A crowded world... Polydamas Caterpillars race to the top
Click image to see on black.
They've eaten the Aristolochia all the way to the top of the stem! Now they are all meeting. I wonder what's next! Apparently their society is not too different from ours!
A couple of months ago I bought a Giant Aristolochia. I've been watching it grow but haven't seen any Polydamas butterflies fluttering around it. Its their host plant so that's why I wanted it growing in our Jungle. But obviously they've been there when I wasn't looking and today Albert and I noticed large holes in the leaves and turned one over to discover this profusion of caterpillars! Lots more Polydamas butterflies are on the way!
Swallowtail caterpillars have a defense mechanism called osmeterium. Osmeterium are a fleshy organ in which caterpillars of swallowtail species sequester essential oils from their host plants, also known as terpenes. These oils coat the normally hidden osmeterium which can be everted or pushed out when the caterpillar is threatened.
The osmetierium are usually a bright warning color like red, yellow or orange and because of the terpenes smell quite foul. Having to move swallowtail caterpillars to new host plants also means that butterfly growers get their share of osmeterium love as the caterpillars arch backwards wildly, smearing predators faces and keepers hands alike with gross smelling oils. Each species has its own unique odor based upon what plants the caterpillar has been eating.
Check out this video of this caterpillar eating... and eating... and eating!
Here is one of it laying eggs...
And here's a caterpillar transforming into a cocoon.
Polydamas caterpillar on Aristolochia vine
Biscayne Park, FL
For more, see my set Lubbers, Butterflies and Bees.