Native Texas Wildlife

Native Texas Wildlife

Categories: Uncategorized

Texas leaf-cutting ant

Species Facts:

  • Leaf-cutting ants live in large colonies of up to 2 million. Worker ants range from 1/16 to 1/2 inch long. The queen (pictured) is about 3/4 inch long.
  • There are 41 species of this genus of leaf-cutting ants, found only in the warmer regions of the Americas. They are among the most conspicuous insects, with trails of foragers transporting pieces of leaf back to their underground nests.
  • This species prefers sandy soils for nesting. The nest area is usually marked by crescent-shaped mounds 6 to 12 inches tall and about 12 inches in diameter.
  • The largest individuals of the leaf-cutting ant colony, the soldiers, bite fiercely. There are also medium and small-sized individuals performing different functions, with the most numerous classes either cutting or carrying pieces of leaf.
  • The ants do not eat the leaf fragments they collect, but take them into their underground nest where they use the material to raise a fungus garden. As the fungus grows, certain parts of it are eaten by the ants and fed to the larvae. Aside from plant sap obtained from freshly cut vegetation, leafcutters subsist entirely on the cultivated fungus.
  • By converting fresh vegetation (a material the ants cannot digest) into an edible food product, leafcutter ants are essentially farmers. The relationship of the ants and their fungus is an extraordinarily successful example of “symbiosis.”
  • In the American tropics, leafcutter ants are the principal consumers of living plant material and therefore a dominant form in the land environments. A full grown colony consumes approximately the same quantity of plant material as a cow.

Range: Ants of this genus range from Argentina in the south to Texas in the north. This particular species is found in south and eastern Texas, north and western Louisiana, and eastern Mexico.

Conservation Status: This status of this species has not yet been assessed.

Population threats: In Texas these ants damage weeds, grasses, plum and peach trees, blackberry bushes and many other fruit, nut and ornamental plants as well as several cereal and forage crops. As such, they are subject to extensive pesticide pressure— much of it unsuccessful.

Diet: The Texas leaf-cutting ant shows a decided preference for harvesting grasses, weeds, and hardwood leaves. However, this harvested plant material serves only as compost for growing the fungus upon which the colony feeds. This fungus is their only known source of food.


Acorn Weevil

Range: There are about 30 species of nut/acorn weevils in North America, and more than 350 species worldwide.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of these species has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: Nut growers use insecticides similar to the apple growers to prevent egg-laying by the female weevils. Habitat alteration, wherein large tracts of land are converted for agriculture, housing or commercial development, reduces the number of host plants upon which these species depend.
Diet: Larvae and adults occur and feed on all parts of plants. Weevils of this genus are associated with beeches, oaks, walnuts, birches, hazels and other nut-bearing deciduous trees and shrubs.

Did You Know?

  • The adult acorn weevil is a brown, robust-bodied beetle about 3/8 inches in length. It has a very long, slender beak. In some species, the female’s snout may be longer than the body (but never in males).
  • The female acorn weevil uses her long snout for boring into green, developing acorns and deposits her eggs there. The grubs hatch inside the acorn and feast on the “meat” of the nut or acorn. These larvae may eat the entire contents of an acorn or hickory nut, making it worthless, but they usually do not damage the tree in any way.
  • By the time the nut falls from the tree, the legless weevil grub is ready to leave the acorn, and it takes the fall to the ground as a signal to start chewing its way out. It chews a perfectly round 1/8 inch hole in the nut, through which it emerges to pupate in the soil.
  • The reason you often find so many “wormy” or “holey” nuts under trees is because squirrels leave them behind. Squirrels can apparently detect which nuts have been infested with weevils, and select only the nuts that have not been affected.
  • Similar in appearance (and closely-related) to the acorn weevil is the infamous boll weevil, which lays its eggs in cotton buds and seed capsules. By the 1920s, the northward migration of the boll weevils had reached the point of encompassing all the geographic areas of Texas cotton production. Boll weevil infestation caused a steady drop in cotton yields over a thirty-year period, the greatest of which was in the south Texas fields. In 1904 an estimated 700,000 bales were lost to the boll weevil at a cost to $42 million. Fifty-three years later the per-acre yield reduction due to boll weevils hovered at 7 percent and cost an estimated $260 million annually.


Bronzed Cowbird

Range: This species has historically ranged from the U.S.-Mexico border southward to northern Colombia and occurring in all Central American countries in between. Range expansion by bronzed cowbirds northward in the US has been recorded. In winter most bronzed cowbirds move south from the United States into Mexico, leaving a small area of year-round residents in the South Texas Brush Country and lower Rio Grande valley.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species is evaluated as Least Concern. It has a large range and its numbers appear stable.
Population Threats: Human settlement of the New World has led to habitat changes favorable for cowbirds of this genus. The bronzed cowbird has expanded its range in our area during the last century; in Arizona, where it is now common, it was unrecorded before 1909.
Diet: Seeds and insects, including those of grasses and weeds, and waste grain. Occasionally eats berries. Also eats insects (including caterpillars, beetles, flies, and others) plus snails and spiders.

Did You Know?

  • The most distinguishing feature of an adult bronzed cowbird is its red eyes. The male of this species has a hunched posture, overall black plumage and blue wings. The female is brownish with fine streaking on the belly.
  • In courtship, the male bronzed cowbird fluffs up his feathers (especially around his neck), spreads and lowers his tail, and points his bill down as he sings. In the more intense version, he vibrates his wings and rises slowly a few feet in air, then slowly descends again. This display, in conjunction with his red eyes, has led to the species being nicknamed the “Dracula bird.”
  • The bronzed cowbird is one of three parasitic cowbirds that breed in the United States. They never raise their own young: the females opt instead to lay their eggs in the nest of another species, which unwittingly raise the cowbird’s young as their own. The nestlings are fed by the “host” parents and develop rapidly, leaving the host nest 10-12 days after hatching.
    The bronzed cowbird may be more host-specific than other cowbird species. Of 82 species reported to be parasitized by bronzed cowbirds, orioles appear to be favored as hosts. Populations of some species, such as Hooded Orioles in southern Texas, are thought to have been seriously affected by bronzed cowbird parasitism.
  • The oldest recorded bronzed cowbird was a male, and at least 8 years old when he was found in Texas.
  • Cowbirds are so named due to their association with cattle— they often forage on seeds and insects stirred up by livestock.


Short-lined Skink

Range: The short-lined skink is distributed north and west of the Balcones Escarpment in the Texas Hill Country, south through Texas into northern Mexico (northern Coahuila and northern Nuevo Leon, with an isolated population in the Sierra del Nido mountain range of northern Chihuahua).
Conservation Status: Listed as species of Least Concern due to its wide distribution, presumed large population, and tolerance of a degree of habitat modification.
Population Threats: No major threats to this species have been identified. However, in some parts of the range the species is killed under the erroneous belief that it is venomous.
Diet: This skink eats insects and spiders found amongst leaf litter.

Did You Know?

  • The short-lined skink is a cylindrical lizard with glossy scales and small limbs. Like many of this genus, juveniles (like those pictured) have an iridescent blue tail. This color fades with age.
  • This is one of two kinds of four-lined skinks that inhabit Texas. During the breeding season males of this subspecies develop orange coloration on the head, whereas the heads of males of the other subspecies (long-lined skinks) turn red. As adults, both can grow to total lengths of 5-7 inches, including the tail.
  • In this subspecies the dorsal pattern consists of a broad dark band bordered by light lines from the eye down each side of the back. These lines end behind the foreleg, but do not reach the hind leg.
  • The short-lined skink prefers rocky areas in wooded environments and is commonly found among leaf litter.
  • Females lay about 5 to 12 eggs once a year, which she broods.
  • A skink is an example of a lizard that can ‘autotomize’ its tail. If a predator was to attack a skink from behind, the skink can release its tail at will. The tail detaches and keeps wiggling while the skink scurries away. The skink can grow a new tail in three to four months, but this regenerated tail can often be out of proportion to the original.



Range: Worldwide, there are 37 families of harvestmen. Eighteen species are reported from Texas.
Conservation Status: A few harvestman species are endangered. Most are not.
Population Threats: Habitat alteration, pesticides and human overreaction.
Diet: Adults eat insects, worms, and snails, spiders, other harvestmen, decaying plant and animal matter, bird droppings and fungi.

Did You Know?

  • Harvestmen are one of two groups of arachnids that are commonly called “Daddy Long-legs.” Although often mistaken for spiders, harvestmen are more closely related to scorpions but are not dangerous to people.
  • There is an often-repeated urban legend that harvestmen are extremely venomous. This is untrue— in fact, they neither possess venom, nor a delivery system for it. They have no venom glands and their tiny mouth parts, while visually similar to spider fangs, are too small and fragile to break human skin.
  • Harvestmen also lack silk glands, so they do not build webs.
  • In this order of arachnids the bodies are not divided into two separate sections the way spiders are. Instead the body parts are fused to form what appears to be a single, oval mass.
  • Harvestmen have just two eyes, spiders have eight.
  • The harvestman’s second pair of legs is very sensitive and acts like antennae. They help a harvestman to capture prey, smell surroundings and even breathe (through holes on their legs called spiracles). If the second pair of legs is lost, the harvestman will die.
  • In defense against a predator, a harvestman will remove one of its own legs (not one from the critical second pair, however) to distract the attacker. The removed leg can twitch for up to an hour, allowing the harvestman time to flee. The amputated leg cannot grow back so it is a costly form of self-protection.
  • In dry climates, harvestmen gather in large numbers during the day (probably to avoid drying out) and wander about in search of food after the sun goes down. These clusters may form in tree hollows, sheds and cellars, and the sheer number of spiders can create an audible rustling sound as they move.


Spinybacked Orbweaver

Range: North Carolina, to Florida, to Texas, south to northern Argentina. In southern California it is rare. Also found on some islands, including much of the Greater Antilles and some of the Bahamian islands.
Conservation Status: This species’ conservation status has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: The direct and indirect effects of insecticides pose a threat to all predatory invertebrates. Fear of spiders, or at least a lack of empathy for them, makes them additionally vulnerable.
Diet: The spiny orb weaver uses its web to capture flying, and sometimes crawling, pests such as beetles, moths, mosquitoes, whiteflies, and other small fly species.

Did You Know?

  • Spinybacked orbweavers have a relatively flat, broad, hard abdomen that can be white, orange, or yellow with red markings. There are six pointed projections, frequently referred to as “spines,” on the carapace. The overall shape is very similar to that of the edible crab—although they are not at all related (nor are they in the family known as “crab spiders”).
  • Females, such as the one pictured, may be up to 1/3 inch in length, and 1½ times as wide. Males are much smaller, only about 1/10 inch long, and are actually slightly longer than wide. In our area, females tend to be white with black spots and males tend to be gray with white spots.
  • The spinybacked orbweaver spins flat, round-shaped webs. A new web is constructed each night to make sure that the structure is secure. Conspicuous tufts of silk occur on the web. One theory suggests that the tufts make the webs more conspicuous to birds thus preventing them from flying into, and thereby destroying, the web.
  • Typically, adult females construct the webs. Males hang by single threads from the females’ webs prior to mating.
  • The mating behavior of the spinybacked orbweaver is fairly ritualized. The male tentatively seeks out a female by visiting her web and uses a rhythmic drumming pattern on the silk to get her attention. Only then does he cautiously approach her. The male remains on the web after mating and dies about six days later. The female dies after producing the egg mass.
    This is a beneficial species that preys upon and helps to control overpopulation of small pests that are present in crops and suburban areas. This species is not dangerous and would likely be overlooked if not for its unique coloration.


Haldeman’s Shieldback Katydid


Range:Native to the southern Great Plains: it ranges over most of Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of adjacent states. It is also reported from Coahuila, Mexico.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: Large-scale habitat alteration and landscape alteration have been shown to push other katydid species to the brink of extinction.
Diet: Omnivorous, will eat plants, carrion, and will catch and eat smaller animals.

Did You Know?

  • This is a very stocky, large katydid (1¼ – 1½ inches long). It has a smooth, shiny appearance and a fairly uniform glossy green (sometimes reddish brown) coloration.
  • The name “shieldback” comes from the pronounced plate-like structure, called pronotum, that covers part of this species’ thorax (midsection). In Haldeman’s shieldback, the sides of pronotum are rounded, and its posterior edge is somewhat curved. The top of the pronotum is usually dark toward the rear, especially at the “corners.” Elsewhere, the pronotum has a pale border with the rear margin the edges of which are very dark, nearly black.
  • These are flightless, predatory katydids that will eat vegetation if they cannot find live prey. They hunt as ambush predators using their leaf-like appearance as camouflage while they lie in wait for unsuspecting victims to move within the reach of their attack.
  • A nocturnal predator, it will often come to lights at night to hunt.
  • Male shieldback katydids (such as the one photographed) court females by vibrating the remnants of their wings. The song is said to sound like a slow, soft “tsee-tsee-tsee-tsee” that can be heard up to 40 feet away.
  • The genus name for this species, Pediodectes, means “biter of the plains.” To avoid finding out why they are so named, you may want to avoid handling them.


Tarantula Hawk

Range: There are 18 species of tarantula hawks native to the US. They are very difficult to distinguish from one another. Most are found in the southwest, east to Kansas. Only three species occur in the east.
Conservation Status: Not yet assessed.
Population Threats: Habitat conversion and indiscriminate pesticide use could threaten these species and their prey.
Diet: Larvae feed on tarantula and some other large spiders. Adults take nectar, and are particularly fond of milkweed (genus Asclepias).

Did You Know?

  • Not a hawk at all, the tarantula hawk belongs to a family of flying insects known as “spider wasps,” so named in reference to their choice of prey.
  • This is a large (over 1½ inch long), stinging wasp with blue-black body, head, legs and antennae. Its long wings are orange-brown.
  • Male and female tarantula hawks differ in subtle ways. The antennae of the males are straight and their abdomens are segmented into seven sections. The females’ antennae are curved and their abdomen has only six segments.
  • Tarantula hawks produce large quantities of venom and their stings produce immediate, intense, short-term pain. Theirs is
    the most painful sting of any insect in North America; however, they are not aggressive and you usually have to handle the wasp (or step on them) to get stung. In the unlikely event of human envenomation by a tarantula hawk, experts recommend that the victim immediately lie down and start screaming. The reasoning is that the pain of the sting is so excruciating that few, if any, human victims can maintain normal coordination or mental control to prevent further injury to themselves during the agonizing five minutes that follow the sting.
  • These species are brilliant parasites that attack tarantulas– not humans– paralyzing them with their venom before dragging them into a den. Here they lay an egg that hatches into a larva that devours the paralyzed spider alive over the course of several weeks. One of our photos depicts this drama as it is about to unfold.


Texas Rat Snake

Range: This subspecies is found throughout much of Texas, ranging westward to the western edge of the Edwards Plateau, south to Corpus Christi, north to the Red River and eastward to the eastern state boundaries. It can also be found in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Conservation Status: The Texas rat snake is not a protected species in Texas. The species as a whole is considered secure.
Population Threats: While the Texas rat snake tends to do well in cultivated areas, intensive development of the native landscape reduces the habitat available to them and more often brings them into close contact with humans. This beneficial and harmless species is unfortunately often confused with venomous snakes such as copperheads, cottonmouths and western diamondback rattlesnakes and may suffer as a result of unwarranted fears about snakes.
Diet: In the wild, rat snakes feed on a variety of mammalian, avian, reptilian (mainly lizards) and amphibian (mainly frogs and toads) prey. Snakes of this subspecies are effective and voracious predators of rodents of all sizes, and large adults are able to take prey up to the size of a fox squirrel. Their value in controlling populations of disease-spreading and crop-damaging rodents cannot be overstated.

Did You Know?

  • The Texas rat snake is a medium-sized snake characterized by a poorly-defined pattern of dark gray to brown blotches on its upper side. The wedge-shaped head of the Texas rat snake is often black. Its chin is white, as is the underside of its tail. The rest of its underside is generally lighter in color and may have a vague pattern.
  • This subspecies of the eastern rat snake is generally 42 to 72 inches long as an adult. Some have been known to exceed 7 feet in length.
  • These snakes do not have two-heads. Both of these photos depict rat snakes in the act of mating.
    The habitat of this species ranges from bayou and swampy areas to woods and stream valleys to rocky canyons.
  • Like many rat snake species, the Texas rat snake is arboreal. They seek food and refuge inside hollow limbs and will sun themselves on exposed branches. They are also inclined to take roost in the rafters of manmade structures such as barns, sheds and roofed shelters.
    While non-venomous, the Texas rat snake can be ill-tempered if handled or cornered. It kills its prey by biting it firmly and then coiling its strong body around its victim until its meal dies of exhaustion or lack of oxygen.
  • There are at least 14 species of native snakes free-roaming at Austin Zoo. Of these, the Texas rat snake is the largest and most frequently noticed by our guests.


