Subject: What the heck is this bug with a forked tongue?
Location: Culver City, California
December 13, 2015 5:20 pm
we just discovered this bug that looks like a reptile/caterpillar with a brown/greenish body with white on it & an orange forked tongue that’s on our little baby orange tree?
Signature: Cyn & Tony
Dear Cyn & Tony,
This is the caterpillar of a Giant Swallowtail, commonly called an Orange Dog. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of citrus trees, but they are not known to cause significant damage to a healthy tree. The orange forked tongue you mentioned is a scent organ called the osmeterium that releases an odor that might help to deter predators. Adult Giant Swallowtails are the largest butterflies found in Los Angeles. This is a species native to the eastern portion of North America, but with the cultivation of citrus crops in the west, there has been a significant range expansion. The Giant Swallowtail was first reported in Southern California in the 1990s.