“This caterpillar looks like a snake”, states this reader in Springfield, Illinois. He refers to the yellow, segmented organism below, which sports two big eyespots and a pattern of spots on its body.
Our reader adds that he is fascinated by the eyespots, and that the creature is an “interesting-looking caterpillar”, all of which we agree with. Well, this interesting caterpillar happens to be a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar.
This caterpillar is the larval form of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. The adult butterfly is actually black in color, while the caterpillar undergoes several color changes, going from brown/black to yellow, to a burgundy/pink-brown, and finally a light green. They are found throughout central and Eastern United States, as well as down in Texas. That said, they have even been known to stray outside their range to the rest of the US.
Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars feed exclusively on plants belonging to the laurel family (Lauraceae), which is a huge family of plants. Such plants include avocado, apple and peach trees. In fact, according to The University of Florida’s “page on spicebush swallowtail caterpillars“, these creatures would rather “starve to death” than not eat plants belonging to this family.
In addition to their false eyespots (which scare off predators), the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is also able to avoid predators through constructing leaf shelters early on in their life. Similarly, at their first stage of maturation (the first instar), the caterpillars’ brown and white coloration gives them the appearance of bird/lizard droppings, which helps hide them from predators.
Now, despite their many defense mechanisms, spicebush swallowtail caterpillars are completely harmless, so our reader need not fear for his safety or health. Likewise, they do not infest homes and are not considered pests. He can simply leave the caterpillar be.
To conclude, the yellow creature with huge eyespots that our reader found is a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar. They are not to be feared, so he can admire this beautiful specimen without worrying. Meanwhile, we can admire this stunning photograph of said caterpillar, for which we thank our reader. We hope this article proves insightful and interesting, and we wish him the very best!
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