Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the May 5, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

On Wednesday night a cold front passed through producing hail that was thunderously loud on my tin roof, howling wind, but only a little much-needed rain. On Thursday morning as I biked to work, alongside the road beneath a Texas Liveoak tree, I spotted a fat, green caterpillar the length of my little finger, apparently having been knocked from the liveoak's branches by the wind, which still was strong enough to push a biker sideways if he wasn't paying attention. When I returned the larva to one of the tree's low-hanging branches, as soon as his rear legs clasped a stem he began chewing on a liveoak leaf. You can see the big caterpillar at that very moment above.

A few hours later volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario told me that it was the caterpillar of the Polyphemus Moth, and that there was every reason why it should be so, since in our recent March 10th Newsletter we commented on the number of adult Polyphemus Moths turning up around here below night-burning lights. I'd ended that entry with, "Their caterpillars feed on a large variety of plants, from pear trees to hickories, and that includes oaks such as our abundant Texas Liveoaks." You can review what our Polyphemus Moth looks like at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/a/polymoth.htm.

So, there you go: Everything fits in place. But, still, sometimes things do go haywire, as when a little caterpillar minding his own business doing exactly what he's supposed to do gets knocked from his tree by a wind that's entirely too unruly and chilly for an early May day in Texas.