What Do Caterpillars Eat?

The plants that caterpillars eat are called host plants while the plants that adult butterflies eat (actually they drink nectar from the flowers) are called nectar plants. Each species of butterflies has specific host plants on which the adult butterflies lay their eggs.

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar on one of its host plants, Common RueYou may find that in one region of the country the butterfly caterpillars may prefer to eat a specific variety of their host plant more so than in other regions. Therefore, determining the best host plant to attract a certain butterfly is not always easy.

The spikes are soft and do not hurtSource: DeadEyeArrow reproduced under Creative Commons If you are raising caterpillars and you happen to run out of caterpillar food, you should be successful in changing their food source as long as it is in their group of host plants. The table below can help you find something to feed your caterpillar if you happen to run out of food! Some of the plants listed below can be found in local nurseries but be sure to ask about pesticide use if you are planning to buy them to feed caterpillars.

BUTTERFLY SPECIESHOST PLANTS Anise Swallowtail anise , parsley , carrot, dill , fennel, rue Eastern Black Swallowtail_________ anise,parsley , carrot, dill , fennel, rue , Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) Giant Swallowtailcitrus, hop tree, prickly ash, rue Pipevine Swallowtail Dutchmans Pipe , pipevines (not the exotics), Virginia snakerootSpicebush Swallowtail spicebush (primarily) , sassafras, camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), various bays ( Persea spp. )Eastern Tiger Swallowtailmany broadleaf trees and shrubs, lilac, willow, birch, tuliptree, cherryZebra Swallowtail pawpaw Monarch Milkweed (Asclepias) Viceroywillow, poplar, aspen, apple, cherry, plumRed-Spotted Purpleapple, aspen, cherry, hawthorn, hornbeam, poplar, willowGreat Spangled Fritillaryviolets, (Viola tricolor)Variegated FritillaryViolets, (Viola tricolor), pansies, stonecrops, passionflowers (Passiflora incarnata) , plantainsMeadow Fritillaryviolets (Viola sororia, Viola pallens)Mourning Cloakelm, poplar, willowQuestion Markelm, hackberry, hop, nettle, false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) Green Commarhododendron, azalea, birch, willowRed Admiralnettle, false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) , hopPainted Ladymembers of the mallow family, Malva sylvestris , Tree mallow (Lavatera), thistles, goosefootsAmerican Painted Ladydaisies, everlastings, other composites, Hollyhock (Alcea rosea), Pearly Everlastings Buckeyeplantain, snapdragon, stonecrop, verbena, ( Verbena stricta ), other garden flowersBaltimore Checkerspot turtlehead (primarily) , false foxglove, plantain, white ashPearly Crescentspotasters, New England Aster (A. novae-angliae)Great Purple HairstreakmistletoesGray Hairstreakcotton, mallows, strawberry, legumes, mintsAmerican Coppersheep sorrel, curly dock, mountain sorrelTailed Blueclovers, beans, peasSpring Azureblueberry, California lilac, dogwoods, meadowsweet, viburnumsCloudless Sulphur Senna marilandica , senna, clovers, other legumesClouded Sulphurclovers and other legumes, Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) Orange Sulphurwhite clover, alfalfa, vetch, lupine, Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) Dogfacefalse indigo, clovers, lupine, vetch, leadplantCheckered Whitecrucifers, CleomeCabbage WhiteCabbage, Mustards, other crucifers, nasturtiumZebra Longwingpassionflowers, Passiflora incarnata Gulf Fritillarypassionflowers, Passiflora incarnata , Passiflora caeruleaMalachiteyerba papagayoMonarch butterflies and Black Swallowtail butterflies (Anise Swallowtail butterflies in the West) are popular, easy, and beautiful caterpillars/butterflies to raise indoors or outside. Parsley (curled or flat leaf) and common rue are my local favorites for Black Swallowtail caterpillars in our Southeast area and Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is my current favorite for Monarch caterpillar.

Parsley can be found in most local garden centers (but ask around about pesticides that may have been used on the plants it will kill the caterpillars). The common rue plant is a perennial and will start easily from seeds or cuttings. Tropical milkweed starts easily from seed and is a quick growing annual.

You can harvest the seed in the Fall to start your new plants next Spring. Many people already have nectar plants in their gardens that attract some butterflies.

What can I feed a caterpillar?

