Texas Critters Part 2

What's that critter in my yard? Is it bad or good? Will it hurt my plants, kids, or pets? Learn more about these critters below. 

Giant African Land Snails

Giant African Land Snails were spotted in a Houston garden earlier this year, and there was a concern due to the snail's ability to transmit parasitic diseases to humans. Fortunately, these extra-large snails are not common in our area. View more information on the Giant African land snail.

Person's hand holding giant african land snails.

Cynipid Wasps

These tiny wasps (about 1/3 inch) are rarely seen, but their galls are observed on oak tree branches and leaves. Galls from these critters may deform leaves (if large quantities are present), but Cynipid Wasps and their galls are generally not considered pests - so no treatment is necessary. View more information on Cynipid Wasps

Tiny wasps in four different views.

Pileated Woodpeckers

The Pileated Woodpecker is also a combination of black, white, and red. He has a red crest and cap and red mustache stripe. This Woodpecker was the model for "Woody Woodpecker," and he is also the largest Woodpecker in the United States. This critter feeds on insects (ants and wood boring beetle larvae), nuts, and fruits. Its song is: "cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk." View more information on the Houston Audubon Society's website about Pileated Woodpeckers.

Pileated woodpecker on tree bark.

Red-Headed Woodpeckers

The Red-headed Woodpecker is also a combination of black, white, and red. His red markings include: a read head, throat and upper breast. He is the only Woodpecker in the eastern United States that has a completely red head. This critter feeds on insects, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, seeds, nuts, and berries. Its song is "queark," "queer, queer, queer," or "kerr-uck, kerr-uck." View more information on the Houston Audubon Society's website about Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Red headed woodpeckerstanding on tree bark.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is the first in our "Woodpecker Series" - we'll feature one of the five top woodpeckers in our area over the next five months. Since these critters are similar in appearance, we'll be able to compare and contrast them to learn to identify each type.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker, like other Woodpeckers in our area, are black, white, and red. His red markings include: a pale red wash on the belly and a red crown and nape with a pale brown face. This critter feeds on fruits, vegetables, seeds, sap, and insects. Its song is "Churr-churr," or "chuck-chuck-chuck." View more information on the Houston Audubon Society's website about Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Red bellied woodpecker standing on bark.


Cicadas (also commonly called "locusts") are a common sound throughout the summer. Although you may never come face-to-face with a live cicada, you will often hear the males "singing" for the females. Also, cicadas leave behind crusty, brown shells on trees and shrubs. View more information about the vocal cicada.

Cicada in the palm of a person's hand.


Silverfish (also known as Firebrats) are prehistoric-looking critters whose bodies are covered in scales. Like roaches, they are often found inside houses as pests. View more information on this strange critter, the silverfish.


Flannel Moth Caterpillar

This unusual critter is also known as the Donald Trump Caterpillar because of its resemblance to Donald Trump's hair. View more information on the Flannel Moth Caterpillar.

Flannel moth caterpillar.

Asp Caterpillar

This is the Asp (Puss) Caterpillar. These hairy, large caterpillars (about an inch in length) can actually be harmful if handled. The asp will sting when touched with bare hands. View more information on the Asp Caterpillar.

Asp caterpillar


Coyotes, also known as prairie wolves, are scavengers in our area. This critter is dog-like in appearance (with glowing yellow eyes), and coyotes can often be heard howling when they are nearby. View more information on what coyotes eat and where they live.



Have you seen an armadillo rooting around in your yard? You may not get to see it in action, but this critter digs little pits in your yard to seek out insects to eat. So, you've likely seen that an armadillo was in the area. Check out this website for more information on the nine-banded armadillos.



This summer, we received a lot of calls from people saying, "My pine tree needles are turning black.". On closer inspection, clusters of mealybugs were present, and the needles were coated with Sooty Mold (a black fungus), often produced by mealybugs. Sooty Mold is usually an indicator of the following insects: aphids, whiteflies, scales, and mealybugs. These critters secrete a clear, sticky liquid known as honeydew. Then, honeydew forms on the leaf. Mealybugs affect a wide range of plants. View more about mealybugs.