Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

I got up this morning and went out on the patio like I do every morning to enjoy my cup of coffee and watch the birds hunting for their breakfast, when all of a sudden I look down and spotted this cute little caterpillar on the ground just beneath my feet.

He must be lost, since their host plants are the leaves of cherry, ash and poplar trees. He wasn't moving very fast, so I ran in, grabbed my camera and a +3 closeup filter for a rare opportunity to create a macro. Realizing that when using closeup filters or doing any kind of macro work, the depth of field is pretty shallow, I closed down my aperture to F11 and shot away. He hardly moved a bit. Once I was sure I made my photo, I picked him up and moved him toward the rear of the patio when he wouldn't be stepped on.

After my coffee, I checked my butterfly book to see what their host plants are and realized that I had none of them in my yard. The closest thing I have to any of their preferred trees are a couple of Malaleuca trees. These trees are in the Poplar tree family, but the foliage was too high for me to place him on a leaf. I just set him down near the bottom of one of the trees and I'm hoping he'll find his way to the foliage.

This is one of the most interesting looking caterpillars I've seen. As far as I can tell, there are no hairs on his body like we usually see when looking at caterpillars. Those black spots with yellow above them are not eyes; but they are called eye spots. The markings are there to fool predators. If you look closely, you can see small blue dots along his margin near his belly. I would think that these are the little blue smudges that are seen on the back of the butterfly's wings right between the little tails. That's only a guess, because other than that I can't see any similarity between the caterpillar and the butterfly.

Imagine what a miracle their transformation or Chrysalis is? Caterpillars and butterflies aren't even remotely similar in appearance, but after their pupa stage they emerge into beautiful flying flowers. How wonderful is that?
Post a Comment