Walking around the backyard, I was so excited to see these leaves on my spicebush (Lindera benzoin).
A leaf with half of the leaf curled over. Why does this excite me???
The spicebush caterpillars are here!
In the early days of their lives, the spicebush caterpillar (or cat for short) is brown and looks like bird poop. They also secrete a silk-like substance that closes the leaf over and gives the cat a safe place to live. When they get hungry they sneak out, nibble on the leaf and then retreat to the leaf cave.
As they grow, they begin to turn green and their fake”eye spots” become more visible. To predators, these spots are supposed to look like a snake and scare them away.
When they get ready to make their chrysalis, the cats attach to a nearby structure and begin their transformation. I have never had one attach to the spicebush itself, but I have found them on doors, nearby trees, and even chairs.
Usually in 2-3 weeks, the chrysalis will open up and then you get a present for your patience.
(If your cat makes a chrysalis in the late fall, they might overwinter and emerge in the spring.)
p.s. Spicebush cats are also found on Sassafras trees, so be on the lookout for those turned over leaves!