How Many Legs Does a Caterpillar Have?

Out of the variety of insects found in gardens, one that stands out is the caterpillar. There’s nothing quite like it. But have you considered the basics? How many legs does a caterpillar have, for example?

Caterpillars have prolegs and true legs. Generally, caterpillars have 6 main legs made up of 3 pairs of true legs.

All insects have three pairs of legs. Caterpillars have three pairs of legs close to the head, which are their true legs. These legs are segmented and fully formed.

The prolegs are located all over the caterpillar’s body and are unsegmented. True legs remain as three pairs for all caterpillars, while prolegs can vary in caterpillars ranging from two to five pairs.

So, even though a caterpillar technically has 6 legs, some count the endless prolegs too.

Why Do Caterpillars Have Legs?

You may wonder why a caterpillar would have so many legs in the first place. The caterpillar needs so many legs to move around safely. Caterpillars spend most of their time crawling on branches, moving up and down twigs in search of food.

In order to do this carefully and successfully, caterpillars require limbs that will hold on tight to the tree barks so they can have a firm grip and eat their food. 

Caterpillars are found low in the food chain, and other than the large, poisonous ones, they are largely unable to fight against predators. It only makes sense for a caterpillar to have so many legs, which allows them to remain pressed against whatever plant they are on.

Caterpillars have a body that needs a lot of support. Therefore, these insects have many legs; otherwise, caterpillars would be unstable. 

Over the years, because of evolution, caterpillars have formed so many legs, as they are more helpful than others. This only proves that the amount of legs these insects have is essential for the survival of these species.

Having more body parts mean a lot more energy goes into maintaining them. Therefore, evolution can lead to the loss of a leg or two if not needed. This is why caterpillars may have fewer prolegs than others. 

How Many Legs Does a Butterfly Have?

When we look at a butterfly, all our attention is usually diverted towards the bright wings rather than the legs.

The wings are more colourful and vibrant than the rest of the body. All butterflies have legs, but you may not always spot them as they are tucked under due to their slim body.

Considering it has wings, it may not seem important for a butterfly to have legs. However, the legs help the butterfly in transportation, food and reproduction. 

There is a rule about having three pairs of legs when it comes to insects. However, caterpillars do not seem to follow this rule and have countless legs.

But, butterflies have six legs which are arranged in two pairs of three on each side of the butterflies body. The legs are attached to the thorax, the second segment of the butterflies body. 

The legs of the butterfly are made of six sections that are interconnected. The legs are also able to move at the joints. Butterflies need their legs to attach to surfaces without using too much of their energy. This is great for when the butterflies are resting or need to stop while having nectar from flowers. 

All butterflies have six legs, but there is still a group that only use two of their legs as they go about their day-to-day business. The two legs at the front are smaller and remain tucked away. These butterflies are known as Nymphalidae.

It is still unsure why these butterflies have two smaller legs at the front. However, the smaller legs are used for signalling and also used for grooming. 

Butterflies need their legs for different reasons. These insects have to set on vegetation and different plants to feed on flowers or to rest. In addition, just because butterflies have wings does not mean they are all good at flying.

Some species of butterflies are not great fliers. Other than this, butterflies also need their legs for tasting. These insects can taste what they are standing on and decide whether to eat it. 

How Many Feet Does a Caterpillar Have?

Caterpillars have tiny feet, which are in the form of prolegs. Some caterpillars have five prolegs, while others can have less than that.

It depends on the kind of species the caterpillar is. These feet are short and stumpy, and caterpillars do not require anything long. 

Caterpillars spend all their time eating and looking for food. Therefore, they need to eat food close to the surface. The tiny feet allow them to remain attached to the plant they are on, which aids in camouflage. 

When caterpillars enter their pupal stage, their bodies break into liquid form, and the butterfly is built from that. The caterpillar loses its feet during metamorphosis, which is the process of it turning into a butterfly. The feet no longer exist, and only the true legs stay behind, which the butterfly has. 


Do you have further questions about caterpillars and their anatomy? Then check out these common queries for further help:

How Many Legs Does a Caterpillar Have on Each Side?

A caterpillar has 6 legs split into 3 pairs of true legs. In each pair, one leg is on one side of the body, and the other leg is on the other side. Therefore, each caterpillar has 3 legs on each side.

Do All Caterpillars Have the Same Number of Legs?

Yes, as caterpillars are insects they have 6 legs in total. However, they also have what are known as prolegs and these can come in various numbers.


We have verified the information on this page using the following resources:

A-Z Animals

Wildlife Insight

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