Probably Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

Subject: Swallowtail caterpillar?
Location: San Gabriel , california
April 26, 2016 9:12 pm
I bought a pepper tree bonsai and I found this caterpillar attached to it. I believe it is a swallowtail caterpillar but I don’t know what variety. I was hoping to find out what is was since I want to care for it. Can I feed it lemon leaves instead of my poor bonsai?
Signature: Thank you, Meena

Probably Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Probably Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

Dear Meena,
This sure looks like an Orange Dog, the caterpillar of a Giant Swallowtail  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on leaves of plants in the Citrus family (Rutaceae), including Citrus (Citrusspecies), Pricklyash(Zanthoxylum species), Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata), Rue (Ruta graveolens), etc. Adults take flower nectar from a variety of herbaceous plants and shrubs.”
  We do not recognize your particular Pepper Tree and we would be curious to learn if it is in the citrus family.  You can try to feed your caterpillar leaves of an orange tree, but if it rejects those leaves, you may need to return it back to your bonsaii.  Caterpillars are not like dogs or pet fish.  They do not immediately begin eating if food is placed in front of them.  You may need to transfer your caterpillar to a citrus tree to see if it will accept the leaves.  Though lemon is a citrus tree, we cannot recall getting any reports of Orange Dogs feeding on lemon trees, but we have gotten reports of them feeding on lime, tangerine, grapefruit and the always popular orange tree.

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