Giant Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio cresphontes Cramer) also known as the Orange dog
Giant Swallowtail caterpillars are generally brown and white (about two and a half inches long) and resemble a bird dropping, although this one reminded me of a snake. The swollen head and two large eye spots give the appearance of ferocious quarry to scare away predators. When disturbed, these catepillars project a pair of horn-like, orange-red glands called osmeteria – looking very much like a forked tongue - which are suppose to give off a foul odor that acts as a strong deterrent to birds (I didn’t smell anything – I was too shocked). The adult butterfly is one of the largest swallowtail species, with a wingspan of up to six inches. Wings are black with yellow markings near wing margins and spots forming a diagonal band across the fore wings.
Life Cycle: Adult females lay yellow-green eggs singly on host plants. Caterpillars hatch and develop through several stages before forming a chrysalis or pupa, which is attached to the host plant by the back end and held in an upright position by a silk thread around the middle.
Habitat and Food Sources: Feeds on leaves of host plants including citrus; gas plant, Dictamnus; prickly ash, Xanthoxylum sp.; and rue, Ruta graveolens.