Beginning as Poop

Question: What is the white stuff in bird poop?

Answer: That is bird poop, too.

~Kurt Vonnegut

This is an update to an image I posted a week or so ago about new beginnings in the yard this spring. I found and photographed an egg of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a Tulip Poplar leaf (their most common host plant in our woods)…

eastern tiger swallowtail egg on tulip poplar

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail egg laid on Tulip Poplar leaf on April 12 (click photos to enlarge)

I was surprised how long it took for the egg to hatch, but hatch it did on April 28. It turned dark a day or two before hatching. I went out this morning to check on the larva and it has spun a tiny silk pad on top of the leaf where it stays put much of the day. You can see from the picture that it crawled off an inch or so to feed.

Eastern tiger swallowtail first instar larva

This little larva is now 3 -days old

The larva is currently about the size of a pencil point and has the characteristic black and white markings of early instar swallowtail caterpillars. This is believed to be a bird poop mimic coloration. By sitting still most of the day, they really do look like a little bird turd (and what self-respecting bird would want to eat that?).

Over the next couple of weeks, if all goes well, the caterpillar will dine at the Tulip Tree Cafe, molt a few times, and grow up to be a snake mimic larva with small fake eye spots.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail larva late instar swelling anterior po

Late instar larva changes from being bird poop to a snake mimic

 

 

 

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