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Insect Scout: Neelima
Location: Miryalaguda, AP, India
Species Identifier(s): Debbie Hadley (http://insects.about.com/)
Points to appreciate:
- This is a caterpillar of a Swallowtail butterfly. I will soon post images of the adult butterfly.
- Notice the eye-like spots on the caterpillar. Some consider them to be predator deterrents, meaning they have these spots to appear menacing to birds and other natural predators.
- They have, of course, defensive organs too. They have small y-shaped organs called osmeterium on the back of their heads. These organs give off a very foul odor whenever the caterpillars feel threatened. Normally these organs are hidden.
- I thought this was a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar, but then I read Spicebush Swallowtails are only found in Eastern US. If you can identify this Indian species, do leave a note in the comment. We will include your name in the species identifier above.
- Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies which form the family Papilionidae. The family includes the largest butterflies in the world.
- There are at least 550 species, and though the majority are tropical, members of the family are found on all continents except Antarctica.
- The adults are often tailed like the forked tail of some swallows, giving the insect its name.