NDC’s Own Mary Ann Beauchemin Interviewed for Houston & Nature Podcast

Mary Ann Beauchemin, recently retired NDC Senior Naturalist and Park Steward, was recently interviewed by Nivien Saleh of Houston & Nature podcast. Please check out their discussion about environmental education here (Episode 9, January 1, 2021).

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Fall 2020 BioBlitz for Russ Pitman Park (species count)

by Eric Duran, Head Naturalist

Twice a year, the Nature Discovery Center has a BioBlitz, one in the Spring, and one in the Fall.

A bioblitz is a chance for an organization to count as many species of living things as they possibly can in a given area.

This helps us keep an eye on how populations of plants, fungi, animals, and slime molds are doing in our park (Russ Pitman Park) from year to year, as well as how living things may be faring in the Houston area. We’ll be able to understand long term trends as the years go on, and we continue to do them, as well.

A bioblitz is also a chance for our staff to better understand what’s living here in the park, and keep a detailed list of everything that may be living here (and is observable). For our naturalists and staff, its also a lot of fun!

Asian Banded Snail with Trooping Crumblecaps

This year’s Fall 2020 BioBlitz, just ended, and we’re happy to report the count here.

The final list is compiled, and the numbers are counted. This year we set the dates to 10/9 – 10/26, giving us a little over 2 weeks, because we had very little help with observations this year (Covid-19 being the reason).

I did most of the species observations this year, but we got help from retired Senior Naturalist Mary Ann Beauchemin, Mary Spolyar from the Native Plant Society and the Gulf Coast Master Naturalists, Office Manager Pam Dunker, naturalist and teacher Debbie Lancaster, and our community of resident birdwatchers.

This year, we counted 340 species over all, which broke down like this…

ANIMALS: (139 species)

VERTEBRATES: (50 species)

INVERTEBRATES: (89 species)

FUNGI: (36 species)

SLIME MOLDS: (1 species)

PLANTS: (164 species)

There’s nothing new and exciting to report this year, but we had a very good bird list for a Fall Bioblitz, and we identified a few small insects that hadn’t been listed in the park before. We ended up having a good insect and invertebrate count, because of the warm weather. Overall, we were up from last year’s Fall Bioblitz (our first Fall Bioblitz, as a matter of fact). We had several people helping us last year, but we actually got a higher number of species! (Last year we only had 281 species.)

Let’s hope that covid is more under control for the Spring Bioblitz 2021, which will be sometime in mid-late April.

Common Green June Beetle

If you have any questions about the list, or our BioBlitzes, please contact me, Head Naturalist, Eric Duran at

Okay, so, here’s the list:



ANIMALS: (139)



FUNGI: (36)


PLANTS: (164)

Rough Earth Snake

ANIMALS: 139 Species

Mammals: (3)

Gray Squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis

Fox Squirrel – Sciurus niger

Black Rat – Rattus rattus

Birds: (38)

Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica

Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis

Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus

Eastern Screech Owl – Megascops asio

White-winged Dove – Zenaida asiatica

Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis

American Robin – Turdus migratorius

Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla

Black-bellied Whistling Duck – Dendrocygna autumnalis

Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus

American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos

Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus

Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colibris

American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla

Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis

Empid flycatcher – family Empidae

Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottus

Eastern Wood-Peewee – Contopus virens

House Finch – Haemorhous mexicanus

Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis

Nashville Warbler – Leiothlypis ruficapilla

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea

White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius

Magnolia Warbler – Setophaga magnolia

Swainson’s Thrush – Catharus ustulatus

Black & White Warbler – Mniotilta varia

Wood Thrush – Hylocichla mustelina

Philadelphia Vireo – Vireo philadelphicus

Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius

Summer Tanager – Piranga rubra

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata

Black-throated Green Warbler – Setophaga virens

Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus

Reptiles: (6)

Three-toed Box Turtle – Terrapene Carolina

Red-eared Slider – Trachemys scripta elegans

Green Anole – Anolis carolinensis

Cuban Brown Anole – Anolis sagrei

Ground Skink – Scincella lateralis

Rough Earth Snake – Haldea striulata

Amphibians: (2)

Gulf Coast Toad – Incilius nebulifer

Rio Grande Chirping Frog – Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides

Bony Fish: (1)

Mosquitofish – Gambusia affinis

INVERTEBRATES (Non-insects):  (17)

Mollusks: (3)

Asian Tramp Snail – Bradybaena similaris

Globular Drop – Oligyra orbiculata

Dome Snail – Ventridens sp.

