Caterpillars mistaken for Lymantria moth caterpillars

Several types of caterpillars are commonly mistaken for gypsy moth caterpillars. Use these checklists and images for identification.

On this page:

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly

Some rare and endangered butterfly caterpillars resemble gypsy moth caterpillars. However, to preserve butterfly populations, butterfly caterpillars should not be disturbed. If you have found a caterpillar and are uncertain of its species, leave it be.

Taylor checkerspot butterfly caterpillars:

  • Are black and hairy
  • Have a single row of yellow dots on their backs
  • Feed on plants within Garry oak meadows, but not on the trees
  • Are currently found only in a few locations on Denman Island and Buckley Bay

 Caterpillar on the forest floor

Note the black tufts of hair on the Taylor's checkerspot caterpillar, and the single row of reddish-orange dots.

Silver-spotted tiger moth

Silver-spotted tiger moth caterpillars

  • Are large
  • Actively feed between the early spring and early June
  • Primarily feed on conifers (evergreens)
  • Do not have any spots
  • Have yellow hairs
  • Produce dense webs on trees
  • Often feed in groups

 Caterpillar on a branch

Caterpillar on wood

Note the yellowish tufts on the silver-spotted tiger moth caterpillars. Also, they do not have distinctive, coloured dots.

Tussock Moth

Tussock moth caterpillars

  • Are hairy, with pencil-like tufts on the head and tail and "tussocks", or bunches of hairs, on the back
  • Feed on Douglas-fir (Douglas-fir tussock moth) or both hardwood and evergreen trees (rusty tussock moth)
  • Produce webbing, but not tents, on the trees they feed on

 Caterpillar on a branch

Note the two long tufts on the Douglas-fir tussock moth caterpillar's head, and the long bundles of hair on the body.

Tent caterpillar (Western and Northern)

Tent caterpillars:

  • Usually feed in large groups
  • Build large white tents of webbing
  • Feed on the leaves of trees like Garry oak and alder, and fruit trees and ornamental shrubs
  • Have short hairs on their bodies
  • Have blue, orange or red spots

 Many caterpillars in a tent

Close up of a caterpillar

Note the masses of tent caterpillars gathered on a tent of webbing. Note also the shorter hairs on the body, and the white and yellow markings on the back.

Winter moth

Winter moth caterpillars:

  • Are hairless and green
  • Are found hiding within rolled leaves
  • Feed on large, leafy trees like maple, oak and alder, and on fruit trees and ornamental shrubs
  • Suspend themselves from a single strand of webbing

 Caterpillar on a leaf

Note that the winter moth is green and hairless.