Monday, October 26, 2015

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillars Crawl into Fall

Notice the fake eyes to spook predators
How many do you see?
Imagine my surprise when I notice that multiple leaves have gone missing on a volunteer sapling Tulip Poplar. My fall yard work chores included taking out unwanted woody vegetation and I did a double-take when I saw that this job was being done for me. Even though a host of mosquitoes was in nearby bushes and ready to attack me, I looked closely at the sapling and saw nothing out of the ordinary at first. I saw something that looked like a bird dropping, and only THEN did I notice a large green cucumber-colored caterpillar on one of the partially eaten leaves. A - HA!!

Bird dropping or caterpillar?
Quite the cool caterpillar, I went to my trusty stack of handbooks that relate to the natural world and identified the guest as a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar. I had seem several mature Tiger Swallowtail butterflies in the yard visiting the lantana, but this sapling was in a different location of the yard. Over the next several days the more I looked at the tulip poplar the more of the caterpillars I began to see. As of right now I see five caterpillars, and in my opinion they are well hidden from birds and other predators at this time.

Two caterpillars coming out to play!
I will be watchful for the caterpillars to enter the Chrysalis stage, which is when they turn brown and become stationary, before a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly emerges after 10 or so days. The caterpillar stage is pleasing to view and photographs well, and I did see a fair amount of activity one day as two caterpillars were moving about and rolling around on each other. My research also reveals that this species is the South Carolina state butterfly - so they shall enjoy my stewardship as long as they occupy a spot in the yard.

To view past blog entries about encounters with the natural world click on Hooded WarblerAmerican Oystercatcher Bats - Snakes - Honey Bees - Wood Storks

 To view my latest Field Notes and Photos click October 2015

Caterpillar and Butterfly depiction

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