“Animal House”

by ESP on June 14, 2010 · 17 comments

This week I have found many new and old visitors alike taking a flutter or a crawl down the winding decomposed granite pathways in the Patch, and I am not referring to the after-effects of ingesting Leah’s sangria, though I could be.

There are hunters and predators lurking everywhere, under and above leaves, in the sky and on the ground,

Hard to spot hunters hunting down the tastiest foliage, like this…

Texas Spotted Range Grasshopper,

Psoloessa texana

you have to look really hard to spot this grasshopper, even it’s eyeballs are camouflaged!  I only ever witness this beast if I happen to disturb one, then I have to follow the enormous jump and endure the subsequent heat and mosquito ravaged hunt in a general vicinity to find it again. They have remarkable colored “flashes” on their legs, that I have still yet to capture on camera. The wings look exactly like leaf skeletons.

“Croak…I love grasshoppers…burp!”

The Gulf Coast toads have been busy in my feeder stock-tank the last few weeks…

…laying strings and floating mountains of toad spawn.  I always keep a close eye on the amount of toad spawn in my above ground stock tank pond after my “Primordial Soup” escapade a couple of years back. I still harbor night terrors from that episode and the flatulent machine I rented that was supposed to help alleviate the situation:


And look…

A baby Jewels of Opar! (at least I think it is). Unfortunately it chose a really bad spot to germinate on one of my pathways, I will relocate it when it gets bigger. Considering how many seeds this plant sent out last year I have only seen three new plants so far and they are in wildly different areas of the Patch!

“All this talk of things eating things has made me hungry!”

(Watermelon courtesy of Pam at digging: http://www.penick.net/digging/). I think we can safely say this melon was a total hit with this “Harry” Pam! Needless to say a whole bunch of seeds came spluttering my way seconds after the shutter closed.

This one goes out to you…

“…your the Pam, your the Pam!” :-)

More tiny eggs are turning up on my Mexican lime tree that, incidentally is making a valiant growth effort after I had to take the wood-cutter’s axe to it after the winter freezes. The Giant Swallowtail butterflies swarm citrus trees, giving them their other common name: “Orange Dogs”. The larvae are bird dropping mimics, and retain this nasty presentation into maturity. Because of their camouflage, they can often be found feeding right out in the open on their host plants. I have a bunch of their larvae at various stages of excremental development…

Papilio cresphontes larva

Yes, not the most aesthetically pleasing of creatures I agree, but a very effective deterrent for any would-be predators, after all who would want to eat ….?

I bet Andrew would also love to get his chops into a few of these brightly colored caterpillars lined up on a skewer!  This is the strangely named Io moth caterpillar, I found it lurking in leaves under my ivy.

Automeris io

The feet are very animated.

The larvae start off orange and as they develop turn bright green. The caterpillars are covered in black-tipped spines that cause a lot of pain if touched. It is reported that the Naboo use these spines as poisoned blow-darts on occasion, but that is another story.  The spines have a poison that is released with the slightest touch. The green caterpillars have two lateral stripes, the upper one being red and the lower one white. When the caterpillars are ready, they spin a flimsy, cocoon made from a dark, coarse silk. Some larvae will crawl to the base of a tree and make their cocoons amongst leaf litter on the ground, while others will use living leaves to wrap their cocoons with. The leaves will turn brown and fall to the ground during autumn, taking the cocoons with them. Look at what they turn into!

Here are the adult moths female top, male below. (picture courtesy of Wikipedia).

Amazing looking nocturnal moths!

Equally amazing are the

Gulf Fritillary or Passion Butterflies that are now showing up in the Patch

Agraulis vanillae

It is orange with black markings on the tops of the wings. Underneath it has silvery white spots. This one being a lighter orange is a female.  I love the contrast topside to underside of these birds, they look like totally different butterflies. Plant a passionflower and watch them turn up!

Incredible coloration.

The Texas Spiny Lizard

Sceloporus olivaceus

is a common resident of most of Texas. It spends a great deal of time on fence posts and in trees like this one in my post oak, searching for food, but can be encountered on rocks or on the ground. This spiny lizard can grow to almost 1 foot in length!

