Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar


Can you believe you are looking at fake eyespots on this spicebush swallowtail caterpillar? 
While this is the 'head end', the spots are actually way up above the head and are designed to be 'scary' to critters intent on eating this guy (mainly birds).


I think he's very cute, don't you?


What's really cool about these guys is after they eat through their egg sac and are no longer in the eggs, they secrete a sticky silk-like substance and enclose themselves inside a leaf by 'gluing' the edges of the leaf together. 

He's inside there, you just can't see him

I unfolded the leaf, now you can see him. Tiny. It's a very early in-star stage.
They're so small, and in these early stages look like bird droppings...and they look wet and slimy even though they're not.

Here is the back end...or be-hind.




Here's another, hiding in a folded leaf.


I unfolded the leaf to get a closer look...another cutie!
When I let go of the leaf, it folds right back up again to keep this little guy safe.


This little fellow will becomes a spicebush swallowtail butterfly one day...if all goes well in the larval stages, he pupates and emerges from the chrysalis...without getting eaten by a bird. I thought about bringing a couple of them in to an enclosed area to raise (like I have done with black swallowtail caterpillars and monarch caterpillars...) but I think I'm going to just let nature 'take its course' this time.


It's a good thing I added some Spicebush shrubs to my garden last fall. I sure hope at least a couple of these guys gets to experience the metamorphosis. I'll share photos of their chrysalides if they get that far.

What gifts have you discovered today? Until next time,

Words and photos ©Thanks for today.™, by Jan Huston Doble @ http://www.thanksfor2day.blogspot.com/
Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without express permission of the author.

23 comments:

  1. Hey Jan! I think your little instar is cute too. I have never seen the cats but this year I did have the butterflies throughout the season. Curious because as far as I know I do not have Spicebush growing here. I plan on getting some though. I hope you get to see the chrysalis! Best Wishes, Carol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carol...Do you have any of these? : Caterpillar hosts: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum), Pondspice (Litsea aestivalis) Red, Swamp and Silk Bays (Persea spp.); perhaps prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora).

      Got this from 'Bug Guide'...http://bugguide.net/node/view/2648

      Apparently they have a quite a variety of host plants!!

      Delete
  2. I love these caterpillars, too! Your photos are wonderful. I've had spicebushes for 3 years waiting for these cuties, and this was the first year I got to see them. Right now I'm raising black swallowtails and a neat little grape leaf skelotonizer moth caterpillar too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Samantha, Congrats on having the spicebush cats...especially after waiting 3 years! I guess I was just lucky they found it the first year! I raised black swallowtails several months ago. I still haven't posted about that...but plan to. That was a successful experience, unlike my monarch raising endeavor...which didn't work out too well :( I plan to blog about those, eventually. It is fun to watch these little caterpillars do their thing, isn't it? Especially when they successfully complete metamorphosis and become two-winged wonders!

      Delete
  3. I added spicebush and sassafras trees to our garden this year. I haven't seen any of these adorable caterpillars yet but have seen several spicebush butterflies fluttering around. I will keep checking the host plants. Your photos are outstanding captures of this cool cat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karin! I hope you will get a chance to have some young caterpillar visitors on your new shrubs, as well! It is fun to check on them daily. ALready they have changed a lot since I wrote this post. THey are green now, with really cute faces. I'll have to do an update soon!

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  4. What absolutely fantastic photographs! I'm charmed by this little chap. How could a bird bear to eat its little face . . . even if those eyes aren't really his eyes. Hope he and the rest of his family don't eat up all your bushes. (Apologies, little caterpillar if you are a 'she' or an 'it' not a 'he'.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Esther! I've counted 5 or 6 of the little guys. It's a really small shrub...so hopefully there will be enough leaves for them all!! I don't mind if they eat the leaves off, as there will be more next spring.

      Delete
  5. Very, very cool! Fantastic photos. gail

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Gail! Needless to say, I was very excited to find them :)

      Delete
  6. So cute, Jan, and your photos are a wonderful capture! Now I MUST purchase spicebush. Did you get a male and female for the berries? I discovered the gift of some monarch cats this week -- monarch butterflies are very scarce here this year. P.x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Pam...do get Spicebush!! I actually did purchase 2...but it was through a native plant sale with an organization and they were not labeled male or female. I was just hoping for the best...however, 1 of them didn't even survive the winter. SO I'm left with just this one and although it probably won't get berries, it's still great for the critters!! I haven't even seen a monarch this year. Very sad. The good thing was that I DID find monarch caterpillars on my milkweed. All of them died due to some weird parasitic or bacterial disease, though :( And the 1 that did emerge from the chrysalis could not fly...the wings were deformed. I still haven't blogged about that experience. I will get to that soon. It was sad, I have to admit.

      Delete
  7. Nature never fails to amaze me. Great series of photos and info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there, Linda! Thank you so much. Nature truly is full of surprises!!

      Delete
  8. What amazing photos, Jan! Curling up in a leaf sounds like such a smart way to avoid predators. All my little black swallowtail caterpillars apparently became food for the birds this summer. I hope your spicebush makes it to adulthood!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rose, thank you ;) It is amazing to see them curled up in leaves. Such smart little critters! I'll report about the outcome later on...hopefully I will see a few of them pupate.

      Delete
    2. PS So sorry about yours getting eaten. That's a very real possibility here, too. Nature can be so cruel...!

      Delete
  9. Jan, these guys are just sooo cute! I've not thought about planting spicebush plants before, but I sure am NOW! Thanks for sharing these sweet little guys with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Debbie...definitely put in a spicebush! I had no idea how cute these critters can be!!

      Delete
  10. Cute! And you got some amazing shots! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Beth...I'm often caught by total surprise out there in the wild garden!!!

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  11. Very cute and I agree amazing shots...i am planting about 5 of these shrubs and will look forward to seeing these beauties next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Donna! I hope you'll get a mixture of male and female shrubs so you can also get berries, which of course the birds and other critters will love. But even with all the same sex, you can still attract these cuties! I am just hoping that my 1 small shrub will provide enough leaves for them to feed on. Otherwise they'll go hungry because I don't have any Sassafras (their other host plant)!

      Delete

Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment! Please enjoy your TODAY and all of the gifts in YOUR garden of life!

Jan

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