Northern Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Range: In the US, this species in found in southeast Arizona and southeastern Texas. It ranges further south to central Panama.
Conservation Status: Not globally threatened, it is widespread and common within its natural range. This, the northern subspecies, is estimated to number between 100,000 and 1,000,000 birds and is increasing in numbers.
Population Threats: Significant threats to this species have not yet been identified.
Diet: The black-winged whistling duck does much foraging on land, and may feed by either day or night. Flocks come to harvested fields to feed on leftover grain, and also visit prairies and overgrown pastures. In shallow water they may wade to reach emergent plants, or may dabble at surface or tip up to reach under water.

Did You Know?

  • Whistling-ducks are moderately large birds with long legs and necks and an erect posture. They fly with a distinctive profile—neck outstretched with the head held slightly lower than the body. Their body shape is more like geese than ducks. They are not sexually dimorphic (males and females look alike) and form relatively long-term pair bonds— traits which also more resemble geese and swans than other ducks.
  • Adults of this species are easily recognized by the combination of their coral red bill, pink legs and feet, gray head with chestnut crown and white eye ring. These birds have three-foot wingspans which, in flight, show a distinctive, large white patch on the upper surface of each wing.
  • Not at all like most ducks, the black-bellied whistling duck is classified with a number of species that were previously known as ‘tree ducks.’ The black-bellied whistling duck is one of only a few of those that actually perch or nest in trees.
  • Holes in many species of trees serve as nest sites for this species. They will also nest on the ground, in abandoned machinery, chimneys, and other artificial cavities.
  • Black-bellied whistling ducks lay large clutches of as many as 22 (usually 12-16) eggs, but egg loss is high. Temperatures above 103 degrees F) kill developing embryos.
  • Texas is the primary breeding area for black-bellied whistling ducks in the United States. The breeding range is reported to have expanded northward in recent years.


Kern’s Flower Scarab

Range: Kern’s flower scarabs can be found in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and some parts of northern Mexico.
Conservation Status: The conservation status for this species has not yet been assessed. Its population is believed to be stable in numbers.
Population Threats: A chewing insect, Kern’s flower scarab can often be the target of pesticide application. The potential relationship of its larvae with ground-dwelling rodents makes the beetle indirectly vulnerable to efforts to eradicate these mammal species as well.
Diet: Adult Kern’s flower scarabs have been reported to feed on feed on the nectar, pollen and / or fruits of pricklypoppy (Argemone), pricklypear (Opuntia), thistle (Cirsium), yucca (Yucca), mesquites (Prosopis), poppy mallows (Callirhoe), wheat (Triticum) and roses (Rosa).

Did You Know?

  • Kern’s flower scarab is a small beetle, only 1/3 inch to 1/2 inch in length. Its color and pattern is extremely variable, ranging from all black to nearly all yellow with all stages in between.
  • Also known as the plains bumble scarab, this species is one of 20 species of flower scarab beetles in the U.S.
  • The Kern’s flower scarab is diurnal and not attracted to lights.
  • All flower scarabs are found in fields, meadows and thickets and are abundant in early spring (April-May).
  • The life history of this particular species is not yet fully known. Larvae of some closely-related species have been known to feed underneath dead sod in rich soil, consuming decaying organic material. It is reported that the larval habitat of this species is within the nests of woodrats or mounds of soil associated with other ground-dwelling rodents like pocket gophers.


White-blotched Heterocampa

Range: Eastern North America to Texas and Mexico.
Conservation Status: Considered globally secure, no specific conservation status has been assigned to this species.
Population Threats: The clearing of oaks (for land development) and widespread use of pesticides can have a negative effect on populations of this moth.
Diet: The larvae primarily feed on oaks (Quercus) but are not so destructive as to be considered a plant pest. They are also known to consume the leaves of paper birch, black walnut and maples.

Did You Know?

  • The bright and unusual colors of these larvae are in stark contrast to the black-and-white adult white-blotched Heterocampa moth. These caterpillars change colors as they mature and develop. At any given stage, they could be purple and fuchsia, or brown and tan, or green and white.
  • In reaching adulthood, this caterpillar metamorphoses into one of the larger moth species with a mottled pattern. Its adult colors are mostly black and white with shades of gray and perhaps even hues of green. Its wingspan is 2 ¼ to 2 ½ inches.
  • Over much of range this common species will produce two generations each year. In warmer climates, like Florida, multiple generations can occur annually.
  • These are woodland moths, whose preferred habitats are forests and barrens populated with oak trees (on which the caterpillars feed). Look for them in parks, forests, gardens, and backyards.
  • White-blotched Heterocampa moths are nocturnal and are attracted to lights.


California Warrior Beetle

Range: This species ranges from Utah to southeastern Nebraska, south to at least eastern Arkansas and Michoacán in Mexico.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: As predators of other arthropods, these beetles are affected both directly and indirectly by insecticide use.
Diet: As both larvae and as adults, California warrior beetles feed on other insects—especially caterpillars and grasshopper eggs and adults. Because of their appetites for other potentially damaging insect species, they are considered beneficial insects.

Did You Know?

  • This is a large, mostly black beetle measuring 1 to 1¼ inches in length. It has three pairs of well-developed legs and can run quickly. The head bears sickle-shaped jaws (mandibles) that are pointed forward.
  • In these beetles the wing covers (elytra) are fused into a rigid shell and thus they are unable to fly. The ground-dwelling adults are found on exposed or partially-shaded substrate in areas with sparse vegetation (such as patches of grass, yuccas, etc.).
  • The California warrior beetle inhabits open forests and grasslands from sea level to 8000 feet (1½ miles!) in altitude. It can also be found near bluffs, in cultivated fields, and in city parks.
  • Adult warrior beetles are nocturnal hunters that take cover during the day in burrows they dig under stones, debris, or even under dry cattle dung.
  • The Latin name for the genus of these beetles, Pasimachus, means ‘total fighter.’ They are fierce predators of other insects. While capable of inflicting a painful bite to humans, they very rarely do so.
  • Ironically, despite its common and scientific names, this species does not occur in California.


Jade Stinkbug

Range: The jade stinkbug is widely distributed in the US. It ranges from Arizona to Florida in the south, from Maine to Oregon in the north, and all areas in between.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not been assessed. In our area, the clearing of large stands of Ashe juniper (mountain cedar) obviously limits the amount of host plant material available to the jade stinkbug and could cause local extinctions.
Population Threats: Aside from pesticides, no widespread threats to this species are identified.
Diet: The jade stinkbug lays its barrel-shaped eggs on the leaves of juniper trees (Juniperus spp.), which includes the “mountain cedars” that are so prevalent in our area. Both adults and nymphs of the jade stinkbug feed on these junipers by piercing the plant tissues with their mouthparts. The resulting damage may open a path for pathogens to enter these trees.

Did You Know?

  • The jade stinkbug is a small green tree-dwelling insect, only about 4/10 of an inch long. It is easily distinguished from other stinkbugs by the white to yellow markings at the three corners of its scutellum, the shield-like structure on its back.
  • The name “stinkbug” refers to the odor produced by these bugs in self-defense. There are over 100 stinkbug species in Texas alone!
  • Adults of this group of “true bugs” may overwinter. During the cooler seasons, they often become conspicuous guests in homes.
  • Many species of stinkbugs are drawn to lights at night. Sometimes large numbers of them may be attracted to the same light source.
  • Also known as the juniper stinkbug, this species feeds on tree species of the genus Juniperus, which includes the Ashe juniper—locally known as “mountain cedar.”


Great Spreadwing Damselfly

Range: Native to western and southern North America, Central America and northern South America. This species recently (1920’s and later) expanded its range in North America to the east and north. They remain more common in western United States than in the east.
Conservation Status: About 15% (or one in six species) of North American dragonflies are at risk of extinction in the foreseeable future due to habitat alteration. Pristine streams, arid land streams and ponds, sand bottomed lakes, and bogs are essential for the conservation of dragonflies and damselflies.
Population Threats: Dragonflies tend to be much more sensitive to pollution than damselflies. Sewage and organic chemicals encourage bacteria development reducing oxygen content in the ponds. Pesticides introduced to the water kill larvae. Fertilizers washed off our lawns encourage algae growth also reducing oxygen. Silt changes the structure of the stream bed, blocks sunlight from the plants and may destroy eggs.
Diet: Adults of this species eat insects, frequently preying on smaller species of damsels. Larvae are voracious and feed upon a wide variety of aquatic animals.

Did You Know?

  • Damselflies comprise a family of insects within the same ancient order that includes dragonflies. They tend to be smaller and more slender than dragonflies. In damselflies, front and hind wings are similar in shape and thus, they fly more slowly than dragonflies do. Also, dragonflies cannot fold their wings together when resting, whereas damselflies do. This posture of the wings is the most distinguishing feature between adult dragonflies and damselflies, although spreadwings are an exception—they might also rest with their wings outspread.
  • The great spreadwing has a length of 2 – 2 ½ inches, large for a damselfly. Both male and female great spreadwings have a bright yellow stripe, which is easily seen at a distance.
  • Male spreadwings are nearly always darker in color than the stockier females. When laying eggs females may appear putty-colored. The eyes of males are bright blue; the females’ eyes are paler blue to tan. The abdomen is long and dark brown, the last two segments being light blue or frosty in appearance.
  • Dragonflies do not hunt in cold weather. Damselflies are more temperature tolerant and may hunt during cold spells.
  • The presence of dragonflies and damselflies are an indication of good ecosystem quality. The greatest numbers of species are found at sites that offer a wide variety of microhabitats.


Gulf Fritillary

Range: The Gulf fritillary occurs throughout the southern United States southward through Mexico, Central America and the West Indies to South America. The species was introduced into southern California in the 19th century and expanded its range as far north as the San Francisco Bay area by 1908– although it seems to have become established there only since the 1950s.
Conservation Status: Demonstrably secure globally, the conservation status of this species is not generally of concern.
Population Threats: Like all butterflies, the gulf fritillary is threatened by the use of herbicides (which kill the plants upon which butterflies depend) and insecticide use (which kill the butterflies directly).
Diet: Adults take nectar from lantana, shepherd’s needle, members of the borage family, composites, and others. Caterpillar hosts include various species of passionflower. The larvae may feed on all parts of this vine and can rapidly.

Did You Know?

  • This medium-sized butterfly has a wingspan of 2½ – 3¾ inches.
  • The elongated, shimmery metallic scales on the bottom of this butterfly’s hind wings and on the edge of its forewings are unmistakable identifiers. The top of its wings are bright orange with black markings around the border. It also has three black-rimmed white spots on the top of each forewing. In this species, the female is larger, somewhat darker and more extensively marked than the male.
  • Adults have a quick, erratic flight but are easily drawn to nearby flowers. Females lay their small yellow eggs singly on or near the leaves, stems or tendrils of various species of passionflower (Passiflora sp.) vines, which gives rise to this species’ alternate common name: passion vine butterfly.
  • Adult gulf fritillaries move northward in spring and form temporary breeding colonies throughout the southeast. Individual vagrants may occasionally reach into the central US, but rarely as far as the Midwest. Starting in late summer and continuing through fall, huge numbers of adults migrate southward into peninsular Florida.
  • This species can be seen in flight throughout the year in south Florida and south Texas, whenever the weather is warm.


Green Lynx Spider

Range: Southern US, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and the West Indies.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of the green lynx spider has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: The uncontrolled use of insecticides can have a dual impact on spider populations: the spiders themselves may directly succumb to the use of insecticides, while this threat may also affect the availability of the spiders’ prey.
Diet: The green lynx spider is an opportunistic feeder that preys upon a wide variety of insects and spiders. While they are beneficial organisms in the control of crop-damaging insect pests, their helpfulness is counteracted by their willingness to also prey also upon beneficial insects (including bees).

Did You Know?

  • This spider has a bright green body. The forward half of its body (cephalothorax) is narrow and appears humped in the area of its eyes. It often has red spots near the eyes and on its body. The legs are long, paler than the body, green to yellow, with long black spines and many black spots.
  • Females of this species range are about 5/8 inches in length; males are more slender and average about ½ inch in length.
  • The green lynx has the ability to blend in with its background. They are apparently capable of changing their body color to adapt to their environment, ranging from various shades of green, brown, and reddish-purple to pink.
  • Lynx-spiders are so called because of their cat-like predatory behavior. Some species chase their prey with great rapidity over ground cover and the foliage of trees and shrubs; they even jump from branch to branch. Others may lie in wait near flowers and spring upon insects that visit, seeking nectar.
  • Green lynx spiders are not a species that builds a web, but will trail a silken dragline as they hunt. They actually mate in mid-air while tethered on a strand of silk.
    This species is known for the ability to “spit” its venom up to 8 inches when feeling threatened. Females tend to be very protective of their egg sacs and will even care for their young until they can fend for themselves.
  • Green lynx spiders very seldom bite humans. Females can and will bite in defense, especially when guarding egg sacs. However, their bite is generally considered to be medically harmless– only slightly painful, with a little inflammation.


Saltmarsh Moth

Range: All of North America except Alaska and the Yukon.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed. As a pest, it is most common in the southwestern US.
Population threats: Saltmarsh caterpillar larvae frequently fall victim to parasitic flies. Insecticides are commonly used to suppress saltmarsh caterpillars if they become abundant in vegetable crops.
Diet: Larvae feed on a wide variety of mainly weedy plants including anglepod, dog fennel, ground cherry, mallow, milkweed, pigweed, and sicklepod, plus crops such as alfalfa, asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, clover, corn, cotton, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, soybean, sugarbeet, tobacco, tomato, and turnip. On rare occasions, they also feed on leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, such as alder, apple, cherry, elderberry, pear, poplar, and serviceberry.

Did You Know?

  • This is a medium-sized moth, with a wingspan of 1 ¾” to 2 ½”.
  • Adults have white forewings with about 20 small black spots scattered across the body of the wing, and five larger black spots spaced along its leading edge. Males have dark yellow hindwings, whereas those of females are mostly white. Both sexes have three or four black blotches on the hind wings.
  • The saltmarsh moth’s peculiar common name is derived from the initial description of its caterpillar as a pest of salt-grass hay grown in the vicinity of Boston. This is not its typical food: while this insect feeds on a wide range of plant hosts, grasses are not generally preferred.
  • This moth’s caterpillar is considered an agricultural pest. Vegetables injured include asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, onion, pea, tomato, turnip and probably others. Alfalfa, clover, cotton, soybean, sugar beet and tobacco comprise the field crops damaged by this species.
  • When disturbed, adult saltmarsh moths often drop to the ground, raise their wings, and emit an acrid odor.
  • Male saltmarsh moths have internal glandular structures called coremata (Greek for “feather duster”). These bear brush-like organs called “hair-pencils” excrete pheromones. During courtship the males eject these coremata outward (i.e., “evert”) in order to release the pheromonal chemicals (via the hair-pencils) that lure and tranquilize females, as well as repel competing males.
  • In most parts of the U.S., adults fly from May to September. Adults fly year round in Texas.


Jumping Spider

Range: This, the typical form of this spider species is found from southern Florida north to Georgia and west to northern Texas. There is also a western form, with a more pronounced color pattern, that has been found from Arizona to eastern Texas.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: Pesticides affect spiders as well as their food sources.
Diet: The speed and keen eyesight of jumping spiders allow them to pounce on flies, crickets, and even other spiders in their active quests for food.

Did You Know?

  • Jumping spiders (also known as salticids) belong to the largest family of spiders, with more than 315 species in North America and over 5,000 species described worldwide.
  • Less than ¼ inch long, this particular species of jumping spider is quite small and could be easily overlooked. The one photographed is actually on top of the body of a standard padlock.
  • The body shape of this tiny spider is rather flattened, and its forward body segment (cephalothorax) is completely black. A distinguishing characteristic of this species is its rear body segment (abdomen), which is proportionately more slender than others of its genus and has two thin lines of broken light-colored dashes.
  • Most of this jumping spider’s leg segments are bright reddish orange. Males (like the one pictured) have thick black front legs, but the rest of their legs are reddish.
  • Jumping spiders have the best vision of all spiders, which allows them to hunt much as cats do– spotting prey from long distances, creeping up, then pouncing using their jumping ability. When jumping spiders jump, they always attach a silk line. That way, if they miss their target they can climb back up and try the jump again. They do not make webs.
  • A jumping spider can jump more than thirty times its body length, yet none of its legs has enlarged muscles. The power for jumping probably comes from a quick contraction of muscles in the front part of the body increasing the blood pressure, which causes the legs to extend rapidly.


