Subject: New pet at new home
Location: Encinitas, CA
July 7, 2014 9:02 pm
Hi, my husband and I just moved to Encinitas, CA (San Diego County) today (July 7th) and found this guy welcoming us at our new home, munching on our lemon tree. He’s a cutie (and a little scary with that face!) and we want to let him chow down, but want to make sure he’s not an invasive/destructive species. Any ideas what he is?
Signature: Allison in Encinitas

Orange Dog

Orange Dog

Dear Allison,
This is an Orange Dog, the caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail, the largest butterfly found in southern California.  Giant Swallowtails are native to the eastern part of North America, however, when citrus was introduced as a crop in Florida, the Giant Swallowtail adapted to feeding on the leaves of the introduced trees.  As the cultivation of citrus spread in North America to include Arizona and Southern California, the Giant Swallowtails expanded their range as the food was readily available.  though not theoretically native to Southern California, the Giant Swallowtail is native to North America, the the damage caused by the feeding caterpillars is relatively insignificant.  If you disturb the Orange Dog, you will likely get to see the osmeterium, a forked organ that releases a scent to deter predators.

Location: Encinitas, California

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