One of our readers found a brown caterpillar in her driveway. At first, she thought it was a twig, but when she picked it up, she realized that it was soft and fluffy. It was about 2.5 inches long and it appears to have big eyes. These eyes that our reader sees are eyespots and once we viewed the pictures that she sent us, we determined that it is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar.
We have had readers send in pictures of this caterpillar before and it is popping up all over this fall. It belongs to the Papilio glaucus family and when it is in butterfly form, it is one of the most recognized butterflies in the world. Adult male butterflies are usually yellow in color with black bands on the front of their wings and the females are black in color with blue bands on their wings.
When these caterpillars are in their larvae phase, they are dark brown in color. As they age, they become green and begin to develop eyespots which serve as a protection device from predators. When they are almost in their last phase, they turn brown in color and their eyespots are fully developed. This is when the Swallowtails look as if they have big eyes and this can be very confusing to people and their predators. They also develop a yellow neck band at this phase in their life.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtails love to eat. They will snack on the leaves of sweetbay trees, tulip trees, and black cherry trees. The full grown adult Swallowtails love to drink the nectar from sweet flowers. Many of this species are found in Florida where these trees are very prevalent.
There are quite a few species of Swallowtails and depending on the area where you live, you could probably see plenty of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in your yard. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail can be found mostly in the Eastern United States.
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