This glorious, 6 cm long gothic horror will grow up to be a gorgeous black and gold butterfly. The polydamas swallowtail (also known as the gold rim swallowtail and tailless swallowtail) is one of only two butterflies in the genus Battus in the US. It is also the only swallowtail in the US to lack tails.
Battus polydamas actually occurs in two forms in the US. In the very southernmost tip of Texas, it exists as Battus polydamas; the Florida peninsula gets its own subspecies, Battus polydamas lucayus, with bigger gold markings (more bling!) and slightly lighter-colored undersides to their hindwings.
As hatchlings, young polydamas swallowtail caterpillars are mostly orange and bear a slight resemblance to bird poop. These nearly-grown caterpillars have turned a velvety black, or a rich mahogany color with bright orange or yellow “horns”. Full-grown caterpillars can even get zebra stripes! This butterfly is so gothic, I love it.