“Uncle Wiggily wants his Ovaltine”

by ESP on May 18, 2014 · 8 comments


I planted three bronze and three green fennel plants this year to attract a few caterpillars.


I got more than I bargained for,


including quite a few inch worms.


After the munching onslaught and overnight caterpillar migration there was not much left of the host plants,


but they will quickly bounce back, ready for the next hungry wave.

My tomato plants are also currently under attack from the large sphinx moth caterpillar or tobacco hornworm.


But by far the strangest critter that has been showing up all over the Patch this past week or two is…

…here is a clue:


You guessed it,


Lacewing larvae, better known as “litterbugs”.

The larvae use velcro-like bristles to cover itself in a variety of mediums including, aphid / insect corpses (oh yes), bark, fungus…basically anything it can get to stick on up there on its back for protection.

This is a remarkable adaption but a hard shell just seems like a lot less work. I am not sure what this one picked up, barley? Sugar Puffs?

It is my belief that lacewing larvae are actually reincarnated hoarders that are being taught to restrict their collecting tendencies to what they can carry on their own backs.

A ludicrous proposition.


Moving Along:

I recently took advantage of the nice weather and took a trip to a local nursery to pick up some filler-plants to replace some dead fountain grasses. Unfortunately for me someone had strategically placed these three Arizona ‘blue ice’ Cypress trees in an unusual place in the parking lot.


I did not stand a chance.


I very rarely happen across the blue-ice, especially this size.

I picked out the one with the thickest and straightest trunk and before you could say


Cuppressus arizonica


 it was hanging over my tailgate, heading to its new home.

There was however one obstacle (there always is) and it was slap bang in the middle of the spot where the cypress was to be planted.


It was like:

2502102 copy

Only our turnip was an old hackberry stump and just like the storybook turnip, it wasn’t coming out of the ground without a fight.


“Ach, ye canna beat some neeps and tatties.”

Some rugby tackles, wiggling, root severing and general miserableness in the heat ensued. The fact that it was wedged and had partly grown into the fence made it sufficiently more annoying.


With the stump finally removed I set about digging the hole and immediately started to find ‘treasure’.

Our house was built in 1890 and previous owners of the property had buried their trash in the yard so a shovel in the ground anywhere back here turns over something!


These were the best pieces all cleaned up and ready to be added to our expanding collection of artifacts.

[Contemplates being lacewing larvae]


This mug from the 20’s was her favorite find.


Here is the young tree settling in after getting a good soaking of fish emulsion.


Yes I gave it to the tree.

DSC06243 - Version 2

Old yucca spikes make great ‘wizard wands’.


It will be some years before the little tree reaches the height of its opposite kin:



Kumo – his favorite way to travel,


and his favorite ornamental grass to induce vomiting.

On that note:

Stay Tuned For:

“Oh Frass!”


IMG_0893All material © 2014 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques


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1 Cheryl May 19, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Uncle Wiggily Wants His Ovaltine! What a great treasure! (although your Arizona ‘Blue Ice’ Cypress is mighty cool too.)

2 ESP May 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm

He does indeed and she was delighted with the ‘treasure’.

“Uncle Wiggily Wants His Ovaltine”?
Now that is an ad campaign!

I ended up purchasing the remaining two ‘Blue Ices’ this morning for an installation I am about to start.

3 Kate S. May 20, 2014 at 8:22 am

“[Contemplates being lacewing larvae]”


And that found cup is gold.

lacewing larvae is so bizarre – now I want to catch one as it is sticking corpses onto its back!

4 Annie in Austin May 20, 2014 at 10:17 am

Banishing a hackberry stump, raising swallowtail cats and discovering a vintage Uncle Wiggly cup – love reading about your family’s adventures, ESP.

A few weeks ago, one small fennel plant here was overloaded with 8 caterpillars – there wasn’t enough foliage for that many but the weather took care of that – the rain that was so wonderful for everything else washed 5 of them away. Little triumphs and tragedies all over the garden!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Hi Annie – yes there is always something going on it seems :-)
So many caterpillars, the drama for this week was supplied by a few hornworms…more on these Uncle Wigglies in my next post.

5 TexasDeb May 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I’ve got fennel growing for the caterpillars but didn’t get any this year. Obviously they were all over at your place (and Annie’s!). Pretty wonderful treasures you unearthed. The Uncle Wiggly mug is adorable but those bottles are what tickles my hoarding tendencies. The closest thing to treasure I “dug up” under similar circumstances was the sprinkler wiring (which I severed in not one, not two, but THREE places! Sprinkler wire hat trick!).

Hi TD. Very funny on the caterpillar front, and I certainly got more than my fair share this year. We have a good collection of small bottles that we have dug up over the years, in fact we have a shelf dedicated to our glass hoarding.

6 Tina May 20, 2014 at 2:47 pm

So funny! I love the shot of the chomped fennel. That’s what I grow for the Black Swallowtails, though I don’t have nearly as many caterpillars–just a few, here and there. Sniff.). Love all of your insect photos!

Thanks Tina and yes, they sure do like the fennel.

7 Cheris May 20, 2014 at 8:02 pm

We want an Uncle Wiggly t-shirt.


8 Kate S. May 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Looking back on this post: thanks for posting about the lacewing larvae. I saw one a couple of years ago and wondered what in the h-e-double hockey sticks it was! Truly bizarre. I’m very happy to know now! Also caught the faces on the Enormous Turnip this time and laughed.

You noticed!
I have used quite a few small and subtle images superimposed all over this blog…like this rather eerie one that I posted some time back:

I bet nobody spotted this one.

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