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 - 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


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


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

Landscaping with native plants in Austin
October 06, 2005 - I'm expanding a flower bed in front of my house and would like to keep it all natives. 1) How do I find out what type of soil I should add? (I live near Hyde Park, Austin and haven't had a soil te...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native indoor palm in Guilford CT
April 08, 2012 - My question is I have an indoor palm plant that I have had for 7 yrs. It has grown from about a 5" plant to about 3' tall plant. The past few weeks the leaves are turning yellow & brown and lost abo...
view the full question and answer

Need source for seeds or plants of Pinus remota in Johnson City, TX..
October 18, 2011 - I cannot seem to find a source for Pinus remota or papershell pinyon pine. Who Grows this? I understand it is rare and would love to try it here in Johnson City. Thanks
view the full question and answer

What will grow under neighbor's overhanging tree in Grosse Pointe Woods MI
May 29, 2011 - My next door neighbor has a beautiful tree that is easily 60 years old and thus not going anywhere. Unfortunately, for me the roots of this tree have extended under a large corner of my back yard. Add...
view the full question and answer

Corkscrew willow damage to roof in Detroit, MI.
August 13, 2009 - I have a corkscrew willow (Detroit, MI) that is huge and whose branches hang on top of the asphalt shingles of my mobile home. It has now been discovered that these shingles, under the branches, are ...
view the full question and answer

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