A set of fortuitous circumstances have led me to have something more in the naturalist vein to write about. I’ve been missing those things! It all started when I was in the horse pen, and noticed all these cool paths in the dirt.
I couldn’t remember what made those trails, though I was sure I used to know, so I posted about it on Facebook. I got some cute and silly guesses, then, as I’d hoped, someone from around Cameron reminded me of the answer. Burton, who’d been in my Master Naturalist class, identified them as ant lion, or doodlebug, trails. These Myrmeleontidae (it means ant lion!) are commonly called “doodlebugs,” because their trails make them look like they’re doodling around.
Predator and Prey Brochure: A Collaboration Between Texas Master Naturalists in the El Camino Real Chapter and All Things Wild Rehabilitation, Inc.
(Primary Contributors: Donna Lewis, Cindy Bolch, Joyce Conner, Helen Laughlin, and Carla Conner)
The Texas Master Naturalist mission is to develop a corps of well-educated “Master Volunteers” to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated toward the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities. All members receive training and learn strategies to restore and conserve our local and state indigenous species and habitats.
Because their missions align, four Texas Master Naturalist members in the El Camino Real Chapter (Milam County) attended a 3-hour training session at All Things Wild (ATW) in 2019. Thereafter, a relationship formed between the two organizations that included the chapter providing supplies and providing release locations for rehabilitated animals.
In 2020 the El Camino Real Chapter and All Things Wild partnered to create a brochure titled “Predator and Prey,” which is geared towards educating the public about some interesting things regarding wildlife, specifically in Milam County. Many of our wildlife creatures are sometimes mistakenly considered pests when actually these animals are quite beneficial to humans and the environment.
This brochure illustrates the interdependence of some of Milam County’s most common mammals through individual descriptions and through a food web. It was designed by graphic artist Carla Conner, an ATW volunteer.
During our research for the brochure we learned new things and gained an even greater appreciation about the included wildlife. For example, we learned that both opossums and skunks are immune to snake venom and that both will eat venomous snakes. We also learned that raccoons do not wash their food, as many people believe. Instead, they will wet their food in their paws to gather sensory information about what they are about to eat. We hope you learn new information from the brochure too.
An online copy of the brochure is included at the end of this article. Look for the hard copy in the fall at your community library and Chamber of Commerce. You will also be able to get copies at the All Things Wild Rehabilitation center. Brochures for members of the chapter will also be available at the Hermit Haus; just let Sue Ann know you want to come get some. You are also welcome to print out a personal copy from this blog.
We hope that knowing more about these amazing wildlife neighbors will lead to more respect and protection of them. Learn and explore the wonderous world of wild animals so that you too can hear “The Call of the Wild.”
I have developed a relationship with a Yellow Garden Spider over the spring and summer this year, all courtesy of a tomato plant. Then, a kleptoparasitic Theridiidae genera intruded. This illustrated that big does not always win.
This large yellow spider (pictured) showed up on my tomato plant (I only planted one) when it reached about two feet tall, sometime in April. It set up house, via a web, and seemed to just stay parked there. It never moved off the web nor did it bother my plant. The tomatoes grew all around it, and I picked them without problem. The growing spider and I were coexisting on friendly terms. I eventually posted it on iNaturalist, and it reached research grade. The tomato plant has become spindly and leaves are turning brown. I normally would have removed it by now, but I didn’t want to remove the spider’s home.
On Wednesday, my son noticed some very small, metallic spiders on the web with the big one. The big spider had snared and wrapped its daily catch in webbing, and these little spiders were attempting to get at it. You can see it in the pictures.
I thought at first that they were recently hatched babies of the big spider, but I was wrong. I posted a picture on iNaturalist and a helpful identifier who goes by chuuuuung said the little spider is a kleptoparasitic Theridiidae genera – a thieving parasite. The little thieves were going to work on the big spider’s catch. (We are trying to get a video to attach, so come back later if you see this message.)
I have left them both alone. Nature is nature, and you definitely don’t always win if you are larger. Today (8-6), the garden spider caught a good size wasp and wrapped it up. The Theridiidae were waiting in the outer reaches of the web to take their shot at it. Meanwhile, the tomato plant is growing more tomatoes.