Queen Butterfly

A Native Sunday first! After featuring more than 70 species on Native Sunday, we fell prey to “Monarch Butterfly Confusion.” Last week’s featured butterfly was NOT a Monarch, but a Queen Butterfly. So, this week we humbly present to you information appropriate to the photo we provided last week– with the added bonus of a photo of its caterpillar! Our apologies.

Range: Can be found throughout most of the southern US from Florida to California, and also parts of Mexico and some islands in the Caribbean. The species can be active all year in Florida and South Texas, but from only from July to August in the more northern parts of its range.
Conservation Status: Demonstrably secure globally.
Population Threats: The decline in milkweed abundance due to the increased use of herbicides on genetically modified crops is a threat felt by many butterfly species, including queens.
Diet: Larva feed on milkweeds, Asclepias, also other plants in the milkweed family. Adults take the nectar of flowering plants.

Did You Know?

    • Because of their comparable color, size and affinity for milkweed as a host plant, queen and monarch butterflies are often mistaken for each other in their various life stages.
    • Adult queens are similar to monarchs, but the upper sides of their wings (not pictured) are more of a chestnut brown color. Monarchs appear more yellow overall, and their wing patterns are more like a stained glass window with very little, if any, white edging to the black veins. In addition, the solid dark orange on the underside of the queen’s wing (upper portion in the picture) is interrupted with occasional white dots.
    • By comparison, queen butterfly caterpillars are easy to differentiate from monarch caterpillars. While similarly-colored, mature queen caterpillars have three pairs of tentacle-like protuberances whereas monarch caterpillars only have two pairs. In both species one pair are antennae, and the others are properly called filaments. In mature queen caterpillars, these protuberances are reddish at their bases– which distinguish them from another related species, the soldier butterfly.
    • The shared orange-and-black warning coloration of adult queens and monarchs, as well as the similarity of their caterpillars, is an example of Müllerian mimicry. Monarchs are distasteful, having become toxic through the ingestion of chemicals contained in the milkweed plants upon which the caterpillars are dependent. Queens are distasteful as well, but not quite as toxic. The recognizable pattern of both adults and larvae repel insectivorous birds and contributes to the defense of a number of mimicking species.
    • Female queen butterflies lay eggs singly on leaves, stems, and flower buds; which the caterpillars eat. Adults roost communally but, unlike monarchs, are not migratory.

Monarch Butterfly

Range: Highly migratory, monarch butterflies can be found from southern Canada south through all of the United States, Central America, and most of South America. Also found on some islands in Pacific, and has been introduced to Australia.
Conservation Status: While monarch butterflies as a species are globally secure, the North American subspecies (comprised of two populations) has undergone drastic declines in numbers and is considered threatened with extinction. The population that visits our area is said to be critically imperiled.
Population Threats: Three factors are considered most significant in the profound decline in monarch numbers: the decline in milkweed abundance due to the increased use of herbicides on genetically modified crops, logging at the monarchs’ overwintering sites, and extreme weather events associated with climate change.
Diet: Adults take nectar from a variety of flowers.
The caterpillars feed on plants in the milkweed family, primarily Asclepias.

Did You Know?

        • The monarchs are among the best known of the world’s butterflies due to their charismatic appearance, wide distribution and remarkable ability to migrate.
        • Monarchs are thought to be the only butterfly that truly migrates. Other species emigrate out from certain areas as their food supply emerges with the changing seasons, but in no other species do adults actively return to a certain site at the end of the growing season. There are also populations of monarchs in California, Florida and Texas that don’t migrate.
        • Active all year in the tropics, monarchs can be seen in North America from March through fall.
          The orange-and-black warning coloration of monarchs is very recognizable and its conspicuous pattern is directed at repelling insectivorous birds. Monarchs are distasteful, having become toxic through the ingestion of chemicals contained in the milkweed plants upon which the caterpillars are dependent. Several other species, each also being distasteful to some degree, share this coloration and thus, through a process called Müllerian mimicry, contribute to each other’s defense against predators.
        • Numbers of monarchs east of the Rockies have declined by more than 90 percent since 1995, prompting a request in 2014 that the North American subspecies be listed under the Endangered Species Act.


Robber Fly

Range: Worldwide. The species photographed (likely Efferia aestuans) ranges from Ontario and New Hampshire south into Florida and New Mexico.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of robber flies has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: As insects that are also obligate insect-eaters, these species are doubly threatened by imprudent pesticide usage.
Diet: Adult robber flies feed on bees, beetles, dragonflies, other flies, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, wasps, and other insects. Larvae live in soil or decaying wood, feeding on organic matter and other arthropods (such as white grubs, beetle pupae and grasshopper egg masses).

Did You Know?

        • Robber flies are a very diverse group of true flies. There are approximately 1040 species of 100 genera in the US, 200 species in Canada, and about 7500 described species of 560 genera worldwide. With this great diversity of species, the taxonomic classification within the robber fly family has become a fairly contentious issue.
        • Also known as assassin flies, adult robber flies have piercing-sucking mouthparts modified to inject prey with saliva. Like other true flies, they have a single pair of wings.
        • While some species are bee/wasp mimics, the robber fly species we photographed at the zoo looks much like a dragonfly, whose feeding behavior is paralleled by all robber fly species. They are voracious predators and often perch in exposed locations in order to take short flights after prey, which they attack in the air.
        • Because adults feed on a variety of arthropods, robber flies are considered to be beneficial insects. They do, however, also eat bees and other beneficial insects.
        • Although not venomous, adults are capable of inflicting a painful bite if handled improperly.


Northern Mockingbird

Range: This species is widely distributed and breeds from California, Colorado, Iowa, and Ontario south to the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and southern Mexico. Introduced mockingbird populations have also been established in Hawaii and Bermuda.
Conservation Status: Listed as species of Least Concern by the IUCN.
Population Threats: Few. The range of this species is expanding northward.
Diet: Insects, fruit, crustaceans and small vertebrates make up the mockingbird’s diet. Also eats spiders, snails, earthworms, and rarely crayfish and small lizards.

Did You Know?

        • Visually, the northern mockingbird is a fairly non-descript gray bird. Its long outer tail feathers are white as are its wing patches, which flash conspicuously in flight. It is the mockingbird’s vocal repertoire that makes it distinctive.
        • If you’ve been hearing a seemingly endless string of ten to fifteen different bird songs, you may be hearing a single northern mockingbird. This species’ famous pattern of singing, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season. The males’ territoriality and constant singing and displaying during the breeding season make this the most noticeable bird species in Texas.
        • Female mockingbirds are attracted to males that can make the most different sounds. In addition to the songs of 50 other species, male mockingbirds have been known to imitate other sounds. Among these are the sounds of rusty hinges, whistling, cackling hens, and dogs barking. A mockingbird can so expertly mimic a sound that even an electronic analysis could not tell the difference between the bird and the original.
        • Mockingbirds live year-around across Texas and are one of the few birds found in every kind of habitat– from desert to forest to towns, suburbs, backyards, parks, forest edges, and any open land at low elevations.
        • On an annual basis the diet for this species consists of roughly equal amounts of insects and berries / fruit. They rely most heavily on insects in late spring and summer and on fruits and berries in fall and winter.


Western Ribbon Snake

Range: The western ribbon snake is seen throughout many of the south central United States and is distributed throughout eastern and southern Mexico, reaching as far south as Costa Rica.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species is categorized as Least Concern due to its large population and wide distribution.
Population Threats: No major threats to the western ribbon snake are known. Wetland loss and habitat degradation have eliminated or reduced some local populations, and the global decline in amphibian numbers has reduced the availability of this species’ principal prey.
Diet: Foods consumed by ribbonsnakes are primarily amphibians, Frogs and toads are taken year round, and tadpoles are eaten when available. Fish and lizards are also known as potential prey items.

Did You Know?

        • The western ribbon snake is one of the largest gartersnakes in Texas, with adults measuring between 20-30 inches in length. Rare individuals may measure over 36 inches.
        • Ribbon snakes are often confused with other garter snakes. Overall, ribbon snakes appear thinner than garter snakes. They have a white spot in front of their eye, which garter snakes lack. Garter snakes also differ in that they have dark markings between the scales along the upper lip (called labial scales), which ribbon snakes lack.
        • This species gives birth to live young, as do all garter snakes. Litter sizes may be as great as 25, with each neonate measuring between 9-12 inches in length. Births typically take place in July and August.
        • There are four recognized subspecies of ribbon snakes found in Texas, all of which are slightly different in the coloration of their stripes as well as their background color. Ribbon snakes in the Austin area typically have a more reddish stripe down their back than the one we photographed at the zoo.
        • Ribbon snakes are commonly found around permanent bodies of water (swamps, ponds, lakes, and streams) where they feed on fish and frogs.


Cedar Waxwing

Range: The cedar waxwing breeds across northern Canada and the northern half of the U.S. This species migrates southward in winter, when it may be found across the United States, Mexico, and into Central America. There are also records from Colombia and Venezuela.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has been evaluated as Least Concern due to its extremely large range and population size.
Population Threats: None noted. Its numbers appear to be increasing.
Diet: The majority of the cedar waxwing’s annual diet is berries and small fruits. The species feeds on a very wide variety of berries, with some important sources including juniper, dogwood, and wild cherries. It also eats some flowers and will drink oozing sap. During the summer it consumes many insects, including beetles, caterpillars, and ants. Young nestlings are fed mostly insects at first, then increasing amounts of berries after a few days.

Did You Know?

        • A cedar waxwing may be identified by its light brown body and crest, yellow flanks, black face mask, typically yellow tail tips, and red waxy-tipped feathers on the wings.
        • Cedar waxwings are social birds that travel in flocks year-round. They might either sit in fruiting trees swallowing berries whole, or pluck them in mid-flight as they briefly hover over the small fruits. They also flutter over water in search of insects.
        • The nests of this species are loosely built and shaped like open cups. Eggs are typically laid in clutches of three to five. They are pale gray to bluish gray in color, finely spotted with brown and black. Incubation is probably by female only, averaging about 12-13 days. The young leave the nest after two weeks.
        • Cedar waxwings with orange instead of yellow tail tips began appearing in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada in the 1960s. The orange color is the result of a red pigment picked up from the berries of an introduced species of honeysuckle. If a waxwing eats enough of the berries while it is growing a tail feather, the tip of the feather will be orange.
        • The name “waxwing” comes from the odd structures on their secondary wing feathers that look like a drop of red “sealing wax.” The role of these wax tips is unclear: males have more wax tips than females and older birds have more than younger birds, which suggests that these structures are a signal to the opposite sex of the individual’s fitness as a prospective mate.
        • The oldest cedar waxwing on record is a male that had been banded and released in Maryland in 2008. He was recaptured and rereleased in the same state during banding operations in 2014, making him at least seven years, one month old at the time.


Longhorn Beetle

Range: There are nine species of this genus of tree-boring longhorn beetles; all range solely within North America. Three of these species reach Canada.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species is not yet ranked.
Population Threats: Deforestation reduces the food source for this species.
Diet: Heartwood of living hardwoods, especially oak and beech trees. They will also feed on sycamore and pine.

Did You Know?

        • These wood-boring beetles are named for their unusually long antennae.
        • Beetles of this genus have 3 to 5 year life cycles, part of which is spent as 1 ½ inch-long white, legless larvae that eat the sapwood of trees, particularly that of immature red oaks.
        • Longhorn beetle infestations tend to be clustered. Larvae chew galleries into the heartwood of the trees that are about .4 inches in diameter by 8 inches long. The beetles do not themselves kill the trees, but the damage resulting from their excavations increases the likelihood of stem breakage, allows entries for rot and decay, and devalues the wood in the lumber trade.
        • While members of this genus are native to Texas, their relatives include the notorious Asian longhorned beetle. Native to China and the Korean peninsula, the Asian longhorned beetle was accidentally imported into the U.S. via wooden shipping materials. According to USDA estimates, if left uncontrolled, the Asian longhorned beetle and other Chinese wood boring beetles could cause more than $100 billion in damage to the US economy. Populations of native longhorned beetles (like ours) are kept in check by natural forces (to which the Asian species is immune) and thus have not had as significant an impact upon the economy.
        • The Asian longhorned beetle was discovered in New York City in 1996, and later in Chicago. By 1998, infestations by this invasive species resulted in the destruction of nearly 7,000 trees. Accidental introductions continue, and in 2011 another population of Asian longhorned beetles was detected, this time in southwest Ohio.


Southern Yellowjackets

Range: This species is widely distributed in the southern part of North America and some regions in Central America. In Canada, they are only found in Ontario. In the U.S., they range from New York to Florida in the east, and as far west as Wisconsin and Texas. In Mexico, they exist in the states of Chiapas, Tamaulipas to Michoacán. Also found in Guatemala and Honduras.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been assigned to this species.
Population Threats: Pesticide use.
Diet: They feed regularly on live prey but they also scavenge on carcasses. They are mostly predators of spiders, harvestmen, caterpillars, flies, true bugs, soft beetles and other invertebrates. The adults carry their prey or part of them to the nest to feed their larval states. They also feed of flower nectar and other fluids.

Did You Know?

        • This is a venomous, stinging insect. In the U.S. the southern yellowjacket is an important nuisance species because of its preference for disturbed and urban areas, resulting in frequent contact with humans. When nests are disrupted, defending worker wasps can inflict multiple stings; foraging worker wasps may also be a nuisance at picnics and other outdoor events where they are prone to scavenge human food items.
        • All southern yellowjackets possess long, conspicuous yellow longitudinal stripes on the “shoulders.” Workers and males have similar patterns: their abdomens are black with yellow bands. The queens, which are quite large for a yellowjacket, have areas of orange on the abdomen that nearly obliterate the dark markings.
        • Southern yellowjacket queens practice social parasitism toward other species of yellowjackets. In early June the queens start looking for nesting places, and they usurp young established nests of another species. The southern queens are robust, strong and large– they kill the host queens of the colonies that they then take over. In the United States up to 80% of southern yellowjacket nests result from usurping the nests of others.
        • After killing the host queen, the southern queen adopts both the nest and host workers and these help to raise the offspring of the new queen. Once the original host workers die off, the colony becomes pure with only southern yellowjackets.
        • This species mostly prefers host nests that are subterranean. Thus, southern yellowjackets tend to mostly parasitize the yellowjacket species that most shares their preference, the eastern yellowjacket. Aerial nests are also common in urban places, where they are found in hollow walls and doorframes.


Ox Beetle

Range: In the U.S. it ranges from Arizona to Georgia, and on Puerto Rico. Also found from Mexico south to Brazil.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: The ox beetle’s size and appearance lead people to mistakenly believe that they are harmful. The use of pesticides against them poses a threat in human-inhabited areas.
Diet: Both mature larvae and adult ox beetles feed on decaying tree roots. In captivity the larvae feed on rotting wood and vegetation.

Did You Know?

        • A large brown beetle, 1 ¼ to nearly 2 ½ inches long. It is one of the scarab beetles and is primarily nocturnal.
        • The ox beetle apparently has a one-year life cycle, spending nearly half that time as a large subterranean grub with orange head and legs, known by some as a wireworm (see picture, in hand).
        • Other common names for this species are eastern Hercules beetle and elephant beetle. The name rhinoceros beetle had sometimes been used for this species but is now more often attributed to one of the ox beetle’s close relatives.
        • There are both “major” and “minor” varieties of male ox beetles. Major males have three large projections on the “shoulder plate” behind the head (called the pronotum). The central projection is the longest— like triceratops, the dinosaur with three horns. Minor males also have horns, but the two in back are small and stubby. A female ox beetle (like the one pictured) has no horns, but instead has a tubercle (small raised area) in place of the horns.
        • As you might have surmised, male ox beetles use their horns to fight over females.
        • Female ox beetles lay their eggs in underground burrows. They bring leaf litter into the burrow so that the newly hatched larvae have a food supply.
        • Ox beetles are considered beneficial insects. Both adults and grubs serve a vital role in recycling plant material back into the ecosystem.


Black-and-Yellow Lichen Moth

Range: The black and yellow lichen moth’s range is restricted to North America. It occurs as far north as Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and as far south as Texas in the U.S. In the east it is found from Maine to Florida and it ranges as far west as the Rocky Mountains.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been assigned to this species.
Population Threats: Insecticides, herbicides and habitat alteration.
Diet: Adults are attracted to flowers, especially dogbane, goldenbush and goldenrod. The larvae feed on lichen, a composite organism that arises from a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi.

