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Spicebush Swallowtail larvae

Papilio troilus


Spicebush Swallowtail larva go through three color stages as they develop.In their first moltings they are brown and white and look like bird droppings. In their mid stage they are a brilliant green. The last instar these caterpillars are a deep orange red. Photo: Late instar (orange red) and third instar (green) larvae.


These caterpillars can be found rolled up inside leaves of their host plants camphor and spicebush. The larva weave tiny pads of silk which curls the leaf around them to create a shelter.


The Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) is a remarkable butterfly at every stage of the game. The adult butterfly is quite large with a wingspan of three to four inches across. This species displays sexual dimorphism which means that males and females have different coloration. Males have hind wings with a pale green to yellow coloration. Females display a blue iridescent coloration which imitates the distasteful Pipevine Swallowtail as part of the Swallowtail mimicry complex. Pearly white spherical eggs are laid singly on the undersides of new growth of host plants. Larva host on Spicebush, sassafras, tulip tree, sweetbay magnolia, camphor , and redbay where caterpillars create leaf shelters and use them to hide from predators. Larvae start off brown in color but molt to a brilliant green. Late instar caterpillars appear a bright orange or yellow in color as they prepare to pupate. The large eyespots of these caterpillars can startle predators and people. Their chrysalis can be either green or brown in color. In Greek mythology Troilus was the beautiful son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Some stories include Troilus and his sister Polyxena being set upon by Achilles while watering their horses. In this version of the tale Troilus seeks sanctuary in a temple of Apollo but Achilles catches up to the boy and murders him at the alter. Other tales from mythology depict Troilus in unequal combat with Achilles who prevails in the battle. Troilus and his love for Cressida are subjects of plays by Chaucer and Shakespeare.

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213 Comments (1–25)

LauraPantelakis a month ago

Oh my goodness they are little buddies! Too cute!

Perez Fernandez
Perez Fernandez 2 months ago

that is amazing!

DaleSpringsMitchum 3 months ago

Kristen: Thank you!! A couple of weeks ago while walking my doggies, I spotted this brown catipillar. I had to stop - the huge eyes were amazing. I told my son it would probably become a butterfly but until I saw this had no idea! Dale (in SC)

EarlyStages 5 months ago

Excellent photos and one of my favorites too, but incorrectly captioned. BOTH caterpillars are last/fifth instar – midsize P. troilus larvae are never green – the top cat being completely developed and soon ready to pupate (thus "discolored").

dylanjamesjoaquin 10 months ago

I would love to see these.

Desmond.E.S.O a year ago

Wow! Those are Amazing!

francesca1 a year ago

wow they are funny

iness1 a year ago

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa how ceaut their are

jokrwx3 a year ago


GreenBugs a year ago

totally agree, very nice look at two different instars

metulippatch a year ago

That is amazing!!

agustin3 a year ago

they are very good

santi3 a year ago

They are stickits .And beatiful

alana1 a year ago

how nice

KristenGilpin a year ago

@Abby Ccga: I just chose to ignore the comment and hope something got lost in translation.

Abby Ccga
Abby Ccga a year ago

@country-day-guana "that's very impressive for a woman"??? Ignorant sexist

matiasd1 a year ago

they are amazing!!

emiliavin1 a year ago

they are so beautiful

micaela1 a year ago

they are very biutiful

mauricio1 a year ago

They are beutifals.

ILoveAnimals a year ago

Its amazing oh my!!! Nice 1😀

WildlifeCrusader 2 years ago

The camouflage may be there to make it seem like a snake, but I find it adorable. ~<3

HazelMarley 2 years ago

I have to say, they are adorable. Great picture!

bg11a17 2 years ago

So beautiful! They don't seem real, they are so wonderful that it seem a painting!

the reptile man
the reptile man 2 years ago

ok that is cool creepy and cute all at the same time

Tampa, Florida, USA

Lat: 28.05, Long: -82.40

Spotted on Oct 5, 2010
Submitted on Jul 26, 2011

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