How to spot caterpillars

Caterpillars can be hard to spot, but try your luck with our top tips and see what clues they leave behind.

You will need:

  • A green space to explore - a garden, school playground or local park are great options
  • A torch (optional)
  • An old white sheet (optional)

Tip 1: Find their food

A caterpillar will never be far from it's favourite food! Different types of caterpillars feed on different plants, grasses, shrubs and trees. Good places to look include flower beds, nettles, areas of long grass, hedgerows, shrubs, low down branches of trees such as fruit trees, willow and hazel. And of course - the vegetable patch!


Tip 2:Look for nibbled leaves

Can you see any tell-tale nibble marks? Caterpillars are big eaters, and so one of the best ways to spot them is to look for munched leaves. Quite often, more than one caterpillar will be feeding on the same plant. Sometimes whole stems or branches will be stripped of their leaves.

Tip 3: Their poo is a clue

Caterpillars eat a lot - and that means they produce a lot of poo! Caterpillar droppings are called 'frass'. Frass can look like small dark coloured pellets (the larger the caterpillar, the larger the pellet) and can be spotted on or below where the caterpillar has been feeding. If you have a feeling that a caterpillar has been feeding on a plant in your garden - try placing an old white sheet underneath it. Leave it overnight and the next day you can inspect it for signs of droppings. 

Tip 4: Use the cover of darkness

Many caterpillars are active at night. In your garden or on an evening walk, take a torch and look slowly and carefully along flowerbeds, among long grasses or in hedgerows. Start at the base of the vegetation and work upwards. 

Tip 5: Take time to notice nature

If you are lucky enough to spot a caterpillar, take a few moments to notice something special or beautiful about it. What three words would you use to describe the caterpillar to a friend?


An image of the spotter sheet

Caterpillar Spotter Sheet

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