Black and white caterpillars are mostly found in the Eastern parts of North America. These caterpillars are also found in the South and the West, but to a lesser extent.
They can be black and white through all instars or only at a certain stage of their growth.
Most black and white caterpillars don’t grow more than 2 inches. They can have stinging or urticating hairs which may keep predators away.
Are Black And White Caterpillars Poisonous?
Black and white caterpillars aren’t poisonous to people. However, they can cause mild skin rashes as some species are known for having urticating hairs.
Other black and white caterpillars have stinging hairs which can be mildly painful, but not poisonous.
Caterpillars tend to have a bad taste which is based on absorbing toxins from their host plants.
This might be interpreted as poisonous as many species such as Gray kingbirds spit these caterpillars out based on this bad taste.
Types of Black And White Caterpillars
1. Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar – Black And White Hairy Caterpillar
Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillars (Lophocampa care) are predominantly found on hickory trees as they feed on their leaves.
These caterpillars are also found on pecan, elm, and ash trees.
With widespread distribution, these caterpillars are also known for their black and white coloring.
White is the dominant color of the species. Black dorsal marks are also characteristic of this species.
Tiny black marks are also seen along the sides of the caterpillar.
Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillars also have white hair covering their body.
These hairs cause mild rashes to humans who handle them as well as to their predators.
When it comes to size, most Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillars grow up to a length of 2 inches.
They are most common during the mid-summer in July and early August.
Caterpillars of this genus can become a considerable problem, especially during these months when they can partially defoliate host trees.
2. Zebra Longwing Caterpillar
Zebra Longwing Caterpillars (Heliconius charithonia) begin life as black and white caterpillars. They have a white body with long black hair and white spots across the body.
A black ventral side is specific to these caterpillars.
As they mature and reach their final instars these caterpillars start to become white, black, and red.
The body changes its black ventral color and its black spots to a red ventral color with red spots.
The hairs on the species remain black.
You can find Zebra Longwing Caterpillars in a range of passionflower plants such as yellow passionflower.
This caterpillar has the same look as the adult Zebra Longwing Caterpillar. The butterfly has a pure black and white coloring with tiny red dots visible on its ventral body.
3. Hebrew Moth Caterpillar
Hebrew Moth Caterpillar (Polygrammate hebraeicum) is seen across the eastern and Southeastern parts of the US. These territories are known for being the habitat of their favorite host.
Black gum trees in these territories are the host species of Hebrew Moth caterpillars.
The adult moth lays eggs on the branches of these trees or their bark.
The eggs eventually become green caterpillars.
Light translucent green is specific to this caterpillar.
Whit to pale green lines run along the sides of the body of the caterpillar.
Hebrew Moth Caterpillar can be detrimental to black gum trees in high numbers.
This species doesn’t have the color of the adults as the Hebrew Moth has black and white dominant colors.
The adult moth maintains much of the territory of the trees with a high presence across Eastern US parts and a reduced presence North towards Canada.
This species and its caterpillar can be considered a mild pest.
4. Walnut Caterpillar
Walnut Caterpillars (Datana integerrima) get their name from the walnut they feed on as caterpillars.
The species is now also seen on hickory.
This caterpillar goes through different appearance changes as it matures. It begins life as a black caterpillar with a few white hairs and white lateral bands.
At maturity, the hairs evenly spread across its body are grouped showing more areas of its black body.
The white lateral bands are also not seen on the mature Walnut Caterpillar.
This species of caterpillars can be seen from May to October in multiple broods.
It has no color resemblance to the adult which is marked by tan or light brown colors.
Walnut caterpillars grow to an adult size of up to 2 inches.
The species can be considered a pest to walnut as the consumption of the host tree leaves’ makes this species a danger to its long-term health.
5. American Lappet Moth Caterpillar
This species of caterpillars (Phyllodesma Americana) is one of the most widespread around North America.
Various species of trees are its hosts. They can represent a threat to the health of their host trees, together with other species that grow on the same hosts.
Willow, oak, and poplar are just a few of its host trees. This species is seen in riparian zones as well as in deciduous forests.
This species of caterpillars have very distinct coloring, partly resembling tree bark.
White, gray, and black are among the main colors of the species. Diamond-shaped gray areas on its dorsal side mimic tree bark.
These diamond shapes have black margins.
Red bands are also seen on the upper side of its body, close to the head. These might make some predators think that the species is poisonous.
The red sections aren’t visible on the caterpillar in its first instars.
6. American Sunflower Moth Caterpillar
American Sunflower Moth Caterpillars (Homoeosoma electella) are mainly tied to sunflowers as hosts.
This species of caterpillars have adapted to thriving on different other hosts as well. It can be seen on asters as it can also be seen on verbena and even citruses.
This is a hairless type of caterpillar that looks almost completely black in its first instars.
American Sunflower Moth Caterpillars then turn black and white as they mature.
A black body with white stripes is specific to this species.
These white stripes are separated by brown sections.
Caterpillars of the species are considered detrimental to photosynthesis as they can eat entire leaves on host plants.
