This is the caterpillar of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly.
This smart little guy has adopted a very smart disguise. Look at those eyes. Huge.
But those eyes are actually a trick, making them look like a snake, even down to the white highlight in the “eye.” Most birds are terrified of snakes and may decide to just leave this caterpillar alone.
The first instars of the caterpillar are brown, and resemble bird droppings, and what self-respecting bird wants to eat that?
These caterpillars tightly roll a leaf around themselves to hide from hungry birds, and if a bird makes it through the rolled up leaf, they are then confronted by those “snake eyes.”
Pretty smart, eh?
Now the adults are pretty smart, too. Their coloring is a mimic of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, which makes birds sick when they eat it. They learn that butterflies that look like that make them sick, so they avoid the Spicebush Swallowtail, too.
Providing for butterflies in your garden is easy when you understand the needs of each cycle in the butterfly’s life. You need to learn which host plant a specific butterfly needs to lay its eggs on. Then you also need to plant plenty of nectar plants for the adults.
You can have a beautiful wildlife garden for butterflies by adding more host plants to your garden.
What host plants do you have for butterflies in your garden?
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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