Tarantula hawks,aka – pepsis wasps, are impressive with bright orange wings on a large velvety black body. They feed on nectar from flowers but are most famous for their battles with tarantulas !! The fearless tarantula hawk female that is ready to reproduce searches for a tarantula burrow…
This tenacious pepsis wasp will tap and strum the web at the burrow entrance trying to coax the tarantula out. If the tarantula responds, a long battle will begin!
Most often the tarantula hawk wins by delivering a paralyzing sting to the tarantula. The paralyzed tarantula is dragged to a pre-dug burrow and dropped in by the large female wasp.
The tarantula hawk then lays a single egg on the paralyzed tarantula and leaves. The wasp larva will hatch and feed on the tarantula spider. After completing its metamorphosis, inabout 3 weeks, the adult pepsis wasp will then dig its way out of the underground burrow and start its life cycle anew.
Tarantula Hawks, have the second most painful sting of any insect. Just how painful is the sting of the Tarantula Hawk? The Schmidt Sting Pain Indexrates insect stings from 1-4. Africanized bees and hornets register 2. Bullent Ants and Pepsis waspsregister 4 !!
Only the female Tarantula Hawk stings because the stinger is derived from the ovipositor, the egg-laying organ.
In the deserts of the southwestern US two species of Tarantula Hawks are common, pepsis formosa and pepsis thisbe. The most common in Arizona is pepsis formosa wasp with the orange wings.
Hundreds of Tarantula Hawk Wasp species exist worldwide. The color of the wings may very from species but the sting of the this killer wasp is described as blinding, fierce, and shockingly electric. Simply unbearable pain, lasting 3 minutes. A long 3 minutes! Not lethal to humans unless you are allergic to pepsis wasps.
How to tell the difference between the male and female pepsis wasp?
The antennae of the male tarantula hawk is tightlycurved while the FEMALE wasp is only SLIGHTLY curved.
Tarantula Hawk females grow larger than the males, and can reach up to 3 inches in length.
This youtube video is a battle between the Tarantula Hawk and Tarantula Spider.
Both female and male pepsis wasps are nectarivorous. The male does not hunt but fills himself with the nectar of plants while watching for female tarantula hawks that are ready to reproduce.
Other than Roadrunners and Bullfrogs, most predators avoid the Tarantula Hawk wasp.
Those green bugs that look like leaves are called true katydids. Katydids enjoy all the leafy plants in our front yard. We were so close to this wondrous green bug that we observed its mouth and eyes moving.
The British often call these leaf insects bush crickets. Katydids or bush crickets are in the family Tettigoniidae. They are not grasshoppers, katydids are related to crickets. Grasshoppers have shorter antennae while family member tettigoniids have very long antennae.
Katydids, True Katydids or Northern Katydids are insects that really do not like to fly! To avoid danger they may leap out of a tree and parachute to the ground. Katydids will walk to a vertical surface and start climbing.
The most common color of katydids is leaf green. As a matter of fact, this bug is a master at camouflage with veins on its wings that look just like leaves. Katydids eat flowers, stems and leaves of plants. Some species will even eat other insects.
Many species are commonly found throughout the southern part of the United States. These bush crickets, katydids are most active at night.
True Katydid species come in a variety of sizes from 1 to 4 inches. Their antennae can be two times the length of their body.
Male and female katydid sounds are made by rubbing their wings together to produce a song that is used as part of the courtship. It sounds a bit like your fingernails moving across a comb.
Interesting fact: The Katydid’s hearing organ, tympana, ears, are on their front legs.
click on the short youtube video to hear the sounds of the katydid bugs
The life cycle of the katydid goes through three stages of development:
The katydid egg is laid in the fall and hatches in the spring. It will hatch as a nymph.
The katydid nymph looks like the adult but without wings. It will shed its skin several times as it becomes an adult. The lifespan of the katydid is about 1 year.
You may be the lucky few who get to see the rare pink katydid. The lack of dark pigment, melanin, is the major difference between the pink and the green katydids.
Melanin, is the same pigment that makes a panther black. Like the pink katydid… would the lack of pigment make it similar to a pink panther? No wonder The Pink Panther was bad at hiding; he had no camouflage!
Our Arizona travels brought us not only to a gentle bird refuge; but the historical Fort Lowell Park in Tucson. This wildlife oasis streaming with ducks, cormorants, turtles and dragonflies was an United States Army post from 1873 till 1891.
The most prominent building at Fort Lowell was the hospital, the adobe remnants still stand under a protective structure.
Ft. Lowell lay in ruins for numerous years. The City of Tucson eventually converted the bulk of the former post into Old Fort Lowell Park, which features ball fields, tennis and racquetball courts, a large public swimming pool, and the Fort Lowell Museum dedicated to its days as an active military installation.
**This is a superb choice if you are looking for Tucson activities.
A lane lined with cottonwood trees, aptly named Cottonwood Lane, glorified the area in front of the officer’s houses.
Following World War II, the Fort Lowell area grew into a small village which the predominantly Mexican local residents called El Fuerte.
The Fort Lowell Museum is located in the reconstructed Commanding Officer’s quarters.
Stroll from the remains of the Ft Lowell Hospital towards the wildlife pond to enjoy crestedducks with the latest updos.
Catch a glimpse as a pigeon tries to remember the secret code to get passed the duck security.
