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Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar Spicebush Swallowtail

Above and lower left © Judy Gallagher; Meadowood Farm SRMA, Mason Neck, Virginia; September 2014 (top) and May 2013

Lower center © Kim Hosen; suburban back yard, Woodbridge, VA; September 2008

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Papilio troilus

In the early stages (instars), Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars resemble a bird dropping. Look for them during the day on the upper side of leaves.

After molting to the 4th instar, the caterpillar turns green.

The later instars roll up leaves, holding them together with silk. They hide in folded leaves during the day and come out to feed in the evenings.

All instars display the snake's head mimicry, with large spots on the thorax giving the appearance of a snake's head.

Before pupating, the caterpillar changes color to orange or yellow. The chrysalis is either brown or green, resembling the stem to which it is attached.

Females lay greenish-white eggs one or two at a time on the leaf of a host plant, such as Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum).