Halt! Who Goes There?

“There is no waste in functioning natural ecosystems. All organisms, dead or alive, are potential sources of food for other organisms. A caterpillar eats a leaf; a robin eats the caterpillar; a hawk eats the robin. When the plant, caterpillar, robin, and hawk die, they are in turn consumed by decomposers. “
— G. Tyler Miller, Jr.

 

Can you identify this strange object resting on a satsuma leaf?

Bird poop            Snake              Caterpillar

Well, if you thought the object was bird poop or a snake, you have been fooled by Mother Nature. This little creature is the larva of a giant swallowtail butterfly.  As a form of protection, many caterpillars resemble bird poop during some stages or instars of  growth as larvae.  The giant swallowtail mimics bird poop through all five instars. You have to admit this specimen does not look very tasty!

In order to  avoid spoiling someone’s lunch, let’s end with a gorgeous picture of a female giant swallowtail at  a tropical milkweed lunch counter.

Learn more about giant swallowtails by clicking the University of Florida web site.   

Give a citrus tree as a Christmas gift this holiday season and the lucky gift recipient  will not only enjoy citrus fruit but giant swallowtails as well. (Satsumas and kumquats do well in the Mobile area.)