Archive for the 'Invertebrates' Category

Milkweed for Monarchs

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

More than seventy species of milkweed have been recorded nationwide; over half of those are native to Texas. Including two that are endemic.

These are species that are found nowhere else but within the Texas border. One of them is called Texas Milkweed, which is found in canyons in Central Texas. And then we have a species called Coastal Milkweed that occurs roughly from the Houston area to just north of Brownsville.

Jason Singhurst, a botanist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says milkweeds provide sustenance to the iconic monarch butterfly during its migration.

So, here in Texas, we know certain species like green milkweed, antelope horns, broadleaf milkweed, and zizotes are some of our most abundant species that we’re seeing monarch larvae and adults visit.

Because milkweed species vary, do monarchs use each species in the same or different ways?

That’s a really good question. That’s something we’re trying to figure out in Texas. And that’s why we started this mapping project called Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs project—using iNaturalist. It’s an app that you can download on your smartphone. We’re using that project to help us identify different species of milkweeds across the state, and then also which species that larvae, or adult monarch butterflies are visiting.

Find a link to the Milkweeds and Monarchs project on iNaturalist at passporttotexas.org.

Find an article about milkweeds by Jason Singhurst in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Scorpions are Beneficial, Just not in the House

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Scpr[ion

Scorpions are beneficial; we just don’t want them in the house.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas boasts a fair number of scorpion species.

There are about 18 species in Texas. Depending on where you’re at—you may have more or less.

Ben Hutchins is an invertebrate biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

In all of Texas, we don’t have scorpions that are considered life threatening. As with any animal that has venom, there’s always the possibility of an allergic reaction.

To healthy non-allergic people a scorpion sting may simply cause short-term discomfort. In nature, scorpions are highly beneficial.

Scorpions are predators, and so they feed on a variety of potential pest organisms. Some scorpions also feed on other scorpions, so they do have an important role in the environment potentially controlling pest populations…insects…spiders…other arachnids. There’s also potential medical utility for scorpions as well—using venom to treat medical conditions.

Therefore, if a scorpion inadvertently wanders into your home some evening while foraging…

There’s really no cause for alarm. What I usually do is use a cup [and place it over the scorpion and use a] piece of paper that you kind of slide under there to pick up the scorpion. And then you can just remove it and put it in an area where it can do its business.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my fight or flight response kicks in when I see a scorpion, and I squish it. Sorry about that.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Scorpions Making Themselves at Home–in Yours

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016
Scorpion in Texas

Scorpion in Texas

This is Passport to Texas

I find scorpions in my house from time to time. With their crablike pincers and barbed tails, they’re scary little guys.

I think we have a natural reaction to anything with different body morphology.

Ben Hutchins is an invertebrate biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says scorpions dwell in a wide variety of habitats.

Pretty much any habitat except Alpine environments.

Although we have several species this arachnid in Texas, Hutchins says we’re not likely to run into them.

Usually, we don’t run into them that often because they’re mainly active at night; during the day they’re usually hiding under rocks, under logs—deep in leaf litter as well. So, we don’t run into them a lot, except when perhaps we’re in the yard gardening, or they might wander into our house at night.

Why do they come into our homes?

It’s not really intentional; during their foraging, they might see a crack under your door as just another crevice that they’ll be traveling through in search of prey.

Once they’re inside, they could make themselves comfy.

If you have a room with the lights off and lots of boxes—places to hide—that mirrors their natural environment with lots of secure hiding place for them…

How scorpions are beneficial in the environment. That’s tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Citizen Scientists Take Biological Inventories

Monday, March 21st, 2016
Getting up close and personal with Texas critters.

Getting up close and personal with Texas critters.


This is Passport to Texas

With the help of biological inventory teams of citizen scientists, Texas Parks and Wildlife monitors plants… herps…

Which are the amphibians and reptiles…

…birds and invertebrates…

…and that would mainly be: butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, bumblebees and such….

…in Texas’ 8 wildlife districts; Biologist Marsha May oversees the program. She says she’s recruiting experts statewide to join these monitoring teams.

Mostly, we’re looking at hobbyists; people who have joined herp societies. They know their herps. As well as birders. There’re people involved in Audubon Society that know their birds. So those are the types of people [as well as those with expertise in native plants and invertebrates] that we’re looking for, for these projects.

These biological inventory teams will monitor species on private land.

So, my plan is to start with organizing teams throughout the state. And once we get good, solid teams in place, then we’re going to go out there and open it up to the landowners, and let them know that these teams are available to come and do surveys on their property.

Knowing what’s on the land helps landowners become better stewards. Find out how to volunteer when you log visit the Nature Trackers page on the TPW website.

Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Benefits of Scorpions

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
Scorpion on leaf litter.

Scorpion on leaf litter.


This is Passport to Texas

Texas boasts a fair number of scorpion species.

06— There are about 18 species in Texas. Depending on where you’re at – you may have more or less.

Ben Hutchins is an invertebrate biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

10— In all of Texas, we don’t have scorpions that are considered life threatening. As with any animal that has venom, there’s always the possibility of an allergic reaction.

To healthy non-allergic people a scorpion sting may simply cause short-term discomfort. In nature, scorpions are highly beneficial.

23— Scorpions are predators, and so they feed on a variety of potential pest organisms. Some scorpions also feed on other scorpions, so they do have an important role in the environment potentially controlling pest populations…insects…spiders…other arachnids. There’s also potential medical utility for scorpions as well – using venom to treat medical conditions.

Therefore, if a scorpion inadvertently wanders into your home some evening while foraging…

12— There’s really no cause for alarm. What I usually do is use a cup [and place it over the scorpion and use a] piece of paper that you kind of slide under there to pick up the scorpion. And then you can just remove it and put it in an area where it can do its business.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my fight or flight response kicks in when I see a scorpion, and I squish it. Sorry about that.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.