Thursday, May 14, 2009

IN THE PARK - Caterpillars



Though Spicebush Swallowtails have been plentiful in the park, we haven't really seen many of their caterpillars in the park. The host plants for their caterpillars are Spicebush, Sassafras, Bays, and Camphor Tree. We haven't had of these plants in the park. With the addition of a pair of young Camphor Trees (Cinnamomum camphora) last year, we were happy to find multiple caterpillars this Spring behind the house.


Camphor, a plant not native to North America, native to East Asia, is a host plant in residential areas, where it is often a landscape or garden plant.

Spicebush Swallowtails usually lay their eggs on the bottom of the leaves of their host plants.

The young, freshly hatched caterpillars resemble bird droppings, which is a trait found amongst a few species of Swallowtail butterfly.

As the caterpillar grows, it loses the bird dropping appearance and usually turns green with large false eye spots, somewhat resembling a small snake.

The caterpillars are often found in refuges made by curling the edges of the leaves of their host plants with sticky silk.

The caterpillar may less commonly also be yellow or orange.

Like most Swallowtail caterpillars, they have an Osmeterium, as scent gland that resembles a snake tongue or horns, and releases an chemical odor reportedly repellent to other insects, a strong mix of Turpenes.

the chrysalis, which is usually held against vegetation by a line of silk

Though usually brown in color, the chrysalis may also be green or yellow.

an adult Spicebush nectaring at flowers

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