemaculata – Tomato Hornworm

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These two species have nearly identical coloring: bright green with tiny white lines and black dots.
  • There’s a thin, filament-like “horn” on the rear end.
  • Hornworms grow up to 3.5 inches in length before metamorphosis.

Tobacco and Tomato Hornworms are so similar that they’re often mistaken for one another! The easiest way to tell them apart is by the color of their horns. Tobacco Hornworms have a red horn, and Tomato Hornworms have a green or black horn. While the adult moths they grow into aren’t quite as similar, they do have the same coloring.

Hornworms are considered one of the most destructive caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador.

They specialize in eating tobacco, tomato, and other similar plants and regularly cause problems for farms and growers who don’t use pesticides. However, relocating or killing the caterpillars can be enough for many home gardeners to deter any more from eating your plants.

One particularly disgusting enemy of the hornworm is Cotesia congregata. It’s a parasitoid wasp that attacks the caterpillar with venom and then lays its eggs INSIDE the living body. As the caterpillar matures, so do the wasp eggs, slowly feeding on the hornworm until it dies and the wasps hatch. Gross!


#5. White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar

  • Orgyia leucostigma

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Black and yellow stripes run the length of the body with a large red spot on the head.
  • Many tufts of hair-like spines.
  • White-Marked Tussock Caterpillars will use nearly any coniferous or deciduous tree as a host!

The White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar wins the prize for the most interesting haircut!

Tufts of spiky hair give this caterpillar the look of having antennae, a tail, and spiky sides. In addition, four white tufts look like paintbrushes sprouting from its back. Talk about a unique style! And it doesn’t stop there – on the adult White-Marked Tussock Moth, the Antennae themselves are covered in fur!

The hairs on the White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar and its relatives are called urticating hairs, meaning they can cause a rash. Although it may be annoying and itchy, the inflammation isn’t dangerous, and this species is not venomous.

White-Marked Tussock Caterpillars sometimes have population outbreaks, where a local population swells exponentially. When these outbreaks happen, it’s common for colonies of the caterpillars to eat all of the leaves off of a tree, severely damaging them. Fortunately, there are quite a few natural predators that aren’t bothered by its hairiness and they are able to feast!

Viral infections eventually stop many population outbreaks of White-Marked Tussock Caterpillars. Alphabaculovirus, which is a class of viruses that infect and kill many caterpillars, moths, and butterflies, is mostly to blame. Infections spread quickly through White-Marked Tussock Caterpillar populations because they live closely together on the same host plant. The virus causes rapid sickness and death among infected individuals.


#6. Banded Tussock Caterpillar

  • Halysidota tessellaris

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Coloring is pale cream, yellow, light brown, or white. Black tufts on the head and rear end stick out further than the white hairs.
  • One darker line runs down the center of the back.
  • Its preferred host plants are alder, ash, and fruit trees.

The Banded Tussock Caterpillar is similar in appearance to other Tussock Caterpillars, with one main difference – it’s actually not a true Tussock Caterpillar at all!

This master of disguise is actually the larva of the Pale Tiger Moth. Unlike true Tussock Caterpillars, this species isn’t venomous. However, some people are extra sensitive to the hairs that cover its body and may still get a rash. Even if you’ve identified a caterpillar as a Banded Tussock, it’s best to observe, not handle, the caterpillar!

Banded Tussock Caterpillars have an interesting way of forming their chrysalis when it’s time to transform into adult moths. They use their hairs to make a soft, felted cocoon that keeps them from freezing over winter!


#7. Large Yellow Underwing

  • Noctua pronuba

You’re most likely to find these caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador in open or shrubby areas, but they are habitat generalists that can adapt to various conditions. For example, they’re happy in urban and suburban areas, fields, agricultural areas, yards, and parks.

The adult moths are mostly nocturnal and are attracted to outdoor lights. You may occasionally spot large groups of them around bright lights.

Large Yellow Underwings might not have the most creative name, but it’s certainly accurate! At rest, their brown forewings usually cover their brightly colored hindwings, but you’ll see a flash of color when they take off! This flash helps to confuse and startle would-be predators.

Large Yellow Underwings have a longer lifespan than many other moth species. In captivity, males live an average of 55 days, and females live about 75 days. Despite their long lifespan, they only have one new generation per year.


#8. Painted Lady

  • Vanessa cardui
Vanessa cardui. (2023, August 10). In Wikipedia.
  • The caterpillars’ coloring is variable, ranging from greenish-yellow to charcoal. Most have light-colored spots.

Look for Painted Lady caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador in open areas that are quiet and undisturbed, like roadsides, pastures, and gardens.

The population of Painted Lady’s can drastically differ from year to year. It’s common for them not to be seen for years in some places, then suddenly show up in significant numbers.

The Painted Lady is the only butterfly that mates year-round! Because of its constant migration pattern, it spends its entire life in suitable areas for its eggs to hatch.


#9. Red Admiral

  • Vanessa atalanta

  • The caterpillars are pinkish-gray to charcoal with white spots. They have spines along the back that resemble hairs.

Look for this caterpillar in Newfoundland and Labrador near the edge of forests in moist habitats.

Red Admiral Butterflies have a unique favorite food – they love fermented fruit! If you’d like to attract them, try placing overripe cut fruit in a sunny spot in your yard.

Red Admirals are migratory butterflies. They fly south toward warmer climates in winter and then move north again in late spring when food is more plentiful.

If you’re looking for a butterfly that’s easy to observe, you’re in luck! Red Admirals are very calm and easy to approach and frequently land on humans!


#10. Spotted Tussock Moth

  • Lophocampa maculata

Spotted Tussock Moths are in the tiger moth family, named for their patterns of alternating dark and light colors. These moths and their caterpillars are what’s known as polymorphic, meaning that they come in many color variations.

You’ll most likely find Spotted Tussock Moth caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador in deciduous forests. Researchers have found that Spotted Tussock Moths have a regional taste for cuisine, just like people! Caterpillars from certain regions often prefer specific tree species.

After about two months of feeding, the caterpillars pupate. They spin brown silk cocoons attached to leaves where they will overwinter, emerging as adults the following spring.


#11. Mourning Cloak

  • Nymphalis Antiopa

  • Caterpillars are black with white specks and a row of red spots on the back.

Mourning Cloak caterpillars are most often found near deciduous forests. However, their habitat includes many developed areas like suburban yards, parks, and golf courses.

You might have a hard time finding this caterpillar in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Even though it’s fairly widespread, its preference for cold weather and solitary habits make it hard to spot, even for avid butterfly enthusiasts!butterflies in the united states

Mourning Cloaks are often the first butterflies to become active in the spring! In fact, some adults are even active through winter on warm days when snow is still on the ground.

They’re also one of the longest-lived butterflies, with some individuals living up to ten months!


Do you need more help identifying caterpillars in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Here are some recommended books on Amazon!


Which of these caterpillars have you seen in Newfoundland and Labrador?

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