Did You Know?

        • The shoulders and forward halves of the wings of this moth are orange-yellow. The head, chest (thorax), legs, and distal halves of the wings are completely black with an iridescent blue sheen. Only 1 ¼ inches long, this distinctive-looking moth is active by day.
        • Lichen moths derive their common name due to the choice of lichens as food sources by the caterpillars.
        • The larvae of this species have pale green, sparse long hairs and are gray-dotted. Their coloration helps them to blend with their hosts. These caterpillars may take longer than a year to complete their development, a trait that is not typical of most moths and butterfly species.
        • As a whole, lichen moths are members of the tiger moth family (which includes the giant leopard moth and milkweed tiger moth, both previously featured on Native Sunday), and are most common in tropical areas of the Americas. Lichen moths are generally smaller than other tiger moths.
        • The adult black-and-yellow lichen moth is poisonous. Its coloration bears an astonishing resemblance to that of the end band net-winged beetle and of the orange-patched smoky moth, both of which are also poisonous and are avoided by hungry birds. The contrasting black and orange colors serve as advertisement of their bad taste. The resemblance seems to be beneficial to all three species. Birds need only to learn one kind of warning coloration to avoid all these unrelated species and thus more beetles and moths survive than if they exhibited different alarm signals. This is called Mullerian mimicry.


Rough Green Snake

Range: Snakes of this species occur widely in the United States, and have been found in northeastern Mexico. Their range extends from southern New Jersey to southern Florida, west to eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, and central Texas, north to the southern portions of the southern Great Lakes states in the United States, south into northeastern Mexico. (This is a rare species in Mexico; in the last 10 years, only four specimens have been found.)
Conservation Status: The rough green snake is known from more than 100 locations. Its population size is probably relatively stable overall, with local declines associated with habitat loss or climate variation.
Population Threats: No major threats to this species are known. Locally, clearing of wooded wetlands and wooded borders of aquatic habitats is a potential threat, as is pesticide application, which affects its food sources in such habitats.
Diet: The diet of these snakes consists mostly of insects and other terrestrial invertebrates (such as crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, and other soft-bodied arthropods), but some snails and tree frogs are eaten as well.

Did You Know?

        • The rough green snake is bright green above and has a yellowish belly. Even though it may be relatively common in the wild, its coloration makes it difficult to see in the vegetation of its native habitat. It grows to nearly 46 inches in total length (including tail) and is very thin-bodied.
        • These are one of the most arboreal snakes in much of the U.S. They spend the majority of their time hunting for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates in vegetation well above the ground.
        • Look for rough green snakes in small trees, bushes and vines, especially near lakes and streams along forest edges. In addition to being great climbers, they are also good swimmers.
        • Unlike many snakes, the rough green snake is largely diurnal (active by day). At night, it might often be found sleeping coiled in shrubs, vine tangles or thick vegetation.
        • Like most snakes, this species breeds in spring. Individual females lay 2-14 eggs under objects in damp areas, in rotting logs or in tree hollows. The rough green snake will also occasionally lay its eggs in a communal nest shared by more than one female. The hatchlings are 7-8 inches in total length.
        • These beautiful snakes are docile, often allowing close approach by humans. They seldom bite and, if they were to do so, they have no venom and are completely harmless.


Western Honey Bee

Range: The western honey bee naturally occurs in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This species has been subdivided into at least 20 recognized subspecies (or races), none of which are native to the Americas. However, subspecies of the western honey bee have been spread extensively beyond their natural range due to economic benefits related to pollination and honey production.
Conservation Status: The European honeybee has been in a well-documented decline in the U.S. since the 1950s. Loss of this bee will undoubtedly have significant repercussions for large-scale commercial agriculture.
Population Threats: Agricultural intensification, diseases, parasites, and pesticides have all taken a negative toll on honeybee populations.
Diet: Nectar and pollen from flowers. Pollen is most important in feeding the larvae.

Did You Know?

        • Of all the insects that visit flowers– from beetles, butterflies, to wasps– bees are the most important pollinators. The western, or European, honeybee is our most well-known species.
        • Pollination is one of the most fundamental processes sustaining agriculture and natural ecosystems. In Texas, most plant pollination is carried out by bees.
        • Honeybees aren’t native to the western hemisphere, but their value for producing honey and wax led to their introduction to North America around 380 years ago by European colonists.
        • Ants, bees and wasps are social insects. This means that they tend to live in colonies where all the individuals are related to one another. In a hive-bee colony, there are three kinds of bees: a few hundred drones or males (in the summer only), one egg-laying female (or queen) and from 20,000 to 80,000 sterile females or workers. All the members of the bee hive, whether drones or workers, are offspring of the single queen.
        • Male honeybees (drones) live for about four to five weeks and serve one function: to fertilize a new queen. They are either fed by the workers or help themselves from the store of pollen and nectar in the honeycombs. In the autumn, or when conditions are poor, they are turned out of the hive where– unable to find food for themselves– they soon die. Queen bees may live from two to five years producing up to 1500 eggs a day.
        • An infamous relative of the western honey bee is the Africanized honeybee (known as African honey bees, or “killer bees”). These occur regularly in the warmer parts of those states bordering Mexico and can extend beyond that in warmer areas, such as along the Gulf of Mexico. Africanized bees have spread across Texas and now constitute a significant public health concern, although the threat they pose has been wildly exaggerated.


Harlequin Flower Beetle

Range: This species occurs in Texas and Louisiana in the US, and Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí in Mexico.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been established for this species.
Population Threats: Fruit and flower chafing beetles, in both larval (grub) and adult form, are often targets of pesticide applications.
Diet: Adult beetles of this type are often found on flowers, where they feed on pollen. This species also feeds on fruit and is easily lured to bait by collectors. Little is known about the habits of its C-shaped larvae (referred to as grubs), other than they mostly live underground or under debris, and thus are not exposed to sunlight. While under human care, the larvae vigorously eat rotten wood, grass clippings, yard refuse, and general compost, so long as the substrate mixture is easy to maneuver through and not overly wet or dry.

Did You Know?

        • The harlequin flower beetle is a member of the scarab beetle family, a large family of stout bodied insects whose broad front legs are adapted for digging. Many scarab beetles have bright, metallic coloration. In ancient Egypt, one of the scarab beetle species was revered as sacred. Millions of ceramic or stone amulets and works of art depicting the sacred scarab beetle were fashioned in Egypt and were often placed over the heart of the mummified deceased.
        • There are 37 species of flower beetle native to Texas. In parts of its range, this species is called the Arizona jewel beetle. Adults can reach a length of 1 inch.
        • While most adult beetles are nocturnal, the harlequin flower beetle and other members of its subfamily (Cetoniinae, the fruit and flower chafers) are active during the day.
        • These beetles are sometimes kept as pets.


Red Admiral Butterfly

Range: Found throughout most of the northern hemisphere, the red admiral occurs in subtropical, temperate, and boreal environments of Europe, northern Africa, Eurasia, and in North America from northern Canada to Central America. It has been introduced to other regions, including Hawaii, New Zealand, and some of the Caribbean Islands.
Conservation Status: Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range.
Population Threats: Published research demonstrates that the higher the amount of neonicotinoid insecticides that are applied, the more dramatic are the associated declines in the butterfly populations studied. Neonicotinoids, which are used on farms and around homes, schools, and city landscapes are highly toxic to butterflies and other pollinators. Butterfly species with smaller bodies and which produce fewer generations per year seem to suffer particularly badly.
Diet: The caterpillar of this species feeds on flowering hops and various plants in the nettle family. The curry plant, thistles, and willow also serve as host plants.
Adult red admirals prefer tree sap, fermenting fruit, and fresh bird droppings to the nectar of flowers—they visit flowers only when these are not available. When taking nectar they are typically seen on a variety of flowers, including common milkweed, red clover, aster, butterfly bush, Shasta daisy, flowering ivy, thistle flowers and alfalfa. They also drink from moist soil.

Did You Know?

        • The upperside of this butterfly is black with white spots near the outer tip of its wings. The forewing has a red band across its middle and is also red on the trailing edge of the hindwing. The wingspan of the red admiral averages 1 3/4″ – 3″. Winter forms are smaller and duller; in summer it is larger and brighter.
        • Red admirals are most common in moist open areas near woods (like streamsides, fields, parks, and gardens) where their host plants are commonly found.
        • Male red admirals defend territories and fly out from perches to meet females for mating.
        • In the southern parts of its range within the U.S. there are as many as four or more generations per year and the species overwinters in adult form. In the northern parts of the red admiral’s U.S. distribution there are two generations per year and the areas are re-colonized each year– with relocating butterflies sometimes forming mass migrations.
        • The caterpillar of this species makes a larval shelter either by tying up the leaves of a shoot tip or, as an older larva, rolling a leaf. Older larvae also chew partially through the leaf stalk of the folded nests, causing them to droop. Each caterpillar makes a number of shelters during its lifetime.


Differential Grasshopper

Range: Found amongst lush vegetation and moist crop areas throughout northern Mexico, central United States and southern Ontario, Canada.
Conservation Status: Very common; it is a significant crop pest in the Midwest.
Population Threats: Because of their status as a pest insect, differential grasshoppers are subjected to significant pesticide pressure.
Diet: Like most grasshoppers, these are general feeders on the leaves and stems of many types of plants, including crops such as corn, cotton, forage grasses, soybeans and rice. They can cause complete destruction of the plant.

Did You Know?

        • Also known as the lubberly grasshopper or herringbone grasshopper, this species has black herringbone markings on the outer face of its “thighs.” The lower segment of its hind legs are yellow in color. While the herringbone pattern is not unique to this species, it is a marking rarely seen in others.
        • Males are 1-1 ½ inches long, females are 1 ½-2 inches long.
        • The highly specialized hind limbs of a grasshopper enable it to jump a distance roughly thirty times its body length. That’s the equivalent of the average human jumping about half of a football field!
        • A grasshopper’s antennae allow it to more efficiently navigate and utilize its habitat. Chemical receptors in the antenna allow the grasshopper to detect and distinguish food sources in the environment, which is very important since a grasshopper is small and has relatively less effective eyesight. Inasmuch as the antennae are external protrusions from the head, they make it possible for the grasshopper to interpret something as food by detecting airborne chemicals– without having to taste it.
        • The differential grasshopper spends the winter in the egg stage, or, during mild winters, as an adult. Eggs are deposited in 1 inch long packet-like masses or pods buried ½ to 2 inches deep in the soil. Each packet can contain over 25 eggs. They are laid in grassy areas of uncultivated land such as roadsides, field margins and pastures. Tiny grasshopper nymphs, which resemble wingless adults, hatch in the spring and develop (molt) through five or six stages (instars) as they grow larger and develop wing pads. Nymphs develop into adults in 40 to 60 days. There is generally one generation per year.
        • The differential grasshopper is one of the most common species of grasshopper in the United States and is just one of many species of grasshoppers native to Texas


Southern Flannel Moth (Caterpillar)

Range: Southeastern US, from Texas to New Jersey, southeastern Arizona and Central America.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been assigned to this species. Its numbers are considered secure.
Population Threats: As with all moths and butterflies, widespread use of insecticides jeopardize this species in both adult and larval life stages.
Diet: Puss moth caterpillars are considered “polyphagous,” which means they feed on many plant species. There are records of 41 genera of plants serving as food for these larvae. In north central Florida, puss caterpillars are most common on various species of oaks but are also common on elms.

Did You Know?

        • Known by various names, this unassuming-looking caterpillar is the 1 ¼ inch long larvae of the southern flannel moth. It has a very painful sting and is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the US, leading it to be called “asp” in Texas.
        • Southern flannel moth caterpillars are teardrop-shaped. Covered with long, silky hairs, they resemble a tuft of cotton or fur. Their color varies from yellow or gray to reddish-brown, or a mixture of colors. Their similarity in appearance to tiny furry cats may have given rise to their more commonly known name, “puss caterpillars.”
        • These larvae move slowly by way of seven pairs of suction-cup like claspers on the rear half of their bodies.
        • The adult of this species also appears to be furry. Its body and wings are cream-colored, while the middle body segment (thorax) and the base of its forewings are orange in color. It has furry black feet.
        • Puss caterpillar populations vary from year to year. During outbreak years they are occasionally numerous enough to defoliate some trees. However, their main significance is medical– in Texas, they have been so numerous in some years that schools in San Antonio in 1923 and Galveston in 1951 were closed temporarily because of stings to children.
        • The peak months of envenomation by the asp caterpillar are July through November, and symptoms of envenomation typically include burning pain, swelling, nausea, and itching.


Western Tree Cricket

Range: From Texas west to California, and north to British Columbia.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species is not yet ranked.
Population Threats: Among tree crickets in general there are some very close associations with particular plant species. Some species are uniquely adapted for seeking shelter and propagating within specific host plants. The degree to which a given species might be able to tolerate habitat alteration or degradation is unknown, but is most likely to be quite low.
Diet: Tree crickets are omnivores. They feed on leaf fibers, leaves, and fruits– but this genus is also predatory on other insects, especially those with soft bodies (like aphids).

Did You Know?

        • These are ½ to ¾ inch long inhabitants of shrubby vegetation and low trees.
        • Western tree crickets are quite diverse in pattern and coloration. They typically have wide wings and some degree of red on the first two segments of their otherwise dark black antennae.
        • With common tree crickets, a more definitive determination of species could be made by analyzing the sound of their call, rather than how they look. The call of this species is described as a continuous, musical trill.
        • The relationship of this species and the visually similar Texas tree cricket remains under study.
        • There are 170 different species of tree crickets throughout the world. Tree cricket eggs are inserted (‘oviposited’) into plant stems or tree branches by adult females. These eggs lie within the stems as they develop over winter and hatch the following year – in late spring or early summer. Even in the harshest of winters in northern climates, these tiny little eggs manage to survive.
        • Young tree crickets develop through a process called ‘gradual metamorphosis.’ Called nymphs, they resemble small adults and gradually develop external wing buds. Nymphs live in the same habitat as adults, typically taking the same food.


Humpbacked Orbweaver

Range: Widespread, ranges through much of the temperate regions of the US and Canada. Absent from the southern tips of Florida and Texas.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been ranked.
Population Threats: Widespread use of pesticides threaten this spider both directly (by poisoning it) and indirectly (by limiting its prey base).
Diet: Flying insects and any other small arthropod that should happen to fall into its web.

Did You Know?

        • Female humpbacked orbweavers (pictured) are ¼ to ½ inch in diameter, and their abdomens (the largest body segment) are longer than they are wide. Males are slightly smaller and their abdomens are roughly equal in length and width.
        • In the same genus as this spider there are 93 species. They range from Canada to Central America.
        • The coloration of this spider is quite variable and tends to follow one of six basic patterns. It is named for the distinct hump on the female’s back. Some females have two humps (rarely three) in a line.
        • The web of this species appears white and is constructed either horizontally or vertically in a simple, two-dimensional “bullseye” design. It is typically constructed at night or in dim light, and is often taken down by the following morning.
        • Unlike many spiders, these can overwinter as juveniles.
        • Humpbacked orbweavers live in diverse habitats, including goldenrod fields, open wooded areas, and marshes. They serve an important role in controlling the numbers of flying insects.


Wolf Spider

Range: Wolf spiders are widespread from the Arctic to the subtropics. They are found throughout North America.
Conservation Status: Some wolf spider species, such as the Kauai cave wolf spider, which lives in the lava-tube habitats of Hawaii, are threatened with extinction.
Population Threats: Habitat loss and degradation, introduction of alien species, and pesticide use has decreased spider populations.
Diet: Wolf spiders prey primarily on other insects and serve an important ecological role in controlling the numbers of pest species.

Did You Know?

        • The spiders in this family are small to large (1/4 inch to 1 ½ inch) have a distinctive eye arrangement: there are four small, same-sized eyes arranged in a line across the front of the face just above the mouthparts, two much larger eyes arranged in a line above them, and two more large eyes positioned slightly above and more widely apart than those. This provides the wolf spider with good vision both forward and above its head, as vision to both sides of its head.
        • Wolf spiders come in tan, light brown, to dark charcoal brown background colors, with pale, cream, white, black, yellow or red markings.
        • Unlike most spiders that catch their prey in webs, wolf spiders violently hunt it down using their strong bodies and sharp eyesight. Their long legs have three microscopic claws at each tip. Early naturalists likened their predatory nature to that of wolves, hence the name “wolf spiders.” (Wolves, however, hunt in packs; wolf spiders hunt alone.)
        • The female wolf spider spins a spherical egg sac, attaches it to her silk-spinning organs (called spinnerets), and drags it about until the babies emerge. The young spiderlings crawl about on the female’s back (as in the second picture) and are carried by her until they are ready to disperse.
        • There are about 1000 species of spiders in Texas (314 species in Travis County alone!). Of all the species in Texas, about 86 belong to the wolf spider family.


