What is the Orange Dog Caterpillar that Damages Your Lime, Lemon and Orange Trees in Your Backyard?
Mani Skaria, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO of US Citrus, LLC
Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University-Kingsville
Orange dog is an enemy of your citrus trees. Some features include:
- Looks ugly, has an appearance of bird poop with creamy white markings
- Foul odor
- Orange dog eats the small leaves of your citrus trees
- Its mother is the giant swallowtail butterfly that lays small eggs on citrus leaves. The egg transforms into the next stage called a caterpillar larva with 1½ to 2-inch size with the above three characteristics.
- The stinking mechanism is the result of a unique defensive tool of this group of insects. When orange dogs are challenged by an enemy (predators -ants, spiders, mantids). The osmeterium is a gland with an ability to protrude as needed. The gland stores pungent chemicals containing hydrocarbons, terpenes, acids, and ester.
Nature's way of protecting a baby of a butterfly!
Figure showing an adult butterfly, various camouflage stages of orange dog caterpillar, feeding damage and tongue-like osmeterium. Picture source: University of Florida and UCR.
How would you kill your enemy, Orange dog?
They are short-term enemies. Show your biblical tolerance and practice co-existence because, in a short period, they will emerge into a beautiful butterfly. But if the number of enemies is high and the damage exceeds your tolerance level, you may do one of the following:
- a) Squeeze each one or
- b) Collect and place them in a plastic bag and dispose it of
- c) Spray soapy water
- d) If you want to be aggressive, apply some bacterial toxin as a biological control agent. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium, its toxin, the BT-toxin is commonly used as a biological control agent. And it is readily available. Interestingly, this bacterium naturally occurs in the gut of caterpillars.
Remember, the orange dog is an irony. One side is an ugly-looking, stinky, poop-like creature with camouflage and chemicals in its pouch. But one day it transforms into one of the natural beauties – an adult, beautiful, butterfly with a great Latin name, Papilio cresphontes, many looks like Oncidium orchids.
Growing Trees is fun, and every tree we send comes with a 20-page care guide.
Why do you show a monarch butterfly when orange dog is the swallowtail larvae?
We love our citrus plants/tree but well sacrifice a few leaves to see the beauty of butterflies. Hopefully a species that won’t become endangered or extinct!!! Like many animals.