Texas Bugs

Having devoted three posts to miscellaneous bugs I photographed in southern Arizona last November, I’m going to fill this one with my favorite photos from the Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas, where we spent a few days before heading back home to the Northeast. There were lots of interesting ants there, so I’ll start with those (thanks to James C. Trager for identifying them on BugGuide).

A rough harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex rugosus):

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Members of one of the brighter red harvester ant species (Pogonomyrmex):

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I never would have guessed that the big-headed ants (Pheidole xerophila) in the photo below belonged to the same species if I hadn’t seen them coming and going from the same hole.

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Minor worker:

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Major worker:

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And finally, this spindly spine-waisted ant is Aphaenogaster cockerelli:

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I saw a number of furry female velvet ants (Mutillidae) scurrying about on the ground, but they never held still long enough for me to get a decent shot.  However, this more cooperative male visited us at dinner one night:

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This is the only male velvet ant I’ve ever seen, and it came not long after I saw my first male long-horned bee:

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John Ascher identified this as Melissodes tristis.  Here is the female:

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We came across two strikingly spotted jewel beetles (Buprestidae): Acmaeodera maculifera

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…and the much larger Lampetis drummondi:

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Whereas most of the above species are restricted to the desert Southwest, the sumac flea beetle (Chrysomelidae: Blepharida rhois) can be found through much of the US.  It’s still a fancy one.

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A picture-winged fly (Ulidiidae) in the genus Diacrita (as you can see, my camera was in desperate need of a cleaning after nearly three months on the road):

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These hollyhock sawfly larvae (Argidae: Neoptilia malvacearum) were munching away at a leaf of narrowleaf globemallow (Sphaeralcea angustifolia).  This plant was host to a number of different insects, including a leaf-mining moth that I managed to rear out. Naturally, I have some other Texas leafminer host plants yet to be identified.

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I didn’t find the landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert as compelling as that of the Sonoran, and although there were many colorful wildflowers in bloom, my favorite “scenery” shots from Texas are of the drying and cracking mud along the Rio Grande.

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The fine-grained silt of the riverbank and washes made for an excellent tracking substrate, so we got to see evidence of some elusive mammals (on top of an exciting face-to-face encounter with a javelina).

Bobcat…

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Mountain lion…

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Hog-nosed skunk…

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…and many beaver comings and goings on a bank of the Rio Grande.

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About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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2 Responses to Texas Bugs

  1. Hey Charley,
    Looks like great tracks of a male mtn lion and you’ve also got yourself a hog-nosed skunk! Super cool.

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