A reader contacted us about a possible caterpillar that she found in her home. She was unsure if it was a worm or a caterpillar and after we looked at the photo, it is definitely a caterpillar. This creature has some very distinct features and indeed, it is a caterpillar. In fact, it is one of the most well-known caterpillars in the East Coast. It is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
This caterpillar belongs to the Papilio glaucus family and is native to North America. This caterpillar, in its larvae phase can get up to 2 inches long. The Swallowtail will eat the leaves of the plant that it finds to host it during its life stages. But it does love to snack on trees and plants such as Tulip trees, sweet bay trees, wild black cherry trees, ash trees, birch trees, lilacs, and aspens.
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The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is interesting to look at because it seems to have eyes. These are technically called eyespots and many caterpillars have them. This one uses the eyespots to help protect them from other predators. These caterpillars are very smart and when they are attacked, they put out a very foul smell to get their predators to leave them alone. This is yet another way that they can defend and protect themselves.
When this caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it is one of the most well-known. By looking at a picture of it as an adult, our readers will immediately recognize it. It has some amazing blacks and yellows in its wings and when it flies, it is extremely majestic. An adult Swallowtail can grow fairly large getting up to about 5.5 inches. The adults like to feed on nectar of flowers and are very attracted to bright and vibrant colored flowers.
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There are over 500 different kinds of species of Swallowtail and each and every one of them looks incredibly different. Some of them will look different because they are in a new stage in their life. Some larvae may be green whereas others are red. In the end however; they turn out to be one of the most beautiful butterflies in the world. If you do live in the Eastern United States, you have probably seen these butterflies all over your flower gardens.
Many butterfly exhibits and gardens around North America have Swallowtails featured for guests. This is how this particular butterfly has become so well-known and loved.