Spicebush and caterpillars

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I’ve been checking my spicebush (Lindera benzoin) for signs of caterpillars, and when I recently found this folded leaf my hopes were high.

Spicebush leaf  with hidden caterpillarspicebush-leaf-indicating-a-caterpillar

I found this tiny spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar (Papilio troilus) inside, and felt like I’d hit the jackpot. I’m amazed that such a small caterpillar can cut the leaf and make a web to keep it folded. It certainly makes a great hiding place!

tiny spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

A plastic shoebox and some nylon tulle held in place with an elastic band makes an effective caterpillar nursery. It now has five small occupants, and I’ll keep them supplied with plenty of fresh spicebush leaves.

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly catepillar cage

I first blogged about spicebush caterpillars in July 2010. Although I’ve raised them before, it’s still a special treat to watch them through their various stages. I think they’re cute, even at this early stage. This one already has the false eye spots that make it look like a minature dragon.

Small spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillarerfly-catepillarLast year I didn’t find any spicebush caterpillars, and butterfly numbers in general seemed lower than usual. I’m hoping these are a favorable omen for the 2014 butterfly season. I’d be glad to know if you are seeing any butterflies or caterpillars.

14 thoughts on “Spicebush and caterpillars”

  1. Always enjoy your posts Betty! Spicebush are one of my favorites also …have some munching away in my butterfly house along with Eastern Black Swallowtails, American Lady, Buckeyes and Red Spotted Purple. Have released 46 Spicebush that overwintered along with several Tiger Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtail, Red Spotted Purples (overwinter as caterpillar) and Black Swallowtail. Have sighted Fritillary but no eggs or cats yet. Surprised that I haven’t seen any Zebra Swallowtails yet but it’s still early. Just hoping the glorious Monarch makes an appearance this year!

    1. Christine, you are indeed, a Butterfly Lady extraordinaire! I wish you weren’t so far away. I’d love to see your butterfly house and learn more about how you manage so many critters. I’m also wondering where you find all your caterpillars – especially Buckeyes, and Red-Spotted Purples. I’m impressed!

      I have now seen two monarchs. However, they didn’t stay around and no sign of eggs. Nevertheless, it was good to see them.

    1. Thanks, Judy. Glad to know you, too, are raising American Ladies and good to know you are finding them on pearly everlasting.

  2. I’ve seen the cabbage moths, but also lots of small light blue butterflies. I’ve got lots of fennel, dill and a very small pipevine this year, so hope for many swallowtails.

    1. Kathy, I think the small light blue butterflies are spring azures. I’m seeing those, too, and though they aren’t big and show, they always brighten my day. I hope your dill, fennel, and pipevine do attract some swallowtails.

  3. Wow Betty!
    These pics are amazing! What a strange looking creature this tiny caterpillar is.
    It’s incredible to think that it will turn into the most beautiful butterfly. And, yes i too
    hope this will be a good season for the butterflies.

    1. Yes, Pauline, it is amazing to think of the transformation from egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis to adult butterflies – something that has intrigued humans for centuries. And I’m pleased by the butterflies I’m seeing so far.

  4. Betty, I saw a teeny tiny caterpillar on a spicebush in the Children’s Garden at the Arboretum today. I too was happy seeing it!

    1. Tracy, I’m delighted to know there is at least one in the Children’s Garden, and glad you were able to find it – a special treasure.

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