Have you guessed which picture is a caterpillar from the previous post on Butterflies Everywhere? The real caterpillar is the lowest photo. The photo above it is a bird-dropping sitting on a nearby leaf.
The caterpillar, sometimes called an orange dog, is thought to mimic bird-droppings to avoid being eaten by birds.
We are quite excited because this caterpillar turns into the beautiful giant swallowtail butterfly (photo at Butterflies of Southeastern Arizona website).
Another interesting thing about the orange dog caterpillar is that it has an unusual defense. When alarmed, it shoots out a smelly orange, horn-like structure called an osmeterium.
This one is pretty small because the larva is still small. I found an even better shot of an orange dog osmeterium at the BugGuide website.
Not six feet away we have a pair of caterpillars on our desert milkweed. These are the larvae of the queen butterfly. They resemble monarch larvae, but have three sets of spiky appendages and the stripes are red rather than black.
I caught a picture of the adult queen butterfly as it was laying eggs a few days before on another desert milkweed.
By the way, it is not an accident that we have so many caterpillars and butterflies in our yard. When we planted our landscape, we purposely chose plants that are food for caterpillars. Butterfly gardening is something that the whole family can enjoy. If you are interested in learning more, just let me know.