Is it possible to identify "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle?

Maybe I have been studying too much for my Final Exams, but this idea first popped into my mind while eating Cheetos Puffs. How would I classify the Puffs from the regular Cheetos? As different genera, different species, e.t.c?

While staring at the Puffs, they first reminded me of bacilli bacteria or filoviridae (yes, I am a science nerd). Then, after I ate the last of the Puffs, I started to contemplate watching SPECIES: ALRE again (a videogame about evolution using artificial life). Watching difference artificial lifeforms diverge into different species is fascinating, and I was even inspired to make-up a Linnaean-type classification scheme.

All of this segued to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, a book I remember reading as a child. Even though it features a made-up caterpillar with a make-believe diet, this caterpillar goes through the entire Lepidoptera lifecycle. With all of the aforementioned information still circling in my mind, I wondered: is it possible to identify “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”?

Here is the link for those who like to watch the video version of this childhood gem:


Superfamily Papilionoidea. Experts can narrow down further. :-)


A summary for those interested.

Morphological characteristics:

Egg – indistinct, round and white.

Larva – similar characteristics throughout instars. Body: distinctly segmented, finely pubescent, predominantly green with yellow on the dorsal surface. Legs and prolegs: brown (lacking full complement of prolegs). Head: red with purple antenna and green/yellow eyes. Has a tongue… breaths through mouth… Do the missing prolegs confirm that this is in the family Geometridae i.e. inchworms?

Pupa – Brown.

Adult – Forewing unusually lobed. Upper and lower wing surfaces similar. Forewing: blue, green and yellow with a large red eye-spot and several smaller red and orange spots. Hindwing: purple, green, orange, with an orange/yellow eye-spot. Head: red with green/yellow eyes. Thorax and abdomen: yellow. Adult does not look like a Geometrid?

Behavioural characteristics:

Egg – laid on upper surface of leaf

Larva – Inches along with the appendages at opposite ends of the body. Larval period of 1 week before pupating.

Pupa - hung from lower surface of leaf. More than 2 weeks before emerging as a butterfly (perhaps 3 weeks as he hatched from his egg near full moon and pupated 1 week later and then emerged from the pupa near full moon again)

Larval diet:


Predominantly fruit (apple, pear, plums, strawberries & oranges)

Also chocolate cake, Ice cream cone, pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, cupcake, watermelon. These items made him sick so presumably atypical.

A leaf of the host plant (laid on, eaten and pupated on) confirmed as a plum tree by the narrator. Leaves: Entire, cordate, glabrous.

General habitat: cultivated countryside

Other plants in vicinity: grass, ferns, dandelion or similar yellow Asteraceae, night flowering Ipomea or similar. Rubus species. Small purple flowering plant, curiously both 4 and 5 petaled. Yellow sunflowers or similar.

The bird calls are not familiar, perhaps European species?


Once we ID that one, maybe we could have a go at the ones in “Hope for the Flowers,” by Trina Paulus

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I have just noticed a continuity error where the larva has 2 pairs of true legs and the adult has its full compliment of 3 pairs of legs. hmmm


My first thought is that no Lepidopteran caterpillar has such prominent eyes, so it must be a sawfly larva! But if they are eyespots rather than true eyes, maybe this caterpillar is a swallowtail. That would explain the “antennae” (actually a smelly osmeterium) as well. Unfortunately, the adult butterfly doesn’t look anything like a swallowail, so I’m stumped! :)


Very intriguing. The caterpillar antennae is reminiscent of the osmeterium found in Papilionidae, though the body segments remind me of a Saturniidae caterpillar, similar to an Antheraea polyphemus. The pupa, with the cremaster hanging down in that manner is akin to the Nymphalidae, though the pupa itself is more moth-like. The beautiful wings are reminiscent of the dazzling sunset moths in Uraniidae, while the downturned antennae refer to Nymphalidae too, specifically Danainae and some Satyrinae too (Papilionidae antennae hook upwards).


I did the same thing as this with a friend but with ‘Shrek’. It was quite fun, we classed it as an Amphibian but I cant remember the rest of the taxonomy that we made up (I jotted it down in a notebook somewhere).


In my turn I have consumed cheese puffs while studying. I’ve wondered about the “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” myself. How fun! You might enjoy watching my latest video “Christmas With . . . Moths.” Have a good week!


i uploaded this pic to look at the ai suggestions:


it is telling me that it could be the common geranium-bronze butterfly… or a venus flytrap. lol! the caterpillar is suitably poofy and green imo


Very interesting!