Eight-spotted Forester

Range: Maine and southern Quebec to Florida; west to South Dakota and Texas.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of this species has not yet been assessed. Its population numbers are generally considered secure.
Population Threats: Eight-spotted forester larvae can be injurious pests, particularly in vineyards. Widespread use of pesticides can pose a threat to the species.
Diet: The larvae (caterpillars) of this species feed on the leaves of vines, like grape, peppervine, and Virginia creeper. The adult moths take nectar from the flowers of a variety of herbaceous plants.

Did You Know?

        • This is a small moth whose wingspan is only 1 to 1 ½ inches. The two whitish or yellowish spots on each of its otherwise black wings are good identifying characteristics, as are its bright orange-red legs.
        • The eight-spotted forester is often mistaken for a butterfly because it is brightly-colored and visits flowers during the day. Moths usually have feathery antennae and most are active at night. They generally rest with their wings open, either flat or “tented” over the body. Moths rarely hold their wings together vertically above the body, the way butterflies do.
        • This species tends to inhabit open areas with flowers, particularly those that are near forests and woodland edges where vines (upon which its caterpillars feed) grow.
        • In the northern parts of the eight-spotted forester’s range there is just one generation per year. In our area there are two, with the second generation emerging and taking flight in August. The pupae (cocoons) overwinter inside the cracks of logs.


Texas Brown Snake

Range: This subspecies is found from southern Minnesota to eastern Texas and northeastern Mexico.
Conservation Status: Population numbers for this snake are considered secure. In view of its wide distribution, the conservation status of this species is listed as “Least Concern.”
Population Threats: There are no major threats known for this species in general. It is said that this snake tolerates a high level of habitat disturbance.
Diet: The Texas brown snake feeds primarily on slugs and earthworms, but will also eat insects, spiders, and cricket frogs.

Did You Know?

        • This is a small snake. Adults average 12 inches in total length, but may (on rare occasions) reach 19 inches.
        • While its color can be quite variable, adults and young of this subspecies tend to have reddish-brown bodies with dark brown spots around the eyes. There is usually a faint, pale stripe down the length of its back.
        • The Texas brown snake can be found in moist woodlands under logs and bark. In urban areas they are often found in gardens and flower beds, and also under old pieces of roofing or linoleum in backyards and vacant lots.
        • In the more northern parts of its range, members of this species often use communal hibernation sites. These are found underground or beneath buildings and other structures.
        • Brown snakes are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young without the involvement of a shelled egg. Litters of 12 – 20 tiny young (which were nurtured through development through placenta-like tissues) are born around late July to early August. This is relatively rare among snakes.
        • Texas brown snakes are non-venomous and completely harmless. When threatened they will coil up, raise their head and strike repeatedly. Their mouths are not big enough to bite humans.


Pale-faced Clubskimmer

Range: Southwestern U.S. and Great Plains.
Conservation Status: No specific conservation status has been assigned to this species. Its population numbers are considered secure.
Population Threats: Loss of wetland habitat endangers dragonfly populations around the world. Pesticides also pose direct and indirect threats to these species.
Diet: Adults of this species feed on emerging mayflies and caddisflies. The nymphs feed on any aquatic organisms smaller than themselves.

Did You Know?

        • The 2 to 2 ½ inch long adults of this dragonfly species are often abundant at dusk in clearings near streams.
        • Males of this species typically have small territories that they patrol low over a stream, at a height of about three feet, and can be elusive.
        • Females lay eggs by making short straight or figure eight runs low over the water and dipping eggs at the surface of the water.
        • The pale-faced clubskimmer is active all day but may retreat to shaded areas of the stream in the heat of the day. It hangs, rather than perches—and, unlike many other dragonflies, often does so in shady locations. It is sometimes very wary and difficult to approach while hanging, while at other times it seems tame.
        • All dragonflies are predators, both as adults and in their aquatic larval stage (when they are known as nymphs or naiads). Adults typically prey indiscriminately on other invertebrates, including smaller dragonflies and damselflies; the voracious naiads prey on other aquatic organisms such as mosquito larvae, small fish and tadpoles.
        • This species has been described as the most graceful on the wing of any dragonfly or damselfly.


Texas Juniper Hairstreak

Range: Found in central Texas, east of the plains and deserts and west of Big Thicket. This subspecies likely also occurs in southern Oklahoma.
Conservation Status: Juniper hairstreaks as a whole are considered demonstrably secure globally. The Texas subspecies has not been specifically assessed.
Population Threats: Herbicides (which attack the plants on which this species feeds) and insecticides (which are toxic to these insects even though they may not be the intended targets) pose threats to all butterflies.
Diet: Adults feed on the nectar from various flowers including winter cress, dogbane, common milkweed, wild carrot, shepherd’s needle, butterflyweed, white sweet clover, wild mint, fennel and goldenrod.

Did You Know?

        • Like others, this small butterfly can appear to be completely different whether viewed from above or below. The top of its wings are dark brown or green, with lighter rust-colored patches. The undersides of the hindwings, which would be viewed from below or when the butterfly is perched with wings closed, are green with two white marks near the base. The hindwing also has a white line edged inwardly with reddish brown.
        • The Texas juniper hairstreak is distinguished easily from other hairstreaks in the same area by its coloration and close association with juniper / cedar trees which serve as host plants. Host plants for butterflies are the plants on which the eggs are laid and the newly hatched caterpillars feed. Ashe junipers (commonly known as “mountain cedars”) are particularly important for this subspecies.
        • To seek females, male juniper hairstreaks perch on host trees all day. Eggs are laid singly on the tips of host plant leaves and hatch in four to six days.
        • The life span of an adult juniper hairstreak is about one week. It overwinters as a chrysalis (“cocoon”).


Eastern Hognose Snake

Range: This species occurs widely in the United States, extending into southern Canada. Its range extends from southern New England through southern Ontario to Minnesota and South Dakota, and south to southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida.
Conservation Status: Considered a species of least conservation concern. The adult population size is stable and believed to surely exceed 100,000.
Population Threats: No major threats are known. Locally, some populations have declined as a result of conversion of habitat to intensive human uses.
Diet: The eastern hognose preys on frogs, salamanders, small mammals, birds, and invertebrates; but toads are the preferred and almost exclusive food source in most areas. Young snakes may ingest crickets and other insects.

Did You Know?

        • Sometimes called “puff adders,” eastern hognose snakes are thick-bodied snakes, variable in color. They can, but rarely, reach a length of 46 inches.
        • Hog-nosed snakes are easily distinguished by their upturned snouts, from which they derive their names. This modification allows them to burrow easily into the soil, either to seek shelter or to seek out their prey.
        • Hognose snakes are renowned for their defensive displays. When threatened, they flatten their heads and necks and hiss loudly, resembling for that moment a rattlesnake, or even cobra. They may strike, but only with their mouths closed.
        • If (after mimicking a rattlesnake) a hognose snake is further harassed, it will pretend to be dead. The hognose will roll onto its back and convulse for a short period. It may defecate and regurgitate its food. A really skilled “death feigner” may even exude blood from its hind end. It will remain motionless with its belly up, mouth open, and tongue hanging out. It may play dead for several minutes before cautiously turning over and slithering away but, if turned right side up during its theatrics, the hognose will immediately and smoothly twist into an upside down position again and continue the death act.
        • Eastern hog-nosed snakes are technically venomous. However, they pose little threat to humans –even when handled– for three reasons: 1) this species is reluctant to bite, 2) they are rear-fanged, which would require a person to have part of their body come in contact with the enlarged teeth at the rear of the hognose’s small mouth, and 3) while effective against its prey, the venom of the hognose snake is mild to humans.
        • The Texas Hill Country is home to both this and the smaller, more brightly-colored, plains or western hognose snake.


Hacklemesh Weaver

Range: Originally known from eastern South America, this species is native to Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. The first North American record is in 1944, from Louisiana. In 1971, it was described as “common in Mississippi and parts of Louisiana” where it was found under logs at ground level. By 2008, it was described as “widespread in coastal southern California”. As of 2016, it could be found in homes as far north as Massachusetts. Because it is so closely associated with humans, it is possible that this species may still pop up in areas outside of its known range on occasion; for example, a pair was once found in a greenhouse in Alberta, Canada, probably having been shipped along with the potted plants.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of the hacklemesh weaver has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: No specific threats have been identified but, as an organism directly and indirectly affected by pesticides, indiscriminate use of insecticides threatens these spiders.
Diet: Prey is any insect (or other arthropod) that becomes snagged in the webbing and can be subdued by the spider.

Did You Know?

        • This spider is often found living under ground debris like logs, boards, and rocks, as well as under tree bark or within crevices in and around man-made structures.
        • The body length of adult hacklemesh weavers (excluding legs) ranges from .25 to .40 inches. Adult males are slightly smaller than females.
        • Females and juveniles of this species make messy webs using a silk that is not sticky but “fluffy” and tangled. The spider uses a brush on its fourth leg to comb out the silk, giving it the properties necessary to entangle prey.
        • Because of its close association with people and human-fabricated structures, this is one of many species lumped together under the common term of “house spiders.”
        • This is a non-native species that was inadvertently imported into the US via commerce and trade. The hacklemesh weaver has long established a stable presence in the warm, humid southern states along the Gulf of Mexico, and more recently in parts of California. The first known record for this species in the US is from 1944, in Louisiana.
        • Often confused with the venomous brown recluse, this spider is not considered dangerous—but it will bite if handled roughly.


Texas Cave Scorpion

Range: This species distributed throughout much of the Texas Hill Country, from Georgetown to Austin to San Antonio to Del Rio.
Conservation Status: The conservation status of Texas cave scorpions has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: Caves and karst were formed and are continually being changed by a combination of geologic processes. Interference with these processes changes the fundamental characteristics of the cave environment, often resulting in species endangerment and destruction of cave resources.
Diet: Feeds on cave crickets.

Did You Know?

        • This is a relatively large, dark-colored scorpion. Males are smaller than females. Both sexes are reddish to mahogany brown, or blackish, in color with tan walking legs and mouth parts. Undersides are lighter in color. Young specimens are paler than adults, with a dusky pattern.
        • This is a cave-loving (troglophilic) species that inhabits caverns, grottos and other limestone karst features along the Balcones Escarpment. It is by far the most common and wide-spread scorpion in Texas caves.
        • Texas cave scorpions are usually located within 150–300 feet of cave entrances. They are commonly found under limestone rocks or other surface debris that are in shade of oaks.
          Specimens found in surface habitats are usually 1 ½ to 2 inches in length; cave specimens are larger and can reach nearly 2 ½ inches in length.
        • Most troglophilic species have obvious adaptations for cave dwelling (such as lack of eyes or pigmentation, or elongated appendages). The Texas cave scorpion is unusual in that, while the majority of specimens have been captured in caves, they lack any of the typical adaptations of their troglobitic relatives.
        • Scorpions are the only arachnids (members of the taxonomic class that includes spiders, daddy longlegs, scorpions, mites and ticks), known to fluoresce under black light. This is an unusual trait enabled by fluorescent chemicals in their exoskeletons. Scientists have studied scorpion fluorescence since the 1940s, but a definitive explanation of the phenomenon remains elusive. Recent theories suggest fluorescence plays a role in detecting and avoiding damaging light, attracting insects or even engaging in communication within the species, since scorpions can see each other’s fluorescence. Other researchers suggest that perhaps fluorescence serves no purpose at all, and that it’s just random evolution.


Eyed Click Beetle

Range: The eyed click beetle is widespread in eastern North America, ranging from the Atlantic seaboard as far north as Quebec to Florida and west to Texas and South Dakota.
Conservation Status: No particular conservation status is assigned to this species.
Population Threats: No specific threats are noted, but the species is vulnerable to widespread pesticide application.
Diet: Adults may take plant juices and nectar. Larvae are ferocious eaters that dine on many other noxious larvae, including those of wood-boring beetles, flies, and other undesirable pests.

Did You Know?

        • The adult of this species is black with white speckles. The two large false eyes on the back of its ¾” to 1 ¾” inch body make it readily identifiable as a click beetle.
        • Found under logs and other dark, damp places, the larvae of the eyed click beetle (called a “wireworm”) looks like a stocky, yellowish-brown, segmented worm. It has a flat, dark brown rectangular head that ends in two powerful jaws. The jaws, which resemble small crab legs, are used to disable and dismember prey. This species spends most of its life in this larval form, perhaps as long as 2-5 years.
        • Click beetles are so named because, as adults, they make a loud click when they snap themselves into an upright position. These harmless beetles can sometimes propel themselves as high as six inches, in a display of sound and movement that may serve to ward off attacking predators.
          Adults are attracted to light and, in hot weather, may enter a house through an opened window or door at night.
        • Eggs are laid in soil. As a larva (up to 2” in length), the eyed click beetle is a beneficial insect because it feeds on destructive wood-boring pests. They are most often encountered in rotting stumps of oak, cherry, and apple. Pupation is in an unlined cell underground or in rotting wood.
        • During their development caged specimens of the eyed click beetle were so voracious that each devoured more than 200 wood-boring insect larvae—which would be a big benefit to fruit growers!


Texas Alligator Lizard

Range: Central and southwestern Texas and adjacent northeastern Mexico, south to San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo with additional isolated populations in Mexico. Other species of alligator lizards, formerly regarded as being part of this species, occur farther west and south in Mexico.
Conservation Status: Listed as a species of little conservation concern, the Texas alligator lizard occurs within several protected areas. No direct conservation measures are currently considered necessary for this species as a whole.
Population Threats: Aside from localized habitat degradation, no major threats to this species have been identified. Alligator lizards are sometimes persecuted because people mistakenly think they are venomous.
Diet: The Texas alligator lizard feeds on insects, spiders, and small vertebrates (including snakes, other lizards, and newborn rodents and birds).

Did You Know?

        • Texas alligator lizards are relatively slow diurnal lizards with rather good vision. Their heads are flat and wedge-shaped and their limbs are disproportionately short. The scales of alligator lizards are distinctively very stiff and plate-like (similar to actual alligators, which are not lizards at all).
        • As adults, members of this species are relatively large, potentially attaining lengths of 20 inches. Though not generally aggressive, they may bite if handled, and are incorrectly considered to be venomous by many cultures.
        • Texas alligator lizards prefer rocky hillsides and wooded canyons. They inhabit a narrow band extending from the Austin area westward to the Big Bend area, and into adjacent Mexico.
        • Texas alligator lizards breed throughout the year. Eggs are probably laid underground or under rocks. Unlike most lizard species, female alligator lizards will guard their eggs and brood them but, once hatched, the young alligator lizards are left to fend for themselves.
        • While they are an unprotected species, alligator lizards are not generally common anywhere and are seldom seen on the grounds of Austin Zoo. The recently-hatched baby (second photo), found in our wolf hybrid yard, is only the second one seen by staff in nearly two years. We’re excited to know that the species is still breeding on our premises!



Range: Eastern US to Colorado and southwest Texas.
Conservation Status: Firefly numbers are believed to be declining, at least in Texas. While concern about the conservation status of these species has not yet been noted, a number of climatic and human-mediated causes are attributed to the reduction in their numbers.
Population Threats: Most firefly species thrive as larvae in rotting wood and forest litter along the edges of ponds and streams. They tend to live out their lives where they were born. Habitat development, wherein landscapes are converted into environments deemed more suitable for human occupation, reduces the amount of moist microhabitat available to fireflies. Drought accelerates this decline, as even undeveloped areas dry up and become less suited for these fascinating insects.
Human light pollution is also believed to interrupt firefly flash patterns. Scientists have observed that synchronous fireflies get out of synch for a few minutes after a car’s headlights pass. Light from homes, cars, stores, and streetlights may all make it difficult for fireflies to signal each other during mating—meaning fewer firefly larvae are born next season.
Some other theories are that fire ants are at least partly to blame because they can destroy them (lightning bugs) in the early development stages. Pesticides may also be to blame, but research would be needed for definitive proof.
Diet: Larvae prey on small animals, including snails; adults do not feed.

Did You Know?