Segmented Worms: (1)

Common Earthworm – Lumbricus terrestris

Flatworms: (1)

Chinese Hammerhead Planarian – Bipalium kewense

Arachnids: (8)

Wolf Spider – family Lycosidae

House Orbweaver – Metazygia sp.

Spinybacked Orbweaver – Gasteracantha cancriformis

Bifurcate Trashline Orbweaver – Allocyclosa bifurca

Tangleweb Spider – Theridion sp.

South American Hacklemesh Spider – Metaltella simony

Twin-flagged Jumping Spider – Anasaitis canosa

American House Spider – Parasteatoda tepidariorum

Crustaceans: (4)

Comm. Striped Woodlouse – Philoscia muscorum

Lawn Shrimp (Amphipod/hopper) – Talitridae

Common Pillbug – Armadillidium vulgare

Powder Blue Isopod – Porcellionides pruinosis

Horace’s Duskywing Skipper feeding on Rudbeckia hirta

INSECTS/Hexapods: (72)

Springtails: (1)

Elongate-bodied Springtail – Salina banksi

Dragonflies: (1)

Band-winged Dragonlet – Erythrodiplax umbrata

Butterflies and Moths: (19)

Monarch – Danaus plexipus

Spicebush Swallowtail – Papilio troilus

Gulf Fritillary – Agraulis vanilla

Horace’s Duskywing – Erynnis horatius

Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae

Tawny Emperor – Asterocampa clyton

Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola

Dun Skipper – Euphyes vestris

Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius

Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia

Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui

Bagworm moth – Psychidae

Southern Flannel Moth – Megalopyge opercularis

Fall Webworm Moth – Hyphantria cunea

Indian Meal Moth – Plodia interpunctella

Grass Moths – family Crambidae

Yellow-collared Scapemoth – Cisseps fulvicollis

Velvetbean Caterpillar Moth – Anticarsia gemmatalis

Southern Beet Webworm – Herpetogramma bipunctalis

Flies: (10)

Secondary Screwworm Fly – Cochliomyia macellaria

Goldenrod Gall Fly – Erosta solidaginis

Long-legged Fly – Condylostylus patibulatus

Long-legged fly – Condylostylus sp.

Asian Tiger Mosquito – Aedes albopicta

Oriental Latrine Fly – Chrysomya megacephala

Leaf-miner Fly – family Agromyzidae

Hoverfly – family Syrphidae

Dusky-winged Hoverfly – Ocyptamus fuscipennis

Grass Fly – Thaumatomyia sp.

Bees, Wasps, Sawflies, Ants: (20)

Eastern Carpenter Bee – ‎Xylocopa virginica

Southern Carpenter Bee – Xylocopa micans

Strand’s Carpenter bee – Xylocopa strandi

Western Honeybee – Apis mellifera

Carpenter Mimic Leafcutter Bee – Megachile xylocopoides

Carpenter Mimic Cuckoo Leafcutter Bee – Coelioxys dolichos

American Bumblebee – Bombus pensylvanicus

Carpenter Ant – Camponotus sp.

Black Crazy Ant – Paratrechina longicornis

Graceful Twig Ant – Pseudomyrmex gracilis

Paper wasp – Polistes dorsalis

Dark paper Wasp – Polistes fuscatus

Metric Paper Wasp – Polistes metricus

Yellow-legged Mud Duaber Wasp – Sceliphron caementarium

Four-toothed Mason Wasp – Monobia quadridens

Tarantual Hawk Wasp – Calopompilus maculipennis

Thread Wasted Sand Wasp – Ammophila sp.

