Subject: Found on a lemon tree in FL
April 11, 2017 7:55 pm
My Aunt found this fella on her lemon tree and there is debate as to whether it’s an Elephant Hawk Caterpillar or an Orange Dog. Please, help to clarify, she didn’t check to see if it had the scented appendages that an orange dog would display while threatened, unfortunately. Thank you for what you do!!
Signature: The Artist Formally Known as Starving
Dear Artist Formally Known as Starving,
This is definitely an Orange Dog, the larva of a Giant Swallowtail. The Elephant Hawkmoth is NOT a North American species. Interestingly, though its native range is Eastern North America, most of our Giant Swallowtail sightings now come from Southern California as the butterfly’s range has increased due to the cultivation of citrus. The species has adapted to feeding on the leaves of citrus, which is not native to North America, but it now seems to be a preferred host plant. We believe Giant Swallowtails were first reported in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, and now they are quite common (t)here. According to the Los Angeles Times in 2007: “The giant swallowtail butterfly, Heraclides (Papilio) cresphontes, is native to the Southeast. Since the 1960s, populations have spread west following a corridor of suburban development and the species’ favorite larval food source — citrus — through Arizona, into the Imperial Valley, then San Diego and north to Orange and Los Angeles counties. They’ve been sighted as far north as Santa Barbara and Bakersfield. Numbers have surged since 2000, says Jess Morton, president of the Palos Verdes-South Bay chapter of the Audubon Society. Members have held a butterfly count at the same location, on the first Sunday in July, every year since 1991. According to their records, a single giant swallowtail was first seen in the South Bay in 2000. They counted 23 in 2007.”
THANK YOU SO MUCH. You broke it down for us and everything!