16 Types of Horned Caterpillars with Pictures

Creepy crawling creatures on crops are familiar during the spring and early summer seasons. Horned caterpillars are examples of these crawling insects that are larvae of moths and butterflies.

Hornworms can defoliate plants since they chew leaves and make holes in the fruits. Horned caterpillars cannot bite or sting; we recommend removing them physically to manage their infestations.

Horned caterpillar examples are tomato hornworms, dragon-headed caterpillars, and the hickory horned devil. Other types of horned caterpillars are orange striped oakworm, monarch caterpillars, and tobacco hornworms.

Identifying horned caterpillars may sound simple, but you need to know a thing or two for easy differentiation. Some wild hornworms collect and store toxins in the plants they feed on, making them poisonous to pets if ingested.

How to Identify Horned Caterpillars

All caterpillar species belong to the insect order Lepidoptera. These creepy crawling creatures start as eggs before developing into a larva that look-like a fat worm. These caterpillars are destructive since they are voracious eaters.

Caterpillars enter the pupal stage before turning into moths or butterflies. Identifying different types of horned caterpillars is a no-brainer task. Below are the features or structures that help identify and classify these hornworms:


These caterpillars have spiny structures on their tail or head that look like horns. They use these horns for defense by warding off potential predators.

Some horned caterpillar types use these spiny structures to frighten other animals by wagging them. Most horned caterpillars are not types of stinging caterpillars.

Body Markings

Horned caterpillars can be hairy, furry, or striped and black, green, yellow, or multi-colored. Green caterpillars are the most common types of horned caterpillars.

Types of Plants They Feed On

Horned caterpillars feed on different types of plants since some species feed on tomato leaves or fruits and others on hickory tree leaves. These crawling creatures can also defoliate any plant.

Different Types of Horned Caterpillars

Let us now look at different kinds of horned caterpillars with their pictures, description, and scientific names. The information will help you identify horned caterpillar species in your garden or backyard.

White-Marked Tussock Furry Horned Caterpillar

These furry-horned caterpillars are native to North America (Texas, Florida, and Alberta in Canada). They have black bodies and tufts of white hair with red dots and yellow stripes on their back.

These scary-looking caterpillars have two large hairy antennae on their heads. Some species have a large furry-looking tail for wagging off potential predators. The two long horns and furry tail are the identification features.

Scientific NameOrgyia leucostigma
Host PlantsApple, Birch, Oak, Black Locust, Cherry Elm, and Hackberry.
Body AppearanceBlack body with tufts of white hairs. Some have red dots and yellow stripes on their backs.
Identification FeaturesTwo long hair horns and a large furry tail pointing upwards.
What They Turn IntoWhite-marked tussock moth

Zebra Longwing Caterpillar with Horns

The caterpillar species hails from Texas, Florida, and Central America. These creepy crawling creatures have sharp-looking horns sticking out in all directions. They also have light-colored gray to white bodies.

The six rows of long spines, tiny jagged spikes, and black dots are the leading prominent features of Zebra longwing caterpillars with horns. They feed on passionflower family plants. (Source: University of Florida).

Scientific NameHeliconius charithonia
Host PlantsPassionflower family
Body AppearanceLight gray or turquoise green
Identification FeaturesBlack sharp-looking horns
What They Turn IntoZebra longwing butterfly

White-Lined Sphinx Horned Caterpillar

This caterpillar species has a protruding tail horn common in many green caterpillar species. It also comes in a lot of color variations with horns on its end.

Some species have smooth black bodies with lines of orange dots. Others have lime-green bodies with multicolored dots-like red, yellow, or black.

White-lined sphinx horned caterpillars have yellow-orange prolegs under the middle segment of their bodies.

Scientific NameHyles lineata
Host PlantsCardinal flower, evening primrose, honeysuckle, Jimson weed, and lilac.
Body AppearanceSmooth black bodies with lines of orange dots.
Identification FeaturesOrange horn on its back and spiky-looking protrusion.
What They Turn IntoWhite-lined Sphinx moth

Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar

It is a type of green caterpillar with a spiky horny tail. This caterpillar species also resembles tomato or tobacco hornworms.