Picture from Wikipedia: pretty fancy!

Colors and patterns typically serve to be adequate camouflage against the bark of trees in its chosen habitat.  Their scales have a distinctly spiny texture to them, and their long toes and sharp claws are suited to climbing.  I have seen more of these spiny lizards this year then I have ever seen before, not sure why?

Unlike anoles who appear to enjoy getting their faces into the camera, these spiny lizards are really easily spooked and extremely fast.  This one “galloped” away and up into my post oak before I could say…

“My beans are finally at the top of the poles, and flowering!”…Or…

“Lots of new growth on my purple hearts and fountain grass!”

The Patch is entering the dog days of summer once again,

my fingers are crossed for a more lenient one then last year.

For now the sun is setting in the Patch so I bid you a warm Walton’s goodnight.

“Night Jim Draco Bob, night Pam, night Jenny(s) (RR the kids loved doing the wooden puzzles), night Les, night Daphne, night Germi (it was great to meet you), night Linda, night Meredith, night Texas Deb, night Diana, night Laura, night Cheryl, night Katina, night Ellie…etc,etc.

Stay Tuned for:

“Shaken not Stirred”

All material © 2010 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late  (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

Go England!

Check out the Patch write up at: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/greengarden/award_sanbernard.htm

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1 Diana June 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Wow. I don’t need to google info about caterpillars, I just need to email you! Great critters on post today — that grasshopper looks as scary and mean as I know he is to the plants. Thank goodness for the toads (even though one peed in my garage last night!) You’d better destroy that Jewel of Opar — I had some in a pot 14 years ago and I STILL have one pop up now and then somewhere in my garden!!! Run from them, my friend! They are far worse than the critters!

2 ESP June 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Hi Diana.
Yes mostly critters this week, the Patch has just been full them. That grasshopper was a good sport, he let me get right up under his nose for that shot.

Destroy the Jewels of Opar? I could never do that!…I love this plant and raved about it all last year it seemed! I like virtually everything about it – the chartreuse color of the foliage, the chemistry-like seed pods that change into multi-colored jewels in the fall! The drought tolerance…So far I have not had any issues with it being invasive, and the three that have germinated from last years two plants are very welcome guests, well, at least they are for now :-)

3D Blog posts? Now there is the future!

3 Laura June 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm

It always amazes me what wild and wonderful things are happening in your garden. Keep up the great work!

4 ESP June 15, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Hi Laura.
There have been a lot of wild and wonderful things this past week. I was really happy to find the Automeris io caterpillar, and even happier my hand did not brush against it taking the shot!
Thanks, and I hope to.

5 Stephanie Lanier June 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hello ESP,

Once again you have posted some amazing pics. I’m captivated by the detail of your shots. I love the pic of the giant swallowtail. I think the transformation of this butterfly from a “bird dropping” caterpillar to a gorgeous butterfly is glorious. It is definitely the ugly duckling of the butterfly world. I have started a butterfly garden and I’m looking to add more plants. I would love to attract the giant swallowtails to my garden. Have you found one particular citrus plant that attracts them more than others?

PS Love reading your blog. You have a wonderful garden.

6 ESP June 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Hi Stephanie and welcome inside the ESPatch.

Thanks, glad you liked some of the images. It really is quite amazing the transformation that takes place from the “poop” to the majestic swallowtail…who would of guessed? I have meyer lemons, satsuma orange and Mexican lime, these giants seem to like them all, but based on the amount of larvae and eggs, I would go with the Mexican lime tree as the favorite. Passion vine and fennel are also great as companion butterfly attractors.
Glad you like reading the blog…and good to hear from you!


7 Ellie June 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Thanks for the great info on the bird dropping caterpillar. I found a few on my Meyer lemon and had no idea what they were. I do love your garden and inventive posts!

8 ESP June 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Hi Ellie.
Welcome into the inner-Patch’s “commenting circle”:-)
They are quite the slimy creatures aren’t they? They also grow quite large, so keep an eye on their grossness. Glad you like the Patch posts! Got you on my blog roll now!

