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Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Papilio polyxenes


This is the caterpillar of the Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Later instars (like this one) grow to about 5 cm (2.0 in) and are green and black banded with yellow spots around every second black band. They have short, black spikes around some of the black bands, although these tend to disappear as the larva nears pupation.


This one was observed feeding on rue in a butterfly garden adjacent to a southern deciduous forest in the coastal plain of South Carolina. It was photographed at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center near Jackson, SC.


Caterpillars feed on plants from the carrot family, Apiaceae, including dill, fennel, Queen Anne's lace, parsley, and golden alexanders. They are also found eating rue and bishop's weed. The black swallowtail caterpillar has an orange "forked gland", called the osmeterium. When in danger, the osmeterium, which looks like a snake's tongue, everts and releases a foul smell to repel predators.

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Spotted by

South Carolina, USA

Spotted on May 25, 2012
Submitted on Feb 18, 2013

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