Black Ichneumon Spiderhunter – subfamily Ichneumoninae

Gall Wasp – Andricus sp.

Southern Live Oak Stem Gall Wasp – Callirhytis quercusbatatoides

Beetles: (8)

Click Beetle – family Elateridae

Asian Ladybird Beetle – Harmonia axyridis

Ground Beetle – Carabidae

June Beetle – Phyllophaga sp.

Diaprepes Root Weevil – Diaprepes abbreviates

Metallic Flea Beetle – Altica sp.

Common Green June Beetle – Cotinis nitida

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle – Libidomera clivicollis

True Bugs: (3)

Aphids – family Aphididae

Hackberry Petiole Gall Psyllid – Pachypsylla venusta

Scissor-grinder Cicada – Neotibicen pruinosis

Cockroaches: (4)

Suriname Roach – Pycnoscelus surinamensis

American Cockroach – Periplaneta americana

Cockroach – Blatella sp.

Smoky Brown Cockroach – Periplaneta fuliginosa

Termites: (1)

Eastern Subterranean Termite – Reticulitermes flavipes

Earwigs: (1)

Yellow-legged earwig – Euborellia arcanum

Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids: (1)

Great Anglewing Katydid – Microcentrum rhombifolium

Lacewings: (2)

Brown Lacewing – family Hemerobiidae

Green Lacewing – Chrysopidae

Bark Lice: (1)

Tree Cattle – Cerastipsocus venosus


Carnival Candy Slime Mold – Arcyria denudata

Perforated Ruffle Lichen (seen last year)

FUNGI: (36)

Hairy Hexagonia – Hexagonia hydnoides

False Turkey Tail – Stereum ostrea

Bracket Fungus – Ganoderma sessile

Bracket Fungus – Trametes lactinea

Hoof Fungus – Fomes fomentarius

Mustard Yellow Polypore – Fuscoparia gilva

Firerug Inkcap – Coprinellus domesticus

Turkey Tail Fungus – Trametes versicolor

Common Tarcrust – Diatrype stigma

Ceramic Parchment fungus – Xylobolus frustulatus

Splitgill Mushroom – Schizophyllum commune

Crowded Parchment Fungus – Stereum complicatum

Oak Bracket – Pseudoinonotus dryadeus

Honeycomb Bracket fungus – Favolus sp.

Trametes cubensis

Dyer’s Polypore – Phaeolus schweinitzii

Reddening Lepiota – Leucogaricus americanus

Bonnet Mushrooms – Mycena sp.

Pseudosperma rimosum

Trichoderma sp.

Red Russula – Russula sp.

Family Stophariaceae

Common Browncup – Phylloscypha phyllogena

Pore lichen – Pertusaria sp.

Rough-speckled Shield Lichen – Punctelia rudecta

Powdered Ruffle Lichen – Parmotrema hypotropum

Common Greenshield Lichen – Flavoparmelia caperata

Common Script Lichen – Graphis scripta

Whitewash Lichen – Phlyctis argena

Plyctis sp.

Sinewed Bushy Lichen – Ramalina americana

Viridothelium virens

Farinose Cartilage Lichen – Ramalina farinacea

Perforated Ruffle Lichen – Parmotrema perforatum

Mealy Rim Lichen – Lecanora strobilina

Hoary Rosete Lichen – Physcia aipolia

“Blue” Mistflower

PLANTS: (164)

There are of course way more than this number of plants in Russ Pitman Park.

The Nature Discovery Center, however, already has a rather voluminous and exhaustive plant list for the park. Thus, the naturalists who participate in our Bio-blitz do not attempt to document all or even most of the plants in the park. Participants simply noted plants they found interesting, observed fruiting or blooming, or thought may not already be on the official park list of plants.

Mosses: (2)

Unidentified moss sp.

