Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bugs in My Bike Lane


Palo Verde beetle, Derobrachus geminatus, in my bike lane. Not a close-up photo.

We have some interesting creatures here in the desert, and here is one of my personal favorites, the Palo Verde beetle. They aren't that common, mainly I think because they are somewhat hard on trees as their grubs gnaw away slowly at the roots, so urban tree cultivators and aborists tend to hold a grudge against these beauties. These are comically huge bugs, there's no way around it. I once caught one and tried to hold him in a small margarine container, and he wouldn't quite fit. If you got hit in the face with one in flight (and they do fly, a bit) while you were moving at any speed, it would be ugly at best.

The first time I saw one, I thought it was some sort of toy, you know, until it started crawling. The wiki article linked in the caption says they can grow up to six to eight inches long, which would only be if you include the antenna, which by the way in their longest form is what makes them look so strange, to me. The pair in the photo are small in comparison to some of the chunky, elongated head gear I've seen. Body usually closer to three inches, I would say. Definitely shorter than a typical handlebar grip, a little.

This particular one was having a fight for his short aboveground life with a curve billed thrasher in my bike lane. The bird, which is not small, looked outmatched by the beetle, as its beak didn't quite seem up to the task of dealing with it. I think the palo verde beetle might have poked the thrasher in the eye with an antenna. In any case, the thrasher gave up and dropped the beetle, which sort of ruffled its wings and headed off toward the nearest tree.

To be honest, I did yell at the bird to drop the beetle. I can't take credit for saving the little monster, but I may have startled the bird slightly. Not that I begrudge a curve billed thrasher a delicious brunch, but I happen to take the side of the beetle in this case. I would find it much harder to chose if it was between, say, a Colorado River toad and one of these, since I also am a defender of toads. I don't remember seeing a toad in my bike lane, though, so possibly I will never face that difficult choice.

 

6 comments:

  1. That's one bad-mother southwestern beetle you have there. I can imagine little boys teasing those creatures with a magnifying glass. There were so many little slugs on the road this morning that I was afraid to look at the underside of my bike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Banana slugs are probably my faves. Such odd creatures, too. Easy for me to say, though, because I don't have them by the dozens slithering through the back yard eating my strawberries.

      Delete
  2. One of these flying into you would be terrifying indeed.
    We had Palmetto bugs in Houston that were 1 1/2" -2" long roaches which would fly at you- arghhh, sends shivers down my spine just thinking about one of those hitting you while biking!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! The beetle is terrifying! I'd think a person could get killed if one hit you in the head while traveling at high speed. Cyler is about Palmetto bugs, otherwise known in the deep south as "one of our roommates". They are horrible, disgusting creatures that you really don't want to step on with bare feet so if you have to get up to go to the bathroon in the middle of the night it is best to keep bedroom slippers close by - for wearing and wacking. Also, they often are waiting for you in the shower at 6 a.m. so don't say you haven't been warned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have specimens of the cousin of the Palmetto bug, the American cockroach, in Phoenix, which grow quite large. The large ones generally stay outdoors. An exterminator told me that if you find the big ones indoors here, it's usually only the ones on their last legs, who have lost their way. Those things, man, you can step on them and they just keep on going. Outdoors, though, in good health, they are also quite fast, and good at hiding.

      Delete

Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.