En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 06, 2014

From: Bandera, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Clicking heard under an Oak in near Bandera, TX
Answered by: Joe Marcus


Hi, I live on a ranch in TX outside of Bandera. We're covered with live oaks, spanish oak and cedar. Last week,as I stood under an oak, I heard a constant fairly loud clicking sound under and around this oak. I walked around much of our property and did not hear the sound under any other oaks. It's sounded like rain droplets hitting the dry oak leaves beneath the tree but there was no rain. I could not spot any little insects, either. To make sure I wasn't crazy, I asked my elderly mother to take a listen and she heard it also. Any ideas? I'm really puizzled..we've never heard this sound in all the time we've lived here. Thanks, Michael


It's very likely that you're not losing your mind.  The clicking sound you describe sounds just like the typical sign that Oak Leaf Rollers are at work in a tree.  It is the sound of their frass (tiny, little caterpillar meadow muffins) hitting the dry leaves below.  This is the time of year they visit, often completely defoliating their host Live Oak tree just after its new foliage has emerged.  The damage does not seem to cause serious injury to the host plant, though, and it quickly produces a new set of leaves and goes about its treely business.

Here is an excellent online publication on Oak Leaf Rollers published by Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service.

Oak Leaf Rollers are usually just a bit earlier, so we cannot say that it's not another creature, but chances are excellent the source of the clicking you heard were some caterpillars munching on the tree's leaves.


More Pests Questions

Problems with mountain laurel from Sunrise Beach TX
August 29, 2012 - In Llano Co., TX near lake LBJ, crushed granite type soil - my 4 - 5 year old TX Mtn. Laurels (2), about the size of large wheel barrows, are turning very pale, dropping leaves and on 1 the seed pods ...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating muskrats from a cottage garden in Ontario
August 22, 2010 - We have perennial gardens at our cottage and for the first time this year the muskrats have come and leveled everything..shasta daisies, coneflowers, day lilies, phlox, etc. Any suggestions as to how...
view the full question and answer

Possible sawflies on loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
May 03, 2011 - My pine trees looked great a week ago, now one from top to bottom is almost without needles. It is covered with greenish caterpillars. They have several stripes down their back . Could these be saw fl...
view the full question and answer

Squirrels eating seed pods of Rock Rose in Austin
June 24, 2011 - Squirrel(s) have been ripping the branches off my rock rose bushes in order to eat the seed pods. Previously we had problems with squirrel(s) gnawing on our garden ornaments. I sprayed the ornaments ...
view the full question and answer

What insect eats Alamo Fire blue bonnets from League City TX
June 10, 2013 - What insect eats Alamo Fire blue bonnets? Something seems to be eating new seedpods.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center