Unidentified moss #2

Ferns: (3)

Resurrection Fern – Pleopeltis michauxiana

Japanese Climbing Fern – Lygodium japonicum

Southern Wood Fern – Dryopteris ludoviciana

Palms: (2)

Dwarf Palmetto – Sabal minor

Mexican Fan Palm –

Grasses/Sedges/Rushes: (16)

Indiangrass – Sorghastrum nutans

Eastern Gamagrass – Tripsacum dactyloides

Basketgrass – Oplismenus hirtellus

Virginia Wildrye – Elymus virginicus

Switchgrass – Panicum virgatum

Wood Oats (Inland Sea Oats) – Chasmanthium latifolium

Florida Paspalum – Paspalum floridanum

Bermuda Grass – Cynodon dactylon

Marsh Bristlegrass – Setaria parviflora

Big Bluestem – Andropogon gerardi

Hairy Crabgrass – Digitaria sanguinalis

Umbrella Papyrus – Cyperus involucratus

Cherokee Sedge – Carex cherokeensis

True sedge – Carex sp.

Deep-rooted Sedge – Cyperus enterianus

Shortleaf Spike Sedge – Cyperus brevifolius

Broadleaf Plants: (141)

Mexican Plum – Prunus mexicanus

Boxelder Maple – Acer negundo

Red Maple – Acer rubrum

Black Willow – Salix nigra

Gum Bumelia – Sideroxylon langunosum

Coralberry – Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

River Birch – Betula nigra

Sweetbay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana

False Indigo – Amorpha fruticose

Mulberry – Morus sp.

Senna sp.

Parsley Hawthorn – Crataegus marshallii

Shummard Red Oak – Quercus shumardii

Loblolly Pine – Pinus taeda

Yaupon Holly – Ilex vomitoria

American Black Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis

Southern Magnolia – Magnolia grandiflora

Sugarberry – Celtis laevigata

Green Ash – Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Southern Arrowwood – Viburnum dentatum

Southern Live Oak – Quercus virginiana

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

Chinese Holly – Ilex cornuta

Roughleaf Dogwood – Cornus drummondii

Eastern Redbud – Cercis canadensis

Carolina Laurelcherry – Prunus caronliniana

Loquat-leaf Oak – Quercus rysophylla

Bur Oak – Quercus macrocarpa

Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum

Common Lantana – Lantana camara

Texas Lantana – Lantana x urticoides

American Beautyberry – Callicarpa americana

American Hornbeam – Carpinus caroliniana

Mexican Buckeye – Ungnadia speciosa

Osage Orange – Maclura pomifera

Possumhaw – Ilex decidua

Orchid Tree – Bauhinia variegata

Shining Sumac – Rhus copallinum

Pecan – Carya illinoinensis

American Elm – Ulmus americana

Groundsel Bush – Baccharis halimifolia

Southern Sugar Maple – Acer floridanum

Swamp Chestnut Oak – Quercus michauxii

American Sycamore – Platanus occidentalis

American Sweetgum – Liquidambar occidentalis

Chinese Privet – Ligustrum sinense

Ornamental Pear – Pyrus sp.

Tree Privet – Ligustrum lucidum

Willow Oak – Quercus phellos

Common Gardenia – Gardenia jasminoides

Cedar Elm – Ulmus crassifolia

Water Oak – Quercus nigra

Northern Catalpa – Catalpa speciose

Chinese Raintree – Koelrueteria elegans

American Basswood – Tilia Americana

Camphor Tree – Cinnamomum camphora

Straggler Daisy – Calyptocarpus vialis

Frogfruit – Phyla sp.

Yard Aster – Symphotrichum divaricatum

Blue Mistflower – Conoclinium coelestinum

Climbing Hempvine – Mikania scandens

Tall Goldenrod – Solidago altissima

Seaside Goldenrod – Solidago sempervirens

Giant Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis

Tievine – Ipomoea cordatotriloba

Narrowleaf Sunflower – Helianthus angustifolius

Camphorweed – Pluchea camphorata

Opposite-leaf Spotflower – Acmella repens

Spiny Chloracantha – Chloracantha spinosa

Cuban Jute – Sida rhombifolia

Chamberbitter – Phyllanthus urinaria

Leafy Elephant’s-foot – Elephantopus carolinianus

Frostweed – Verbesina virginica

Missouri Ironweed – Vernonia missurica

Mexican Primrose-willow – Ludwigia octovalvis

Three-lobed False Mallow – Malvastrum coromandelianum

Three-seeded Mercury – Acalypha sp.

