Five “Very Hungry” Late-Summer Caterpillars You Should Look Out For

As summer comes to a close, certain caterpillars have been found crawling around in landscapes. These late-summer caterpillars may harm your plants or even harm you.

Here are the five types of “very hungry” caterpillars that have recently been found in the area.


1. Red-humped Oakworm Caterpillar

Time of Year: August – September (Northeast), May – October (Southeast)

Targets:

  • White oak trees
  • Beech trees
  • Chestnut trees

Red-humped oakworm caterpillars typically become more noticeable in the late summer. Their feeding may lead to skeletonized-looking leaves and vast defoliation on the tree; however, usually the tree will survive with no permanent damage… as long as there isn’t a series of environmental stressors. If all the leaves are finished, the tree bug may wander into the house and leave a retching odor behind.

Generally, the most common complaint with red-humped oakworm caterpillars is the annoying falling insect frass. Their frass can interrupt favorite leisure activities and contaminate anything in reach.


2. American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Time of Year: July – October

Targets:

  • Alder trees
  • Ash trees
  • Elm trees
  • Maple trees
  • Oak trees
  • Willow trees

Possibly disappointing to hear, American dagger moth caterpillars are difficult to find. The defoliation they create is a different case as the tree bug can leave a very noticeable aftermath. On top of this, if touched, the caterpillar can produce a stinging, burning rash on skin.


3. Hibiscus-Leaf Moth Caterpillar

Time of Year: April – October

Target:

  • Hibiscus plants

While hibiscus-leaf moth caterpillars may sip nectar from flowers, their larvae actually munch on the leaves of hibiscus plants (hence their name!). In other words, if you own hibiscus plants it may be worth keeping an eye out for these pests.


4. Imperial Moth Caterpillar

Time of Year: June – August (North), April – October (South)

Targets (mainly, they feed on dozens!):

  • Pine trees
  • Oak trees
  • Maple trees
  • Sassafras trees
  • Sweetgum trees

Although this type of caterpillar is rarely found, possibly one of the giveaways that imperial moth caterpillars are crawling in your yard is falling frass. While this makes their presence more noticeable to homeowners, it’s important to refrain from touching imperial moth caterpillars as they may leave an itchy rash on contact. These caterpillars make an especially delicious snack for nearby birds.


5. Checkered-fringe Prominent Caterpillar

Time of Year: June – August (North), April – September (South)

Targets:

  • Birch trees
  • Elm trees
  • Maple trees
  • Oak trees
  • Basswood trees

Nocturnal, the checkered-fringe prominent caterpillar eats leaves off select trees and can be seen wandering toward light at night. Fortunately, these bugs don’t have toxic spines. They camouflage so well that the ability on its own enables them to hide and protect themselves from predators.


Interested in learning about other caterpillars that may be wandering in your landscape? Check out our blog post here for more common caterpillars in the area.

Do you want your landscape to reach its optimal health? By enrolling in our Canopy Protection Program, our Certified Arborists can provide your property with the proactive care it needs before things go awry.

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