Check your chickee: New exotic bug may be chewing it up

The first thing Nancy Kilmartin noticed was the frass. That’s science-speak for caterpillar poop — little dark pellets baby butterflies or moths expel as they eat. And it was scattered in a dark drizzle under Manatee Park’s chickee when she inspected it this month after volunteer Alice Thrower told her it was looking odd.

Above the frass, the sabal palm-thatched roof of the structure was pocked with holes, ranging from buckshot to quarter-size. It was plain that something was chewing up the chickee, a traditional open log-frame structure built by Florida’s native Miccosukee and Seminole tribes.

But what? Every caterpillar Kilmartin, a senior program specialist, knew of favored live stuff — not dead, dry fronds.

After consulting...

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