This afternoon I discovered this lovely chocolate-colored caterpillar clinging to the edge of the dog door – not exactly the safest place for anything so small. We have four dogs and they tend to come through the door two-at-a-time. Or try to, anyway. I used a whisk broom to scoop him off the door. I figured in exchange for my saving him from being unceremoniously squashed, he could pose for a photo or two before I relocated him to a safer place to mutate.
The overall shape and eye markings suggested a swallowtail. I’d never seen one this color, but after a little online research, I found that this is the caterpillar of a tiger swallowtail. It starts out yellow-green and changes color when it stops feeding and prepares to pupate.
The caterpillar’s head is actually under that enlarged thorax, and those eye spots are supposed to make this guy look like a snake so predators won’t eat him. Maybe. To me he looks more sorrowful than scary, but what do I know?
Just the fact that it is a tiger swallowtail was interesting enough for me. We had one form a chrysalis over the porch door a last year, so apparently they think it’s an OK place for metamorphosis. I decided to let this guy choose his own spot, and left him safely on the piece of driftwood on the porch railing. There were plenty of places close by where the risks of being squashed like a bug weren’t quite so high. When I went out to check on him a few minutes later, he was gone. I haven’t found where he went, but just below the porch railing are plenty of bushes and shrubs much better suited for survival than our dog door. I guess I’ll just have to watch for a butterfly now.