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lilcee
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What is this on my grapefruit tree?

I saw this on my grapefruit tree this morning. I've never seen anything like this before. At first I thought it wasn't anything alive but then I saw it's head moving. Up close it looks like a snake but it's not very long. It's scary looking. Anyone know what it is? Does it eat the leaves?

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1575.jpg[/img]

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applestar
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I believe it's a caterpillar for a swallowtail butterfly -- it might even be called Citrus Swallowtail. Yes, it does eat the leaves, but you might consider letting it or possibly bring it inside to raise if we can positively ID it and what it eats -- many caterpillars will be content to eat "weed" foliage related to a desirable plant that it was originally found on.

2nd look -- it looks more like a Giant Swallowtail cat....
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/citrus/giantswallowtail.htm
The coloration is camouflage intended to mimic birdpoop. :lol: ...also looks a bit snake-like to deter would be predators. :wink:

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lilcee
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Wow, never saw one of those. I want to keep it, can it live in a jar with some leaves and twigs? Thanks

Yes, it did look like bird poop. That's what I thought it was til I saw it's head move :D

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applestar
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I like 1 qt to 1/2 gal containers with holes in bottom and sides for Monarchs -- Giant Swallowtails may do better with 1/2gal to 1 gal. It needs to be tall and wide enough for the butterfly to freely spread its wings without touching anything when it emerges/ecloses from the chrysalis.

You can actually keep the caterpillar in a smaller container and move the chrysalis to an eclosing container later if you prefer. I keep smaller caterpillars in clamshell plastic containers that cookies are sold in (holes in both top and bottom -- good ventilation is a must!). They are easy to maintain because you can lay fresh paper towels, caterpillars and food in the lid, remove spent food and soiled paper towel, and basically flip the container.

For keeping until eclosing, I use 1 qt deli containers and 1/2 gal-1gal clear pretzel tubs. Lots of holes bottom side and lid or use a piece of gauze or tulle secured with elastic band for cover. Line the bottom with double layer of paper towel and add/replace food with at least as much as it can eat daily -- note that it will eat a lot during the night so make sure not to let it run out.

If you can't tend to feeding it twice a day or have trouble keeping the leaves fresh, get sprigs/branches and put them in small container of water (drink cups with stems stuck through straw hole will work, or narrow necked bottle crammed so no space for caterpillar to fall into the water or poop to fall in and soil the water.

You'll need to replace soiled paper towel.

Be sure to wash the food plant before feeding because predators lay eggs on the foliage for the caterpillar to ingest. I don't completely dry the leaves -- seems to keep them fresh longer.

If you don't want to give it your grapefruit leaves, try the other food plants listed in the link until you find what it will readily eat.

It looks like a later instar -- at 4th and 5th instar cats are voracious and will keep you busy until they go to sleep in their chrysalis. :wink: Good luck! :D

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lilcee
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Thanks for all your info. How long do you think it will take?

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applestar
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At a complete blind guess :wink:, less than a week to chrysalis, then a week to 10 days to eclose depending on temperature.

Desirai
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It's a caterpillar! Don't kill it, keep it in a jar and raise it to be a butterfly!

I love raising caterpillars. Every caterpillar I have found in my garden this year I have put into container(s) to grow (:

I don't know enough about insects to tell you what it will turn into. But it is most likely damaging to your tree to some degree, since they eat vegetation.

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lilcee
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I have it in a jar right now. My husband didn't want me to save it because it would eat our tree but I told him I wanted to see it turn into a butterfly. I could always go out into the country a bit and let it out lol. I've never watched a caterpiller turn into a butterfly. I've always wanted to

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lilcee
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So cool! I have two of them and one is in his cocoon, the other one is beginning his.

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applestar
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:clap: Be sure to take pictures and share with us please? 8)

Now, I blame Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame -- whole generations of grownups/kids think butterflies make cocoons to pupate -- they do not. BUTTERFLY CATERPILLAR CHANGE/METAMORPHOSE into CHRYSALIS.

If you have the chance to watch it transform, you will see that it will shed its caterpillar skin by splitting it open at the head and pushing it down like a sock, then it's fresh and new soft pupa body hardens until it becomes the chrysalis shell, inside which the caterpillar organs are liquified and reorganized into a butterfly, including wings. When it first sheds its caterpillar skin, before the chrysalis hardens, you will see an impression of rudimentary wings.

MOTH caterpillars spin silk and make a COCOON around it's pupal form.

:wink:

p.s. There is a TV infomercial selling one of those painted lady butterfly cage kits. When the infomercial spouts that you will be able to watch the caterpillars turn into cocoons and then emerge as butterflies, all three of us -- me and my two kids -- yell at the TV: "BUTTERFLIES MAKE CHRYSALIS, NOT COCOONS! MOTHS MAKE COCOONS!" Then we all agree that manufacturers that advertise with infomercial like this are clueless and worthless.... :lol: ...and I'm annoyed that even MORE people are being impressed with wrong information. :x

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lilcee
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Here's a couple pics of the Chrysalis.

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1580.jpg[/img]

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1579.jpg[/img]

These are upside down, it's actually hanging from the bottom of the twig.

I'll post some pics of the other one later.

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lilcee
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applestar wrote::clap: Be sure to take pictures and share with us please? 8)

Now, I blame Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame -- whole generations of grownups/kids think butterflies make cocoons to pupate -- they do not. BUTTERFLY CATERPILLAR CHANGE/METAMORPHOSE into CHRYSALIS.

