Friday, September 30, 2016

Hornworm saga continues

The saga continues. I happened to be at the right place at the right time. This afternoon, I saw one of our two remaining hornworms leave the tomato plant. So I went for my camera. Of course. I decided to shoot both photos and short videos so I could share what I observed. I mean, haven't you ALWAYS wondered what tomato hornworms might do if no one squashed them Well, wonder no more. If you watch the videos (they're just blips–I promise!)

One big baby!

I happened to find the wounded hornworm that I noticed earlier today still on the tomato plant. Poor thing. It was still moving when the wasps were feeding on it. Nature can be so violent and gruesome.

"I'm just a stem. You don't see anything." --Other surviving hornworm.

The journey has barely begun.

Right through the horseherb jungle.

The hornworm finally stopped among another clumb of horseherb.
I marked its location well! From 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., I watched the hornworm travel through our back yard. At 7:15 p.m., I just now checked, and the hornworm was still there. I'll check again tonight and first thing in the morning. Stay tuned

Here's the last video I shot that evening. Plus another photo of the poor hornworm that was completely eaten up by the wasps. I did indeed check on the traveling hornworm about 9 p.m., and it was still there amid the horseherb. However, the next morning, I couldn't find it burrowed near where I'd left it. So, alas, I don't know where the caterpillar ended up. 

Hornworms minus one

Earlier this week, I posted a tongue-in-cheek ode to a chubby Tomato Hornworm feasting on what was left of our tomato plant. The next day, I discovered that we had not one but THREE! 

Sadly (at least, I think so), I happened to notice awhile ago that one is dying. I don't know what caused the huge wound on his back....Oh, I bet a bird pecked at him/her! Poor thing. This one wasn't able to outbrain our birds! The other two are doing just fine. 

Community cafeteria

Moth extravaganza

Melonworm moth (Diaphania hyalinata)...Caterpillars feed on melons, cucumbers and squash plants.
James left the back porch light on last night. I happened to be walking past from re-filling hummingbird feeders when I glanced up saw the moth above. Hmmm. Pretty! So I went into the house to get my camera and a step stool. I ended up taking photos of EVERYONE. I don't think I'll be able to identify them all, but I wanted to at least share the different kinds and patterns. If I hadn't stopped and noticed, I never would have appreciated what was right in front of my eyes. Enjoy! (Some of my images are fuzzy. Sorry! It was a challenge shooting some of these guys because they were high up.)

Chime in with IDs if you recognize any. I'll credit you!
Likely an emerald, maybe blackerry looper?
Interesting body shape, eh? Then I noticed another one under the roof eave (below). Perhaps a plume moth?

Xanthophysa moth (Xanthophysa psychialis)

A weevil of some kind. One oddball in every bunch!

Southern pink moth
 (I've seen this species before)

LOVE this moth ID site!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tadpoles in our stock tank

September 29 2016 I'm going to TRY and take short video clips of our tadpoles every other day or so. This was my first attempt.

Do over! Take 2!

 The mama! Finally got a photo of her October 1, 2016. She's a southern leopard frog Rio Grande leopard frog.

 October 10, 2016, update

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Go ahead

Go ahead, buddy. Chomp on what's left of our tomato plant. And, OH, yes, I can see you! You may think you blend right in, but I spotted you with my raptor-like eyes. You'd better thank your lucky sunbeams, too, Tomato Hornworm, that you landed on OUR plant and not someone else's. 'Cause then you'd be SQUISHED, SQUASHED and SPLATTERED faster than you could blink (if you had real eyes, that is, other than those weird ones on your backside). 

Good luck, T.H. Best to you! You're gonna need it if you hope to outbrain the birds around this place. If you make it, then we look forward to seeing you turn into a Carolina sphinx moth (Manduca sexta). See you later!

Lichen moth

This pretty insect on our goldenrod caught my eye awhile ago. It's a black-and-yellow lichen moth (Lycomorpha pholus). Yellow? This one was definitely REDDISH ORANGE. says this about the species: "Larvae feed on lichens. The strictly diurnal adults are often found on flowers of dogbane (Adpocynum, Apocynaceae), goldenbush (Ericameria, Asteraceae) and goldenrod (Solidago, Asteraceae).....The red color pattern is thought to be mimicry of poisonous Lycid beetles, such as Calopteron."

Stock tank surprise!

 TADPOLES!  First time EVER! 
Lots and lots and lots of tadpoles!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grasshopper feet

Yesterday, a BIG grasshopper appeared on our dining room window and climbed around on the glass. At first, I didn't think anything about it. Then I thought, Hmmm, I wonder if it has feet similar to a jumping spider's? See, the feet of jumping spiders (and other spiders) have dense tufts of hair called scopulae, which enable them to walk up walls and other sheer surfaces. These scopulae adhere using an extremely thin water film on the surface, like a piece of wet paper might stick to a mirror. 

Now I'm no expert, but I'd suspect that a grasshopper must use a similar trick. So I fetched my camera and took some shots. The photos aren't that great, but you can see the wide round pad on each foot, which must adhere to a surface like scopulae do. Thus, our grasshopper guest was able to climb up our window. Cool!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Carrion plant

For the first time, my carrion plant (Stapelia sp.)–gifted to me last year by my friend Nancy–is blooming! Though not a Texas native, this genus is so interesting.... 

WOWZER–news flash! I just learned that this south African native belongs to the milkweed family of Asclepiadaceae! I never knew that! For years and years, my former husband grew a carrion plant in a large clay pot on our front porch (he may still have it) so I'm familiar with the plant and its ability to produce a "dead meat" aroma that attracts pollinating flies. Now I see the carrion plant's five-pointed star bloom–common to milkweed flowers–that will turn into a milkweed seed pod complete with white fluff

The carrion plant definitely is a milkweed. Look what showed up today (Sep. 13)–milkweed bugs!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

New butterfly and a migration

I shot these photos last Thursday evening. We'd been noticing these large sulphurs flying through our gardens. I finally got some pictures. I wasn't sure on the species so I checked in with the experts at These are large orange sulphurs (Phoebis agarithe)! Which is a new species for us. Cool!

I'm not certain which skipper this one was (above photo). But I loved how I caught the curled-up proboscis.
For the past week or so, we've had millions of butterflies flying through Central Texas. Silly me last Thursday tried to nab a sample butterfly with a net on the street in front of our house. (James got a video.) No luck. I happened to look down and spot a dead one. Yep, an American snout nose (Libytheana carinenta), as I suspected, on their way south (except ours in the neighborhood were flying west to east down Ninth Street). News reports confirmed the species.