Lizard’s Tail – Saururus cernuus

Buttonweed – Diodia virginiana

Obedient Plant – Physostegia virginiana

Mustang Grape – Vitis mustangensis

Muscadine Grape – Vitis rotundifolia

Brazos Pensemon – Penstemon tenuis

American Trumpetvine – Campsis radicans

Carolina Snailseed – Cocculus carolinus

Catclaw Vine – Dolichandra unguis-cati

Hairy Crabweed – Fatoua villosa

Pickerelweed – Pontederia cordata

Rattlesnake Master – Eryngium yuccifolium

Cast Iron Plant – Aspidistra elatior

Monkey grass – Lirope sp.

Shrimp Plant – Justicia brandegeeana

Mexican Ruellia – Ruellia simplex

Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica

Wedelia – Sphagneticola calendulacea

Turk’s Cap – Malvaviscus arboreus

Whitemouth Dayflower – Commelina erecta

Wild Petunia – Ruellia caerula

Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron redicans

Scarlet Sage – Salvia coccinea

Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Ball Moss – Tillandsia recurvata

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Late Boneset – Eupatorium serotinum

Saw green Briar – Smilax bona-nox

Cross Vine – Bignonia capreolata

Eastern False Aloe – Manfreda virginica

Western Ragweed – Ambrosia psilostachya

Maximillian Sunflower – Helianthus maximiliani

Tickseed Beggar’s Ticks – Bidens aristosa

Downy Lobelia – Lobelia puberula

Pepper Vine – Ampelopsis arborea

Giant Ragweed – Ambrosia trifida

Scarlet Creeper – Ipomoea hederifolia

Crow Poison – Nothoscordum bivalve

White Clover – Trifolium repens

Bladder Pod – Sesbania vesicaria

Alligatorweed – Alternathera philoxeroides

Swamp Criunum – Crinum sp.

False Daisy – Eclipta prostrata

Carolina Crane’s-bill – Geranium carolinianum

Spotted Spurge – Euphorbia maculata

Graceful Spurge – Euphorbia hypericifolia

Painted Spurge – Euphorbia heterophylla

Wisteria – Wisteria sp.

Oriental False Hawk’sbeard – Youngia japonica

Sensitive Plants – Mimosa strigillosa.

American Hog Peanut – Amphicarpaea bracteata

Greater Plantain – Plantago major

Broad-leaved Dock – Rumex obtusifolius

Mock Strawberry – Potentilla indica

Carolina Ponysfoot – Dichondra carolinensis

Southern Dewberry – Rubus trivialis

Pennsylvania Blackberry – Rubus pensilvanicus

Largeleaf Pennywort – Hydrocotyle bonariensis

Goosefoot Plant – Syngonium podophyllum

Black Snakeroot – Sanicula canidensis

Peruvian Lily – Alstroemeria aurea

Tahitian Bridalveil – Gibasis pellucida

Blue Violet – Viola sororia

Shrubby Boneset – Ageratina havanensis

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Fall Changes to take NDC Discovery Rooms Back to their Roots

Over the next month or so, staff at the Nature Discovery Center will be making mission driven changes to our Discovery Rooms that will take the rooms back to the Center’s roots as a place of exploration and discovery. Visitors will notice a shift in focus from indoor nature play to hands-on learning at activity and observation stations designed to ignite curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature. While we still want to encourage nature based imaginative exploration upstairs, we want to move away from indoor play for play’s sake and hopefully discourage the misuse of specimens and Discovery Room tools that have too often been incorporated into the play-based experience our visitors have had in recent years.

We are excited by these changes, and we can’t wait to see our visitors make new discoveries as they interact with natural objects, explore with kid friendly tools of the trade, “research” areas of interest in resource books, create simple nature crafts, and engage with volunteers and naturalists at themed demo and activity tables. We know there will be a period of adjustment as our visitors acclimate to our new Discovery Room philosophy, but we also know that the changes will be rewarding and worth it! Connecting kids with nature and igniting their curiosity through hands-on discovery is our passion!

