What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 6:21 PM
Dear Bugman,
Today, I found this caterpillar on my driveway underneath a Hickory tree. It is about 1 1/2 inches long, light brown, purple dots and two, yellow, “eye-like” dots on its body behind its head. When I carefully picked it up, I must have startled it and a strange yellow, forked tongue(?) came to its defense along with a strange odor. I’ve seen many insect defense mechanisms but none quite like this. Anyway, I live in Sussex County, New Jersey (northwest) and have never seen a caterpillar like this. Looking at your photos it appears to be a swallowtail of some type. Can you identify for sure? Thanks!
Tina Newfield
Northwest NJ, Sussex County

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Tina,
This is most likely an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar, but you are also within the range of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.  This typically green caterpillar changes color to brown or occasionally orange just before pupation.  The scent gland you mentioned is characteristic of the swallowtails and is known as the osmetrium.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Sussex County, New Jersey

48 Responses to Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

  1. lyanavada says:

    Hi my name is Lydia. I am from Lockhart Texas and I have found a caterpillar that looks almost identical to the one that you found. the fork tongue aka snake tongue and the big eyes.

  2. Catherine says:

    I live in Saint Louis, Missouri and I found the exact same caterpillar in a park in this area. It swayed back and forth like a snake, I thought it was incredibly interesting.

  3. P Mack says:

    I have a picture of the one I found in my yard yesterday. Rochester, NY

  4. Mary says:

    I found one on my sidewalk in Clayton, NY on 9/1/14

  5. Sarah says:

    Found this same ill’ guy on my front door in Coeur d Alene, Idaho. Never seen here before in our area…

  6. dee says:

    I seen one in Cades Cove at the campground.

  7. Christine says:

    Found one in the park here in Bronx, NY. My kids and I were so fascinated! Every time we attempted to touch it, it swayed back and forth as if to say “No”, so needless to say we let it go on its merry way. Nature is so wonderful 🙂

  8. diane yager says:

    Found one in parsons ks. What does it turn into

  9. Amy says:

    found one in Albuquerque NM today.

  10. Christy says:

    I found one on a peach tree. I live in Marion Sc

  11. Regina says:

    I was on my porch this morning and i looked down and one was staring at me small eyes and blue dots on the head and has a tongue as well i live in Vancouver Washington. I’ve never seen one before today.

  12. Ziko says:

    Saw one identical to the photo in the Okanagan Lake Provincial Park (near Peachland,BC,Canada). It did the ‘snake sway’ that another cocomment mentioned. So cool!
    Finally found out what it was, thanks to this site.

  13. Nick says:

    Found one in my driveway this morning and it was bobbing back and fourth like it was dancing and big yellow eyes and forked tongue . Zombie looking lol !

  14. patty says:

    Found one yesterday across from Buttermilk ski area in aspen

  15. JoAnn says:

    I found one on my porch today while taking my dog out. He didn’t sway back and forth nor did he have a forked tongue unless he just didn’t stick it out but he looks identical to the pictures. I live in Woodburn Indiana and I’m a veterinary technician and I have never seen one. I thought he was cool looking because it looked like he was standing on all fours like a dog or cat. Is this the same kind of caterpillar?

  16. Claudia says:

    How do I upload pic for I’d?

  17. Hope says:

    I think I may have seen one today. In Yorktown VA. How can I send a pic? I posted the picture on Facebook with the caption “I found a real life Pokémon today. “

  18. Patti says:

    I found on here in Anchorage AK

  19. Ken Denny says:

    Just found one in Chapel Hill, NC

  20. Robin Haley says:

    Just found one in North Idaho. When I picked him up no scent or forked tongue but super cute. Crawled around on me for a few before I let him go on another plant in yard as he was on a hose and we didn’t want to hurt him. What do they pupae into!

  21. Fernanda says:

    Just found one ! I’ve never seen something like that before, got my attention the “eyes” and the strings coming out of his mouth with that odor. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  22. Manuel M. Lopez says:

    I live on in Soledad California and found one that matches the picture. My 4 year old son and I are always looking for new creatures and had ever seen anything like it.

