Have you seen this caterpillar before? The first time I saw them in our yard, I was shocked. As I removed it from the leaf it was happily munching on, it stuck out a red forked tongue-like body part (osmeterium) and sort of hissed at me! Only later did I learn that this caterpillar, so resembling bird droppings as its clever camouflage, will become a beautiful giant swallowtail butterfly.
This week I have two caterpillars happily munching on fresh green leaves of my satsuma tree. My daughter loves to look at them, as they are amazing and repulsive at the same time. Did I mention that they can also spray out a stinky smelling substance from their osmeterium when threatened?
The giant swallowtail is one of the largest butterflies in North America, some being as big as six inches across! The caterpillars feed on citrus leaves and the butterflies enjoy the citrus blossom nectar. They frequently lay their eggs on my Meyer Lemon tree, which is right next to the satsuma tree.
If you see one of these caterpillars, don’t be frightened…just wait a couple of weeks and then you will get to enjoy your own giant swallowtail butterfly!