|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.