7. Cross-striped Cabbageworm Moth Caterpillar
Cross-striped Cabbageworm Moth Caterpillars (Evergestis rimosalis) are some of the most detrimental caterpillars in North America.
This species can completely damage cabbage crops.
Its damages are extensive if not properly prevented. Covering all cabbages and similar family legumes with netting is one of the few proven methods to keep these predators away.
Cross-stripped Cabbageworm Moth caterpillars get their name from the black and white alternating stripes across their body.
These types of stripes make the species look more like a worm than a caterpillar.
Lateral yellow bands and spots are also characteristic of the species.
There’s little to no resemblance of the adult moth in coloring. The adult of the species is mostly white and light brown.
Parasitoids are sometimes used against these caterpillars on commercial crops.
Multiple species of parasitoids attack the eggs of these moths with a minimum impact on the caterpillars.
8. Turbulent Phosphila Moth Caterpillar
This species of caterpillars (Phosphila turbulenta) are native to North America. It lives in Eastern and Northeastern American habitats.
Caterpillars of this genus have black and white alternative longitudinal stripes.
They also have a black head with white stripes and a black tail which makes them look as if they have 2 heads.
The stripes aren’t perfectly straight. They have a slight zig-zag nature which can only be seen up-close.
This species has yellow banding across the ventral side.
Most colors and patterns on the caterpillar aren’t further distinguishable in the adult moth.
The adult of the species has dark brown or even black coloring.
These caterpillars don’t live solitary lives. They live in clusters on the same plant and even on the same twig at times.
9. Julia Heliconian Caterpillar
This type of caterpillar (Dryas iulia) is one of the most common in North America to cause skin rashes.
It has a short body but very long black hair that causes rashes to humans and many other animals it comes in contact with.
The species has a white underside with a red band across the lower sides of its body.
Julia Heliconian Caterpillars are so damaging they can completely kill their host plants.
Various types of passion vines are the hosts of this species.
Passion vines have adapted over time against this caterpillar, mainly by growing back stronger with thicker leaves.
These caterpillars cannot eat passion vines with thick leaves.
The coloring of the adult is mostly orange or rusty-orange bearing little resemblance to the coloring of the caterpillars.
10. Satyr Comma Caterpillar
The Western part of North America is the natural habitat of this caterpillar (Polygonia satyrus).
Locations West and slightly East of The Rocky Mountains are places where this species lives.
Remotely, it also lives in Western Canada.
Satyr Comma Caterpillars are among the most common types of caterpillars to only have black and white coloring.
The species has alternating black and white bands. It also has bristle-like black and white hairs.
This is one of the few species of caterpillars with a reduced number of predators, mainly because it grows and lives on a nettle.
It feeds on various species of nettle found across Western US states.
It then turns into orange, brown, and black butterflies that like to eat tree sap and even fruit or dung.
11. Dot-lined White Caterpillar
Dot-lined White Caterpillars (Artace cribrarius) are found in a growing habitat since they have some of the most common hosts.
They grow, eat, and live on oak and cherry trees.
If these trees aren’t present, these caterpillars can also use roses as a host species.
Their impact on the leaves of host trees can only be considered when there’s an invasion.
Dot-lined White caterpillars are among the few species that have similar coloring as adults.
The adult of the species is white with a few black dots and stripes.
Caterpillars are white and off-white. They have just a few dark or black marks and long lateral white hairs.
The species is hairless in its first instar.
You can find Dot-lined White caterpillars across Eastern and Southeastern US territories.
12. Convict Caterpillar
This species of caterpillars (Xanthopastis regnatrix) are tied to some of the most attractive wildflowers in the family of amaryllis.
These are colorful flowers that can be red, blue, white, or yellow. The leaves of these flowers serve as food for the caterpillars.
Growing to a length of up to 2 inches, these caterpillars are distinguished by their black and white colors.
Most of the body is black with a shiny hue. Narrow white bands are seen across the body of this species.
Red is the ventral color of the species. Its ventral side turns orange as the caterpillar reaches maturity.
Some caterpillars of this species also show small pink marks between the white bands as adult caterpillars.
This color is further distinguishable on the forewings of the adult Convict.
13. Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar
These caterpillars (Halysidota tessellaris) are identified by their hairy body and 2 sets of antennae, also represented by grouped hairs.
Black is the dominant color of the body while white is represented by long hairs that cover the entire body.
Caterpillars of this genus have many types of hots.
They live on trees such as alder, ash, and birch. They’re also adapted to living on blueberry.
Damages to the trees are limited to insignificant since these caterpillars appear late in the season and since they only grow in small numbers on these trees.
Furthermore, the size of the host trees the caterpillar lives on is also reduced compared to their numbers.
The colors of the caterpillar don’t pass on to adults.
14. White-marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar
This species of the caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma) is among the very few that sits on deciduous trees and conifers.
It lives on almost any tree category which shows its adaptability.
White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillars are also known to cause skin irritation in humans.
Black stripes, white tufts, yellow stripes, and long black hairs are also specific to the species.