        • Fireflies, also called lightning bugs, produce a chemical reaction inside their bodies that allows their abdomens to light up. This type of light production is called bioluminescence. The flashing (which, between species, varies in rate and duration) is a signal to other fireflies that it is time to mate. Both males and females illuminate.
        • The bioluminescence of this genus is yellow. In others, the glow may be green or amber (orange-yellow).
        • Fireflies have potent chemical defenses, primarily a steroid-like compound called lucibufagins. These chemical defenses make the beetles distasteful to jumping spiders and birds.
        • Males of this genus of firefly are sometimes victimized by females of a second genus of firefly which cannot produce lucibufagins. The “femmes fatales” lure the Photinus males by mimicking the flashing patterns of the males’ prospective mates, then kill and eat the males so that they can acquire the defensive compounds.
        • There are about 170 species of fireflies in North America, with more than 40 recorded from Texas alone.


Giant Walkingstick

Range: The giant walkingstick is primarily found in the south-central U.S. – especially Texas, although records do exist from as far north and east as Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana and as far west as New Mexico.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been assigned to this species.
Population Threats: None identified. Pesticides are always a concern.
Diet: Both nymphs and adult of this species feed on leaves. Young nymphs feed mainly on understory shrubs. Older nymphs and adults feed throughout the crown of host plants, which include apple, basswood, birch, dogwood, hackberry, hickory, locust, oak, pecan and wild cherry. Walkingsticks occasionally defoliate some trees and shrubs. Outbreaks are cyclic.

Did You Know?

        • The giant walkingstick is the longest insect in North America. Females are said to range as large as 7 inches, but most are 4 to 6 inches long. Males range from 3 ½ to 5 inches in length.
        • Walkingsticks are some of the most bizarre insects – these slow-moving, plant-eating species have evolved by way of an adaptation called “crypsis” to blend in perfectly with the natural habitat. They engage camouflage, mimicry and defense to such a degree that they often go undetected by would-be predators.
        • A stick insect’s cryptic appearance is enhanced by its behavior of swaying back and forth to simulate movement in a gentle breeze.
        • Stick insects also have the ability to shed appendages in response to predatory attack, in the way that some lizards lose their tails. Their legs are not simply “pulled off” by the predator: leg shed is actually controlled by the central nervous system in response to the stimulus of a predator grabbing the leg. The limb beaks at predetermined points, which are rapidly sealed after shedding to prevent excessive loss of body fluids. This defensive tactic is called “autotomy.”
        • It is possible for a stick insect to regrow a lost limb, but only when they molt again. Once the walkingstick has reached its full-grown, adult size it won’t be able to regrow the lost limb but, as a growing juvenile, it can.
        • For several months in the fall, female stick insects can lay up to 3 black or brown seed-like eggs per hour and 13 per day. They are dropped to the ground below the plants on which they feed. Nymphs hatch in the spring and develop through several stages (instars) before becoming sexually mature adults. One generation is produced each year.


Ground Crab Spider

Range: Ground crab spiders are widely distributed in North America. Members of the genus are found nearly worldwide, but are absent in South America.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been assigned to these species. Their numbers are considered stable.
Population Threats: No specific threats have been identified for these species but, as animals that are wholly dependent upon insect prey, they are vulnerable to both the direct and indirect effects of indiscriminate pesticide use.
Diet: Crab spiders feed on flies, mosquitoes, moths, and other arthropod pests. Although they eat a few bees and other spiders, they are considered beneficial to humans.

Did You Know?

        • There are 67 species of ground crab spiders in North America. They are often so similar in appearance that it requires microscopic evaluation to identify them from one another.
        • Most species of ground crab spiders are small to medium in size. Females are generally twice the size of males.
        • These spiders do not produce webs. They generally prowl the ground and climb flowers and plants in search of prey. They may characteristically wait on a low perch, with limbs outstretched, hoping to grab the first fly, bee, or similar insect that passes them by.
        • The crab spider’s prey is killed by a venomous bite—but this spider’s venom is too weak to cause injury to people.
        • Crab spiders are so named because they are able to walk forwards, backwards, and sideways with ease.


Summer Tanager

Range: Only breeds in the US and northern Mexico. On the east coast, the species occurs from southern New Jersey to Florida, in the central states it ranges from northern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, in the west it occurs in southern California, southern Nevada, most of Arizona and parts of New Mexico. The wintering range is surprisingly extensive, from southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil. Migrates north and south on a broad front, with some crossing Gulf of Mexico while others of the species travel overland.
Conservation Status: Numbers have declined sharply along the lower Colorado River and in a few other localities. Still remains common and widespread in other areas.
Population Threats: In areas where populations have declined it has been due to the rapid conversion of riverside forest to agriculture and other uses.
Diet: Feeds mostly on insects, but will rely on some berries and small fruits at times. Diet in summer is mainly insects. It is often noted feeding on bees and wasps, but also eats many beetles, cicadas, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. Eats some spiders.

Did You Know?

        • Adult male summer tanagers are the only completely red birds in North America. First year males (pictured) can be patchy yellow and red. Females and immature males are bright yellow-green—yellower on the head and underparts and slightly greener on the back and wings. The bill is pale in both genders and all ages.
        • For such a brightly-colored bird, summer tanagers can be hard to see within the foliage of leafy green trees. They tend to stay fairly high in the forest canopy, where they either move slowly along tree branches to glean food, or sit still and then dart out to catch flying insects in midair.
        • During their breeding season in North America, summer tanagers feed primarily on adult bees and wasps which they capture on the wing and then beat senseless against a perch before consuming or feeding to their young. This species also consumes other insects and adds fruits to its diet in migration and during winter.
        • Sometimes common but never abundant, most summer tanagers arrive in Texas as migrants between late March and mid-May. Some remain to breed from late March to mid-July. Southbound migration occurs between mid-August and late October. They overwinter in southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.


Question Mark Butterfly

Range: Southern Canada and all of the eastern United States, west to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, south to southern Arizona and Mexico. It is also reported in central Mexico and the Caribbean.
Conservation Status: Populations of this butterfly are considered to be secure globally, although it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery. This species is especially common in Ohio, Kentucky and eastern Indiana.
Population Threats: No specific threats have been identified for this species.
Diet: Adult question marks take fluids from soil, rotting fruit, feces, and carrion. They seldom, if ever, take nectar. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of host plants, which include nettle, false nettle, elms, hackberry, and Japanese hops.

Did You Know?

        • The question mark is an angular-shaped orange butterfly that is rather common in the Austin area. The name refers to tiny silver marks on the underside of the hindwing which usually look like a dot and a parenthesis mark.
        • All butterflies go through a process of “complete metamorphosis.” To grow into an adult, each butterfly passes through four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon) and adult. Once it metamorphoses into an adult, an individual butterfly reproduces and then remains as it is until it dies.
        • Somewhat unusual for butterflies, the question mark overwinters in the adult form. Most other species in temperate climates overwinter as pupae.
        • The colors of the tops of this butterfly species’ wings vary depending upon the season into which the individual question mark had metamorphosed into an adult. In the summer form, this butterfly’s forewings are orange with black spots, while the hind wings are mostly black. The winter form of the species lacks the black hind wings and edges, being browner overall.
        • Adult question marks do not feed at flowers, but instead prefer sap and fruit. They often rest in grassy areas near trees, where their closed wings and unusual profile make them almost disappear. The undersides of the wings can vary from heavily marked to almost completely light brown, and aid in making the butterfly look like a dried leaf.
        • The question mark is not the only butterfly in Texas that is named for a punctuation mark. The upper forewing of the question mark has extra black dash not present in the smaller, and closely-related, eastern comma.


Northern Bobwhite

Range: This species resides in eastern North America (from southern Mexico and western Guatemala through the US to extreme southern Canada). Populations of bobwhite subspecies also exist on islands in the Caribbean.
Conservation Status: Considered near-threatened, the northern bobwhite has disappeared from much of the northern part of its range, and has declined seriously even in more southern areas—especially the southeastern US. The “Masked Bobwhite” subspecies is extinct in Arizona and endangered in Mexico.
Population Threats: The causes for the decline in bobwhites are not easily understood. At the northern edge of range many may be killed by unusually harsh winters, but a myriad of both direct and indirect factors are involved in the species’ widespread disappearance. At the core of the threats to this species is the loss of quail habitat which, in Texas, is significant. The conversion of prairies, savanna, shrubland and woodlands to commercial and residential uses, cropland cultivation, and overgrazing have all greatly decreased the amount of lands viewed as sustainable for bobwhites.
Diet: The northern bobwhite is a seed-eater, and prefers to consume seeds found on forbs and grasses during the fall and winter months. They also eat green vegetation, mast (seeds and fruit from shrubs), and insects (such as grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, ants, termites, and spiders throughout the spring and summer months) which aid in meeting the female’s nutritional needs during the breeding season.

Did You Know?

        • The northern bobwhite is one of the best known and most studied of Texas birds. Because it has considerable aesthetic appeal, and is a game bird of high economic value, there is much interest in its conservation and management.
        • This is an eight-inch long, chunky, ground-dwelling bird. Both sexes have slight crests at the top of their heads. The male has a white chin and a white supercilium (a stripe that runs from the base of the bill above the eye to the back of its head). In females (pictured) these areas are buff, almost amber, in color.
        • The bobwhite gets its name from its whistled “bob-WHITE!” call.
        • The average lifespan of a northern bobwhite is short– about six months– and the annual mortality can be as high as 80%. Under ideal conditions, bobwhites can survive up to five years in the wild. The oldest on record was 6 years, 5 months old.
        • Bobwhites make up for their short lifespans with prolific breeding abilities. Under good conditions, a bobwhite pair can produce 2 or 3 broods, totaling 25 offspring or more in a single breeding season. Since survivability is significantly influenced by weather conditions during any particular year, bobwhite abundance can vary greatly annually.


Brown Recluse

Range: The brown recluse spider is found throughout the south central and midwestern United States, from eastern Texas to western Georgia and north to southern Illinois.
Conservation Status: Not yet evaluated. Given the brown recluse’s success in human-occupied habitats, its numbers are probably increasing.
Population Threats: There are no immediate threats identified for this species’ population.
Diet: The brown recluse’s prey consists of a variety of arthropods, including ants and other spiders.

Did You Know?

        • This spider is venomous and can harm people. While most bites from this species result in only localized redness and heal without serious complications, the venom of the brown recluse can, on rare occasions, cause serious reactions.
        • Large numbers of brown recluse spiders are sometimes found in close proximity to people without their ever getting bitten.
        • Stretching over an area slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter, the brown recluse is sometimes referred to as the violin or fiddleback spider because of the violin-shaped marking on its back. It has only six eyes (rather than the more common eight seen in other spiders), which is a more reliable means of identifying the species.
        • This species seems to benefit from living in human-altered surroundings and prefers dry conditions. They frequent buildings and outbuildings and are particularly likely to occupy areas that have remained undisturbed for lengthy periods of time– especially in boxes, among papers, and behind pictures and furniture. Most brown recluses found in the wild will be under rocks, especially in bluff outcrops, with a few under bark or in logs.
        • The female brown recluse lays her eggs in a silken cocoon, which may contain hundreds of eggs. She may carry this cocoon or attach it to a web, plant or wall surface. The eggs hatch in approximately two weeks. The spiderlings usually remain in the egg sac for a few more weeks and then stay with their mother for several molts before dispersing. They feed on prey provided by the mother during this time.


Red Harvester Ant

Range: From eastern Louisiana and Arkansas west to central Arizona and Nevada, south into Mexico.
Conservation Status: Not assessed at this time.
Population Threats: Over the years, this species’ numbers have been declining. This can be attributed to competition for food with the invasive red imported fire ant and the Argentine ant. Their decline of the red harvester ant has affected many native species, especially those for which it is a chief source of food, such as the Texas horned lizard.
Diet: Harvester ants mostly feed on the “bread” that they make by chewing up grass seeds. The bread is placed in areas within their nest called “granaries,” where it is stored for year-round food. Harvester ants may also scavenge dead insects.

Did You Know?

        • Twenty two species of harvester ants inhabit the United States, with most occurring in the west. The red to dark brown worker harvester ants, which are 1/4 to 1/2-inch long, are often sold as inhabitants of ant farms. They are commonly mistaken for invasive fire ants, but are larger and have square heads.
        • The entrance to a red harvester ant colony is readily identified by the bare soil surface surrounding it. The ants actively work to remove plants from the area, which can be more than ten feet in diameter. This helps prevent plant roots from disrupting the subterranean tunnels. The nest can be 20 feet deep.
        • The worker harvester ant can bite and inflict a sting more painful than most species in its range. It is generally reluctant to do so, but medical consequences to the victim may result.
        • This species is the primary food of the Texas horned lizard in part or all of the lizard’s range. The horned lizards have adapted ways to survive the ants’ stinging attacks.
        • Harvester ant colonies grow in number for the first five years, and then level off at around 10,000 ants. Some colonies grow to twice that number.
        • There is only one queen during the entire life of the colony, which most often survives 15-20 years. Once the queen dies, the production of male workers stops and the colony collapses.
        • Harvester ants are beneficial insects. They derive nutrients from the seeds they harvest, but also aid in seed dispersal.


Texas Blind Snake

Range: The Texas blind snake’s range includes southern Oklahoma and Texas in the United States, northeastern Mexico, and possibly parts of central Mexico.
Conservation Status: In light of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a threatened category, this species’ conservation status is listed as “Least Concern.” It occurs in several protected areas, though this may not provide adequate protection from all threats, such as invasive species.
Population Threats: The abundance of this snake in Texas has reportedly declined as a result of the invasion of fire ants.
Diet: Termites and ants make up 54 to 64% of the diet of Texas blind snakes. Larvae, nymphs and eggs of soft-bodied insects are also consumed.

Did You Know?

        • Only 10 ½ inches in length, this slender snake has the appearance of a small, glossy earthworm. The species has tiny, vestigial, black eyes. It is also (and perhaps more descriptively) known as the Texas wormsnake or Texas threadsnake.
        • This species is a secretive, subterranean snake that can sometimes be found under rocks, logs, or debris. It is primarily active on the surface only at night, especially with warm rains.
        • Female Texas blind snakes lay a clutch of 2-8 eggs in crevices underground, between rocks, or in decaying vegetation. The eggs are laid in June-July and hatch in August-September.
        • Quite unlike most reptiles, the Texas blind snake often nests communally– and the females may stay with eggs after laying.
        • Eastern screech owls are known predators of Texas blind snakes; however, a mutually beneficial relationship between Texas blind snakes and screech owls has been documented. The owls brought live Texas blind snakes back to their nests. The snakes would remain in the lower levels of the nest for days while feeding on soft-bodied nest parasite larvae, seemingly aiding the survival of the young owls. Only once the owlets fledged would the snakes escape to the ground.
        • Predators of this tiny snake species range from large centipedes, other snakes and birds, to mammals such as moles, armadillos, skunks, and domestic cats.


Southern Black Widow

Range: The southern black widow spider ranges as far north as southern New York, as far south as Florida, and as far west as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It has also been found in California and parts of southern Canada.
Conservation Status: Not yet assessed.
Population Threats: Nothing specific. Widespread pesticide use affects both this species and its prey.
Diet: Black widows typically prey on a variety of insects, but occasionally they do feed upon other spiders and soft-bodied invertebrates.

Did You Know?

        • The black widow is a medium-sized spider. The female’s body is about a half-inch long, the male’s is half that. The common name is derived from the mistaken belief that the female invariably kills the male after mating.
        • Although widow spiders are mostly found in the southern states, they may be seen throughout the US. The southern black widow, native to our area, is one of the most common of the American widow spiders. It is readily identifiable due to its shiny black, globular abdomen which has a characteristic red hourglass on the underside. The species has the distinction of inhabiting all four deserts of the American southwest.
        • This spider is considered the most venomous spider in North America, and can harm people. It is said that the venom of the southern black widow is 15 times more toxic than a rattlesnake’s. However, only the female of the species bites and she injects such a small dose of venom that it rarely causes death. It also takes considerable provocation to make her bite.
        • In 2013, there were 1,866 black widow bites reported. Only 14 of these resulted in severe symptoms. None resulted in death.
        • Outdoors, black widow spider webs are usually built in protected cavities like woodpiles, under stones, in hollow stumps, and in rodent burrows. These spiders are often found in close association with people and will also inhabit portable toilets, abandoned sheds, littered areas, trash dumps and other relatively undisturbed places. Indoors, they prefer cluttered areas like basements, cellars, garages and crawl spaces.
        • The black widow is exclusively carnivorous and very antagonistic to its prey. When a victim is entangled in its web, the spider quickly comes out of its retreat and makes a small puncture in its prey through which it injects a poison. The poison takes about 10 minutes to take effect, during which the prey is held tight by the spider. When movements of the prey cease, the black widow carries its prey back to its retreat to be eaten: it uses its teeth to mash it up, pours digestive enzymes on the prey and sucks up the resulting food. The whole digestion process takes place outside the spider’s body.


