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?

Share

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 - November 03, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Are the moths in my Austin, TX live oaks harmful?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

It is November and my live oak trees are full of moths. What are they and are they harmful to my trees?

ANSWER:

The insects you're seeing is almost certainly not moths, but butterflies.  Texas is currently experiencing an explosion in the population of American Snout butterflies, Libytheana carinenta.  These population explosions regularly occur when certain climatic conditions are met.  During these times, billions of adult American Snout butterflies - which do resemble moths - may take to the air in Texas.  Other states may see similar flights of this species, but in much smaller numbers.

The good news is that American Snouts do not feed on Live Oak, only hackberry.  In fact, while the caterpillars of this species can, when the leaves are just emerging, feed on the foliage of any hackberry species, they actually feed almost exclusively on Celtis ehrenbergiana (spiny hackberry), listed as Celtis pallida by some sources.  For more on the interesting life history of this butterfly species, see this excellent article on American Snout "migrations."

The adult American Snouts visiting your live oaks are probably attracted to the nectar-like secretions of plant-sucking insects, like aphids, living on your oaks.  Though aphids and other insects like them do take some food and energy from Live Oak trees, they rarely cause enough damage to be of any real concern.  For more information on oak pests, please visit this webpage from the Forest Pests website.

 

More Trees Questions

Installing limestone walkway around trees from Pflugerville TX
June 28, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants:I wish to install a limestone walkway in my front yard, however, there are some roots(~ 1.25 inch) in the designated area. Will this hurt or kill the tree if I cut these away? T...
view the full question and answer

Tree leaves being chewed in Austin
July 04, 2009 - We planted a Texas Redbud tree, and Monterey Oak (Mexican White Oak) in the front yard this spring and both have had their leaves eaten or chewed by something I cannot find on their leaves. At first I...
view the full question and answer

Are baldcypress trees (Taxodium distichum) self-fertile
March 06, 2011 - We are considering planting a bald cypress in a grassy children's play area that has fair amount of clay in the soil and receives a good amount of rain water from an adjacent slope. This seems a good...
view the full question and answer

Live Oak Leaf Drop in North Carolina
April 27, 2011 - We planted a 15 foot, approx. 3" caliber live oak tree last summer and it seemed very healthy throughout our unusually cold winter in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. (Winston-Salem). Now it's ...
view the full question and answer

Problem with Chinese Pistache tree
September 01, 2014 - We have a gorgeous Chinese Pistache in our yard, about 25 feet tall. We bought it for its gorgeous fall color. The problem is that it has never turned color for us. All the other pistaches in the neig...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center