Caterpillars have a very diverse diet. They eat a lot of things to store in their bodies which helps them while they’re in their pupa stage, where they’re inside a cocoon and undergo the process of becoming a butterfly. But let’s focus on apples: Do caterpillars eat apples or not?
A caterpillar loves apple trees, but they’re more interested in their leaves and are less likely to be found eating apples.
The holes in your apples you’re blaming the caterpillars for are probably caused by maggots or moths. Caterpillars have a very similar appearance to worms which also eat apples.
Having such a likeness makes people think that the tiny holes are caused by the caterpillars who are actually busily munching on the leaves of the apple tree instead.
Caterpillars have a big diet for good reasons, as everything they eat helps in their pupa stage, where they can’t move and are in a cocoon or chrysalis.
Which Caterpillars Eat apples?
Tent caterpillars and yellow-necked caterpillars are the two types of caterpillars that are seen munching on apple trees, but they’re eating the leaves of the apple tree rather than the apples.
Tent caterpillars are divided into three types that are Eastern, Western, and forest caterpillars. This eating habit occurs during the early summer. They eat apple tree leaves in the summer so the tree can’t get enough time to grow more leaves and survive.
They’re named tent caterpillars because they make a silky web-like structure around the branches where they were eating from. However, only eastern and western tent caterpillars are seen making this sort of web.
The yellow-necked caterpillar is another type of caterpillar that is seen eating leaves from apple trees. These types of caterpillars eat in the form of a colony or group, a bunch of them are often seen on an apple tree branch. Like tent caterpillars, yellow-necked caterpillars also finish up a branch completely before moving on to the next.
Because they eat in a group, they can finish off branches quicker than the tent caterpillars, and as they feed in late summers or fall, their damage to the trees is even worse as most of the branches are consumed, and the tree doesn’t even have time to grow more of them.
What Other Foods Do Caterpillars Eat?
Apart from the tent caterpillars and yellow-necked caterpillars that majorly feed on apple tree leaves, there are other types of caterpillars that eat other fruits and vegetables, flowers, vegetables, grass, twigs, leaves of varying types of plants, smaller insects, animal faeces and other stuff.
Herbs, wild vegetation, and even dead leaves are on the menu for caterpillars. A lot of different types of caterpillars eat fruits and vegetables.
Most caterpillars love munching on cob corn, lettuce, cabbage, pears, bananas, and all other types of fruits and vegetables. Caterpillars basically eat anything that they get their mandibles near to.
What Other Things Do Caterpillars Eat?
Flowers are the main food source for many types of caterpillars, though not all of them. Many types of caterpillars like flower buds, seeds, and blooms. Star-worth caterpillars are a type of caterpillar that love eating many different kinds of flowers, especially Sea Aster flowers, as they’re a favourite meal to them.
When you have a lot of caterpillars in your garden that specifically eat flowers, your plants will have a hard time growing them, as most caterpillars eat the flower buds before they even get the chance to be fully born.
Caterpillars can even eat other caterpillars when there isn’t any food left in the tree it’s living at. They can also eat other caterpillars when the plants or tree leaves they’re eating start to secrete toxins that the caterpillars don’t like.
A lot of different species of caterpillars also feed on grass and will enjoy grass sprouts and other types of grass. They will also eat the stem and seeds of grass, which can make growing grass a little difficult if you want a nice lawn.
A couple of different types of caterpillars may even eat animal waste. An example of such kind of caterpillar is the Skin Moth caterpillar. This caterpillar can eat dead birds and mice or any other small rodent. Skin moth caterpillars eat the poop of several birds as well. This may come off as gross, but caterpillars like these are necessary for a healthy environment.
Some types of caterpillars are omnivores and will consume other animals as well that are smaller than them, like certain types of tiny insects like ants. Large blue butterfly caterpillars usually eat flower buds, but they have a backup plan if flowers aren’t available or if they’re at a place where there are no flower buds.
When dropped from their area where there were flowers or if flowers have run out, a blue butterfly caterpillar will emit a scent that will bring ants near to them. The ants, due to this scent, will bring these caterpillars to their ant hole, where the caterpillar can eat the ant grubs.
Caterpillars have a diverse diet ranging from leaves, flowers, twigs, fruits, vegetables, animal poop, dead animals, and even other caterpillars. Caterpillars eat many fruits, but the holes you saw on the apples in your gardens are probably something else because though caterpillars eat most types of fruits, they like apple tree leaves more than the apples on them.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden