Help in identifying lemon leaf eater


TXGardener

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Hi Y'all,

Newbie here, so please excuse any mistakes :)

I live in South Texas, with lots of humidity and scorching summers. In my backyard, I have two 3 year old lemon plants, which are now infested with a leaf eating creature. Can someone please tell me if it is a caterpillar, or something else which needs to be worried about? Please see the attached picture (zoom in if needed). Please let me know if I can provide more details.

Lemon Leaf Eater.jpg


Thanks!
 
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TXGardener

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Google search indicates it might be the "bird poop" caterpillar, which turns into the Giant Swallowtail butterfly. There seem to be too many of them, so I'm concerned about my trees, though I don't want to displace the caterpillars also.
 
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Your Giant Swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio cresphontes) are eating the leaves of a Trifoliate Orange (Citrus trifoliata, formerly Poncirus trifoliata). Is that the rootstock of your Lemon trees (Citrus x limon)?

They are interesting insects. The larvae have evolved to resemble bird droppings as a from of protective camouflage. Judging from their size, these look like late instar larvae that are about to pupate. It could be fun to put them in a jar or mesh cage and watch them pupate into adult butterflies. Their native host plants include species of Prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum spp.)
 
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If your lemon tree was in 9a anywhere in Texas and outside, whether in a container or in the ground in February of this year, your lemon tree froze and what you see is growing from the rootstock. @Marck is correct. You can either regraft onto the rootstock or just remove it as the fruit will not be edible.
 
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