Hurricane Matthew blasted through here a few days ago, and the effects will be felt here in SE North Carolina for a long time. Presently, there are several (inland!) communities now underwater that face further trouble as the rivers continue to rise. The massive storm devastated parts of Haiti and Cuba and continued northwestward to pound and scrape the eastern coast of the US until unloading itself across the coastal plain and piedmont of North Carolina. The angry Atlantic heaved creatures and objects it picked up earlier in its journey onto disintegrating beaches and dunes. Once the rains and calm eye had passed, the backside winds arrived, uprooting waterlogged trees and extracting animals of all scales out of their homes. (including humans.)
Among the interesting things we found during clean-up efforts included a soggy Luna Moth caterpillar, which was clinging weakly to an upper branch of Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, that had snapped off in the storm. This tree is one of several larval host plants for the Luna Moth, including American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, Winged Sumac, Rhus copallina, and species in the Hickory, Carya genus. All of these are represented in our neighborhood, but the worst tree casualties around here seem to be lone Loblolly Pines, Pinus taeda, and Sweetgums.
Several minutes later, while dragging more torn-up tree canopy to debris piles, we found an empty silk moth cocoon on a water oak twig, with the exuviae still intact. Could it be the cast-offs of the Luna Moth caterpillar we found earlier?
A post-yard clean-up trip to Topsail Island beach yielded a weirder and more geographically diverse array. In addition to several tires, we found Red mangrove propagules, lots of shredded horseshoe crabs, a rainbow of sea whips, some flattened sea urchins…
…and part of a pinkish squishy tunicate (Sea Pork?) that we thought at first might be a human tongue.