19 Jul

The Caterpillar Files


In the ongoing caterpillar saga (chapters one, two, three,  four, five, and six, if anyone is interested) we learned yet another interesting metamorphosis fact. To get from poopy to green, our Chinese Swallowtails don’t change colors, they shed. Cool, huh?!


Since the butterfly in March (chapter six) our little mandarin orange tree has hosted at least a half dozen “babies,” one of which made it all the way to butterfly in June– although, once again, I missed the actual emergence. As of last week, we’ve had two more caterpillars which made it to instar status and then disappeared. We found one on the ground, and with the help of a leaf, gently replaced it on the tree. Later, we found it on a chair leg. Again, we helped it back to the tree. The next day it was back on the chair, so I let it be, thinking it might like that location for it’s next transformation. But then it moved to the architectural column at the corner of our lanai. By now it hadn’t eaten in nearly three days and was still a day or two short of time to change into a chrysalis (according to the other two we watched). I decided that this caterpillar must have a death wish and with lizards and ants all around, I figured it had just as much of a chance in our new bug box as it did on it’s own on the lanai.

Later in the day, the other escapee reappeared on the lawn, mortally wounded. Could have been a lizard, I could have stepped on it, or maybe the kids did , or even the gardener who was here today. The caterpillar to butterfly ratio is not in the butterfly’s favor, but it does appear that they try year round, so that’s got to count for something. Already, there’s another bitty caterpillar giving life a try in the tree.

11 Jan

Oh Poop!

There’s some weird shit around here. First I saw what I assumed was an old cocoon on our little mandarin orange tree.

Fine — I’ll take a few munched leaves if it gets me a butterfly. Then, a few days later, I saw a new cocoon, PLUS a caterpillar.

My first reaction was, “Wow, that’s sure an audacious guy, not even trying to hide, but I guess he can because he sure looks just like bird poop.”

The next day, there was another poopy caterpillar and the cocoon had hatched. The butterfly was nowhere to be seen, but I had to figure out what they were so I Googled the less than colorful words: “caterpillar, hawaii.” Waddya know, after a little searching, I actually found listings referencing poop, turd, and “bird shit caterpillar“.

From our research, we learned that the poop-like caterpillar changes to a prettier green version. Guess what? The next day, the larger of our two turds turned into this:

So, ours are specifically Chinese Yellow Swallowtails. The bad news is the exterminator was due to come and spray (something I’m very conflicted about, but the homeowner pays for it, and as the newbie here, I’m reluctant to mess with his house too much). The good news is that our orange tree is in a container — so I brought it (and the worm bin) indoors for the afternoon. The neighbor kids came over to play so we showed off our new “pets.” Girl neighbor was curious and touched the green caterpillar — Yellow things popped out of it’s head!! Back to the computer and we learned that these are not antennae, but osmeterium which are scent glands that supposedly give off a smell birds don’t like.

We also learned that the cocoon is called a chrysalis, or pupa, and should “hatch” a butterfly in about ten days. I was hoping to post the whole cycle here, but we’re just too excited. Green guy #1 has about tripled in size and #2 is catching up. Hopefully we’ll have chrysalis to show soon!