What Do Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars Eat?
Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars eat only the leaves of plants from the Pipevine Family, that’s what their name comes from. Virginia snakeroot, Dutchman’s pipe are good choices for these caterpillars. The leaves of these plants are toxic, but pipevine swallowtail caterpillars eat them without any harm . Moreover, like Monarch caterpillars, they accumulate the poison in their body and become inedible to predators.
Newly born pipevine swallowtail caterpillars are tiny and stick together. At that time they are not poisonous because they haven’t eaten enough pipevine leaves. A crowd of hungry pipevine swallowtail caterpillars defoliates a pipevine plant in a few days. A grown up caterpillar can be over two inches long and may eat 25 pipevine plants before going to chrysalis. After gathering enough poison, grown up caterpillars “pasture” separately. Their coloring warns predators about their toxicity: black body with red or orange spines.
Many other interesting facts about pipevine swallowtail and other caterpillars, as well as tips on butterfly gardening and host plants can be acquired from.
Caterpillars in the Field and Garden; A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America The handy guide with over 900 full-color photographs is convenient to use during outings to identify caterpillars and butterflies. All people I know who use this guide are absolutely happy with it!
Not Anything that Looks Like a Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar is It! Pipevine Swallowtail ButterflyPipevine swallowtail butterflies remain poisonous so many other butterflies imitate their coloring to protect themselves from predators (female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, Eastern Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail.)Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar: Pupa
Unlike most other caterpillars, pipevine swallowtails do not pupate on their host plants. They crawl away and produce strangely shaped, from brown to green pupas attached to rough surfaces, such as tree bark.
If pipevine swallowtail caterpillars pupate in early summer, the butterfly is born in a few weeks. Those who pupate by the end of summer or in autumn, spend the winter in chrysalis and the butterfly appears next spring.