Talk about an awkward phase!


Here's looking at you… kid?

OK, so, spicebush swallowtails are easily the most bizarre looking caterpillar we've come across. Or are they adorable? Both?

Found throughout the southeastern United States, if you have spicebush and sassafras plants, chances are good you've seen this cartoonish caterpillar with markings resembling craft store googly eyes.

No, those aren't actual eyes.

Fortunately, like most caterpillars, their awkward phase is only temporary. In fact, every stage of the spicebush swallowtails' lifecycle is an exercise in the art of deception. As Blair Leano-Helvey with Idlewild Butterfly Farm in Louisville, Kentucky, explained to WLKY, these funny looking bugs go through quite the transformation before becoming a butterfly.

spicebush swallowtail butterfly
Credit: Stockbyte/Getty Images

"All swallowtail caterpillars resemble bird droppings when they are small (some look this way up until they change into a chrysalis)," Leano-Helvey said. "The spicebush caterpillar goes from bird droppings to snake eyes! This is its camouflage to help defend itself from predators. They also wrap themselves in leaves of the spicebush plant, another safety measure."

These bug-eyed bugs eventually transform into beautiful, large adult butterflies with dark wings emblazoned with patches of orange and white. Unlike other species, these butterflies have a unique behavior of fluttering their wings even during feeding.

You do you, spicebush swallowtails!