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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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181 Comments (1–25)

LauraPantelakis 9 months ago

Oh my goodness they are little buddies! Too cute!

Perez Fernandez
Perez Fernandez 10 months ago

that is amazing!

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 a year 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 a year ago

I would love to see these.

Desmond.E.S.O a year ago

Wow! Those are Amazing!

jokrwx3 2 years ago


GreenBugs 2 years ago

totally agree, very nice look at two different instars

metulippatch 2 years ago

That is amazing!!

KristenGilpin 2 years ago

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

Abby Ccga
Abby Ccga 2 years ago

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

ILoveAnimals 2 years 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

Pedro Beirão
Pedro Beirão 2 years ago

Beautiful. Almost like a drawing or a fine painting..

JanineLingTurner 2 years ago

that is amazing!

that's very impressive for a woman well I guess it's pretty good for everyone

Darvesh 3 years ago

This photo is always fresh, no matter how many times you see it !

ceejayalyssa 3 years ago


amelieprentice2003 3 years ago

They look like caterpillars in a cartoon! Nice!

vasudha548 3 years ago

Amazing Kristen

4sg3 3 years ago

It is so cute where did u see it and what is it ???

4sg24 3 years ago

Where did you find these peculiar creatures.

Tampa, Florida, USA

Lat: 28.05, Long: -82.40

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

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