Graphium agamemnon – hiker’s nudibranch or yet another pest?

Isn’t that a beautiful caterpillar? I just got the idea that caterpillars, with their incredible colors and variations of hairs or spikes, are somewhat covering the place that nudis have for scuba divers. The size is also similar, and even the behavior, or let’s say the good visibility without running away-reflex is very similar!

Graphium agamemmnon

This caterpillar will eventually become a green and black Tailed Jay Butterfly. The green patch looks almost like it was glowing in the dark. The spikes show some blue coloration. Imagine if it was the size of a bus, it would easily make a good alien blob monster.

So for sure a hiker’s nudi, but a pest? Yes, can! Soursop. Vietnam. How can a beautiful butterfly be a pest?! It is not the worst for soursop, but one of many. Nga Thi VU Rod EASTWOOD, Chat Thi NGUYEN, and Lam Van PHAM reported that the beautiful caterpillars have a chemical weapon that protects them against weaver ants – that alone is very impressive to me. But even more impressive is the following idea they had: Soursop trees are grafted on pond apple trees, which makes them more resistant to certain conditions. The Tailed Jay would prefer the leaves of that pond apple to lay eggs, which also means the larvae would prefer those as food. But it is common to cut the shoots of the tree because they want the soursop to grow, not the pond apple. The idea is to allow some shoots of pond tree to grow, and then just collect the larvae from the low hanging leaves. Great idea, no costs, no pesticides!

If you want to learn more, there is a wonderful blog called the ButterflyCircle about butterflies in Singapore. Looks like the blob in the picture is 3rd instar and will turn green later! Wow!