Caterpillars Eat Blueberry Leaves: Hairy, Yellow-Orange Stripes on Black

Checking the fruit trees out back one day at the beginning of August, I saw two groups of yellow-orange and black-striped caterpillars. There were a dozen or more caterpillars all huddled at the ends of two empty branches of a blueberry bush. They must have eaten the blueberry leaves with abandon as all the leaves were gone on the stems that the squishy critters were found. None of the other four blueberry plants had any of these caterpillars.

Funny thing is I found them by spotting their poop. Those little grenades tend to collect under caterpillar feeding areas and give away the hungry camoflaged mouths.

Caterpillar scat collecting on bark used as mulch for blueberry bushes. Photos taken 3 August 2010.
Caterpillar scat collecting on bark used as mulch for blueberry bushes. Photos taken 3 August 2010.

Once you see the scat you can more easily spot the critters who deposited it. Caterpillars that have found the right food source will stay put and continue to feed, so their scat is usually directly below where they’ve been feeding. It’s a little surprising that I didn’t see the critters first, because they were all huddled together at the end of the branches.

Group of hairy yellow-orange and black-striped caterpillars at the end of a blueberry branch.
Group of hairy yellow-orange and black-striped caterpillars at the end of a blueberry branch.

Large grouping of caterpillars huddled on one stem near other stems that they striped of leaves.

Large grouping of caterpillars huddled on one stem near other stems that they stripped of leaves.

Prolegs and pedipalps, long hairs and yellow stripes. Anyone know who I am?
Prolegs and pedipalps, long hairs and yellow stripes. Anyone know who I am?

The blueberry shrubs and other fruit trees were checked often in the following weeks, but we haven’t seen this type of caterpillar again. I wonder what type of butterfly they would have morphed into. It’s really too bad they chose to eat from that blueberry bush!

106 thoughts on “Caterpillars Eat Blueberry Leaves: Hairy, Yellow-Orange Stripes on Black”

  1. Hi. I have seen Yellow necked caterpillars in one of our blueberry shrubs this week, here in Atlanta, GA. Always find them in just one shrub, Sunshine Blue and not the other blueberries. They definitely strip of all the leaves if left. I prune away the caterpillars/branches and then spray remaining leaves with Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Juice. Our blueberries always come back, but I am also keeping an eye out for this infestation. I understand they are commonly found in nearby trees, such as oak, maple etc which are very common in the park we have our Master Gardener Site.

  2. Hi Janet!
    Great news about your blueberries coming back after an infestation. Thanks so much for sharing your information.

    Don’t you just love the name “Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Juice”? Is it really the juice of dead bugs?

  3. I’m late to the game here, I see, but I found these today on a blueberry plant here in the Upstate of SC. First time I’ve ever seen them. Our bushes have been established for 4-5 years now. I was very upset to see these critters, but from what I’ve read here, I should not be too worried??

  4. Hi Carol,

    At first these little buggers are kind of alarming to see on your carefully tended plants but they are easy to get rid of if you like due to their “herding” ability. The blueberry bushes seem to handle the level of defoliation they cause, so it’s probably not too hard on the plants to just let them be.

    Good luck in whatever you decide!
    Thanks for visiting!

  5. They love my quince this year, last year it was blueberries. I have seen their damage on hickory too. Sorry for their luck I work to hard for my plants and fruit. I’m in the pan handle of West Virginia and it is August 9th today. On the quince there was a larger older group and a small number of ones so little could not have been more than a couple of days old.

  6. Hi Deborah!

    Thanks for sharing you’ve seen two different age groups of these little buggers. Our blueberries didn’t have the pests this year at all. Perhaps you’ve made sure yours won’t next year. Good luck!

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