If you have the chance to watch it transform, you will see that it will shed its caterpillar skin by splitting it open at the head and pushing it down like a sock, then it's fresh and new soft pupa body hardens until it becomes the chrysalis shell, inside which the caterpillar organs are liquified and reorganized into a butterfly, including wings. When it first sheds its caterpillar skin, before the chrysalis hardens, you will see an impression of rudimentary wings.

MOTH caterpillars spin silk and make a COCOON around it's pupal form.

:wink:

p.s. There is a TV infomercial selling one of those painted lady butterfly cage kits. When the infomercial spouts that you will be able to watch the caterpillars turn into cocoons and then emerge as butterflies, all three of us -- me and my two kids -- yell at the TV: "BUTTERFLIES MAKE CHRYSALIS, NOT COCOONS! MOTHS MAKE COCOONS!" Then we all agree that manufacturers that advertise with infomercial like this are clueless and worthless.... :lol: ...and I'm annoyed that even MORE people are being impressed with wrong information. :x

Thanks for all that info. I've never heard that before. I tried watching the caterpillar when I noticed he was starting to make his chrysalis but I was on the computer. I had him on the desk by me but I looked away and the next thing I knew, he was already making it. It looked like he was wrapped in a green blanket or green thread. The next day I noticed he was done and he looked like piece of wood. Very interesting. I've never seen this before. I've been looking for more caterpillars lol.

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lilcee
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[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1588.jpg[/img]


these are pics of the other one just starting. sorry they're so blurry.

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1587.jpg[/img]

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1586.jpg[/img]

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_1585.jpg[/img]

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lilcee
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The second one isn't hanging like the first one. It was hanging from the head but it fell off the twig and is now just hanging from it's other end. Will that matter? Will he still turn into a chrysalis or will he die? I gave it to my daughter so I hope it's not dead.

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applestar
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The pictures look really cool. Thanks for posting them. 8)

Typically, Swallowtails spin a pair of tether lines that support the chrysalis at an angle (they're attached to the chrysalis at what I think of as "shoulders") while the tail end is firmly secured on. The silks, though sturdy, can be softened by water and vulnerable to coming off if a strong force is applied while soaked. The tethers can also snap like a fishing line if snagged.

At this point, as long as the chrysalis is the same color as the other one, I think it will be OK and the eclosing butterfly will make do by climbing to the other side of the chrysalis shell to spread and dry its wings.

While outdoors, caterpillars are vulnerable to parasitic predators like Tachnid fly and Braconid wasp. They're also vulnerable to the Bt bacteria and adult may have been a carrier. So you may see some caterpillars and butterflies fail to mature. It's heartbreaking to see them die. :( Hopefully, your daughter's little one makes it. :D

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lilcee
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The second one - the one I gave my daughter - died :-(

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lilcee
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The one I have has been in it's CHRYSALIS for about two weeks. Is this normal or has he died too? Does it need anything special like sunlight or certain temps?

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applestar
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Their emergence can be delayed from cooler temps if you have it in a/c house. With Monarch butterflies, 11-12 days in warmest room in an a/c'd house -- probably around 78-80° -- is about average, with some taking a couple of days longer, but I have no experience with the species you have.

People who raise Monarchs for events like weddings or for educational projects put chrysalises in specially temperature controlled refrigerators (i.e. Warmer than the normal household fridge -- maybe more like a wine or cigar fridge) to keep them from eclosing for a few days until the scheduled event date.

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lilcee
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Wow! It happened this morning - and so fast. I didn't even see it happen. I looked at it when I first got up and nothing. Then later I looked at it and there was the butterfly. So cool. And pretty.

[img]http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q200/lilcee1947/100_0039.jpg[/img]

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applestar
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:clap: Beautiful! :clap: Good job, Mom! :()

...and it has such downy soft yellow body. 8)

If you can, after releasing your baby, try to save some of the wing scales that are bound to be left inside the jar -- easier way is to pick them up with transparent tape. Later, you can look at them under a microscope. If you are lucky, you'll find some of the blue scales too. :wink:

I posted some microscope images of butterfly scales here:
:arrow: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=164778#164778

omallytheallycat
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your tree looks realy healthy!

would you mind telling me how you take care of your citrus tree? My hobby is taking care of citrus in containers and I'm always looking for more information. Your tree looks realy healthy. What kind of fertilizer do you use? what is the humidity level most of the time were you live? I have a grapefruit too =^..^= I have a humidifier and would like to know how much humidity they like and if anyone knows anything about grow lights. I need to get some for it in the winter. It gets very dark sometimes in the winter. And regular house lights are not giving it enough light. There are so many different bulbs its very confusing.

What kind of butterfly did you caterpillar turn into?

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applestar
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AristoCATS! :()
...no no, that's not what the caterpillar turned into... :lol:
Last edited by applestar on Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

garudamon11
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Congratulations! your Metapod evolved into Butterfree! You should buy it a PokeBall :D

But seriously thats so awesome

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lilcee
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Re: your tree looks realy healthy!

omallytheallycat wrote:would you mind telling me how you take care of your citrus tree? My hobby is taking care of citrus in containers and I'm always looking for more information. Your tree looks realy healthy. What kind of fertilizer do you use? what is the humidity level most of the time were you live? I have a grapefruit too =^..^= I have a humidifier and would like to know how much humidity they like and if anyone knows anything about grow lights. I need to get some for it in the winter. It gets very dark sometimes in the winter. And regular house lights are not giving it enough light. There are so many different bulbs its very confusing.

What kind of butterfly did you caterpillar turn into?


We haven't been doing anything special with our trees. We watered them once a week and fertilized once a month. This is our first year growing citrus trees. Ours are in the ground - we live in North FL and it's very hot and humid right now.
The butterfly is a swallowtail

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