The Q&A Archives: Caterpillar ID

Question: Hairy black and orange caterpillars have been eating milkweed plants that I keep for the monarch butterfly caterpillars. There are so many of these hairy black and orange caterpillars that they have eaten the milkweed to the ground. I do not know whether this is a "good" caterpillar or a pest. Your help would be appreciated. The caterpillar appears to have feelers on both ends and the orange stripe is down the middle of its back. The two ends are black.

Answer: Milkweed plants contain a poison that caterpillars use as a defense. The juice they ingest makes them less desireable to predatory birds and insects. Milkweed feeding butterfly larvae tend to have fleshy filaments at each end, so yours may be cousins to the Monarch or Queen (family Danaus). I'd consider these to be 'good guys' and wouldn't try to control their populations.

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