Tag Archives: asp

Monster Mash

Looks harmless, right?

Looks harmless, right?

When I walked into my home office on Halloween morning, the above is what I saw on the top window. At first, I figured it was a leaf or some dirt kicked up by the heavy rains pelting Houston at that time.

But then I stared at the distinctive, pointy, bottom part. Oh oh . . . definitely looks like an unfortunately familiar tail.

Total ugh!

But it’s not! (That’s its slime around it, by the way.)

So I put my Nikon 105mm macro lens on my Nikon D700 and closed in on the blob (I had to use flash to overcome the strong backlighting).

Those spines are poisonous.

Those spines are poisonous (snapped outside the house on the window).

Yep, just as I suspected, it was an awful asp, one of the most-toxic caterpillars in North America. As you may recall, we had about a half-dozen of the deceptively warm, furry, micro mustaches crawling on our light-colored house a year ago.

This time I’ve only seen Angus (yes, I named him for some reason), and he’s far from our front door, thank goodness. But still, even just one asp definitely is a trick, not a treat!

Coming Out Party

Not the clearest photo, but you can see the two moths around the opened cocoon.

Not the clearest photo, but you can see the two moths around the opened cocoon.

Since I mentioned those pesky asps in yesterday’s post, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for an update.

I’m happy to report that two or three of the cocoons have burst open, leading to the debut of four or six puss moths. Apparently, two (one big, one small) emerged from each one. Surprised the heck out of me.

When I checked on the chrysalis the first night it appeared, I could see that the cocoon on top of the arch near the caterpillar’s temporary home had opened. The next morning I used my Nikon 70-200mm lens with the 1.7x teleconverter to snap mediocre photos.

This doesn’t look promising.

This doesn’t look promising.

Then I examined the icky, disturbing cocoon on the front door jamb. It looked like I was going to be able to watch this moth emerge up close and personal, complete with clear, crisp photos. An apt reward for having to be careful not to harm the pupa for months. I was stoked!

However, nature gypped me! The moth never got beyond pushing part of his body out and remains in this still-life position. Darn it!

Where did they come from?

Where did they come from?

The next day when I was walking along the driveway, I noticed two southern flannel moths lounging together under the house’s overhang. But there was no cocoon nearby. Just the two critters. So I’m not sure if these were the same moths from the entryway or newbies.

Visitors who can’t quite reach the doorbell.

Visitors who can’t quite reach the doorbell.

Later that morning as I was going into the house, I saw two more little, furry beasts, this time near the front door.

They looks cute!

They look cute!

Moths are nocturnal, so I wasn’t surprised that none of the critters I saw moved an inch during the day. But at night it was their time to fly without saying bye.

We still have several cocoons high up on the front entry and around the house, so the asp Motel 6 still is, unfortunately, in business. We continue to leave the light on.

Another Very Hungry Caterpillar Tale

Nom nom!

Nom nom!

While I was still mourning the loss of our three caterpillars, nature decided to teach me another lesson.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that our thoroughly devoured butterfly bush had regrown its leaves. The very next day we had yet another temporary visitor chewing away—yep, it was a monarch caterpillar!

The pickings got slim in a hurry.

The pickings got slim in a hurry.

This time there was no competition for all that tasty greenery. I’m sure the little guy preferred being a solo act.

Part of its bar routine

Part of his bar routine

Plus it left plenty of room for the caterpillar to show off his gymnastics skills. This multicolored guy totally entertained me with his stunts around the once-again naked plant.

But all too soon my pal disappeared into the mulch. I wondered if he would be able to find our house so he could eventually pupate.

Not a good place to be

Not a good place to be

The next morning I finally spotted him near our front door, inching his way up the door jamb. That definitely wasn’t the best spot for him to eventually “J” and form his chrysalis.

Caterpillar on a stick

Moving day

So I found a stick, which he climbed on to. Then I gently placed him at the bottom of our front porch’s wall so he could ascend undisturbed.

Two’s company

Two’s company

Before long he was on top of our front entry’s arch, settling in near one of the asps’ cocoons.

Hanging by a thread

Hanging by a thread

By the afternoon, the caterpillar was precariously hanging off the arch. Pupation awaited!

Success . . . for awhile

Success . . . for awhile

When I checked the next morning, this chrysalis greeted me. As happy as I was that we might see another monarch butterfly emerge, I wondered if it would last for two weeks. The location of the bright, green exoskeleton seemed too out in the open, too tempting for hungry birds.

