Friday, September 29, 2006

About to change

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

The oddly mournful-looking creature above is a caterpillar of the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. It was found in Central Park last week. The last caterpillar of this species I saw was a vivid green. Why is this one brown? According to the website of the Royal Alberta Museum in Canada:

"The caterpillar of this species changes dramatically as it goes through its various molts. In the first two instars (those periods between molts) it looks just like a bird dropping. It then changes to be predominantly green with two large eyespots near the front end. Just before pupating, the larva turns dark reddish brown."

Looks like our guy [or gal] is about to transform into a pupa. It will spend a happy winter in the Shakespeare Garden, we hope, although we don't know exactly where. In the spring it will eclose -- that is -- emerge-- as the beautiful yellow and black butterfly you are all familiar with.