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Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

What's in a name?

During recent rains I was stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted this guy who seemed to simply appear on one of our back windows one morning.
I didn't know what this was, but it was clear it was not to be messed with.  The spiny protuberances had me standing on the other side of a window with my fingers curled into a fist, protectively.  Whatever the opposite of cuddly is? That is this guy.
I called for backup.  At first glance The Hub immediately reacted "asp!".  It turns out each of us had our own separate unpleasant childhood experiences with asp caterpillars growing up in Texas.

As we stood with coffee cups and shared horror stories, exaggerating the pain and suffering inflicted upon the innocent child-versions of ourselves by our initial contact with asp caterpillars, we acknowledged that 1) we were both unusually brave and fine young people, and 2) this spiny window walker was a relative perhaps, but no asp.  Asps are hairy and this guy is spiny.  Very very spiny.

I was having a terrible time trying to get a reasonable image as the reflectivity of the window coatings played games with the auto-focus on my camera. Knowing I could not leave such a stingy thing crawling on the house so close to a doorway anyway, I carefully transferred the slug from window to trowel, and carried it out into better light.

I took a few more shots and, uttering a few words of farewell, gently heaved this guy over the fence to a spot where there is no regular human or even much animal traffic.  A spot where both slug and other neighborhood travelers may stay safely separate one from the other.
Quarantine established, identification quest initiated.

It didn't take long to discover that our intimidating visitor is a Spiny Oak Slug. More scientifically, a slug caterpillar of the Limacodidae family, genus Euclea.  
According to no less stellar a source than BugGuide, there is little to no information on how to further distinguish larvae of Euclea between E. delphinii and E. nanina. Their ranges overlap and larvae vary widely.  That's all right. Spiny Oak Slug will do just fine.

Sometimes, a common name tells you most of what you really need to know.

14 comments:

Rebecca Newcomb said...

What an interesting looking little fella! I'm not scientific enough to care too much about the scientific names. And I definitely don't remember them. That goes for both flora and fauna. While I include the scientific names from time to time, it is really the common names that stick and give me the info I need to know. Now I'm going to go out and check my garden for any Spiny Oak Slugs!

Debra said...

Spines or SNOWFLAKES? I have never seen anything like it. Thanks so much for sharing. (and bugguide? heart heart heart)

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: I include those scientific names because it pleases the smarty pants in me, honestly. I have to look them up every time and rarely recall any of them spontaneously. Spiny Oak Slug FTW!

TexasDeb said...

Debra: OK, then you see it too. I kept thinking this caterpillar had a certain crystalline structure to the spines. And/or is lacy. I just didn't quite get all the way to snowflake!

Kris Peterson said...

It's kind of pretty - for a slug. I wouldn't want to touch it either or, worse yet, step on it. Dispatching it over the fence was the right thing to do.

Tina said...

You had me laughing, "...unusually brave and fine young people..."--so funny. I remember asps--hairy and hurty. I've never seen one of your visitors and I'm glad for that. Hope he/she finds plenty to eat and not to sting or stick wherever you tossed him.

TexasDeb said...

Kris: This slug turns into a very brown hairy moth - not anything that would catch your eye under any circumstances. I don't think I've seen the moths around much, but as I noted, it is particularly unremarkable so maybe they are around and I never noticed before? Now that I've seen one, I can do without the slugs, regardless.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: That's the plan, anyway. We seem to be seeing a fair number of critters lately we don't see much of (which I'm grateful for). I can be detached and brave for about 18 minutes per day and that is it!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I had never heard of these but they do look formidable with those spines. I love the name although they do not look like a slug to me.

TexasDeb said...

Donna: Thanks for dropping by! They are slug-caterpillars. Names can be a bit misleading at times or at other times say everything there is to know.

Pam/Digging said...

I saw one of those this morning on one of the garden walls. I thought it might be an asp too and flicked it off with a stick into the deeper garden. I'm glad to know what it's called.

TexasDeb said...

Pam: I am seeing all sorts of unusual critters these past few days. I think the coming cold has somehow triggered some seasonal shifts. I'm not a cold weather appreciator so much but I will enjoy the end of mosquitoes for a while!

Travis Heights Garden Mama said...

Spiny and definitely not to be touched (I never survived an asp attack but have been lectured so many times about them I too am scared of them!). He looks awfully spiky to be a slug, which reallys hould be grey with a long goopy trail. I love his green color and fractal-like patterning though- gorgeous pics!

TexasDeb said...

THGM: I wonder if, when this guy turns into a moth, he has a LOT of attitude, based upon his tough guy (or at least tough looking guy) start?