The larval, or caterpillar, stages of several moths and butterflies are occasional pests of many horticultural crops. The different species vary in colour and size. Most caterpillars have 3 pairs of true legs and up to 5 pairs of prolegs or claspers.


Butterflies and moths have four life stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult. The eggs are laid in groups or singly on the leaf or greenhouse structures. The caterpillar has a well-developed head with strong biting and chewing mouthparts. Most caterpillars undergo four moults before spinning a cocoon where they pupate. Adults emerge from the pupal cocoon to begin the cycle again.


Caterpillars eat away plant tissue including foliage, stem, flowers etc using their biting and chewing mouthparts. Copious amounts of pelletized excrement (frass) on the foliage or under plants may indicate caterpillar feeding. Cutworms may cause damage by cutting off seedlings at soil level, killing the plants.