Florida is an amazing place to live if you love a variety of animals and insects. While many people complain about all the “pests”, many are quite remarkable. If you have citrus trees in your yard sooner or later you are going to notice a few damaged leaves and maybe even some “worms” on your tree. Most likely you will notice these all summer long when the weather is hot and humid. What are they?
More specifically these little “worms” are actually larva of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly! These remarkable larva change their appearance before even becoming a butterfly. First, these butterflies prefer citrus trees. they lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. Once hatched the larva will each a few leaves while growing and preparing to transform in to a butterfly. The eggs are little orange balls that are very tiny. Once hatched the larva first resemble bird droppings. This is by design to keep birds from picking them off the tree for a nice little meal. As they get larger they will then resemble a snake, complete with a “tongue”! Finally when they make their cocoon, it will look like part of the branch, again protecting itself.
Will They Kill My Citrus Tree?
In theory, if there were thousands upon thousands on your tree it would be possible. Most of the time you will never notice them on your trees. Some people do spray to try and get rid of them, many others enjoy them being around knowing their yard will be full of butterflies. The older, healthy and well established citrus trees can tolerate the larva quite well.
What You Should Know About The Giant Swallowtail
The scientific name: Papilio cresphontes Cramer. They are found all over North America. With a wingspan over 7 inches wide, they are hard to miss flying around in your gardens. The Giant Florida Swallowtail is more distinct in size and color from all the other butterflies in the swallowtail family. Enjoy the photos we have attached, all courtesy of our amazing friends at the University of Florida!