It’s the hairs that prove most likely to cause skin allergies. 4 tufts are seen on the upper body behind its head.
These are mimicry tufts that aim to make the caterpillar resemble species such as wasps.
Apple, birch, and fir are among the most common hosts of this species. These are some of the most important trees around the country in terms of numbers.
Skeletonization is seen with these caterpillars. They only let leave veins behind them after feeding.
These caterpillars aren’t one of the major pests across the continent due to their high number of predators.
Birds are largely immune to rashes from their hairs and are the most important predator of the caterpillars.
15. Hieroglyphic Moth Caterpillar – Black and White Caterpillar with Red Head
Caterpillars of this family are only found in the Southernmost regions of the United States.
They (Diphthera festiva) are seen across pea family plants and on mallows.
The size of these caterpillars makes them stand out as they often measure more than 2 inches in length.
Black and white coloring are specific to the species. Alternating black and white bands are seen across its body.
Some morphs of this species also show black and white longitudinal stripes.
These caterpillars have a red head and a red anal plate.
Small birds are the most common predator of these caterpillars. However, most types of fast small birds cannot eat these caterpillars due to their bad taste.
They absorb toxins from their host plants which then transition into their bodies making these caterpillars taste bad.
Small birds such as robins cannot eat these caterpillars, as a result.
16. Azalea Caterpillar
Azaleas are the main host of these caterpillars (Datana major). In rare instances, the caterpillars also feed on blueberries.
Multiple colors are specific to these species of caterpillars.
They begin life as white caterpillars with blackheads and red lateral colors.
These caterpillars then grow to show longitudinal yellow and black stripes.
A central green strip is characteristic of the dorsal coloring of this species.
Azalea caterpillars have black ventral coloring with red legs.
Those that grow Azalea indica and blueberries might need to consider horticultural oils against these caterpillars. Essential oils also work on a smaller scale, such as in the case of potted plants.
17. Grapevine Epimenis Moth Caterpillar
As their name implies, these caterpillars (Psychomorpha epimenis) are the most common on grapevines. They can be a considerable pest to take action against.
You can identify Grapevine Epimenis Moth caterpillars by their black and white bands across the body. These caterpillars have red or orange heads and anal plates.
The species is seen on the leaves of grapevines. They consume these leaves as they are nutritious and soft.
While adults don’t feed, they maintain the same colors as the caterpillar.
The adult Grapevine moth is mostly black. Large white sections are specific to its forewings.
Red or orange large sections are seen on its hindwings.
Ventral coloring is also similar to the adults which are black, orange, and white.
These caterpillars appear in March. You can see them on grapevines around the country.
Eastern and Northeastern US territories are among the areas these caterpillars are most common.
18. One-spotted Variant Caterpillar
These types of caterpillars (Hypagyrtis unipunctata) are found in the Eastern parts of the United States.
One-spotted Variant Caterpillar is among the few species that mimic earthworms. They have a tan or pale color with white and black sections across the body.
The black sections appear in the later instars on the dorsal side of this species when it also changes coloring to gray.
At its mature stage, the One-spotted Variant caterpillar mimics twigs.
It lives on ash, birch, alder, or even on cherry trees.
The mimicry capacity of the caterpillar is then also seen in the adult butterfly. This mimicry allows the adult to have gray and brown ventral wings which make it similar to dead leaves whenever it has its wings closed.
19. Cecrops Eyed Silkmoth Caterpillar
Flowers and trees are the most common hosts of this caterpillar (Automeris cecrops).
Only found in New Mexico and Arizona, this species of caterpillar has to change colors as it goes from one instar to another.
It begins life as a mostly green caterpillar. It has light green hairs which protect it from predators as it doesn’t appear to be a caterpillar.
This species finally turns into a black caterpillar with a few white stripes on its body and a few white and black bristle-like hairs as well.
High color variation is seen between instars as well. The species can also show red or orange coloring on its body before becoming reaching its final instar.
This caterpillar has adapted to the dry hot environment in New Mexico and Arizona as it prefers plants and trees that are found here in high numbers.
The olive-like mountain mahogany is one of the trees this caterpillar mimics with its initial green color.
This species of caterpillars is further identified on mimosa around these states.
20. Yellow-striped Armyworm
Only insecticides can properly control the damages made by the Yellow-striped Armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli).
As its name implies, this caterpillar has yellow stripes. It also has brown, white, and black stripes across its body.
You can find this species on a wide variety of crops. It lives on peas, potatoes, beet, or asparagus crops or in gardens with plenty of legumes.
You might find it feeding on carrot leaves in your garden.
The extent to which it feeds on these legumes is considerable. It can even kill plant growth.
Caterpillars of this genus can even spin silk cocoons which help them move around the garden or crops, as blown by the wing.
Yellow-striped Armyworms have natural enemies such as wasps, just like most other caterpillars.
These caterpillars are eliminated by the use of an insecticide. Nets are sometimes raised between different types of crops so that the caterpillars don’t spread with the wind.