Sure enough, the very next day, there was nothing left of the leaf-stripping, hard-working caterpillar. The chrysalis was gone.

And, once again, I’m in mourning. Sigh!

Still Ex-asp-erated

From door jamb to stick to house to cocoon

From door jamb to stick to house to cocoon—all in one day

Apparently, word is out in the oak trees through the mini mop network that our house is a veritable Motel 6 for puss moth caterpillars. They crawl on it, check in, and, hopefully, fly out in late spring.

Even if they paid for the privilege of climbing up our outside brick or front door jamb (shudder!), I don’t want these toxic freeloaders sharing space with us. In the case of asps, one is a crowd.

After last Friday’s debacle with apparent asp #3, which ended with the creepy critter settling in cocoon style near our original asp high on our outside front entry’s arch, I hoped we were done with the micro-mustache set.

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

Sadly, no. The saga continued the next day when I spied yet another asp scooching up the wall. I was just glad he wasn’t near the front door!

Can you see the little guy? How does he hang on?

Can you see the little guy? How does he hang on?

This latest (dare I pray final?) caterpillar was a traveler. It looked like he wanted to be with the other two cocoons, but he was on the opposite wall. So he traversed the arch towards them.

The great balancing act!

The great balancing act!

The deceptively cute furball moved under and over the arch until he got fairly close to the door jamb asp’s cocoon. But then the noise from the mowing crew seemed to spook him. He turned around, inched a bit, and stopped where he was on the underside of the arch.

Yet another freeloader

Yet another freeloader

And that’s where he’ll stay until a bell rings, and he gets his wings (or have I been watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” too many times?). At least he and his slumbering friends are where they can’t hurt anyone.

So why are we beset with these pests? Do they like our house due to its light color? It is the perfect camouflage for them. But this is the first time in the 16 years we’ve lived here that we’ve noticed them. Perhaps in the past ignorance was bliss.

I’d pull the asp welcome mat . . . if I could find it!

A Sticky Situation

first-#7528-(asp-on-door-jamb)

This is a most UNWELCOME visitor!

After my adventure with one of the most-toxic caterpillars on the entire flippin’ continent, e.g., the puss moth caterpillar (aka asp), I figured I was relatively safe from front door danger. Having one of those creepy crawlers nearby again must be akin to those million-to-one Powerball odds. So, of course, I was living large and resting easy.

Why, oh why, didn’t I buy a lottery ticket? Guess whose harmless-looking-but-potentially-deadly cousin came a-calling last Friday?

I actually shuddered when I looked at the front door that day. What the heck?!?

Danger danger!

Danger danger!

Making it even worse was that the mini moptop was climbing up the jamb, getting perilously close to door itself. What was someone with a heightened case of insectophobia (asp division) supposed to do?

Fortunately, it was almost 3 p.m., so high school was done for the day. My younger son came riding up on his white horse . . . or, rather, in his white car . . . to save my day.

Will the asp take the bait?

Will the asp take the bait?

He placed a large stick near the caterpillar and waited.

Here it comes!

Here it comes!

Before long, the furry beastie was climbing on the stick. I, of course, kept my distance from those venomous spines and made sure that the asp wrangler did the same.

A little camera shy

A little camera shy

What a relief to get that micro mustache away from the front door! Even the photos give me the willies.

A boy and his unsafe prey

A boy and his unsafe prey

My young hero placed the stick near the house but well away from the door. We knew that the caterpillar needed to climb up high to find a safe spot to cocoon.

And that should be the end of this scary story. Sadly it’s not.

When I was looking out the front door window before my son came home, I was startled to see something odd tucked away inside the jamb, higher up from the current crawler.

Not the safest spot for a cocoon

Not the safest spot for a cocoon

A puss moth caterpillar must have stopped scooching  up the jamb at that spot sometime between when I spotted the first asp and last Friday. Which meant that it was near the front door at some point. Who knew we were that close to potential danger?!?

I might never use our front door again!

Where’s Wooly Waldo?

Look up!

If you’re wondering what happened to that strange, creepy crawler pictured in yesterday’s blog post, here’s an update.

With the emphasis on the “up!”

Snapped in the morning

The puss moth caterpillar has wedged itself into a protected area high above our front porch. Apparently, the asp has formed a cocoon.

Snapped in the afternoon

I’m just glad that we’re all out of harm’s way from this toxic, little critter. Here’s hoping the moth that emerges will be friendlier!