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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:

  1. Looks ugly, has an appearance of bird poop with creamy white markings
  2. Foul odor
  3. Orange dog eats the small leaves of your citrus trees
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Orange Dog Caterpillar

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:

  1. a) Squeeze each one or
  2. b) Collect and place them in a plastic bag and dispose it of
  3. c) Spray soapy water
  4. 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, but if you want to have delicious, seasonal citrus fruit right away, join the Craft Citrus Club!

Get a curated box of fresh-harvested citrus fruit from South Texas sent to your door every month!