Last year we discovered a small caterpillar living on our tulip tree. A friend of ours told us it would soon be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly! For the next month or two we watched about a dozen of these little guys hatch from eggs, go through their early life cycle, eventually to form a chrysalis and end up as a butterfly.
(Well, we’ll be honest, we never did see any make it to be a butterfly. We lost track of every single one of them once it was chrysalis time. So we’re not sure if they made it or not. But we’re hoping they were simply too camouflaged for us to spot them!)
A few days ago, we found our first three of this year. They start out looking a bit like bird droppings, which is a defense mechanism against predators. (I took these pictures myself, our photographer wasn’t home.)
They are very tiny, maybe 1/4″ long. In each of the three pictures above, it’s easy to see where they have eaten the leaves. They eat a lot!
These caterpillars will pass through five different “instars.” An instar is simply a developmental stage of an insect. They change from one instar to the next when they molt. All three of the caterpillars pictured above are in their first instar. As they move from one stage to the next, they’ll look very different. Stay tuned as we share their progress with you. We’ll be back in a few days with new pictures!