Flowers. For some species, the leaves of a plant just aren’t enough and they will devour the buds, seeds and blooms too. ….Honeycomb. ….Grass. ….Bark and Twigs. ….Animal Waste. ….Ants. ….Moss and lichen. ….Hair.

Do caterpillars eat fruit and vegetables?

Caterpillars also enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. They might feed on all sorts of fruits and veggies such as cob corn, lettuce, cabbage, apples, pears, bananas, and any other fruit or veggie you can think of.

What can I feed wild caterpillars?

If you’re stumped about the caterpillar’s food preferences, try introducing one or more of the most common caterpillar food plants: oak, willow, cherry, poplar, birch, apple, and alder. Some herbaceous plants, such as dandelions and clover, are common hosts for larvae.

Discovering which caterpillar foods you can bring to your garden to support new and interesting native butterflies offers an opportunity to try out different types of native flowering plants. The more caterpillar food you have in your yard, will also attract different types of birds.

Most butterflies and moths can only rely on certain plants, shrubs or trees to feed their young. For example, the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly can only eat milkweed leaves to survive.

In one of natures unique designs, the plant toxins are safe for the caterpillars, but are a poison to the caterpillars predators. To learn which species of butterflies and moths are native to where you live and to find the native plants that host them, go to the Native Plant Finder and type in your zip code. Acmon Blue – buckwheat, lupines, milkvetch American Painted Lady – cudweed, everlast Baird’s Swallowtail – dragon sagebrush Black Swallowtail – parsley, dill, fennel, common rue Coral Hairstreak – wild black cherry, American and chickasaw plum, black chokeberry Dun Skipper – sedges, grasses including purpletop Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – wild black cherry, ash, tulip tree, willow, sweetbay, basswood Giant Swallowtail – prickly ash, citrus, common rue, hoptree, gas plant, torchwood Gray Comma – gooseberry, azalea, elm Great Purple Hairstreak – mistletoe Gulf Fritillary – maypops, other passion vines Henry’s Elfin – redbud, dahoon and yaupon hollies, maple-leaved viburnum, blueberries Monarch – milkweeds Painted Lady (Cosmopolite) – thistles, mallows, nievitas, yellow fiddleneck Pygmy Blue – saltbush, lamb’s quarters, pigweed Red Admiral/White Admiral – wild cherries, black oaks, aspens, yellow and black birch Silver-Spotted Skipper – locusts, wisteria, other legumes Spicebush Swallowtail – sassafras, spicebush Sulphurs – clover, peas, vetch, alfalfa, asters Variegated Fritillary – passion flower, maypop, violets, stonecrop, purslane Viceroy – willows, cottonwood, aspen Western Tailed Blue – vetches, milkvetches Western Tiger Swallowtail – willow, plum, alder, sycamore, hoptree, ash Woodland Skipper – grasses Zebra Swallowtail – pawpaw

Lots of people mistake caterpillars for worms. They look a lot like worms, they are cold-blooded animals like worms but unlike worms, caterpillars are the larvae of moths or butterflies where worms (or larvae to be specific) will turn into beetles or will stay worms throughout their life cycle as with earthworms.

All species of caterpillars hatch from eggs, grow and feed as worms, turn into pupae and emerge as moths or butterflies. They usually prefer soft green plants that have lots of moisture since they usually dont have access to water.

They bore holes in the living wood and feed in the tree for about two years before they emerge as adult moths. Not all caterpillars do eat clothes but some species enjoy the taste of hair and natural animal fibers. In countries like Botswana, South Africa, China, and East Asia, certain caterpillars are harvested daily as a delicacy.

You must be wondering what do caterpillars eat whenever you spot them in your garden! The diet of these little creatures is very interesting. They mostly rely on nature to feed themselves. However, different species of caterpillars prefer eating different sources of caterpillar food. For example, when they are in cocoons they prefer different food. In this post, I have listed down twelve of the most common caterpillar foods and which species eat them. Make sure you do check out some fun facts about caterpillars in the end. Come on let us see now what do caterpillars eat more in-depth.

These amazing creatures love to eat wild grass, leaves, and flowers. If you are interested to know what do caterpillars eat and drink, then you must continue to read.

Caterpillars eat a variety of foodstuff that is easily available to them. In this section, you will get to learn what do caterpillars eat in detail. Many among us do not know what kind of leaves do caterpillars eat.

