Subject: Larva on lemon tree
Location: Riverside, CA
November 2, 2015 4:41 pm
I was wondering if this is a destructive bug or a benifical. It just showed up on my lemon tree in Southern California. The tree has curling leaves like it has leaf miners of some sort. How shall I protect my plant?
Signature: Thank you for any help. Allison

Orange Dog

Orange Dog

Dear Allison,
Destructive and Beneficial are somewhat relative terms when it comes to phytophagous or plant feeding insects.  This is an Orange Dog, the caterpillar of a Giant Swallowtail.  It is theoretically not a species native to California, but rather native to the North American Southeast, but with the cultivation of citrus in Florida and then elsewhere in the warmer climates of North America, the species adapted to feeding on the leaves of the cultivated citrus and its range expanded with that cultivation.  Giant Swallowtails were first reported in California in the 1990s and they are now quite established.  In our opinion, the loss of leaves from an individual caterpillar is a minor sacrifice to the gardener considering the beauty of the adult butterfly, which is the largest butterfly found in California.  The coloration of the Orange Dog resembles the pattern of a bird’s droppings, creating an effective means of camouflage for the tasty caterpillar.  The curling leaves and leaf miners are not related to the Orange Dog and they pose a more serious threat to your lemon than the Orange Dog poses.

Thank you.  I was going to spray neem to fight the leaf minors, but held off until I figured out what the catapillar was.  I guess I’ll hold off.  I would love to see the butterflies.  Neem would hurt them I suppose.

Insecticides generally do not distinguish between insects you want to keep and those you want to eradicate.

Location: Riverside, California

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