November 19, 2023
Grateful for Wildlife Gardeners Like You!
Across this adventurous year, gardeners spanning Central Texas welcomed us into their gardens and heartfelt journeys. Goals, styles, and personalities vary, but all share one thing: a commitment to restore wildlife habitat. Over and over, we heard, “Thanks to what we’re doing, we’re seeing so many more butterflies, bees, lizards, and birds. We’re so grateful.”
Sadly, though, we’ve all observed diminished wildlife populations this year. So, I was thrilled and quite grateful to find six woolly bear caterpillars on my native desert willow! I wonder how many hair styles these guys inspired?!
There are several “woolly bears,” but I think these will grace us as eye-catching giant leopard moths next year. For one thing, I see them in my garden and the Wildflower Center notes that desert willow is a host plant for white-winged moths.
On CTG’s Facebook page and Instagram, I learned that people across Texas and indeed, the U.S, are seeing lots of them this year. I don’t know what that means, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted that these little “bears” will overwinter in leaves. In colder regions, they will actually freeze and thaw out in spring to pupate into cocoons.
And there you go: another great reason to “leave the leaves!” If on the lawn, rake them into beds and borders or around your trees (away from the trunk) to nourish your soil and protect plant roots and hunkering-down wildlife.
Note: there’s no scientific data to support the woolly bear’s ability to predict how cold winter will be! Also, you can pet them if you like. They’re quite friendly! I’ve even picked them up to move out of footpath danger.
You DO want to avoid petting asps, which are just as fuzzy wuzzy cute, but no touch on these stinging caterpillars! Thanks to Julie Gilbert in Fate, Texas for sharing this one!
And we’re grateful for YOU! Host John Hart Asher joins all of us at CTG and Austin PBS to thank you for sharing this year with us. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!