This lovely critter was resting on the bricks near my garage when the daily temperatures were just starting to cool, back on September 4, 2015. On further investigation, I counted 18 of these beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) caterpillars eating the leaves of a vine-type plant that was growing in the flower bed.
I hope some of the caterpillars survived to pupate because I did not see anymore of them there after one week. They may have become dinner for some other creature… These caterpillars are the type of which I observe most often in my area around Atlanta, Georgia.
In our garden this week, we noticed several Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio polyxenes). They are beautiful! I counted one dozen of them feeding on the parsley plants in our garden. And, with one dozen of them eating those plants, their food supply is diminishing quickly!
At first upon seeing these caterpillars, I thought they might be those of the Anise Swallowtail, however I have never seen that type of swallowtail in the eastern part of the United States. The Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar, however, is quite similar to the Anise Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio zelicaon), and can be easily deceiving in potentially confusing them with each other.
I am thrilled to have observed and photographed these caterpillars this week on our parsley plants, especially because birds, spiders, and/or wasps often prey on various caterpillars in our yard before they become adult butterflies or moths. It was a real treat for my family to see and enjoy these lovely specimens!
My mom’s garden is the perfect place for tomato hornworm caterpillars to live, grow, and develop. With her dozen six-foot high tomato plants, there have been two tomato hornworm caterpillars feasting on the tender top leaves of two of the giant plants. While the great amount of rain and lack of sunshine we have had this summer in middle Georgia has slowed the ripening of the tomatoes, it has not slowed the growth of the caterpillars!
Our resident male cardinal also appears to be happy about the habitation of the tomato hornworm caterpillars in my mom’s garden because he seems to have evicted one of them, having it end up in his stomach! Normally, my mom would view these caterpillars as pests to her garden, though through being educated by me in Lepidoptera and entomology, she now allows them to eat her garden plants. We hope that the lone surviving adult caterpillar will make it through metamorphosis and become a lovely tomato hornworm moth.
Two weeks ago, my son and I visited the fabulous Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, Gainesville Campus! If you are a Lepidoptera lover, this is a place that I highly recommend that you visit! In the entomology section of the museum there is a Butterfly Rainforest; a laboratory; caterpillar rearing exhibits; a pupae room; display cases of butterflies, moths, and other insects; nearly a three-storied high display of butterflies and moths in cases and/or photographs of them; models of butterflies and moths; and videos about butterflies that are presented.
The Florida Museum of Natural History includes a Butterfly Rainforest within a section that is devoted mostly to Lepidoptera – butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and pupae. The Butterfly Rainforest is a tropically-styled habitat for butterflies and moths, and it includes many trees, plants, flowers, birds, fish, and turtles. In the Butterfly Rainforest, we observed many different species of tropical butterflies, photographs of some of which are included in this post.
To me, the most beautiful of the butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest were the Morpho butterflies. The large Morphos (Morpho peleides) in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat have eyespots on the undersides of their brown wings, and have a beautiful, irridescent blue color on the upper side of their wings. The striking, large Owl butterflies (Caligo memnon or Caligo idomeneus), also with beautiful eyespots, were also wonderful to view.
There were also several Paper Kite butterflies (Idea leuconoe) in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat. These butterflies may also be known as Rice Paper butterflies or Large Tree Nymph butterflies. They butterflies are large, with a wingspan of about 4″-5″, and have black and white stripes on their wings. They are slow and deliberate in their flight, and remind me of kites that are flying in the wind.
A couple of other butterflies that my son and I enjoyed observing in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat included the Brown Clipper (Parthenos sylvia brown) and Blue Clipper (Parthenos sylvia blue). This butterfly has two color forms – brown and blue – and is respectively native to the Phillipines and Malaysia. Both butterflies are beautiful to behold. They are fast fliers; and their stripes resemble those of tigers.
A very unique feature of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Lepidoptera and Entomology Section, is the Butterfly Wall. This wall is nearly three stories high, and contains photographs of butterflies and moths, as well as display cases that show them. It is extremely impressive! Following are photographs of the Butterfly Wall, as well as certain sections of it. Also to follow are pictures of the Pupae Room and Caterpillar Rearing Area. Some of the photos may also include my son.
