What do caterpillars eat?

In this short article, we will answer the question “What do caterpillars eat?” and will also show you how to feed one and point out the animals that can eat caterpillars.

What do caterpillars eat?

The larvae of butterflies and moths, known as caterpillars, eat only plants. Although some caterpillars will eat other plant parts, such as seeds or flowers, the majority of them will gladly chew on leaves.

Herbivirous caterpillars:

There are two types of herbivorous caterpillars: generalist feeders and specialist feeders. Caterpillars that are generalists eat a range of vegetation. For instance, the food sources for mourning mantle caterpillars are willow, elm, aspen, paper birch, poplar, and blackberry. 

Black caterpillars will consume any parsley family plant, including Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, carrots, dill, and parsley. Caterpillars with specific eating preferences can only eat smaller, linked plant communities. 

Only the milkweed plant’s foliage is consumed by the monarch caterpillar.

Carnivorous caterpillars

A small percentage of caterpillars are carnivores; they typically eat tiny, soft-bodied insects like aphids. The shells of dead gopher tortoises are the only source of food for the caterpillar of a rare moth (Ceratophaga vicinella), which is located in the southeast of the US. 

Keratin, the material that makes up turtle shells, is hard for most scavengers to digest.

How do you decide what to give your caterpillar for food?

If you wish to raise a caterpillar in captivity, you must determine whether it prefers a particular kind of plant or eats on a variety of host plants. 

A caterpillar cannot be placed in a container filled with grass and is expected to adjust to eating anything other than its regular diet.

If you don’t know what kind of caterpillar it is, how do you know what to feed it? Examine the area where you discovered it. A plant, perhaps? Take part of this plant’s foliage and try to feed it. 

If not, gather samples of any surrounding plants and observe if it favors any in particular.

Remember too that we frequently come with caterpillars as they are travelling away from their host plants in search of a spot to pupate. Therefore, if the caterpillar you picked up was crawling over a lawn or a pavement when you picked it up, it might not have been hungry.

The (nearly) ubiquitous meal of the caterpillar is oak leaves.

Try gathering some oak leaves if your caterpillar won’t eat anything you’ve offered. The odds are in your favour if you try Quercus leaves because an astonishing 500 or more species of moth and butterfly feed on oak leaves. 

Many caterpillars also favour the leaves of cherry, willow, or apple trees as a source of food. Try checking the leaves of a perennial plant for caterpillars if all else fails.

Provide plants in your garden that caterpillars can consume.

More than nectar plants are required if you want to create a true butterfly garden. Even caterpillars require nourishment! As caterpillars visit your plants to lay eggs, you will draw a lot more butterflies by including caterpillar host plants.

Include some of the plants on this list as caterpillar hosts when designing your butterfly garden. A well-planned butterfly garden benefits not only the butterflies of the present but also future generations!

What are the predators that eat caterpillars?

Due to their high protein content, caterpillars are consumed by many species. As a result, caterpillars have evolved several defence mechanisms and are subject to natural predators. Some caterpillars use more forceful self-defence techniques. 

These precautions include the use of bristles that are prickly or long, thin, hair-like bristles with detachable tips that will irritate the skin or mucous membranes when they lodge there.

Some caterpillars have developed mechanisms that enable them to consume harmful plant leaves, even though plants carry toxins that protect them against herbivores. 

They are not harmed by the venom, and because caterpillars apply them to their bodies, they are extremely poisonous to predators.

Numerous species prey on caterpillars. One species that feed on caterpillars is the flycatcher. To feed their offspring and themselves, several wasp species, notably those from the genera Polistes and Polybia, go hunting for caterpillars.


In this short article, we have answered the question “What do caterpillars eat?” and have also shown you how to feed one and point out the animals that can eat caterpillars.



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