What do caterpillars eat?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What do caterpillars eat?”,  and provide information on what swallowtail caterpillars, pipeline swallowtail, zebra swallowtail, and giant swallowtail caterpillars consume.

What do caterpillars eat?

Caterpillars eat leaves, shoots, fruits, and flowers. There are two kinds of caterpillars present. One of them would come in the category called generalist caterpillars while the other one would come in the category of specialist feeders.

The difference between them is that generalist caterpillars have a wide variety of food to consume. There are many plants that are consumed by them. 

Specialist caterpillars would consume a smaller group of plants and the plants that they consume are often related to each other. 

Some caterpillars are carnivorous in nature. Some of them would consume aphids. Some of the species of caterpillars found in the US would consume tortoise shells.

What do swallowtail caterpillars eat?

Swallowtail caterpillars differ from other caterpillars as they have longer tails. They also have hind wings and are often large and colorful.

Swallowtail caterpillars would eat carrots, birthwort, citrus fruits, and custard apples. Other fruits belonging to the custard apple family are also consumed. They also consume rose, magnolia, laurel, and olive.

What do pipeline swallowtail caterpillars consume?

Pipeline swallowtail caterpillars would consume Virginia snakeroot. Apart from this, the larvae would also start looking for more plants in the ground for consumption. The feelers present in the plant would help in looking for more plants.

What do zebra swallowtail caterpillars consume?

Zebra swallowtails would mostly consume shrubs and paw plants. Wooly, small or big flowers, dwarf, and netted pawpaw can be consumed by them. Shoots coming from the plants would be consumed by the caterpillars too. 

What do giant swallowtail caterpillars consume?

Giant Swallowtail caterpillars would consume herbs along with shrubs. They also consume wild lime, sea torchwood, and common hoptree. Grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, and sweet orange can be consumed.

What to feed a pet caterpillar?

Depending on where you found the caterpillar from, the diet would vary. If you do not know the food preferences of the caterpillar, it would be better to avoid keeping them in captivity.

Avoid giving them grass or leaves if they do not consume them. A caterpillar cannot suddenly change its diet.

If you have found a caterpillar from a particular plant, try feeding the leaves from that plant. 

You can choose samples of leaves from other plants and feed them to the caterpillar. Carefully look at which one it chooses to consume so that you would know its food habits.

Another point to remember would be that the caterpillars might move away from the host plants if it wants to pupate. In such cases, it is not likely to consume any food and it would be better to release them from captivity.

If you want to pick up a caterpillar, gently nudge them using a leaf. The caterpillar would climb onto the leaf and then you can pick them up using the leaf. Pick the caterpillar while you keep them in front of them. Do not hold them to the back of the caterpillar.

Make sure to have an abundant supply of foods if you plan on keeping them captive. Do not give wilted or dry leaves.

Which leaves do caterpillars commonly consume?

Caterpillars would consume oak leaves. More than 500 species of caterpillars would commonly consume oak leaves. Apple, willow, or cherry leaves can be commonly consumed by caterpillars as well.

What plants can you grow in the garden for caterpillars to consume?

Plants that contain nectar would need to be grown in the garden if you want to attract more butterflies or caterpillars.

There are some caterpillar host plants that you can try planting in your garden as well. This can help attract various kinds of butterflies all year round.

Some of the plants that can be grown would include hackberry, mustards, dill, fennel, elm, willow, snapdragons, lime, lemon, violets, passion vines, prickly whites, thistles, red bay, birch, milkweeds, cherry, poplar, black locust, and indigo.

Some other plants that can be consumed would include alfalfa, tulips, sweet bay, aspen, clovers, ash, pawpaws, and nettles.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What do caterpillars eat?” and provided information on what swallowtail caterpillars, pipeline swallowtail, zebra swallowtail, and giant swallowtail caterpillars consume.



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