Giant Leopard Moth

Range: The giant leopard moth is found from southern Ontario south to Florida and west to Minnesota and Texas.
Conservation Status: This species’ conservation status has not yet been assessed.
Population Threats: No specific threats have been identified for giant leopard moths but, as insects whose larvae depend upon weed-like plants for food, this species is at risk from both pesticide and herbicide application.
Diet: Like many tiger moths, giant leopard moths do not eat as adults. The larvae are general feeders that consume a variety of broad-leaved plants that are mostly considered to be weeds.

Did You Know?

        • The giant leopard moth is also known as the eyed tiger moth and is the largest eastern tiger moth in the US.
        • Adults of the species are always white, and almost always have black spotting– but this is very variable. In some specimens the spots are solid instead of hollow; in rare instances the spots are absent. The abdomen is beautifully marked with blue and orange, but the color is not visible when at rest.
        • This species has a notable sexual dimorphism in size, the adult male reaching about 2 inches in length, while the adult female grows up to 1 ¼ inches. They have a wingspan of 2 to 3 ½ inches.
        • The furry 3 inch-long larva of this species is commonly known as a Woolly Bear. This caterpillar is mostly black with tufts of stiff black hairs of equal length radiating around its body. When disturbed it rolls its head to up to its tail, exposing between the hairs the red rings that outline its body segments. Young larvae also have the hairy tufts, but are colored dark brown and orange.
        • Giant leopard moths are nocturnal. Males are commonly attracted to lights at night. Sometimes dozens of males come to bright lights set out in good habitat. Females are less common around lights.


Shield-Backed Katydid

Range: There are nine species in the Pediodectes genus of shield-backed katydids, such as the ones that inhabit the Austin area. In total, they range from southern North Dakota south across the Great Plains and throughout Texas.
Conservation Status: There is no designated conservation status for these shield-backed katydids.
Population Threats: No specific threats to shield-backed katydids are noted. However, as insects that depend upon other insects for food, they are very vulnerable to the widespread use of pesticides.
Diet: Some species are active predators of other insects. Many also eat plant material and scavenge dead insects.

Did You Know?

        • There are 122 species of shield-backed katydids in North America, and many more on other continents.
        • Some of the species are very distinctive and can be recognized at a glance, but the majority can be rather difficult to reliably tell apart. Color patterns vary individually and with age and it is often difficult to tell if an individual in a photo is a juvenile (nymph) or an adult. Some of the species seem to “run together” and may not be entirely distinct from one-another. And, there may also still be unnamed species. The majority of shield-back katydid “species” occur within Texas.
        • Four species of this particular genus of shield-backs inhabit our area. These are wingless insects, and while mostly found on the ground, they will not hesitate to climb up rock walls and trees. Their length is about one inch.
        • The shield-backed katydids in our area are predaceous. They hunt and eat other insects, and can inflict a painful (but non-venomous) bite if handled.
        • Female katydids (like the one pictured) have a long, backward-pointing, sword-like projection called the ovipositor. This is a tubular structure through which their eggs pass, and it allows the female katydid to carefully deposit her eggs in soil or insert them into the leaves and stems of plants.


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Range: Eastern North America from Ontario south to the Gulf coast, west to the Colorado plains and central Texas.
Conservation Status: The eastern tiger swallowtails are not yet threatened by human impact on their ecosystem.
Population Threats: While adults can be found in any habitat, this species is dependent upon deciduous forests, woodlands, and swamps in order for the caterpillars to survive. Thickets, old fields with wild cherries, parks, or suburban areas with adequate food plants are sometimes suitable as breeding grounds but conversion of wooded habitat to manicured lawns limits the number of suitable breeding sites, and therefore reduces swallowtail butterfly population sizes.
Diet: Caterpillars feed on various plants including wild cherry, magnolia, basswood, tulip tree, birch, ash, cottonwood, mountain ash, and willow. Adults consume the nectar of flowers from a variety of plants including wild cherry and lilac. Milkweed and Joe-Pye Weed are favorites in summer.

Did You Know?

        • The eastern tiger swallowtail is widely distributed and is probably the most recognizable swallowtail in the eastern United States. It is readily identified by its black “tiger stripes”.
        • Male eastern tiger swallowtails (pictured) are always yellow, while females may be yellow or black. These two extreme female colorings are thought to coexist because they both have equally beneficial effects: while the tiger striping causes a distraction for would-be predators, the dark coloring imitates the unpalatable blue swallowtail. Females also have a splash of iridescent blue wash on their tails, while males do not.
        • In this relatively large species the adult wingspan is about 4 ½ inches, and females are larger than males.
        • The female eastern tiger swallowtail lays her green eggs singly on hostplants in many woody plant families, most commonly on mountain ash, birch, cherry, tulip tree, ash, basswood, apple, maple, willow, magnolia, and occasionally sassafras.
        • This species occurs in nearly every area where deciduous woods are present, including towns and cities. It is most numerous along streams and rivers, and in wooded swamps.
        • Tiger swallowtail butterflies only live about one month as adults. There may be as many as three generations per year in our region. The life cycle of the species depends upon individuals being able to overwinter in the pupa (chrysalis) stage so that there is a new generation of butterflies to start each season.


Smooth Earth Snake

Range: This species is native only to the United States. Its range extends from New Jersey and Pennsylvania as far south as northern Florida in the east, and as far west as southern Iowa, northeastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, and central Texas. An isolated population occurs in peninsular Florida.
Conservation Status: In light of its wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be rapidly declining in numbers, this species’ conservation status is listed as “Least Concern.”
Population Threats: No major threats are known. Locally, this species is perhaps threatened in some areas by deforestation, and some populations appear to have been eliminated by residential, industrial, and agricultural development. As an obligate consumer of invertebrates, it is put at risk by widespread pesticide applications.
Diet: Eats only invertebrates, mainly earthworms, slugs and snails. It also consumes small arthropods.

Did You Know?

        • A relatively small snake, adult smooth earth snakes measure 7-10 inches. They are generally not aggressive towards humans and are harmless if encountered. While they do have teeth, the size of the mouth and teeth make any strikes against humans superficial at worst. They can choose to defecate as a defense mechanism to make them less palatable to would-be predators.
        • This infrequently seen species inhabits shady and moist woodlands and adjacent bottomlands and floodplains of the southeastern United States. By day, this secretive snake often shelters under logs, rocks, or other cover.
        • The smooth earth snake can be locally abundant in some populations. It may be much more visible after cool rains, especially in the spring. It may also be more frequently encountered in the early winter as it begins its retreat into its overwintering burrows (called hibernacula) where it may aggregate with others of its kind during hibernation.
        • This is a live-bearing species. Mating may occur in spring and fall. It gives birth to litter of 2-18 young, each measuring 2 ½ inches, which are typically seen from late July to September (slightly later in Pennsylvania and West Virginia).
        • The record longevity for this species is 9.5 years (known from an individual under human care).


Carolina Wren

Range: Carolina wrens are year-round residents of the southeastern United States. The distribution of this species stretches from the Atlantic coast as far west as Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Oklahoma. It is bounded in the north by southern Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and in extreme cases, Ontario Canada. The species has trickled as far southward as the northeast corner of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as parts of Central America. As the global climate has warmed, this species has expanded northward substantially since the late nineteenth century.
Conservation Status: There is little concern about the conservation status of the Carolina wren. They are common across their range and the species’ numbers have increased between 1966 and 2015. The global breeding population is estimated to be 14 million, with 89% living in the U.S., and 10% in Mexico.
Population threats: Cold winters with ice and snow can have devastating effects on local Carolina wren populations, but their numbers often recover within a few years.
Diet: Mostly insects, of many kinds. Especially likes to feed on caterpillars, beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and many others. Also consumes many spiders, some millipedes and snails. Sometimes catches and eats small lizards or tree frogs. Will also eat berries and small fruits (especially in winter), and some seeds.

Did You Know?

        • This shy bird can be hard to see, but it delivers an amazingly loud song for its size. Its “teakettle-teakettle!” and other piercing exclamations can be heard in both backyard and forest, as it explores yards, garages, and woodpiles– sometimes nesting in very peculiar places.
        • One captive male Carolina wren sang nearly 3,000 times in a single day.
        • Feeding on or near the ground, Carolina wrens run, hop, and flit around leaf litter and tangled vegetation. They dodge in and out of dark spaces created by downed trees, rotting logs, old stumps, and upturned roots. Wrens use their curved bills to turn over the decaying vegetation and to hammer and shake apart large bugs.
        • These birds also have a characteristic habit of climbing up and down vines, trunks, and branches, poking into squirrel nests and probing nooks and crannies in search of insects and fruit.
        • Male and female Carolina wrens may form a pair bond at any time of the year and, once bonded, the pair will stay together for life. The pair share a territory year-round, and will forage and move around their domain together.


Glowworm Beetle

Range: There are 250 species of glowworm beetles that inhabit the Western Hemisphere. Of these, 23 species occur in the U.S.
In this particular genus there are ten species– of which seven occur in the southwestern (Arizona), central, and eastern United States, and three others occur in Mexico. Two live in Texas.
Conservation Status: No conservation status has been assigned to this poorly studied group of beetles.
Population Threats: There are no specific threats identified for glowworms although, as insects, they are incidentally vulnerable to pesticide use targeted toward other species perceived as pests.
Diet: Larvae, and the larvae-shaped females, are predators found in wet soils. They apparently have a strong preference for millipedes as prey. The short-lived males probably do not feed, but instead metamorphose into adults solely for the purpose of reproducing.

Did You Know?

        • Glowworms are relatively uncommon New World beetles occurring from southern Canada to Chile.
        • Glowworm females are wingless and resemble their caterpillar-like larvae. Both the females and larvae of most glowworm species glow in the dark, and the eggs and pupae of some species are also reportedly luminescent.
        • Male glowworms (pictured) are odd-looking winged beetles much smaller that their mates, and are generally short-lived. They have elaborate, feathery antennae that are used for locating females.
        • Luminescent flashes are used to attract mates in fireflies, but the purpose of luminescence in glowworm beetles is unknown. It is hypothesized that it functions in defense, warning potential nocturnal predators that they taste bad—in much the same way that warning coloration advertises the fact that some day-active insects are unpalatable.


Green June Beetle

Range: Eastern U.S. (from New York to Nebraska in the north and from Florida to Texas in the south) and eastern Mexico.
Conservation Status: Not assessed, but likely secure at this time.
Population Threats: This is a species often subjected to heavy pesticide pressure. Furthermore, its close association with the leaf-cutter ant also makes it vulnerable to control measures aimed at leaf-cutters, another perceived plant pest.
Diet: Adult June beetles consume pollen, fruit and the leaves of many trees and shrubs. They are especially attracted to overripe fruits, many of which are of commercial value. Peaches are a particular favorite.
The larvae feed on decaying organic matter in the soil, in well-rotted manure, or in compost piles. These grubs are considered pests because they will also feed on the roots of many plants, some of which are valuable crop varieties.

Did You Know?

        • Over a thousand species of true beetles are known to inhabit Travis County. The green June beetle is one of the scarab beetles and is active during daylight hours.
        • This species is larger and more robust than its close relative, the common brown May/June beetles. The adult green June beetle usually measures 3/4 to 1 inch in length and about 1/2 inch wide and has dull, metallic green wings. Its sides are gold and the head, legs and underside are very bright shiny green.
        • The green June beetle is sometimes mistaken for the Japanese beetle, which is smaller (1/2 inch long) and has copper-colored wings with green margins.
        • This species is widely considered to be a plant pest, with adults considered threats to fruit crops and larvae damaging the root systems of both agricultural crops and ornamental plants.
          The larvae of the green June beetle are often very abundant in the waste material found in the lower levels of Texas leaf-cutter ant nests. Judging by the number of the larvae found in the ant nests examined, it is possible that these ant nests constitute an important breeding site for the green June bug.
        • The grub of this beetle is largely held in control by natural enemies. For example, the female digger wasp will burrow into the larva stage of the beetle and lay her eggs on the grub. The larval wasps will feed on the beetle grub once they hatch, eventually killing the beetle larva. June bug larvae are also fed upon underground by moles, and above-ground (after heavy rains) by many mammal and bird species.


Eastern Fox Squirrel

Range: Found in the eastern two-thirds of Texas and the eastern half of the United States. It also occurs in very limited areas of adjoining Canada and Mexico. Range expansion has occurred in the mid-west and the species has been introduced into many portions of the west: introduced populations exist in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
Conservation Status: There is little conservation concern attributed to the eastern fox squirrel because of its wide distribution, large population, and its occurrence in a number of protected areas. In Mexico, it may be considered fragile, but is not officially threatened.
Population threats: Although not considered a major threat at this time, the range of eastern fox squirrels in the eastern United States has been greatly reduced in the past 100 years. Much of its historic habitat is undergoing rapid deforestation and the species is experiencing increasingly restricted distribution due to accelerated residential and agricultural development, and commercial forestry practices.
Another major cause of eastern fox squirrel population decline is mange mite. Severe winter weather can also cause significant short-term population declines.
Diet: Eastern fox squirrel foods include acorns, tree buds, insects, tubers, bulbs, roots, bird eggs, seeds of pines and spring-fruiting trees, and fungi. Agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, and fruit are also eaten– which often brings the species into conflict with farming interests.

Did You Know?

        • This is the most common squirrel species in Texas.
        • Over its large range, the coloration of the fox squirrel varies greatly. The species’ common name comes from its gray and red fur, a pattern that it shares with gray foxes native to Texas.
        • Females of this species become sexually mature at ten to eleven months of age. Following a pregnancy of 44 to 45 days, they usually produce their first litter when they are one year old. The average litter size is three, but litter size can vary according to season and food conditions. While most births occur between mid-March and July, some litters may appear as early as late January.
        • The eastern gray squirrel is also native to our area, and the two species are very similar in many ways. However, fox squirrels prefer more open habitat whereas gray squirrels prefer good tree cover. Fox squirrels spend more time foraging and running about on the ground than do the grays and may be encountered in fields quite far from any trees, where gray squirrels would not stray.
        • Squirrels feed on acorns, which are rich in tannins. Tannins are poisonous to many animals, including some intestinal parasites. Thus, a diet of acorns helps to keep squirrels free of roundworms and tapeworms.


Broad-Banded Copperhead

Range: The geographic distribution of the broad-banded copperhead includes western and central Texas, central Oklahoma, and eastern Kansas.
Conservation Status: The broad-banded copperhead is in no danger of extinction or of being endangered. Its population numbers are apparently secure.
Population Threats: The cryptic coloration and stealthy behavior of copperheads has led them to be occasionally found in close association with humans. This usually does not end well for the snake. Despite its shy and secretive demeanor, many people react to these snakes with unwarranted aggression.
Diet: The most common prey of the broad-banded copperhead are small rodents, ground birds, lizards, large insects, cicadas, frogs, toads, and other small snakes. Juveniles feed mostly on large insects and occasionally on small vertebrates.

Did You Know?

        • Though only rarely encountered, the broad-banded copperhead is one of three venomous snake species that inhabit the grounds of the Austin Zoo. It has a large head and hinged fangs that spring out when striking at prey or in defense.
        • Copperhead bites are uncommon and usually result from the snake being handled or accidentally stepped on. Human mortality rates from the bite of this species are extremely low (0.01%).
        • The Broad-Banded Copperhead has elliptical pupils that look like cat’s eyes and, like all pit vipers, has a heat-sensing pit between the nostril and eye on each side of its head.
        • This is one of the smaller copperhead species. It grows to only 20-36 inches in length.
        • This species bears live young from eggs that hatch within the mother after a 105 to 150 day incubation. Litter size is three to ten young. The newborn snakes are left to fend for themselves and have fully developed senses and venom.
        • Young copperheads possess brightly colored yellowish tail tips. The tail tips are held close within striking range and wriggled like a bright caterpillar or worm. This behavior is termed “caudal luring” and is known to attract frogs, lizards, or other prey that the young broad-banded copperhead ambushes to eat.
        • The venom of a young copperhead is the same strength as that of the adult.


Greater Anglewing Katydid

Range: Found in southwestern and eastern US, except for most of New England.
Conservation Status: Widely distributed and relatively common, there is no particular conservation status assigned to this species.
Population Threats: Widespread pesticide use can be both a detriment and benefit to this species. Because its population is generally controlled by wasp parasites, the application of pesticides might skew the balance of the relationship between the two species and cause the wasp population to decline more than its prey.
Diet: This species eats the leaves of a variety of trees. It has been found to be common in the citrus groves of Florida, where it only rarely causes major damage.

