Amazing Swallowtail Caterpillars | Home, DIY & Stuff

Amazing Swallowtail Caterpillars

June 25, 2013

Striped CaterpillarStunningly colored green caterpillar in Japan.Spring SeasonThe late wet of the Spring season in Japan brings out a cavalry of creatures wishing to share the morsels of a moist, green garden.

Amongst them are a stunningly beautiful variety of Swallowtail caterpillars – or Ageha as they are known in Japan.

This family of caterpillars usually go through four or five instar stages as they grow.  They metamorphosis into something quite different at each step of development towards being an adult butterfly.

Swallowtail Caterpillar in Instar Stage 1

An ugly Swallowtail caterpillar Stage 1 Instar camouflages itself as bird droppings for safety from predators.

In early instars, these critters can be quite ugly.  They quietly nibble along stems under the protection of bird dropping-like camouflage coloring, in order to not be found and eaten.

In later instars, Swallowtail caterpillars change dramatically. They parade along, advertising bright and intricate visual warnings to would-be predators for protection.  Black Swallowtail caterpillars in particular, are very similar looking to other brightly colored poisonous caterpillar species.  So hungry birds really have to think carefully before chowing down on a colored bag of legs for fear of having upset stomachs later.

At Home, DIY and Stuff, we usually encourage a wide diversity of creatures into our garden by only ever using limited and targeted pest spraying programs.

Stunningly colored green caterpillar in Japan.While our garden visitors are often gloriously intricate in color and design, the decision not to spray is often hard to bear when we see the enormous amount of damage these voracious little eaters do as they develop.

Just a few of these little guys can munch their way through far more than a tolerable allowance of garden in less than an afternoon!

Unprotected vegetable crops can be devastated and numerous leaves of prized ornamental plants can end up missing within hours.

The positive side of hosting Swallowtail caterpillars in our garden (even as they devour as much greenery as they do!) is they are simply wonderful to watch at work munching away at leaves. They have that carefree attitude about them. Like cows in a soft, new pasture, the order of the day is: “Don’t think, just eat”.

What’s more, is eventually the caterpillars mature into a delicate flutter of ornate wings. Adult butterflies can be up to 3 or 4 inches in span and are an absolute delight to see. An experience worth every leaf sacrificed.

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