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