How to Identify Caterpillars in Michigan

By Elsa MacFie
A caterpillar can either morph into a beautiful butterfly or be a garden pest.
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Are you a Michigan resident who recently discovered a caterpillar or even several caterpillars in your yard? Or did your child come home and present you with one of these creepy crawlers, asking you to identify it? Knowing the various types of caterpillars indigenous to your state is a fun hobby, but it is also useful to be able to tell which caterpillars will morph into beautiful butterflies, which ones will grow to be real garden pests and which ones are poisonous and should be avoided. If you happen to be a lepidopterist, you'll really want to know which caterpillars will morph into butterflies.

Observe the caterpillar you have found. Note its markings and other characteristics. Know that in Michigan there are about 89 different species of caterpillars, so look for distinguishing features in your specimen.

Take note of its color, pattern, hair density and any distinctive features, using a good identification guide. For example, if the specimen you found is green and spotted with sparse hair, you have stumbled upon either Antheraea polyphemus, Eacles imperialis or Heliothis virescens. Look at your caterpillar's particular characteristics in comparison to the ones depicted in your field guide to make a precise identification.

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Check to see if your caterpillar will end up morphing into a moth, which is a real pest that needs to be eliminated. One of the more common pests in Michigan is the gypsy moth. Gypsy moth caterpillars are distinguished by pairs of red and blue spots down their backs. if you find one or some of these, eliminate them because over time they do severe damage to trees.

About the Author

Elsa MacFie began writing in 1990 and her short story, "Making of an Atheist," was published in "Impressions" that same year. She co-founded "Meat for Tea: The Valley Review," a small arts and literary journal that began in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in English.