What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Orange caterpillar
We found this is our driveway today. One of the photos on your site had one that looked like it but said they were green or brown. This one is yellow orange. What is it?
Love your site!
Southern Ohio

Hi Buckeye,
Though we have not heard of an orange morph of a Tiger Swallowtail before, we go on the record as identifying your caterpillar as one. They are usually green and turn darker, often brown, just before pupating.

Update Oops, We stand corrected: (04/26/2006)
I was looking over your excellent site again and noticed that on Caterpillars 3 on the 9/21/2005 from S. Ohio you identified the orange caterpillar as a Tiger Swallowtail. It is actually a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar. The eye spots are very characteristic. Also, the Spicebush swallowtail does have an orange morph.

Question about the name
August 31, 2009
Hi… a friend was getting my assistance today in identifying a caterpillar. She later said that she found it on your site and that it was a “Spicebrush Swallowtail.” I instantly thought that it should be “Spicebush” Swallowtail (bush, not brush), so I came to your site to investigate. Sure enough, you had four or five entries (found via the search option) where they were called “spicebrush” swallowtails.
I think this is an error and that it should be “spicebush,” but I’m not an entomologist and will defer to your expertise. Just wanted to alter you, or be educated myself. 🙂

Hi Stephanie,
The letter you cite is an older posting to our site, and though we have seen both spellings in our research, we agree that the common name Spicebush is more appropriate.  In our childhood, we referred to the butterfly as a Spicebrush Swallowtail, and that name stuck for a long time.  Often errors become established as alternate names.  Though we are not correcting this spelling in our archive, we do take note and all recent postings are identified as Spicebush Swallowtails.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

8 Responses to Spicebrush Swallowtail Caterpillar: Orange Morph

  1. Edith Smith says:

    The orange Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar is one that is about to pupate. The day before the pupate, they turn orange. As they crawl to find a spot to pupate, their movement becomes a bit jerky, not the normal smooth crawl of a Spicebush caterpillar. Palamedes/Laurel Swallowtail caterpillars tend to turn more yellow the day before they pupate.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for the explanation Edith. This is an old posting and we have since learned to identify the pre-pupal coloration of many caterpillars.

  2. diana says:

    I have a question, I live in N.M and found a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar! Is normal for this caterpillar in this part of the United States? Also are they dangerous?

    • bugman says:

      BugGuide reports Spicebush Swallowtails as far west as Texas, so it is possible they are also found in New Mexico. It might also be another species of Swallowtail Swallowtail Caterpillars are not dangerous.

  3. Diane Petka says:

    We just found this pretty catapiller in Wiodine N.J. He/she is so cool. We are going to try and keep it till it turns into a butterfly.

  4. Victoria L Klahn says:

    Just found one in Myles Standish Forest south of Boston Mass

  5. What does the butterfly look like the Spicebush Swallowtail turns into!! We live in North Georgia and we have found 2 in the last few weeks.

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