Also included in the Museum were many display cases that presented butterflies, moths, and other insects. Following are photos of a few of the display cases.
Videos educating visitors about Lepidoptera were also available for viewing at the Museum. While my son and I were there, we watched a portion of a video about Monarch butterflies. It was great to be able to explain to my son how Monarchs migrate and roost.
All of the butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat were a real treat to watch as they flew throughout the enclosure, with a few landing on their human observers. In all, we spent about two hours at the Florida Museum of Natural History, also enjoying the Titanoboa Exhibit. We had a really great time there, and wish we could have stayed longer!
It is unusual and a special treat to see clusters of any type of butterflies in one’s life. The photographs in this article are those that I took in July 2010 in Cherokee, North Carolina of clusters of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies (Battus philenor). These butterflies were gathered at a roadside, obtaining moisture from the dirt and stones after a rain shower. I drove by them in my travels, and turned around to view and observe them, getting the pictures that I’ve included here.
Pipevine Swallowtails are commonly found in North and Central America. They are especially numerous in North Carolina, with their larvae feeding on plant species of Aristolochia. These are poisonous plant species, making the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly and it’s larvae poisonous. Birds and other natural predators leave them alone, and therefore, they thrive, particularly in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
Pipevine Swallowtails are black with iridescent dark blue hind wings. The Pipevines are beautiful, fluttery butteflies that really catch one’s eye due to the bright iridescence of their hind wings. Their wingspan is generally about 3″ to 3.5″ in length. The butterflies and their larvae can be found throughout the summer months, particularly in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Manduca inquemaculata, or the tomato hornworm, is a large green caterpillar, the larvae of sphinx or hawk moths. Tomato hornworms eat the foliage of tomato or tobacco plants, and are sometimes confused with tobacco hornworms since they look very similar to each other.
During the summer of 2011, there were several tomato hornworms that fed on the foliage of our tomato plants in Georgia. We purposely did not put any form of insecticides or insect powders on the tomato plants, just so the tomato hornworms would have a nice feast. By the end of the summer, there were at least five tomato hornworms feasting on our tomato plants. I also had the pleasure of taking two of them for “Show and Tell” in my son’s second grade class at his school in August 2011, later releasing them back onto the garden tomato plants.
One evening, shortly after ceasing to see the tomato hornworm larvae anymore, and assuming they had pupated, I happened to witness a large female praying mantis feeding on a tomato hornworm sphinx moth that she had caught. She had adeptly caught the moth while it was feeding on the nectar of a flower, holding it with her “praying” front legs. When she had finished eating it, she left only the wings that settled on the ground.
Pictured above is a photo of my son with one of the tomato hornworm “pets” that we lovingly observed, cared for, and “adopted” during the summer of 2011. I had placed the caterpillar on his shirt, and it felt ticklish to him as it crawled upward on his clothing. We had great fun with our tomato hornworm caterpillars last summer!
Pictured above is a tomato hornworm moth from my own personal Lepidoptera collection. It is one that I caught near Statesville, North Carolina in the summer of 2005. It is impressive and beautiful with it’s vivid coloring and bright orange body spots.
The saddleback caterpillar, Sibine stimulea, as seen in my photos herein, is a formidable foe to birds and other predators. This caterpillar is found in eastern North America, and belongs to the family of slug caterpillars.
With it’s green and brown coloration, the saddleback caterpillar blends in with tree bark and foliage, camouflaging itself. A circular brown spot on it’s back gives it the name, “saddleback.” Circular white-colored spots may serve to scare away possible attackers.
Arguably, the saddleback caterpillar’s greatest assets are it’s horns on which protrude urticating hairs. These hairs are more akin to needle-like spikes that secrete poison that can cause irritation and pain.
I have never touched a saddleback caterpillar, and I don’t suggest for anyone to do so. These caterpillars are really beautiful and interesting to view, though I wouldn’t want one to mistake me for a predator, stinging me with poisonous venom. They are better to leave alone, simply admiring their uniqueness and natural beauty!
Above, please enjoy viewing a photo of the female moth of this species!
Bugguide. http://bugguide.net/node/view/507. May 17, 2012.