What can you expect:

  • removal of the Backyard Habitat house and most of the toys that have been upstairs
  • a focused area for imaginative interactions with a smaller selection of puppets and stuffed animals
  • a general local wildlife theme in the large discovery room with activity and observation stations
  • a more focused bones, skulls, and skeletons theme in the small discovery room
  • an interactive naturalist table staffed by volunteers on weekends at posted times with themed activities and/or hands-on animal encounters
  • more accessible tools of the trade so that kids can explore specimens with hand lenses, rulers, microscopes, and balances, and observe wildlife through the windows with binoculars
  • a “Stars of the Park” exhibit space where kids can bring in and display small curiosities and interesting objects they have discovered while exploring the park
  • increased respect for our specimens and tools by staff and visitors alike
  • an expectation that our visitors will help us keep the rooms clean by helping their children learn to put things back where they belong
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Heather Sullivan Brings New Mindfulness Classes to Center

We’re pleased to announce a new “Mindfulness in Nature” class series being offered by Heather Sullivan at the Nature Discovery Center this spring. Practicing mindfulness in nature allows you to focus your awareness on the present moment, your thoughts and feelings, and your environment, and can help you reduce the stress that comes from leading a hectic life.

Heather, a trained Mindfulness Educator, is passionate about teaching kids and adults the tools to cope with stress and develop a more mindful approach to life in order to nurture a positive state of mind. She currently teaches a mindfulness class at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary and is working with schools in Spring Branch ISD to teach mindfulness to teachers.

Heather’s Mindfulness in Nature series here in Russ Pitman Park will start on Friday, April 26 and will run for 4 weeks as a pilot program. Classes will start at 12:30 pm and will last for about an hour. You are welcome to sign up for individual dates or for the whole series.

Learn more and register online here.

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March 2019 Wired to Nature

Duran, E. (3/2019) Look! Up in the sky! Our spring bird migration has begun.  Essentials, p. 15

Wired to Nature is the Nature Discovery Center’s regular column in Essentials, a monthly magazine published by InstantNewsNetwork that covers the Bellaire and West University communities. Essentials may be read online at

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Wildlife Wednesday: Stinging Caterpillars of Autumn

Wildlife Wednesday: Stinging Caterpillars

Autumn is time for all kinds of natural phenomena in the Houston area: bird and butterfly migration, many trees and bushes bear fruit, and leaves change color. The one common fall occurrence that most people could do without, however, is the emergence of stinging moth caterpillars. The stings of these larvae can range from mild annoyance to extreme pain, with some other mild health effects.

Caterpillars have a few ways to protect themselves. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars have foul smelling horn like osmeteria which they use to dab nasty chemicals on potential predators. Some caterpillars can jump and wriggle wildly to escape predators. Some caterpillars have copious hairs and spines that are hard for predators to swallow. The caterpillars of some moths and butterflies have urticating hairs and spines (spines and hairs connected at the base to sacs of venom kept under the skin), that can deliver painful stings. We take a look at a few of these locally found stinging moth caterpillars today.

The most infamous of our stinging caterpillars is the Asp or the caterpillar of the Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis, pictured right). Asps usually emerge from their eggs in mid to late Autumn, and are commonly found in or near hardwood trees, shrubs, and vines. They feed on the leaves of these plants, and wander around constantly, looking for food, and eventually for decent locations to make their cocoons. They may be various shades of brown and gray, with a fur ridge down the middle of the back.

The infamy of these furry little larvae lie in their incredibly painful sting. Hidden in the fur ridge on their backs is a line of sharp little venomous spines. Stings from these spines may cause severe pain, nausea, light-headedness, swelling and redness of the sting site, burning sensation, and shortness of breath.

Of course, if you experience an extreme of any of these symptoms, or several of them for an extended period, you should see a medical professional for treatment. Home treatment includes removing the spines from the skin with scotch tape and topical treatment (with calamine lotion, baking soda, anti-histamine or pain relief lotions). Similar methods are recommended for other caterpillar stings, as well.