In that case, collect some oak leaves and feed them. You must be surprised to know that some caterpillars do have a sweet tooth. Most widespread species of caterpillars rely on wild grasses.

Wild grasses provide great nourishment for caterpillars such as Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, and Skipper. You can let your garden overgrow so that any species of caterpillars will have an abundant supply of food. Caterpillars like the Lunar Hornet Moth make a hole into barks of trees where they feed on the living wood.

These caterpillars can stay inside the wood for about two years without causing much damage to the trees. This includes birds, mice, owl pellets, small moths, flies, and beetles. Many species of caterpillars rely on red ants.

Caterpillars begin their lives constantly feeding on the flowers of Wild Thyme or Marjoram. After a while, they start feeding on ant larvae and maggots before pupating underground. Young caterpillars like dingy, buff, muslin, rosy, and scarce footman moths mostly feed on lichens.

You may commonly find lichens growing on tree trunks, fence posts, old walls, mosses, and decaying vegetable waste. There is a huge misunderstanding that all caterpillars eat clothes. Less than 1% of all caterpillar species in the UK eat natural animal fibers.

Common clothes moth caterpillars feed on dirty wool, fur, hair, and feathers. Most domestic moth problems are easy enough to tackle by vacuuming and washing your clothes, but if you have a serious infestation, particularly if its affecting a clothing business, then it might be best to just get some professionals in to help. Animals such as red admiral, peacock, comma, and small tortoiseshell butterflies lay their eggs on nettles.

Caterpillars feed on the big clumps of nettles once they wake up. Alder buckthorn is a beautiful native tree that has star-shaped flowers with purple-brown twigs. Caterpillars such as brimstone eat the leaves of alder buckthorn trees.

They happily eat leaves half of the time but can swap with caterpillars if they bump into them. In this section, you will get to know what do caterpillars eat in the wild. Below I have listed down some native plants they love to eat.

Buckwheat Lupines Milkvetch Cudweed Everlast Dragon Sagebrush Parsley Dill Fennel Rue Wild black cherry American and Chickasaw plum Black chokeberry Sedges Tulip tree Willow Sweet bay Basswood Ash Citrus Torchwood Gooseberry Azalea Elm Mistletoe Milkweeds Pigweed Aspens Black oaks If Below I have listed down some delicious foods to feed caterpillars in winters. You know that there are different types of caterpillars found in the garden.

Below I have listed down some popular caterpillars and their favorite host plants for you. Red-Spotted Purple1.Apple
7.Willow Let us now learn some interesting and fun facts about caterpillars. These tiny creatures do not like to drink water when they feel thirsty.

Caterpillars obtain sufficient fluids from the leaves, fruits, and plants that they eat. The main purpose of a caterpillar is to eat food and grow bigger until they transform into an adult butterfly. They are constantly searching for suitable plants and leaves to feed on them.

You can feed them apples, watermelon, cherry, and plum. Oak Leaves Flowers Honeycomb Wild Grass Bark and Twigs Ants Moss And Lichen Wool Nettles Alder Buckthorn Willow Cherry Poplar Birch Apple Dandelions Clover They also consume ferns, mosses, and dead leaves.

Buckwheat Lupines Milkvetch Cudweed Everlast Dragon Sagebrush Parsley Dill Fennel Rue Wild black cherry American and Chickasaw plum Black chokeberry Sedges Tulip tree Willow Sweet bay Basswood Ash Citrus Torchwood Gooseberry Azalea Elm Mistletoe Milkweeds Pigweed Aspens Black oaks Here is the list of foods that green caterpillars like to eat. Oak Willow Cherry Poplar Birch Apples Alder Buckthorn Dandelions Clover

When caterpillars are in their cocoons, they feed mostly on leaves and flowers. It is very essential to take proper care of a caterpillar until they change into a butterfly. You can keep them in a small container lined with paper towels.

Add some sticks and twigs to make them feel more comfortable at home. In my above article, you have understood what do caterpillars eat besides milkweed. They mostly rely on host plants such as wild grasses, alder buckthorn, willow, and so on.

These beautiful creatures also love to feed on aspen, paper birch, parsley, fennel, carrot, etc. But the monarch caterpillar only feeds on milkweed plants. By knowing what do caterpillars eat gives you an excellent opportunity to feed them.