The nearly incessant rains have kept us inside for much of the last week, hence the lack of new posts. This afternoon has been pretty dry, although rain clouds seem to be looming on the horizon again, so we went out to check on the Polydamas Swallowtail caterpillars we discovered last week. They're growing quite nicely, and have broken ranks to begin feeding on their own.
As part of the swallowtail family, the Polydamas caterpillar has an osmeterium, a fleshy organ the caterpillar can extended in self-defense. It emits a fairly nasty-smelling yellow goo that we assume probably tastes pretty terrible too. These caterpillars are only about half grown, and their oseterium will continue to get larger and even more horn-like as they continue to get bigger.
The Polydamas eggs were laid on Wooly Pipevine (Aristolochia tomentosa), which we've been starting from seed. To give the plant a chance to establish without being completely devoured by hungry caterpillars, we moved most of the caterpillars to a nearby and much larger Aristolochia trilobata, a pipevine native to the tropics. It's interesting to note that even though that pipevine was literally 2 feet away from the A. tomentosa, the butterfly completely ignored it when laying her eggs, even though her caterpillars are doing just fine on it. A native butterfly preferring native plants, perhaps? Nature always seems to know what's best.