Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fred ropes a longhorn (or two)

Photos and true stories by Fred Health.

Photo (and fingers) by Fred Heath  9/26/2015

Fred writes:

I noticed a large black beetle scurrying along the side of the Bear Canyon Road, At first glance, I thought it was just another Eleodes beetle, also known as a "Stink Bug," even though it is not a bug at all. When disturbed, they will stop, point their butts in the air, and put out an offensive odor. Something looked odd about it and I tried to get a photo, but it kept weaving in and out of the vegetation and I couldn’t get a clear shot. Finally, I thought that maybe I could catch it and take my photo, but I wanted to make darned sure it wasn’t just a species of Eleodes I wasn’t familiar with. First, I noticed that its wing covers seemed to be fused, meaning it is flightless, and it had very long antenna. Neither of which fits the Eleodes. Finally, I noticed that one segment on the antenna was white; and in the back of my head, there was a voice saying it was something other than a Eleodes beetle. So I picked it up and luckily my memory didn’t fail me for once and it turned out to be a fine looking Cactus Longhorn Beetle (Moneilema gigas). The adults and larvae feed on cholla and prickly pear cactus, and the large foot pads enable to it walk carefully around the cactus spines.

Didn't pick up this pair! 10/6/2015

A few days later, my wife, Mary, called my attention to a mated pair crossing the road. 
Postscript While helping to lead a lizard walk in early October, it was cloudy at first with few lizards and so my attention strayed to other things. I found another Cactus Longhorn Beetle and picked it up to show some of the folks with me. I tried to convince a little boy that he could hold it without getting bit, but he decided to forgo the experience. Later on we saw another black beetle and he decided that he was now brave enough to pick this one up. Fortunately I was able to stop him in time as this was in fact an Eleodes beetle.

Finally, a Longhorn Cactus Beetle on a cactus! 10/18/2015

Postscript to my postscript. As I had handled these beetles with no ill effects as mentioned above, I had told the boy on my lizard walk that they didn’t bite. Image my surprise the other day when I picked up one that immediately delivered a painful bite. It didn’t break the skin on my finger, but it convinced me not to pick them up anymore or talk little kids into it either.

Thanks to Fred "I'll pick up anything once" Heath for this great tale.

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