Monday, October 12, 2009

Butterflies and Caterpillars in Disguise

 Giant Swallowtail 

Giant Swallowtail with arrowIMG_2180 

Detective Joshua wonders how butterflies and caterpillars protect themselves from predators. What keeps them so well hidden? Grab your detective gear and we will take a closer look. The first creature Detective Joshua has discovered is a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar hiding on a Rue plant. It has the appearance of a large bird dropping. This disguise has protected it from becoming lunch for a bird or other creature. When creatures blend in with their surroundings we call it camouflage.

Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillarSpicebush Swallowtail origanal

While searching for more hiding caterpillars and butterflies Detective Joshua found a strange snake. After a closer look he realized it was the caterpillar of the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. When small the Spicebush caterpillar looks like a small bird dropping, but when it gets bigger it molts (sheds skin) to reveal a new snake like skin. The large snake eyes are fake and are used only as camouflage.

 Buckeye butterfly

Buckeye croped for book

Next, Detective Joshua found a butterfly that is designed to fool. The Buckeye butterfly has large circles on its wings that look like eyes. Buckeyes can perch on a leaf with their wings open and try to trick predators. This disguise didn't fool Detective Joshua though.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

female black swallowtail (resized)

The last butterfly he discovered was a Black Swallowtail. As young caterpillars they mimic bird droppings like many other caterpillars do. As butterflies how do they protect themselves? If you look at closely at the bottom of the Black Swallowtails wings you will notice two orange spots with a black dot in the middle. These spots are fake “eyes”. If a bird is chasing a Black Swallowtail butterfly instead of biting the body they might snap at the fake “eyes” instead. If this happens the butterfly can still fly and live on to complete its life. If you keep an eye out around your house you might notice some butterflies and caterpillars in disguise.


  1. HI! I really liked learning about the Giant Swallowtail!!! very interesting:) peace....Peace out...Peace to you....Peace to the world! :)

  2. Great Post :D
    thought you might like my machinima film the butterfly's tale~
    Bright Blessings
    elf ~