Beverly Hills, Florida 34465

Pond Tips - Birdshit Caterpillars

Giant Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) caterpillars have been munching on our Citrus and causing the leaves to curl.
Commonly known as Orange Dog, Orange puppy, Bird poop or Birdshit caterpillars, They can be fatal for very young trees.
The caterpillars look like bird poop, yep, can hardly tell the difference.

Birdshit Caterpillar

The butterfly is gorgeous, but the eggs it leaves hatch out to be one of the best camouflaged creatures in your landscape.
Like other caterpillars, they mostly dine on fresh leaves.
Favorite leaves of this caterpillar are any citrus variety and Prickly Ash.
A similar deception is acted out by the Pearly wood moth. These nymphs are found across eastern North America and lay their eggs on wild grapes, hibiscus, and evening primrose.
These creatures may all look cute to Butterfly folks, but my own experience was an almost total destruction of a bed of new citrus trees. These 6-12" plants were dying from something that I could not see. The leaves were curling up and falling off and the bare plants were near dead. My old eyes saw what I thought was bird poop, and it took a strong pair of glasses to discover what was decimating my plants. They were the caterpillars of the Giant Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes).
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
An adult tree could probably brush off this attack, but these baby plants were near death from the grazing.
I love seeing Butterflies in the yard, but the destruction caused by their caterpillars is alarming. I have had a tough time with my Canna flowers which attract moths whose worms devour the leaves. The caterpillars hide by folding a section of the edge of a leaf over themselves. The worms glue sections of leaf together and hide inside the folds or leaf tubes.
My pond is also a target of China Mark moths that lay eggs on my water lily pads. These worms feed and then burrow down into the underwater stalk of the leaf. These are known as boatmen or sandwich worms for their habit of creating a sealed boat out of leaf pieces and floating to the next plant.
I have recently started using Thuricide BT, sprayed across the whole property every two weeks during the summer. This has not solved the problems, because butterflies and moths are abundant here in Florida, but it has reduced the numbers of caterpillars by a significant amount.