Monday, October 4, 2010

Garden Critter Spotlight: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly - Orange Dog Caterpillar

I love my lemon tree to pieces. Which means this lovely caterpillar is about the only one i allowed to live, picking off the rest of his brethren. The Orange Dog Caterpillar mimics bird poo to avoid being eaten by predators (as is proven by the hens' total disinterest in eating the picked off bugs we offered to them), and is a pretty good trick on human eyes, too! The caterpillars start out quite small and get larger, able to chow down pretty heavily on citrus leaves. On larger trees, they wouldn't be much of a problem and worth leaving alone to enjoy the beautiful Giant Swallotail Butterflies. But my little tree is just now leafing back out in the cooler days and i'm not about to let those new, tasty leaves be gobbled up by caterpillars, no matter how pretty their mature phase is. The more leaves on a lemon, the more fruits, and with the Grackle birds pecking at all my ripening lemons i need all the foliage i can get!

That being said, i allowed this guy to stick around since he was already pretty large. I picked off several other from my little kaffir lime trees as they're SUPER small and one caterpillar can defoliate them in a jiffy - and did.

Is that bird poo on my lemon tree? Nope, it's a caterpillar, and check out those horns when provoked!

What's Growin' End of September 2010
What's Growin' End of September 2010
What's Growin' End of September 2010

Part of gardening is managing 'pests' and all the critters in your landscape. Do you let them run amuck and manage themselves? Do you step in and remove certain, less ideal bugs? I try and leave most things alone. The anoles will eat the baby leaf footed bugs, but not quickly enough so i spray them down with soapy/spicy/garlicy water when i can find them.  The toads, geckos, skinks and other crawlies do a pretty good job of managing most the other bugs and the birds get the majority of the hornworms and other caterpillars. If i had more than one lemon tree, i'd let all these funny looking caterpillars have their way with the foliage and mature into beautiful butterflies.
But i've only got my one lovely, and i'm not afraid to defend her!

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