Trails from the Bent Twig Trail: The Cycle Continues

By Wren Smith

spicebush larvae twoThey’re back!  The spicebush butterflies have been laying their eggs on the spicebush, Lindera benzoin and sassafras trees Sassafras albidum on the Bent Twig Trail and elsewhere. Some of those eggs have hatched into small caterpillars. Nearly a year ago, I blogged about discovering these along this trail, so it seems fitting to find them again as we near the end of our full year of exploring the treasures encountered in this small woodland fragment of Bernheim.

spicebush larva late These young caterpillars are disguised as bird droppings and will later molt four or five times before taking on the appearance of little green dragons wearing giant false eye-spots. Such disguises not only provide protection from would be predators (such as birds) but also give us a glimpse into nature’s mysteries and its mastery of evolutionary design. In a matter of weeks, each caterpillar that survives hungry birds and other predators will form a chrysalis that will allow the mysteries of metamorphosis to emerge in the form of lovely spicebush swallowtail butterflies. Such transformations offer us opportunities to experience the power of awe in our own lives.

Plant spicebush and provide a host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterflies.
Plant spicebush and provide a host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterflies.

Want more Tales from Bent Twig? Click here to view the archive.


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