These caterpillars have green bodies with distinctive eye-markings that bring a haunting appearance. The middle segments have fat and large prolegs.

The pale bluish lines and dots on the sides are the prominent features of identifying oleander hawk caterpillars.

Scientific NameDaphnis nerii
Host PlantsVitis, Vinca, Gardenia, Alstonia, Carissa, and Asclepias.
Body AppearanceGreen bodies with pale buish lines and bluish dots
Identification FeaturesLarge prolegs in the middle segments
What They Turn IntoOleander hawk-moth

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar

The caterpillar species has a fat gray body with an elephant trunk appearance. Mature larvae can reach 3-inches with brown-gray color and black dots along the sides.

Some caterpillar species have dark green bodies with a small black or gray spike on their tails. Elephant hawk caterpillars are native to Europe and North America.

Scientific NameDeilephila elpenor
Host PlantsWillowherb, Bedstraw, Grapevine, and Loosestrife
Body AppearanceFat gray body
Identification FeaturesThe small curving horn on the tail segment
What They Turn IntoElephant Hawk Moth

Saddleback Horned Caterpillar

Saddleback horned caterpillars are types of stinging toxic caterpillar species. They are known to give nasty bites when touched with unprotected hands.

These caterpillars have a menacing appearance due to the plethora of horns. The pair of thick horns on both ends and hairs can cause skin irritation when brushed against.

The brown spiky body and lime green square patch on the back is the conspicuous feature of the saddleback horned caterpillar.

Scientific NameAcharia stimulea
Host PlantsApple, Aster, Citrus, Blueberries, Corn, Elms, Grapes, and Dogwoods.
Body AppearanceLime-green square patch on the back
Identification FeaturesFour large spiky horns on the head and tail
What They Turn IntoSaddleback Moth

Blue Swallowtail Caterpillar

It is also called pipevine swallowtail caterpillar since the caterpillar species have horns stinking all over it. Pipevine caterpillars come in different colors and body textures.

The blue swallowtail caterpillar has long protruding tubercles at the end of its back and shorter horns sticking out on its sides.

The row of soft horns and velvety body appearance are crucial features for identifying blue swallowtail caterpillars.

Scientific NameBattus philenor
Host PlantsCelery, Carrot, Spicebush, and Milkweed.
Body AppearanceGlossy velvety appearance
Identification FeaturesA row of soft horns
What They Turn IntoBlue Swallowtail Butterfly

Dragon-Headed Caterpillar

It is a long green slug with four horns on its head. The caterpillar species has a mythical dragon look, although it is harmless and does not sting.

These green-horned caterpillars are native to Indonesia and central Asia. A dragon-headed caterpillar turns into a brown chocolate-colored winged butterfly.

The lateral creamy white stripes on the middle segments are the features that set these dark green caterpillars apart.

Scientific NamePolyura athamas
Host PlantsKurrajongs and certain legumes
Body AppearanceDark green bodies
Identification FeaturesTwo horns on either side of its head
What They Turn IntoNawab butterfly

Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar

Rustic sphinx caterpillars have sharp-looking and dark green horned tails. These caterpillar species are related to hornworms and other sphinx caterpillars.

The bright-green body with small orange-red dots on each segment and tiny black dots in between segments are the prominent features.

Scientific NameManduca rustica
Host PlantsFringe-tree, jasmine, and bignonia
Body AppearanceBright green with small orange-red dots and black dots between segments.
Identification FeaturesGranular bumps on its rear horns
What They Turn IntoRustic sphinx moth

Orange Striped Oakworm

It is a type of stripy black caterpillar with horns and tiny spikes. The orange stripes run along its length.

Orange striped oak worm caterpillar is harmless despite having sharp protruding horns on its head. The caterpillar species feeds on oak tree leaves.

These caterpillar species hail from Florida, Texas, and other southern states in the United States. Orange striped caterpillars turn into beautiful orange and pink months.

