Texas Day 1: Abilene

To keep costs down, Ben and I decided to camp for the entirety of our Texas trip (aside from two nights at a colleague’s house). This made our trip feel even more adventurous. We’re used to showing up to a research station with dorms, a kitchen, and a laboratory with supplies. This trip was quite different! We brought my tent, and bought some cheap sleeping pads and sleeping bags at Walmart when we arrived. We also bought some batteries to run our lights, and parts to build a light trap.

We arrived in Dallas, loaded up the car with supplies and food, and drove out to Abilene State Park. I truly did not believe we would fit all of our supplies into a compact rental car, but we did.

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Ben at the campsite

The area seemed scrubby, a little dry, and an odd mix of forest, scrub, and almost-desert habitat. The air was hot and humid. There were only a few other people in the campground, as this is not an ideal time to be camping in Texas. As soon as the tent was set up, we set off to explore.

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Adorable little mantis!

We saw a few caterpillars just by walking around – like this little notodontid.

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Lochmaeus bilineata caterpillar

Our daytime caterpillar search wasn’t terribly fruitful though, so we held out hope for the night. We weren’t too impressed with what the light brought in (our campsite had electricity!), but we did have fun (and strained our necks) looking for caterpillars. We were spooked by a few raccoons, but otherwise didn’t run into any trouble.

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Ben at the sheet

Our first big find turned out to be an Acronicta caterpillar! I spotted it sitting on a branch just above my head. I instantly recognized its fuzzy gray body as belonging to Acronicta lobeliae.

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Acronicta lobelieae

But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. After taking this photo, I reached toward the caterpillar to pick it up. It instinctively dropped to the ground, where it landed directly into an antlion pit! It thrashed around as the antlion tried dragging it under the sand. I quickly scooped up the caterpillar but it appeared paralyzed or dead – frozen into a half curled position.

I kept the poor guy anyway, and within about an hour it was back to normal. Whew!

Here are some other pretty caterpillars we came across:

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Ianassa sp.

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Asterocampa sp.

We weren’t blown away by our first night, but I was quite happy to have an Acronicta caterpillar in hand. We stayed one night, and the next day continued our journey west, to Fort Davis.

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Posted on June 11, 2013, in Acronicta, Acronictinae, Invertebrates, Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Notodontidae, Nymphalidae, Texas trip 2013, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Awesome!!! This reminds me of our field trip times in Croatia – every moment we found something new that we didnt know, picked it and went to camp with it. I love the work you guys do!

  2. I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, however good topic.
    I must spend some time learning more or working out more.
    Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this info for my
    mission.

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