  23. Doris Conway says:

    I live in Cabot Arkansas. I found one in bag of mulch when I emptied it out.Kept it as none of us had ever seen one before. Kept in in plastic soda bottle then got clear plastic container and put dirt,potting soil and mulch,along with branch for it to climb.This morning it was not moving much and was much smaller. When I emptied it into new home it had some web like ilaments sticking to bottle. Going to try to let it develop in house. Put some tomato leaves in container for it to eat.Do I need to sprinkle water in there?

  24. Billie Jo And Trenton says:

    My son found one we are in Springfield Mo , our little guy also stood up (kind of like a cobra) and we are in love. lol he is the coolest looking friend we’ve made in while. We already have found several cocoons this year so we are making him a cozy home and we’re gonna wait him out. I bet he’ll (or she’ll) be beautiful!!!! he’s turning brown so he’s almost ready. In case you couldn’t tell we are very much excited and will keep you posted…..

  25. Jan King says:

    Just found one in Santa Cruz, CA. It swayed back and forth and, when I attempted to move it to a safe place, it stuck this ‘forked tongue’ out at me. Needless to say, I was a little surprised. Anyway, we do have Swallowtails out here but I’m not sure they’re “Eastern Swallowtails”. Now we will have to make sure it’s safe and secure.

    • bugman says:

      The Western Tiger Swallowtail, the Two-Tailed Swallowtail and the Pale Swallowtail all have similar looking caterpillars and they are found in California.

  26. Dianna Merry says:

    I live in Fairbanks Alaska and found one on my lawn today. 8/24/17. I have never seen anything like this in Alaska.
    He was the brownish color, not sure if he is suppose to be in alaska but this year we have major bitch tree and wiliows effected by insects and disease.

    • bugman says:

      According to BugGuide, the range of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail is: “northern US, Alaska, and every province and territory of Canada, north to the tundra.”

  27. Crystal Cliff says:

    My mother found one here in Havre, Mt and it freaked het out, she though it was an alien. Had me worried for a sec, I googled it n found this an this is exactly what it looked like.

  28. DanO says:

    I saw one of these, red with a black stripe and blue dots. I live in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Recently there have been a lot of insects around here that our harsh climate doesn’t usually allow. It’s been interesting to watch them, but I feel bad that they are so far from home.

  29. Dusten Deckard says:

    Found one in my driveway. Bloomington Indiana.

  30. Diana says:

    We found one on our porch yesterday morning, Lafayette, IN.. Didn’t know what it was. Picked it up to inspect and he stuck his “tongue” out. Very interesting little creature.

  31. Leslie says:

    I found one in Warrenton GA. It was FabuLes!

  32. I just found one of these interesting little creatures in my azalea flower bed. I am tempted to go back out and capture it so my grandsons can watch the process of it turning into a butterfly. My questions are, “How cruel is this and what would I need to do?”

    • bugman says:

      You did not provide us with a location of the sighting. There are many different species of Tiger Swallowtails in North America, so the individual you found will vary with your location, and different species have different food plant requirements. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, has a range map on BugGuide based on data, and according to BugGuide: “Caterpillars feed on Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Swamp Bay (Persea palustris) and Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). … Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) is also a host for Papilio glaucus.” We cannot recall reading of any species of Tiger Swallowtail feeding on Azalea, but the Azalea Sphinx, pictured on Sphingidae of the Americas, does feed on azalea. Are you able to submit an image of the caterpillar you observed? If yes, please submit using the Ask What’s That Bug? link on our site.

  33. david childers says:

    I found one in Shelton WA

  34. Dannillee Mckever says:

    I just found one in Spanaway, Wa it seemed to be very curious of me getting up on its rear end swaying around like a snake. I picked it up with a stick and put it out in the bushes since it was on my back porch

  35. Shana says:

    I live in Forsyth county Ga and found one in my yard today

  36. Bobette Staggie Empey says:

    We found one in Idaho Falls Idaho today! Aug 23rd!

  37. Steve L says:

    St. Louis, MO. He/she was sitting perfectly still on some wood that had fresh stain. Maybe trying to catch a buzz? Left an interesting crawl pattern on the wood. Hope it doesn’t cause harm

  38. Tanjanea says:

    I found the same bug in Belleville Illinois on my sisters porch

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