Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Subject: What is this?
Location: Virginia
July 21, 2013 2:57 pm
Please help me identify what this is. My cousin found it on her back deck. She lives in Virginia.
Signature: Robyn fox

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Robyn,
This is the caterpillar of a Spicebush Swallowtail, and it is most likely searching for a place to pupate.  Caterpillars often leave the plants they have been feeding upon just prior to the time they are ready to undergo metamorphosis.  There must be some advantage to forming a chrysalis away from the food source.  According to BugGuide, preferred food plants for the caterpillar include:  “Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum), Pondspice (Litsea aestivalis) Red, Swamp and Silk Bays (Persea spp.); perhaps prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora).”
  Perhaps one of those plants is growing not far from the location of the sighting.

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