This little guy was a guest at the veggie stand the other day when we were picking in the Valley. Doesn’t he look neat? The really cool thing about these creatures is how they interact with their surroundings–the picture to the left is a bit dark, but you can partially see that the body has two black spots that look like fake eyes, causing the little fellow to resemble a snake so predators are less likely to attack. Completing the “look” is a little arrow of red, that with a small stretch of the imagination looks like a snake’s forked tongue.
After doing a little research when I got home that afternoon, it turns out he’s a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar. Young Spicebush Swallowtail larvae are a more brownish color, and because he is more of a yellow/green, we can tell that he is in the later stages of his caterpillar life, and will most likely begin spinning his cocoon soon; that is, turning into a butterfly! At that point, he’ll retreat to the safety of a leaf’s underside, his salivary glands will emit a bit of silk to keep him harnessed to the leaf and he will shed his outer layer of skin to reveal a harder layer called the chrysalis. The entire process from egg to adult takes about a month, and adults live for normally anywhere between two days and two weeks depending on predators and resources.