9 TexasDeb June 18, 2010 at 7:19 am

Good night Patch Boy!

If you are the president then I will be the recording secretary of the Jewels of Opar fan club. I have had them reseed close to a planter that held several well established plants, but mostly they’ve settled into one area out back where I happily welcome them back year to year. I think they are gorgeous – foliage and bloom and berry alike.

Your lesson about bird poop caterpillars comes too late for me – I relocated three off our two very small Meyer lemon trees recently due to concerns that whatever they were would do too much damage to our starting out trees. Next go round I’ll take a more wait and see approach before removing them I suppose. I do try to share the wealth around here.

You seen any tiny (at the moment) jewel toned grasshoppers in the patch? I think I am seeing early instar form of Lubbers but I stink at bug ID so am not absolutely sure. I do know they love to eat my morning glory vines and for that reason we have become sworn enemies. As they grow they get better at jumping away so now I’m looking for my net – I know I’ve got one somewhere……

10 ESP June 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

Hi TD.

I agree…secretary of State for Opar you are hereby appointed then!

Yes your poopy friends would have scoffed their really ugly heads off, but the trees would most likely be just fine. I have a lot on my Mexican lime tree, you can see a bit of damage, but nothing life threatening for the tree.

These grasshoppers are probably nymphs of the Aztec spurthroat grasshopper(Aidemona azteca)? They start off really brightly colored then molt a few times, turning plainer as they mature:

The latest craze in the Patch has been to use our butterfly net to try and catch dragonflies that are all over the place right now…dragonflies caught = 0… (imagine that)!


11 Katina June 18, 2010 at 8:57 am


so far this year I haven’t seen as many lizards as last year…though I have seen more raccoons and dragonflies and butterflies this year. And I think I had one of those Aztec grasshoppers in the garden this year…

Love the pictures of the toads (I’ve only ever seen one in our back yard), and the sepia pics of the hobbits.

12 ESP June 18, 2010 at 9:11 am

Hi Katina.

I have been seeing the tiniest anoles in the Patch as of late – hatchlings! Yes lots of butterflies, moths and dragonflies this year for me too. I have never had so many dragonfly nymphs. Do you have any water features in your garden? Nothing pulls in the toads and wildlife in faster than a small pond!
The expression on the sepia hobbit/pill bug roller cracks me up…lets just say…I am glad not to be that particular pill bug!


13 Cheryl Goveia June 18, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Entertaining and educational…as always! Love the sepia tone shots of your kiddos.

14 ESP June 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Thanks Cheryl. That last sepia shot was taken as I blasted them with the hose…one of their favorite games.

15 Bob Pool June 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I had seen where Elle at Mostly Weeds was asking about the Bird Poop Caterpillers. I told her to “Go to the Patch” as Philip knows more abot chicken poop then any body I know.

16 Bob Pool June 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Almost forgot, Happy Father’s day Philip. From what I can tell you are a great one.

Hi Bob.
I am not sure if I should be happy or disturbed to be categorized as the person with a knowledge-base around the subject of lava that mimic poop! …Poop, now there is a ridiculous word! Thank you for thinking of me though!
See you Saturday at Jenny’s Go-Go?
Thank you Bob.

17 Debby June 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm

It still amazes me when I take the time to look through my garden what little creatures are there. Last evening my daughter and i just sat outside in the quite just listening. She was so surprised at how many different sounds of insects we heard in stillness and quite of the night. One of the simple pleasures of life. It doesn’t take much to entertain us Crawford girls.

Hi Debby / you Crawford girls, and welcome inside the Patch, I hope it entertains you! :-)

I need to do that…sit outside, quietly listening to the night sounds…though I would probably need a bottle of true blood to “top my levels up” after the mosquitoes had finished devouring me…argh!

It really is quite amazing what creatures you can lure into a garden with water and plants and vegetables. I am five minutes from the capital and downtown Austin and yet it feels like I am in the country most of the time…until an occasional Chevy Tahoe slams into our house that is!



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