Similar Caterpillars

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)May 11, 2014

I made pictures of spicebush, palamedes, tiger and red-spotted purple caterpillars in the cages today, and when I looked at the pictures, I had to look twice to figure out which was which. Spicebush, tiger and palamedes swallowtail caterpillars look SO much alike!

I can see the 'eyes' behind the 'eyes' of this spicebush cat, so I think the next instar will be the first green one -

Palamedes swallowtail caterpillars are almost identical to spicebush cats. Their bodies are a little more angular, they only have one set of 'eyes' with just little red ones behind the big ones that can be seen in the green instars, and they eventually get bigger than spicebush cats -

I saw a palamedes flying slowly in the top of the big red bay or swamp bay that grows in my front yard area about an hour ago. There are probably already caterpillars up there, but it's too tall for me to reach. I have an 8' ladder that I use to gather leaves from the bottom branches to feed my other caterpillars - this is a very vigorous, healthy tree, knock on wood!

And tiger caterpillars look similar to the above two, just plainer. This tiger cat hasn't grown as rapidly as the palamedes and spicebush cats, but that's true with every one of them I've ever raised. They're slow! I think the next instar will be the cute green one with the cream colored saddle -

This red-spotted purple is beginning to look like a red-spotted purple. Once RSPs get beyond a certain size, they grow very rapidly -

I've got one red admiral caterpillar, but it's hidden in its nest. There are numerous American lady cats outside, where they'll stay in their impenetrable looking nests for a while, and I've recently posted a picture of a pearl crescent. The pearl crescents are starting to head for the top of the cage, so I think they're finally about to pupate!

Sherry

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
davessels

They are the oddest looking little creatures with their eyes. Doubt I will ever see one here, but I love the pictures, thanks for posting.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 3:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I love making their picture and posting them on the forum, Debra!

I just happened upon the red admiral caterpillar making a new leaf nest -

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 5:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dragonflydee

Sherry,I love those pictures!

My young Sassafras tree is growing well,
And I am hoping it will get big enough soon
For the butterflies to be able to use it.

DD

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 10:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Leafhead

Very educational photos, Sherry.
The similarities in these early instars really speaks of their common ancestry (except the RSP of course).
Beautiful RA cat as well, looks as though he's ready to pupate soon. I just was visited by an RA ELF and look forward to cats of my own soon :)

John

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 7:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Was your RA on your nettles, John? How do you raise them without getting stung by the nettles? Do you feed them something different or have a safety mechanism to protect yourself. I'm recovering from a frustrating bout of poison ivy. Maybe my worst ever, though that's not bad, since I usually recognize it very early. This time I must have grabbed a bare branch before the leaves were out. I apparently had the poison on my hand and ended up with small patches everywhere in various stages of development. I've been sleeping like a log on Benadryl very night.

Martha

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 7:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

John, I think the RA is pupating now inside its nest - it ate the bottom out of the nest, so maybe I can see later on.

According to my field guide, tiger, palamedes and spicebush swallowtails are all Papilios, so they are indeed closely related.

'So sorry to hear about your poison ivy, Martha! I used to get it a lot until I started wearing gloves and long pants every time I went into the woods.
I've found that Ivarest works better than any other medication.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 10:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Leafhead

Martha, my RA was indeed on Wood Nettles. False nettles take far too long to germinate (they're reseeding annuals here) and get completely devoured by bunnies.
The Nettles don't bother me so much, but if I handle the internodes and avoid leaf axils where the hairs are I don't get stung so much. I also take from the edge of the patch to avoid unwanted contact.
So sorry to hear about your bout with Poison Ivy :( Hope you feel better soon

Sherry, congrats on your RA, although it is rare for RAs to pupate inside their nests, isn't it? Keep us all posted on its progress :)

John

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 12:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

John, I'd say about half of the RAs I raise in cages make their chrysalis inside the nest. I guess they figure they need to be protected at all stages.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 1:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The cat moved out of the nest and is hanging in the "J" on the ceiling of the cage, so this one isn't a nest pupator! :)

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 6:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Leafhead

Congrats on a job well done, Sherry :) I can hardly wait to see pix of the pupa and adult.

John

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 2:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

We got over 4" of rain yesterday, and it's still raining off and on, with the weather forecast for more rain today. That dry spell didn't last long!

Here's a picture I made of the tiger swallowtail the other day -

The biggest caterpillar in this picture with the burgundy underside is a palamedes cat that has since made its chrysalis. There's another palamedes cat to its right, and the red bay eating spicebush cat is on the left -

Two of the red-spotted purples have made their chrysalis, and these three are still eating. The funny contortion the one in the upper part of the picture is in is typical of RSP cats -

Some more pearl crescents have emerged. I've got a lot of American lady chrysalides and three more eating cats, but things are winding down here, with the fun of releasing butterflies to come.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 9:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
runmede(7a Virginia)

Docmom,

Have you tried using Jewelweed to cure your poison ivy? You just break the stem and rub on the sap. If the area is blister, I recommend blending the stems with water and then freezing them in ice cube trays.

