Finding a butterfly caterpillar is a great and adventurous activity for both young and old, especially if you have never done it before. Have fun on your treasure hunt!
So, where do you find caterpillars (or larvae, as the scientists call them) in a yard? First, we’ll go over identifying plants for caterpillars. Secondly, steps are provided to finding caterpillars. Third and most importantly, follow the tips and watch the videos to help you find caterpillars.
Identifying Plants for Caterpillars
As you might already know, most caterpillars feed on plants which are known as host plants. It can be a shrub, tree, grass, or some plants that you would never think of as a food source for caterpillars. The tricky part is there are many species of caterpillars, and each feeds on certain host plants. More information about host plants is below under step number 2.
5 Steps to Finding Butterfly Caterpillars
- Identify which butterflies fly in your area. To see which butterflies fly in your area, enter your Zip Code on the How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden page.
- Identify the type of plant the caterpillar eats. Since caterpillars need specific host plants, it’s best to learn about which plants they need. Read about the 7 Types of Host Plants To Attract Butterflies and click a plant image to see which caterpillar it attracts.
- Identify what the caterpillar looks like. Visit How To Identify Butterfly Caterpillars to see a side-by-side photo comparison to identify 38 caterpillars. Click a caterpillar image to see butterfly photos, including eggs, chrysalis, flight range map, and plant information.
- Is it butterfly season where you live? The butterfly season is dependent on the temperature in your area. To find caterpillars in your yard, it first has to be warm enough (typically at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit) for butterflies to fly and lay eggs.
- Where to look for caterpillars.
- Look for caterpillars on the underside of leaves of their host plants out of the way of predators.
- Look at the tree trunk or branch.
- Some will hide during the day. For instance, the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar folds a leaf over itself for protection (see photo below).
- Look in the surrounding areas below the plant. For example in the mulch, soil, etc.
- After 10-14 days, caterpillars typically leave their host plant and travel to find a safe place to pupate. You might find the caterpillar crawling in the grass, on the driveway, on your house, on furniture, etc.
Tips to Find Caterpillars – Look for Signs!
You have to be truly attentive, yet certain tricks will help you locate the best places to start your journey.
- Look for leaves that have been eaten. The leaves could be on the ground or hanging on the plant.
- A sure sign that caterpillars are around is by finding frass (butterfly poop) on the leaves.
- Don’t forget that numerous butterfly species prefer to feed at night, so exploring your garden in the dark with a flashlight is another great idea to consider!