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This small caterpillar with bold yellow and blue markings scares off its predator.

At first glance it may look like a fearsome snake but this rearing creature is actually a small caterpillar with a cunning means of defence.  The Spicebush Swallowtail has evolved a large pair of false eyespots and bold yellow and blue markings to frighten off potential predators. (Pics)


The brightly coloured insect, which is only a few inches long, was snapped by wildlife biologist Jonathan Mays in Maine, U.S.

He was photographing the striking caterpillars and the large black and orange butterflies they turn into in a red maple forest.

Mr Mays, said: ‘Swallowtail caterpillars are beautiful creatures. They strike a sense of wonder from many observers.

‘Swallowtails have spots on their head that mimic snake eyes and are amazing to view.

‘The disguise is very lifelike, so much so that even the reflection or eye-shine changes when viewed from different angles.

‘The habitat was a spicebush stand amidst a red maple forest. I was at this site looking specifically for the caterpillars.’

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The caterpillar can also emit a pungent scene if a predator gets too close

The photographs show two different Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars.

One was found moving to a new feeding position while another was spotted inside its leaf retreat.

The caterpillars also have a few other tricks to keep them safe. When they first hatch out, the tiny caterpillars look like little brown bird droppings. They spend most of the day folded up inside leaves as they develop.


The caterpillar turns into a striking black and orange butterfly.

Finally the caterpillar has a forked, fleshy organ just above its head, which it can use to emit a disagreeable odor, should a predator get too close.

Mr Mays said: ‘I’m pleased with the photographs. The sharp angles and depth of field really accentuate the eye spots and each picture demonstrates a different reflection.’

The caterpillars live in folded leaf shelters and eat the leaves of the sassafras or spicebush. Adults consume a variety of nectars, including those from azalea, Japanese honeysuckle, milkweed, and thistle flowers.

Via Daily Mail