Jewelweed also soothes the stings of stinging nettles.

Here is a link that might be useful: More info on Jewelweed

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bernergrrl(z5 IL)

In my area, Red Admirals use Pennsylvania Pellitory, a wonderful little "weed." Likes a shady area; prolific, and easy to pull up and put in a pot to grow the caterpillars on.

Have so many and have sent some to my son's preschool, and they are having a blast watching the caterpillars.

As the cats get older, they get very "tame" and crawl on hands, etc., and then they go right back to eating. Not sure of they get habituated to our presence, or once they get to that last stage, nothing stops them from eating.

Just love them. :)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 1:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I'll have to look up Pennsylvania pellitory, bernergrrl. I know that the various pellitories are in the same family as the nettles, so it's not surprising they'd use it.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 3:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bernergrrl(z5 IL)

MissSherry, Time to write a book! Do you give presentations in your area too? You have so much specific knowledge and present in such a wonderful way for us laypeople, that it would truly would be helpful to so many people. :)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 7:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Thanks Bernergrrl! I don't do presentations, but quite a few people have brought over their children to see my caterpillars and butterfly garden. Of course, I have to explain plants and caterpillars to them, so I guess you could say I make at-home presentations. One child was so interested, his parents say he wants to become an entomologist. They say he turns over leaves everywhere he goes looking for caterpillars! I could write a book, but there are SO many of them out there already, I don't think anybody would want to publish another one.

The tiger swallowtail caterpillar has turned brown, purged, and now it's making the trot around the cage. I can't think of another cat that turns brown before pupating.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 2:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Leafhead

Question, Sherry:
Is it only Swallowtails that purge or do all cats do it?

John

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 11:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

As far as I know, only swallowtails purge, at least they're the only ones that make a BIG mess with it. I've noticed that other caterpillars, even American ladies, will make more and looser poop before pupating - if I see poop that leaves stains, I know they're about to go into the "J".

The tiger swallowtail cat is pupating on the top of the cage, but it either didn't make a sling, or it didn't stick to the roof. It's been raining off and on for days now, with over 95% or better humidity between rains, so I suspect the roof of the cage was slippery. I guess after its made the chrysalis and hardened for a few days, I'll put it on the floor of the cage with just chrysalides - I can't stand to see it just hanging there!

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 9:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Leafhead

Thanks for the info, Sherry and good luck with your changing, slingless cat...

John

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 4:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Good news!

I got up this morning and looked at the cat, and it was still hanging there, not yet a chrysalis. I was thinking maybe it couldn't undergo what it needed to do in that odd position, so about an hour ago I VERY carefully and slowly removed the silk where it was attached, then put the cat in the chrysalis cage. I just checked on it, and it's made its chrysalis - YAY! 'Looks like a butterfly will come from this one after all!

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 1:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Leafhead

YAY! It's a relief to see your butterfly "out of the woods", as it were...Hope it's a beauty :) Keep us posted...

John

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 2:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Juvibug1920

Hi Sherry,
I'm a newcomer to the site and am so impressed by your knowledge and dedication to your cats. You're like a mom nursing them along. How long have you been butterfly gardening?
I would love to learn more.
Yvette

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 7:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Yvette, as I recall, I started butterfly gardening about ?2001 or thereabouts. I'd been interested in raising caterpillars ever since I saw some gulf fritillary cats on a passionvine in a container at a nature store. Before that, I was mainly a bird watcher. One of the things that made me want to buy our 5 1/2 wooded acres was all the butterflies I saw flying through the woods. I couldn't ID them, so I got a field guide and everything mushroomed from there. I've been adding host plants to the already existing host plants ever since I started raising caterpillars, and I converted my vegetable garden to a butterfly garden, with both nectar and host plants. I only have four tomato plants in it now. If tobacco hornworms should show up on them, I'd probably have to let them have the plants, much as I like home-grown tomatoes.

And you're right, I nurse my caterpillars like I used to nurse my children. I love all nature, but the big attraction in raising caterpillars is that I get to DO something. When I clean out the cage of frass, it's like I'm changing their diapers. When I gather their food, I hose it off in the kitchen sink (like sterilizing the bottles) before I feed it to the babies.

I have three dogs that I cater to also, so I guess I'm just a natural born Mom! :)

Sherry

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 8:58PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Any one have Ptelea trifoliata?
Common name is wafer ash or hop tree. I would like...
Jacob BergZone4b-5aMN
Monarch Caterpillars out of food!
I grow a few milkweeds for the monarch butterflies,...
SoFL Rose z10
Looking for a source of beautiful, realistic fake butterflies
I am helping a friend decorate her baby nursery. I...
kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)
Ordered seeds.
I ordered some seeds today and was wondering how I...
Jacob BergZone4b-5aMN
Florida Butterflies.
I have posted before. I live in Sarasota, Florida and...
jane__ny
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™