Did You Know?

        • Katydids spend most of their time at the tops of trees where the majority of the leaves are. They can fly short distances when threatened, but prefer to walk and climb. Their flight is primarily a downward flutter. If a katydid lands on the ground, it will typically walk to the nearest tree and climb.
        • Throughout much of its range, this species overlaps with the smaller, but very similar, lesser anglewing katydid. Also called the broadwinged katydid, this species is 2 to 2.5 inches long; the lesser anglewing is 1.75 to 2 inches long.
        • The greater anglewing produces two calls, one of which is a very distinctive 3 to 5 second series of soft ticks (produced by both sexes) that resembles the sound of two pebbles being rapidly tapped together.
        • The eggs of the greater anglewing katydid look like flattened gray oval buttons aligned in two rows along a tree twig or leaf edge. When the eggs hatch, they open like an oyster, separating at the seam along the edge.
        • Following breeding season, large numbers of growing katydid nymphs can do severe damage to the foliage of young trees.
        • Tiny parasitic wasps play an important role in the natural control of this species’ population. When parasitized, the eggs of the greater anglewing will have a tell-tale flat appearance and round hole from which the wasps emerged. Generally, all the katydid eggs on a single leaf (typically many dozens) will have been parasitized by the wasps.


Wheel Bug

Range: In eastern North America the wheel bug can be found from Ontario and New York south to Florida, and as far west as Nebraska, Kansas, and Arizona. The range extends into the neotropics (eastern Mexico and Guatemala).
Conservation Status: Widely distributed and relatively common, there is no particular conservation status assigned to this species.
Population threats: Wheel bugs are considered a sign of a healthy, pesticide-free ecosystem because their presence indicates that all the other levels in the food web are intact. The use of pesticides upsets the ecological balance of the landscape, and the wheel bugs disappear.
Diet: Wheel bugs feed primarily upon soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, Japanese beetles, etc. Because most of their prey items are pests, wheel bugs of all life stages are considered beneficial insects.

Did You Know?

        • The wheel bug’s name comes from the prominent semicircular crest on its back that resembles a cogwheel or chicken’s comb. This is the only insect species in the United States with such a toothed crest.
        • Wheel Bugs are one of the largest true bugs in existence reaching a length of up to 1 to 1 ½ inches. This species is the largest assassin bug in the US.
        • These insects are vicious predators that pierce their food with their beak in order to inject salivary enzymes that dissolve soft tissue. Wheel bug saliva includes a toxic, paralytic substance that immobilizes and kills the prey insect within 15 to 30 seconds of injection. They are one of the few predators that attack the brown marmorated stink bug, a serious introduced pest of both households and many crop plants. They even prey upon other beneficial insects like lady beetles, honey bees and others of their own species.
        • Wheel Bugs are not inherently aggressive to non-prey items and will avoid human contact at all costs. However, if pierced by its mouthparts, the resulting wound can be more severe than a bee sting and can have effects that last two weeks or more. Both nymphs and adults should be avoided or handled with caution.
        • The wheel bug possesses two scent glands (red-orange in color) that, when disturbed, can be used to emit a repulsive odor. The scent produced by the wheel bug is not as strong as that of the stink bug, but is still strong enough to be detected by humans.


Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Range: The ruby-crowned kinglet occurs throughout North America and can be found in the US, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala.
Conservation Status: This species has a very large range and a population that is believed to be slightly increasing. They are therefore considered a species of little conservation concern.
Population threats: As a species dependent upon insects for its food, large-scale spraying of pesticides would put these birds at risk of exposure.
Diet: Kinglets are insectivores and prefer feeding on small soft-bodied insects such as aphids and springtails. Their prey is generally gleaned from the branches and leaves of trees, although in some circumstances prey may be taken from the leaf litter on the ground or as the kinglet hovers in mid-air.

Did You Know?

        • The ruby-crowned kinglet is one of the smallest songbirds on the continent and has a weight just a little more than half that of a chickadee. This species is nonetheless the largest of the kinglet genus (Regulus), which has sometimes been considered a member of the old world warbler family.
        • The ruby crown for which the species is named usually stays hidden. This brilliant patch of feathers is only evident on males and is best seen in spring or summer when excited males are singing or defending their territories.
        • Some of the tiniest birds in the world have impressively loud voices. The song of the ruby-crowned kinglet would be deafening if these birds were just a little bigger. In early spring, the kinglet’s loud song echoes from the forest edge in the lowlands. By late May, he is singing and nesting at high altitudes in the evergreen forests of the western US and Canada.
        • The species constructs its nests up to 100 feet high in the trees. The nests are constructed using an assortment of materials including mosses, grasses, feathers and spiderwebs. Between five to twelve eggs are laid with an incubation period lasting 12-14 days.
        • Kinglets are very short-lived birds. As many as 80% of some kinglet species die in their first year of life in the wild, and their maximum lifespan is only six years.


Striped Bark Scorpion

Range: Populations of this scorpion encompass a large geographic range that includes southern Colorado, eastern New Mexico, several of the states in northern Mexico, Texas, western Louisiana, western Arkansas, southern Missouri, Oklahoma, and much of Kansas.
Conservation Status: No special conservation status has been assigned to this species.
Population threats: In Texas, these scorpions have become associated with homes and surrounding areas. Human presence has given them new places to find shelter but these places often place scorpions in conflict with people. While scorpions help to control the local insect population, they are often killed on sight out of fear.
Diet: The striped scorpion is insectivorous, consuming primarily spiders, centipedes, crickets, flies, beetles, and other small insects.

Did You Know?

        • The striped bark scorpion can inflict a very sharp, painful sting. Its venom is a mild neurotoxin which is not considered as potent as that of some of its relatives. Some people might have a severe allergic reaction to it, requiring medical attention.
        • This is the most common scorpion in the USA. Populations of this species encompass a large geographic range.
        • All scorpions are born live in litters that range in size from 13 to 47, averaging about 31. The young climb to the mother’s back after birth and soon molt. After the first molt they disperse to lead independent lives.
        • Striped bark scorpions rest under loose bark or in depressions under rocks, logs, and other surface debris during the day, and they emerge after sunset. They frequently climb trees and other plants at night.
        • The scorpion stalks its prey mostly at night and depends on its senses of touch and smell. Thess scorpions catch their food by grabbing and crushing them with their powerful pinchers, then bringing their tail over their body and sting the victims. The are paralyzed by the venom and die in the scorpions’ rigid grasp. The scorpions then chew the prey into a semi-liquid state, which they can then suck up with their tiny mouths.
        • Striped bark scorpions are active all year in Texas. In Arkansas, this same species are not active on the surface during December, January, February, and March.


Green Anole

Range: Common in the southeastern U.S., this lizard can be found in the eastern third of Texas.
Conservation Status: This green anole occurs in many protected areas (parks, natural areas, etc.). Quite possibly numbering more than a million adult individuals, it is considered to have a stable population with few conservation concerns.
Population threats: In Florida, the species appears to be disappearing where the introduced brown anole has become established. This factor, competition with and predation by other non-native anoles, and human-caused habitat degradation have caused declines in central and southern Florida.
Diet: An anole’s diet consists of small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, flies and other arthropods.

Did You Know?

        • Because of its ability to change color from green to brown in order to blend with its surroundings, the green anole is sometimes identified in pet stores as the American chameleon. In spite of this ability, this species is not actually a chameleon but is instead rather closely related to iguanas.
        • Color changes are not simply a matter of matching background, but also entail body temperature, stress and activity level. Green reflects activity and bright light, whereas brown reflects reduced activity in moist, dark cool conditions.
        • An anole’s toes are expanded at the tips to accommodate adhesive toe pads, which aid them in climbing smooth surfaces where claws cannot be used. In contrast, a chameleon’s digits are arranged like mittens, to facilitate their ability to grasp slender branches.
        • Both male and female green anoles have pink throat fans (a.k.a. dewlaps), which are used as the means for inter- and intraspecific communication. The much larger dewlap of adult males can often be seen expanding in the direction of females in hopes of attracting them as mates.
        • The tail of an adult male anole can comprise 60-70% of its body length.
        • Male anoles are strongly territorial. On sighting another male, the anole will compress his body, extend the dewlap, bob his head and attempt to chase the rival away from his territory. If the rival male continues to approach, the two will fight.


Southwestern Trapdoor Spider

Range: Widely distributed throughout the southern half of Texas and northern/central Mexico.
Conservation Status: There are twelve currently recognized trapdoor spider species of this genus, all distributed in Texas and north-central Mexico. Given the anatomical similarities to each other and the challenged posed in studying them, it is likely that more species exist than are currently described. Whenever uniquely-adapted species have very limited distributions, each is inherently vulnerable to environmental changes. Landscape changes, even a local level, can quickly lead to the extinction of these distinctly-evolved forms.
Population threats: Trapdoor spiders favor soils that support lawns. Insecticide and fertilizer treatments of these landscapes can have a negative impact on trapdoor spider populations.
Diet: Trapdoor spiders are opportunistic ambush predators. While they usually prey on arthropods and small insects, they will also take tiny vertebrates– including small frogs. Vibrations warn the spider of any prey and when the prey comes close enough to capture, the spider suddenly pops open the trapdoor and seizes whatever is outside it.

Did You Know?

        • Trapdoor spiders create burrows that are lined with a thick silk. The burrows are closed with a heavy cork-like lid, the hinge for which is also formed from the spiders’ webbing. The spiders await passing insects and other arthropods to be preyed upon from behind the “trapdoor.”
        • Trapdoor spiders can be longer than one inch in body length (not including the legs), which is quite large among spiders.
        • While similar to tarantulas in shape, habit and size, they are only distantly related. They do, however, share a common predator: tarantula hawk wasps, which are known to paralyze tarantulas and other spiders. Observations suggest that, in Texas, female tarantula hawk wasps seek out this species and sting them in their burrows, within which the spiders would remain paralyzed so that they can serve as a source of food for the wasp’s young.
        • The preferred habitats for trapdoor spiders are low elevation ecosystems, predominantly desert and tropical dry forest.
        • Trapdoor spiders are hard to collect and are, in general, poorly studied. Some species are known only from male specimens.


Dung Beetle

Range: Dung beetles are found on all continents other than Antarctica. An article published in 2003 listed over 60 species of dung beetles in Texas alone.
Conservation Status: Given the large number of dung beetle species and their anatomical similarities to each other, it is likely that many dung beetle species are evolutionarily unique and have very limited distributions. These conditions would make each individual species inherently vulnerable to environmental changes, such as landscape changes on even a local level.
Population threats: Today’s pastures and rangelands often lack dung beetles, due principally to the use of insecticides and parasiticides.
Diet: Dung beetles feed on feces and often prefer herbivore dung over carnivore dung because it’s packed with more nutrients.

Did You Know?

        • The most common of the dung beetles, also known as tumblebugs, are the ball-rollers. These beetles will roll a ball of dung into a hole they have dug for either feeding purposes or to lay an egg inside. This dung ball will get buried in the ground by the beetle and the larva (called grubs) will live its life inside the brood ball feeding on the dung surrounding it until it emerges as a beetle. Both male and female beetles construct the underground tunnels into which they roll the dung balls.
        • Dung beetles are very beneficial beetles. They help to put nutrients back into the soil quickly and improve soil structure by aerating it. Getting rid of the dung quickly also reduces the number of flies and other pests. In some parts of Texas, dung beetles remove up to 80 percent of the cattle droppings.
        • It has been estimated than an adequate population of dung beetles on pastures throughout the USA could save cattle raisers two billion dollars annually just from increased grazing, improved nitrogen recycling, reduced parasitism and reduced pest flies.
        • Most dung beetles have a great sense of smell, which helps them to find fresh dung quickly. Multiple dung beetles will often converge on the same fecal deposit and compete for the fresh excrement.
        • According to a 2012 research article, an African species of dung beetle is the only known insect that uses the Milky Way to navigate.
        • A dung beetle’s mouthparts are for chewing. Larvae feed on animal excrement buried by the adults. Adult dung beetles have brush-like sieve mouths to help with slurping wet dung.


Texas Ironclad Beetle

Range: Found in the east-central portion of Texas and south into Mexico.
Conservation Status: No special conservation status is designated for this species.
Population threats: While not known to be threatened at this time, this species appears to be dependent upon the dead wood of hardwood trees. Human encroachment and habitat conversion tends to reduce the amount of decaying plant material upon which many species, including this beetle, rely for shelter, nutrition and as egg-laying sites.
Diet: Adult beetles are thought to feed on lichens growing on the trunks of oak trees. Larvae and pupae have been found within the dead wood of pecan trees, which may provide an important food source to the sub-adult life stages of this species.

Did You Know?

        • Relatively little is known about this species. Studies have found them associated with pecan, oak and elm trees—including the dead wood of these.
        • Adult Texas ironclad beetles can grow to greater than one inch in body length.
        • While their mouthparts are designed for chewing, members of this species are not known to damage live plants and are medically harmless.
        • This subspecies is named for Horace Haldeman who, in the late 1840s, was one of the first persons to concentrate on collecting insects in Texas. He sent his specimens, mostly beetles, to his entomologist brother, Samuel S. Haldeman, and a noted beetle expert, John L. LeConte, for description.
        • The reference to ironclad in the common name of this beetle results from its very thick exoskeleton—so thick that traditional preservation techniques do not work on this species.


Texas Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

Range: It is found in Texas, western Oklahoma, western Kansas, southwestern Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, southern Wyoming, Arizona, Utah (east of the Great Basin), southern Nevada, and southeastern California– as well as in northern Mexico.
Conservation Status: Populations of this species are currently considered secure.
Population threats: The greatest threats to butterflies are habitat change and loss due to residential, commercial and agricultural development. Widespread pesticide and herbicide use has also taken a toll on some butterfly species, including the iconic monarch butterfly.
Diet: Adult female hackberry emperor butterflies feed on the nectar from flowers (especially asters); adult males feed on sap, decomposing fruit, carrion and animal droppings. Caterpillars of the species feed on the leaves of hackberry trees including the desert hackberry and the Texas sugar berry.

Did You Know?

        • This species of butterfly lives in varied habitats– but always near hackberry trees (from which it derives its name).
        • As adults, members of this species may crave salt, and will even land on people in order to lap up the salt in their sweat.
        • Hackberry emperor butterflies often perch in strange places, including sides of houses and (as in our photo) the window to the door of our Zoo Kitchen.
        • The eggs of this species are pale green, and are laid either singly or in clusters of up to 20 on the lower surface of leaves of hackberry trees, or sometimes on the twigs or bark.
        • The Texas subspecies is the westernmost subspecies of Hackberry Emperor butterfly, a species that ranges as far east as the Atlantic coast and as far north as southern Canada.


Thread-Legged Assassin Bug


Range: Most of the US (from Maine south to Florida in the east, from Wisconsin to Texas in the central states); as far north as Ontario, Canada; and as far south as Brazil.
Conservation Status: None identified for this species.
Population threats: No specific population threats have been noted. The family of insects to which this species belongs is considered beneficial to agriculture. Overuse of pesticides will impact this species both directly and indirectly (through the insects they eat).
Diet: The thread-legged bugs are capable of catching insect prey, but they often take an easier route to finding food– they steal insects caught in spider webs and sometimes eat the spiders themselves.

Did You Know?

      • The thread-legged assassin bug is often mistaken for a stick insect. This species is usually about 1 to 1.5 inches in length, but is so thin that it appears to be no more than a slender stick.
      • The thread-legged bug is a kind of assassin bug. Other assassin bugs include the kissing bug and wheel bug. On the other hand, walking sticks (which the thread-legged bugs mimic) are closely related to mantises, are herbivorous and do not have predator-like front legs.
      • With their front legs having been modified for grasping prey, the thread-legged bugs walk on the rear four legs. When threatened, these bugs may hold their front legs out straight in front of their head, creating the appearance that the bug is a longer, four-legged insect. They can also fly.
      • These bugs use their two pairs of remarkably thread-like legs (from which they get their name) to walk among spider webs. From within the web, they pick out insects caught in the silk.
      • Thread-legged bugs have also evolved a behavior of plucking the web strands in order to produce vibrations that manipulate the behavior of the resident spider. Once they have the opportunity, a thread-legged bug will snatch the spider with its claw-like front legs, inject it with insecticidal venom, and eat it.
      • This species is often found on the outsides of old buildings, and in barns. They may also be found under loose bark.
Author: austinzoo