The Spiny Oak Slug (Euclea delphinii) is the caterpillar of an adorable furry little green and brown cup moth (pictured above right). While the caterpillar is really quite beautiful with its intricate designs of yellow and green or brown and orange, the pain from the stings is not at all adorable. These small spiny larvae (growing to only 2 cm long) feed on a wide variety of leaves from deciduous trees, bushes, and vines. In the South, they have 2 generations, one in the Summer, and another active in Fall.

The Saddle Back Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) is the larva of another small and furry shiny brown cup moth (down and right) with bunches of sharp rigid stinging spines, found in bunches at the front and back and along the sides of the caterpillar’s body. This is another caterpillar with an extremely painful sting, that may cause other aforementioned symptoms. As with the other two species, they feed and are found around a wide variety of deciduous hardwood tree, bushes, and vines. They may reach a length of up to 4 cm.

Well, we hope this little mini-guide to stinging Fall caterpillars helps you stay safe out in your yard, garden, and out in area parks in the coming weeks. Though painful at times, they are important herbivores in our native ecosystems, and they really can be quite beautiful and even endearing.

Thanks for joining us again, and see you soon!

Eric Duran
Staff Naturalist

Photographs: Top Asp – Rain0975 | Flickr; Flannel Moth – Patrick Coin | Wikimedia; Asp – Amizrachi | Wiki; Slug moth – Eric Duran; Oak Slug Caterpillar – Shaina Noggle | Wikimedia; Saddleback Caterpillar – Gerald Lenhard/LSU | Wiki; Saddle back moth – Andy Reaggo and Chrissy McClarren | Flickr




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Wildlife Wednesday: The Skippers

Wildlife Wednesday:  The Skippers

Spring brings butterflies back to the park, and the Skippers (family Hesperiidae) are one of the first groups to show up. These small butterflies are named for the fast darting manner in which they fly, as if they’re skipping around from flower to flower. There are over 3,500 spp. of skipper around the world, and a couple of dozen of those species are found in the Houston area. Many of the skippers look remarkably similar to each other, and can often be very difficult to identify. Many of the species are also rather drab, being various shades of brown, and can be misidentified as moths (but they are of course diurnal, and have the clubs at the tip of the antennae, which are indicative of butterflies).

Here are a few of the skippers that are found here at the Nature Discovery Center:

Fiery Skippers (Hylephila phyleus) are one of the more common species found here, visiting our wildflower gardens, wildflowers on the front lawn, and the Pocket Prairie. The males are a bit showier, with bright orange and dark brown on the wings (pictured left and top), and the females are a light yellowy brown with brown spots. The tiny greenish caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses, including Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass. You may notice that this skipper keeps its forewings and hindwings separated at a right angle, with the forewings held up, when it’s resting. This is a small butterfly, measuring only about 1 in long.


The White Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus albescens) is easy to tell apart from most other skippers with its white and dark gray/black checkered pattern. There is however, another checkered skipper that is very similar to this species, the Tropical Checkered Skipper, which is also found in our area. They visit a wide variety of small flowers close to the ground, and their caterpillars feed on a variety of small mallow/hibiscus species, like Sida. They may attain a wingspan of up to 3.8 cm in width.


Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) is one of 2 species of Duskywing (dark colored skippers that keep their wings open and flattened when on a perch), found in our park. The other is the very similar Horace’s Duskywing, though there are many other species of Duskywing across the country. The caterpillars of these skippers feed on oak leaves. They are similar in size to the Checkered skippers, ~3.8 cm wingspan. Duskywings can make themselves rather conspicuous with their darting, climbing, and diving flight patterns, and their habit of sunning out in flat open meadows in plain sight.

We hope you enjoyed our profile of a few skipper butterflies common to our park. Come out and walk around our wildflower gardens, Prairie Wetlands, and  Pocket Prairie, the next time you get the chance, and see if you can spot these delightful little insects.


Thanks so much, and see you soon!

Eric Duran
Staff Naturalist


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