Thursday, August 28, 2008

A find on the trail...

We were just walking up the hill and a beam of the setting sun seemed to draw my attention to something that I could hardly believe was some type of caterpillar. It was wound around a branch in a fir tree.

Here's a picture of our "find":

I took a shot of it next to a lighter to show the size.

We think this is the front/head end.

And this is the hind end.

So, my DH identified our bizarre visitor as an Imperial Moth.

From the Auburn University website (I deleted the pictures that were almost identical to the ones we took above - and we were right about which end was which!):

Imperial Moth
Eacles imperialis (Drury) (Saturniidae)

L.L. Hyche, Associate Professor
Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology
Auburn University

The imperial moth is distributed throughout the eastern United States west to Texas and Kansas. The caterpillar feeds on foliage of a variety of broadleaf and coniferous trees. Some common hosts are oaks, sweetgum, sycamore, elm, hickories, walnut, maple, basswood, honeylocust, pines, red cedar, and bald cypress. In Alabama, the caterpillar is found on both pines and hardwoods.

Life Cycle, Description, and Habits

The insect spends the winter as a pupa in the soil; adults emerge in spring. The adult is a large moth with wingspread of 100-150 mm. It is sulfur yellow, marked in varying degrees with lilac to purplish-brown bands and spots. Females lay large yellow eggs or in small groups on either surface of host leaves.

The full-grown caterpillar is 75-100 mm long. It occurs in two color forms, green and brown. In the green form, the head is orange-yellow with vertical black or dark stripes on sides and front. The thoracic legs are yellow. The body is green and thinly clothed with long whitish hairs. The second and third thoracic segments each bear a pair of stubby, rough yellow horns, and rows of smaller yellow spines occur along the body to the rear. The last abdominal segment bears conspicuous yellow and black triangular plates. The spiracles along the sides are large, oval and pale yellow to cream in color. In the brown color form, the body, horns, and spines are tan to reddish brown. When fully grown, larvae leave foliage and pupate in the soil. Two broods may possibly occur each year in Alabama; however, the caterpillar is most commonly seen in August and September.

Occurrence, Damage, Importance

The imperial moth caterpillar is a solitary feeder. It may occur on any of the many host trees, and is usually encountered most commonly in late summer and fall. These large larvae individually can consume a lot of foliage, but are seldom present in sufficient numbers to cause serious damage. Large, colorful, and armed with horns and spines, the caterpillar may look fierce and dangerous; however, it is harmless and does not "sting" or stab man.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Essential Herbal ~ Sept/Oct '08

The next issue is in the mail, and it is such a great fall issue! We have articles on various herb crafts - from making tinctures to harvest soaps, several great recipes, gardening information, book reviews, and enough projects and ideas to make us almost look forward to the waning sun. Take a look at the table of contents below! TABLE OF CONTENTS

Crossword Puzzle - A little botanical nomenclature.
Field Notes from the Editor
Suburban Herbie, Obsessive Gardening - Geri Burgert
Dia de los Muertos - Betsy May
List Article - Winter Preparations
Simple Tincture Making at Home - Sarah Campbell
Down on the Farm, Seed Saving - Michele Brown and Pat Stewart
Book Review Unlikely Lavender Queen - Cindy Jones
Colours of Autumn, Mrs. S.J. Head
Book Review, The Priestess of the Forest - Sarah Campbell
SouthRidge Treasures, Horseradish - Mary Ellen Wilcox
Tealight Tutorial - Abbie Sewell
The Soap Pot, Harvest Soap - Alicia Grosso
Louisiana Lagniappe, Mushroom & Eggplant Pie - Sarah Liberta
Never Enough Thyme, Sunchokes - Susanna Reppert
Rebooting Your Brain - Susan Evans
Stuffed Shirts - Sue-Ryn Burns
The Twisted Sisters Tour~4 Days, 3 Cities! - Tina Sams

Monday, August 4, 2008

Naked Lammas Ladies in Bloom!

Scattered throughout my gardens are a gorgeous flower that my mother-in-law always called "Naked Ladies". They are a type of Nerine. The strap-like leaves come up in the spring, and die back completely by early summer. Then, at the first of August every year the flower stalks emerge from the ground like smooth green snakes, growing 6 inches a day, gradually opening to these beautiful lily-like pink flowers. Because they emerge at the first of August, I have taken to calling them "Naked Lammas Ladies". Green blessings, Sarah