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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Citrus Caterpillars - two types.

My friend Phillip walked up to me the other day with an old "pot" (a plastic garden pot) and said "These are for you".
Thanks Phillip!

Inside the pot were three leaves from various citrus plants (Lemons or Mandarins probably). Each had a Caterpillar on it.

One was a caterpillar of the large Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly. I have blogged about the remarkable defensive strategy of these Caterpillars before.



I knew that the brown and white one 
was a juvenile of the same species
as the large green caterpillar.
2 caterpillars of the Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly.

But I did not know what this other one is.
I had never seen this species before.
Caterpillar of Dainty Swallowtail Butterfly 

It is a 5th instar stage of the larva (Caterpillar)
of the Dainty (or Dingy) Swallowtail Butterfly
Papilio anactus 
Dainty Swallowtail Butterfly - Caterpillar
 Click to enlarge, to read the captions


Here is an image of an interesting "exchange" between these caterpillars.
They had been wandering around the work bench and got to the edge at the same time and the same place.
Click to enlarge the image
"Back off, Big Guy".
Orchard Butterfly caterpillars - 2 species.
Post-script: Phillip was a little concerned that I might photograph these Caterpillars and then squash them (as "pests"). I might have done so, too, except that I know Phillip would feel bad about that "result".

As it transpired, I decided to release them onto my own Lemons and Mandarins.

Then I read up about the little dark caterpillar and discovered (to my surprise) that it is a native Butterfly (Caterpillar). For that I can thank the good folks at Strathbogie Ranges who have presented a slide-show showing the caterpillar forming its chrysalis.

We do have some native Citrus plants in Australia, and since European settlement, we have planted out many non-native Citrus trees, which fact has advantaged these Butterflies. They have managed to greatly expand their range, since we have generously provided them more food (in areas outside their original range).

The Orchard Swallowtailed Butterfly is an import. EDIT: In fact that is not correct. Barbara has pointed out that "Common & Waterhouse in "Butterflies of Australia" do mention the fact that it occurs in New Guinea and adjacent islands but as far as I can make out it is native to Australia." You may see her comment and my responses in the "comments" below.

But they are so spectacular, I let both those caterpillars go free, as well. 

And, as I indicated, there is a question of trust - for Phillip. 

Besides, he would probably never bring me any more interesting specimens again, if I had betrayed his trust.
Thanks Phillip.



13 comments:

rohrerbot said...

They look great after they've eaten their fill of leaves and are flying around the garden. We get a variety of this catepillar as well. It's really a fun process to watch....but instead of one...you have two varieties which is rather exciting:)

Missy said...

Thanks for your info - I get the Orchard Swallowtail on my citrus but haven't seen the other guy. I'll keep a lookout and look up what the butterfly is like. I never knew the Orchard swallowtail was an import. I like it anyway and it doesn't do any real harm.

Missy said...

Duhhh! I just clicked on your link. The dinghy swallowtail butterfly is lovely.

Pip Cooper said...

Thanks Denis, we had heaps of the dainty swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on our grape vine. I had no idea what it was, just that it had eaten half our grapevine.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Ros.
Thanks for commenting.
Yes, one of the sources I read up on commented that the Citrus Butterflies (caterpillars) do not harm mature or established Citrus plants.
And I agree they are spectacular.
Cheers
Denis

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Rohrerbot
Unfortunately I have not yet identified the adult of the "Dainty Swallowtail" I did see a magnificent female of the regular Citrus Swallowtail several days ago - very fresh colours, lots of white and red spots on trailing edge of wings.
Magnificent creature.
Thanks for the comment - nice to know we share many insects in common.
Cheers
Denis

Gaye said...

Hello Denis,

I had an interesting encounter with Dainty Swallowtails a couple of years ago, and blogged about it at the time:

http://hvbackyard.blogspot.com/2007/02/6-pupating-caterpillar.html

Unfortunately I've never seen the other one you illustrate.

Cheers,
Gaye

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Gaye and Pip.
Gaye I will check out your blog post.
Pip, interesting that they like the grape vine as well. Interesting information. At least Grape Vines are strong growers, it will re-shoot.
Cheers
Denis

wildwings said...

Denis, I am a bit confused about your statement that Papilio aegeus is an import. Common & Waterhouse in "Butterflies of Australia" do mention the fact that it occurs in New Guinea and adjacent islands but as far as I can make out it is native to Australia.
Cheers
Barbara

wildwings said...

Denis, I am a bit confused about your statement that Papilio aegeus is an import. Common & Waterhouse in "Butterflies of Australia" do mention the fact that it occurs in New Guinea and adjacent islands but as far as I can make out it is native to Australia.
Cheers
Barbara

Denis Wilson said...

Thank you Barbara
I stand corrected.
I had mis-read something, obviously. The SA Butterflies site
says: "Larval food-host: Native and introduced Rutaceae. Native hosts include **Eriostemon spp (wax flower), **Geijera spp including G. parviflora (wilga), **Philotheca spp (wax flower) incl. **P. myoporoides (native daphne), **Phebalium spp, **Zieria spp."
So they originally had enough natural food sources here in Oz. They have obviously been greatly advantaged by our liking for Citrus fruits, which has allowed them to spread and increase in numbers.
My confusion probably stems originally from the fact that they have always been included in "Pests" in gardening books, etc. Given that they are native, that hardly seems appropriate. No wonder I have been misled.
Thanks for letting me know.
I shall note the correction in the text (marked clearly as an "edit")
.
Cheers
Denis

Denis Wilson said...

Rohrerbot's comment (from Arizona) had me going.
Here is the link to his page about problems with Caterpillars eating Lisbon Lemons
Presumably a related species, for he mentions "Swallowtail Butterflies".
Cheers
Denis

Denis Wilson said...

And again. I need to clarify further. I knew Swallowtail Butterflies were more or less universal, but mostly but not exclusively tropical. There are some 40 species of Swallowtails in North America.
.
What I didn't know was their Caterpillars' penchant for strong-tasting or toxic plants.
.
Wikipedia says: "The caterpillars of various swallowtail butterfly species feed on a wide range of different plants, most depending on only one of five families: Aristolochiaceae, Annonaceae, Lauraceae, Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) and Rutaceae. By eating some of these toxic plants, the caterpillars sequester aristolochic acid which renders both the caterpillars and the butterflies of some of these as toxic, thus protecting them from predators."
.
So there is a reason why they like foul tasting leaves.
I remember once seeing one of these Caterpillars eating the herb "Rue" (Ruta graveolens). That herb has an appalling smell (it was used as a "Strewing Herb" in mediaeval England) and I was amazed that anything would eat its leaves.
Then I remembered that all the Citrus plants are in the Rutaceae family. I suddenly realised the Caterpillar was a better botanist than I was.
.
Cheers
Denis