Subject: Caterpillar in AZ
Location: Mesa, AZ
April 21, 2013 1:44 pm
Found this caterpillar today, April 21, 2013 on my hat and at first thought it was a bird dropping. On closer inspection it looked like a half of a lizard, without legs. It’s about 1 1/4” long with a brown and white coloring. Never seen one like this before.
When first we received your email, we didn’t read it and immediately wrote back that the images had not attached. Thank you for sending the images. If we had read you email, we could have answered your question with a 97% accuracy, because your verbal description marvelously describes the Orange Dog, the caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail, a North American butterfly that adapted to the cultivation of citrus in Florida, and when citrus was grown more widely, including in backyard and porch gardens, the Giant Swallowtail was able to expand its range all the way through Arizona to California. Your email did not indicate if it was found near an orange, lime or other citrus tree. If you disturb the Orange Dog, it will reveal its osmeterium, an orange fork-shaped organ that releases an odor some predators might find repulsive. See BugGuide for a matching photo, and you can also see BugGuide’s information page on the Giant Swallowtail for more information.
Daniel, thank you for your assistance. We have several citrus trees in our yard and I moved it from my hat back to one of the orange trees. My daughters are looking forward to the possiblity of seeing the Giant Swallowtail flying around our back yard.