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Similar Caterpillars

Posted by misssherry Z8/9SE MS (My Page) on
Sun, May 11, 14 at 14:01

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 -

 photo 2014SpicebushCat_zps09a76286.jpg

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 -

 photo 2014PalamedesCat_zpsa15cd4e1.jpg

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 -

 photo 2014TigerCat_zps392bcc18.jpg


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

 photo 2014RSPCat_zpse060bcd0.jpg

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


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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.


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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 -

 photo 2014RACat_zpsd21a33b0.jpg

Sherry


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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

John


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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 -

 photo LateInstarTigerCat_zps9a7566b9.jpg

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 -

 photo PalsandSpicebushCat_zps0880180f.jpg

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 -

 photo ThreeRSPCats_zps5f5a1a14.jpg

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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. :)


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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. :)


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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

John


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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

John


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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RE: Similar Caterpillars

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


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