Scientific NameAnisota senatoria
Host PlantsOak trees
Body AppearanceBlack body with orange stripes
Identification FeaturesThe spiky rear end, long horns, and orange stripes
What They Turn IntoOrange-striped oakworm moth

White Admiral Caterpillar

White admiral caterpillar species are native to North America and come with two long spiky black horns on each end.

The caterpillar species has brown and white patchy markings those look-like bird droppings on a tree branch. These caterpillars feed on birch, willow, and cherry leaves.

White admiral caterpillars turn into beautiful butterflies with blue iridescent colors after passing through the pupal stage.

Scientific NameLimenitis arthemis
Host PlantsCarolina willow, Cottonwood, wild cherry, and black oaks.
Body AppearanceOlive-brown and white body
Identification FeaturesTwo twig-like horns
What They Turn IntoWhite admiral butterfly

Rosy Maple Caterpillar

Rosy maple moth caterpillars dwell on all types of maple trees since they feed on the foliages. They are also called green-striped mapleworms.

The two jet-black horns on the head are the most conspicuous features of green-striped mapleworms. The fat slug caterpillar also has greenish-white stripes along its length.

The caterpillar’s body colors are vulnerable to changes due to different larvae growth stages. The black dots running along its length are also crucial during identification.

Scientific NameDryocampa rubicunda caterpillar
Host PlantsSugar maple, silver maple, turkey oak, and red maple.
Body AppearanceGreenish-white stripes
Identification FeaturesBlack dots and light-colored striped body
What They Turn IntoRosy Maple Moth

Hickory Horned Devil

The devil-like appearance makes this caterpillar species intimidating. These turquoise-green caterpillars have large red jagged curved horns on their heads and smaller black horns on each segment.

Hickory-horned devil caterpillars are placid and harmless. These creepy crawling creatures love gorging on hickory leaves, cotton, and hazel leaves. A mature hickory horned devil caterpillar turns into a regal moth after passing through the pupa stage.

Scientific NameCitheronia regalis
Host PlantsWalnut, butternut, and hickories
Body AppearanceBlack spines
Identification FeaturesLarge red and black horns
What They Turn IntoRegal Moth

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch caterpillars have two pair of horns on both ends with black, white, and yellow markings wrapping their bodies. These caterpillar species are harmless and do not bite.

The two head horns are longer than the two tail horns. These caterpillar species love gorging on milkweeds.

Scientific NameDanaus plexippus
Host PlantsMilkweed Plants
Body AppearanceWhite, black, and yellow bands around each segment.
Identification FeaturesTwo longer horns at one end and two short horns at the other end.
What They Turn IntoMonarch Butterfly

Tobacco Hornworm

A tobacco hornworm has a single horn-like tail with plump segmented bodies. The oversized head and eye-like markings are key features for identification.

These annoying caterpillars feed on tomato plants and eggplant leaves. They resemble tomato hornworms though the thin diagonal stripes are conspicuous.

Scientific NameManduca sexta
Host PlantsCoyote tobacco, sacred datura, and tomato.
Body AppearanceBig green luminous
Identification FeaturesThin diagonal stripes on each segment
What They Turn IntoHawk Moth

Tomato Hornworm

It is a lime-green caterpillar species with a horned tail. The caterpillar type feeds on tomato leaves and makes holes in the fruits.

The cream-colored markings and eye-like markings usually help to confuse potential predators. It is one of the largest caterpillar species in the world.

These caterpillars are non-poisonous, and their tails do not sting. We recommend picking them from the tomato leaves to prevent defoliation. (Sources: University of Minnesota).

Scientific NameManduca quinquemaculata
Host PlantsTomato leaves
Body AppearanceLime-green
Identification Features 
What They Turn IntoFive-spotted hawk moth

My Final Thoughts

Caterpillars are the larval stage of moths and butterflies. Some of these crawling insects have horns for defense or to frighten potential predators. These spiky-looking structures give caterpillars a horned appearance.

Examples of horned caterpillars are tomato hornworm, dragon-headed caterpillars, hickory horned devil caterpillar, and more. We hope the pictures, scientific names, and descriptions will help you identify these horned caterpillars.

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