Expect more butterflies, crickets and fireflies this fall

Two captured American snout butterflies. Photo courtesy of Sarah Satterlee/@simplysarah1723
Two captured American snout butterflies. Photo courtesy of Sarah Satterlee/@simplysarah1723

AUSTIN (KXAN) — August’s unusually wet weather is bringing out some insects in droves. Currently, the most visible example is the American snout butterfly which is migrating northeast from the Del Rio area. Spotters and KXAN viewers are writing in about the large numbers they’re seeing.

Spotters and KXAN viewers are writing in about the large numbers they’re seeing.

“We’re just driving down [Interstate] 35 in Buda and come across a large amount of butterflies and I was told to touch base with you to see if you can tell me about the butterfly phenomenon up and down 35,” said Adam Churchin in an email to KXAN.

“On the way home from the Airport where I work to my house near Luling, I have noticed thousands of butterflies! They are about the size of a nickel, have a suction cup type nose and big black eyes. I hated driving through them.,” said another KXAN viewer Kelly Carper in an email.

American snout butterflies travel at this time every year, following their food source, but entomologist Mike Quinn says the numbers are higher this year due in part to a dry streak this summer in San Antonio. The dry streak helped kill off parasites that harm caterpillars. Then August turned into a wet month. This sort of set up can be ideal for seeing a population boom, Mike says. “When the rains come, they’re ready to mate and lay eggs and then the plants put on new leaves and the parasites are at low ebb.”

The last time these butterflies took wing in such masses was about a decade ago, in October 2006. The best places to see snouts in Austin will be along creeks and rivers that have bluffs on each side, like Mt. Bonnell and Barton Creek Trail. The bulk of snout sightings will be south of town, though, where more spiny hackberry—the butterfly’s main food source—grows.

Lightning bugs, better known as fireflies, are in the same boat: you’ll be able to see more of them than usual this year. Fireflies tend to follow a rainy season. August’s wet conditions mean that the next few weeks will be full of the glowing bugs, most easily in grass or near the edge of ponds.

Crickets may not be quite as fun to catch as lightning bugs, but you’ll see more of them this fall, too. They’re responding to the increased heat and humidity Central Texas has seen in recent months. Their presence is a great advertisement for Robert Nathan Allen, founder of Little Herds, a local nonprofit that is trying to increase awareness about insects as a food source.

“If we can open ourselves up to something new, we can find a food resource that we can use to feed our community better…that we’ve really been neglecting,” says Allen.

It’s important to point out that you should never eat a cricket you find in the wild, or even in your house. You don’t know what that cricket has eaten, and it might end up making you sick. But crickets that are raised to be eaten are a great source of protein, iron, calcium and fiber. They’re also a sustainable food source.

Want to try crickets that are safe and healthy to eat? Barley Swine has a cricket dish on its menu right now.

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