28 July 2009

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars

The beautiful black Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly has been in our yard for weeks and evidently found the spicebushes (Lindera benzoin) we planted for them. The University of Florida has plenty of information about them here. The U Florida site says they are Papilio troilus troilus.

Yesterday I noticed that the leaves of the bush were shredded but thought it was from the storm we had the night before. But they were so raggy that I took a closer look

So, on closer examination I found the caterpillars!

Here's a closer look.


Also from U Florida's site: "First instar larvae bend a leaf edge over and silk it down. Older larvae spin a silk mat on a leaf that contracts to curl the two lateral leaf edges upward and together to form a leaf nest. Larvae usually hide in the leaf nest during the daytime and to molt when birds and other predators are unlikely to see them. They come out to feed at night. Young larvae are bird-dropping mimics, and mature larvae with their swollen thorax and eyespots are believed to mimic either green snakes or tree frogs."

While doing other research I found a website called Wormspit dot com. It's about silkworms and silk moths. Great photos of silkworm caterpillars going through their lifecycle. Check it out here.

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