The Critter Getter

For those of you who don’t know me very well I want to let you in on a little secret, I’m kind of a nerd.  OK, maybe a little more than kind of a nerd.  I have always loved biology, especially those creepy-crawly things that normally terrify others.  Here in south Texas there are plenty of little misunderstood creatures all over our dig site.  Usually, people’s first response to something like a tarantula in their excavation hole is to smash it with a shovel.  I would hate to see any harm come to them out of misplaced fear and ignorance, so I have tasked myself as the resident “Critter Getter.”

My "Marshmallow" Toad
My “Marshmallow” Toad

Since I have been here I have liberated countless spiders, including dozens of tarantulas and a few brown recluses (I usually don’t tell anyone about the brown recluses for fear of dangerous freakouts).  I’ve also freed a few snakes, dug out a fire ant hives, and shooed away a bevy of other bugs from the clothing of my fellow excavators.  I usually don’t have the free time to photo-document every beautiful bug or splendid snake that I find, but occasionally I’m allowed to geek out about geckos and capture some caterpillars.  So if you will, come with me on a Tour-de-Nerd of some of the local creatures that inhabit Sacred Heart Burial Park.  I will spare you the spiders and scorpions, and only show some of my lesser seen friends.  I ensure you that none of them can hurt you, at least not via the internet.

The Silver Serpent
The Silver Serpent

Day four was the day of toads.  We were able to save about seven of these adorable little marshmallows, and move them into a safer section of the cemetery.

Day six contained the widest array of critters.  We freed a couple small silver snakes.  These snakes were so small that even Erica managed to find them charming (Get it?  Snake-Charming?).  I also happened upon a patch of small caterpillars.  This little beauty will later metamorphose into a pipevined swallowtail butterfly.  Ryan also managed to help me capture a tiny whiptail lizard, which was no small feat considering how fast they are and how tired we were.

I hope you never change, caterpillar.
I hope you never change, caterpillar.

My favorite find happened yesterday.  This lovely lady is the larval stage female from the family Phenogodidae, better known as a glow worm.  In this stage of their life, the females are predators of other insects like centipedes and ants.  Best of all, they are bioluminescent, meaning they glow at night!

Green lizard looking at the camera out of a yellow glove
Tiny Whiptail Lizard

I don’t expect everyone to care about my little pals in the same way that I do, but I do hope that they might make a little effort to understand them.  It is not unreasonable to fear spiders and snakes (in fact it is often wise), but here in South Texas we are invading their homes.  They likely fear us more than we do them.  Next time you find one of these tiny buggers, admire it instead of reaching for the shovel.  You might be surprised at how truly amazing they actually are. ~Justin

Orange and black caterpillar
The Glorious Glowworm