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What Do Caterpillars Eat? 12 Caterpillars Foods You Must Know

what do caterpillars eat
Written by Ramit

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.

What Do Caterpillars Eat?

If you are raising caterpillars in captivity, then you must know what do caterpillars eat in captivity to feed them. Below I have listed down some common caterpillar foods for you.

  1. Oak Leaves
  2. Flowers
  3. Honeycomb
  4. Wild Grass
  5. Bark and Twigs
  6. Animal Waste
  7. Ants
  8. Moss And Lichen
  9. Wool 
  10. Nettles
  11. Alder Buckthorn
  12. Other Caterpillars

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.

Top 12 Caterpillar Foods

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.

  1. Oak Leaves

Oak Leaves

Many among us do not know what kind of leaves do caterpillars eat. Oak leaves are one of the best foods for caterpillars. Sometimes, your caterpillars won’t eat anything you give to them. In that case, collect some oak leaves and feed them. You can also try to feed them some Quercus leaves or apple leaves.

  1. Flowers

Flowers

For some species of caterpillars, the leaves of plants are just not enough. Flowers such as cuckoo flowers, dandelion, clover, and birds-foot trefoil are widespread throughout the UK. Caterpillars enjoy munching on these flowers.

  1. Honeycomb

Honeycomb

You must be surprised to know that some caterpillars do have a sweet tooth. They often feed on honeycomb.

  1. Wild Grass

Wild Grass

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.

  1. Bark And Twigs

Bark And Twigs

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.

  1. Animal Waste

Animal Waste

Caterpillars such as skin moths feed on the skins of dead animals. This includes birds, mice, owl pellets, small moths, flies, and beetles.

  1. Ants

Ants

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.

  1. Moss And Lichen

Moss And Lichen

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.

  1. Wool 

Wool 

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 it’s affecting a clothing business, then it might be best to just get some professionals in to help.

  1. Nettles

Nettles

Nettles are one of the best sources of food for caterpillars. 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.

  1. Alder Buckthorn

Alder Buckthorn

Caterpillars don’t just love leaves and flowers; they love trees too! 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.

  1. Other Caterpillars

Other Caterpillars

Carnivorous caterpillars sometimes also feed on other moth caterpillars if needed. They happily eat leaves half of the time but can swap with caterpillars if they bump into them.

Foods For Caterpillars In The Wild

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.

  1. Buckwheat
  2. Lupines
  3. Milkvetch
  4. Cudweed
  5. Everlast
  6. Dragon
  7. Sagebrush
  8. Parsley
  9. Dill
  10. Fennel
  11. Rue
  12. Wild black cherry
  13. American and Chickasaw plum
  14. Black chokeberry
  15. Sedges
  16. Tulip tree
  17. Willow
  18. Sweet bay
  19. Basswood
  20. Ash
  21. Citrus
  22. Torchwood
  23. Gooseberry
  24. Azalea
  25. Elm
  26. Mistletoe
  27. Milkweeds
  28. Pigweed
  29. Aspens
  30. Black oaks

Foods For Caterpillars In Winters

If Below I have listed down some delicious foods to feed caterpillars in winters.

  1. Corn
  2. Asters
  3. Birches
  4. Sunflowers

Caterpillar Foods For Different Species Of Caterpillars

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. Here, you will get to know what do monarch caterpillars eat along with some other species of caterpillars.

Butterfly SpeciesHost Plants
1. Monarch Caterpillars1.Milkweed (Asclepias)
2.Cucumber
3.Zucchini
4.Pumpkin
2. Anise Swallowtail1.Anise
2.Parsley
3.Carrot
4.Dill
5.Fennel
6.Rue
3. Eastern Black Swallowtail1.Anise
2.Parsley
3.Carrot
4.Dill
5.Fennel
6.Rue
7.Golden Alexanders
4. Viceroy 1.Willow
2.Poplar
3.Aspen
4.Apple
5.Cherry
6.Plum
5. Red-Spotted Purple1.Apple
2.Aspen
3.Cherry
4.Hawthorn
5.Hornbeam
6.Poplar
7.Willow 

Fun Facts About Caterpillars

Let us now learn some interesting and fun facts about caterpillars.

What Do Caterpillars Drink?

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.

What Do Caterpillars Do?

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.

Do Caterpillars Eat Fruits?

Yes, caterpillars do eat fruits. You can feed them apples, watermelon, cherry, and plum.

Do Caterpillars Eat Lettuce?

Yes, caterpillars do eat lettuce. They also like to eat vegetables such as spinach.

FAQ

What Can I Feed A Caterpillar?

You can feed the following caterpillar foods to them.

  1. Oak Leaves
  2. Flowers
  3. Honeycomb
  4. Wild Grass
  5. Bark and Twigs
  6. Ants
  7. Moss And Lichen
  8. Wool
  9. Nettles
  10. Alder Buckthorn
  11. Willow
  12. Cherry
  13. Poplar
  14. Birch
  15. Apple
  16. Dandelions
  17. Clover

Do Caterpillars Eat Fruit And Vegetables?

Yes, some caterpillars do eat fruit and vegetables such as stems, fruits, roots, pollen, and seeds. They also consume ferns, mosses, and dead leaves.

What Can I Feed Wild Caterpillars?

You can feed the following foodstuffs for your wild caterpillars.

  1. Buckwheat
  2. Lupines
  3. Milkvetch
  4. Cudweed
  5. Everlast
  6. Dragon
  7. Sagebrush
  8. Parsley
  9. Dill
  10. Fennel
  11. Rue
  12. Wild black cherry
  13. American and Chickasaw plum
  14. Black chokeberry
  15. Sedges
  16. Tulip tree
  17. Willow
  18. Sweet bay
  19. Basswood
  20. Ash
  21. Citrus
  22. Torchwood
  23. Gooseberry
  24. Azalea
  25. Elm
  26. Mistletoe
  27. Milkweeds
  28. Pigweed
  29. Aspens
  30. Black oaks

What Did Do Green Caterpillars Eat?

Here is the list of foods that green caterpillars like to eat.

  1. Oak
  2. Willow
  3. Cherry
  4. Poplar Birch
  5. Apples
  6. Alder Buckthorn
  7. Dandelions
  8. Clover

What Do Caterpillars Eat-In Cocoons?

When caterpillars are in their cocoons, they feed mostly on leaves and flowers.

How Do You Take Care Of A Caterpillar?

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.

Conclusion

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. Oak leaves and Quercus leaves are favorites of young caterpillars. These beautiful creatures also love to feed on aspen, paper birch, parsley, fennel, carrot, etc. You can easily these caterpillar foods in your garden. But sometimes they do eat other caterpillars if needed. But the monarch caterpillar only feeds on milkweed plants. By knowing what do caterpillars eat gives you an excellent opportunity to feed them.

About the author

Ramit

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