Dedicated community members adopted Fort Lowell Park to keep it clean and build a protected area for birds.
During our visit we spoke with some of the impressive volunteers with “Friends of FortLowell Park” as they were planting trees and tidying up the nesting area.
A regal Neotropic Cormorant bird was standing by to make sure we didn’t decide to jump in and go swimming.
Many species of cormorants make a characteristic half-jump as they dive and under water cormorants propel themselves with their feet.
Thanks to the collaboration of The Friends of Fort Lowell Park and Tucson Parks and Recreation for giving residents and guests a place to enjoy outdooractivities and wildlife in the Sonoran Desert.
Local historians have found evidence that Fort Lowell Park sits on a site endowed with a continuous supply of underground water and has been occupied by humans since ancient times.
Arkenstone Cave was discovered near the RinconMountains of Southeastern Arizona in the 1960’s. This livingcave is protected by the county and accessible only to a few scientists and researchers.
We have spent a great deal of time investigating information regarding Arkenstone and La Tetera Caves. Our most important finding has been the fact that Pima County regards these living caves as treasure troves of precious, immeasurablescientific information.
Access is extremely limited; but a visit to Colossal Cave Mountain Park Museum can provide the curious with results of the past and latest research conducted inside Arkenstone Cave.
Here are some of the research highlights provided from the Museum Caving Rooms at Colossal Cave east of Tucson, AZ.
ARKENSTONE is an active KARSTCAVE, which means the breaking down of limestone has produced fissures, sinkholes, caverns and underground streams.
Most caves are formed in limestone. Simply put, it dissolves from precipitation mixing with carbon dioxide and the decaying organic material in the soil. This dissolution process is extremely slow. Thousands upon thousands of years!
Arkenstone, La Tetera and Colossal Caves are located in Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Arizona. Colossal Cave is dry and considered a dead cave. La Tetera and Arkenstone are alive and adorned with calcium carbonate formations produced through slow precipitation.
Mineral deposits in caves are called SPELEOTHEMS.
ARKENSTONE CAVE is called:
a WILD cave
a WET cave
a LIVE, “active” cave
What does this mean… A wild cave has no provisions for the general public and is dangerous without expert equipment and experience. A wet cave has precipitation.
A live cave has life forms, insects, faunal, animal, species and unusual speleothems.
Pima County and Colossal Park employees have an overwhelming desire and responsibility to protectLa Tetera and Arkenstone living Caves.
Several new species have been found in Arkenstone that are endemic to Arkenstone, meaning they only exist in Arkenstone Cave. A few researchers have special grants to work in these living Arizona Caves.
In recent years, 7 new species of fauna have been found. The Arkenstone Cave exhibit at Colossal Mountain Park Museum gives detailed descriptions.
Animals that live in caves are often put in the category called TROGLOBITES. Troglobitic species tend to be very unusual organisms. For example, they may have loss of pigment or no eyes. These characteristics would be adaptations to their subterranean life.
A previously unknown species of pseudoscorpion was discovered in Arkenstone. The pseudoscorpion has since been listed as one of Pima County’s priority vulnerablespecies!
A small, late Quaternary, (about 2 million yrs ago), deposit of degraded bat guano (poop) in Arkenstone Cave yielded thousands of fossil bat bones.
Rarer bones in the deposit represent a smaller species of bat (Myotis) and the extinctvampire bat Desmodus stocki.
This is the first record of D. stocki in what is now the Sonoran Desert and the second location for the vampire bat species in Arizona.
Due to leaching in the alkaline cave environment, the bones could not be dated by radiocarbon, but the fossils probably date to the late Pleistocene Age — (Late Pleistocene Bats from Arkenstone Cave, Arizona by Nicholas Czaplewski and William Peachey, December 2003)
The Late Pleistocene age was dominated by glaciation Many larger land animals, MEGAFAUNA, became extinct over this ICE AGE. Experts estimated that 30% of the Earth’s surface was covered by ice. Pleistocene vampire bats most likely were capable of surviving in cooler temperatures than the modern bats of today.
The extinction of Desmodus stockiparalleled the extinction of the megafauna.
Research indicates that Arkenstone Cave was the site of a maternity colony of Myotis thysanodes. Myotis thysandoes is a larger species of bat, mammal. These bats begin nursing colonies, female nurse bats remain at the roost while other adults are out foraging.
Virtually all of the bones collected were of that species. Remains of Desmodus are consistent with a single individual, and those of a small Myotis (bat) consistent with two individuals (Czaplewski and Peachey 2003).
Desmodus stocki was 20% larger than the still extant common vampire bat. Lets put aside the scary name, VAMPIRE, and let me share some benevolent behavior of Vampire Bats that may gain your admiration for the Pleistocene bat, Desmodus Stocki.
Vampire Bats are one of the few animal species that show caring behavior for those beyond their family group. They even adopt orphaned bats and will share their food. Look at the photo above for more altruisticvampire ways. 🙂
Scientists state that fossil records of Desmodus stocki are uncommon because these bats mainly roosted in hollow trees and any remains would decay along with the wood.
A new species of Nicoletiidae (Insecta: Zygentoma) has been discovered in Arkenstone and Kartchner Caves. This species pictured above lives in deeper areas of Arkenstone Cave than it does in Kartchner.
The 2 caves are approximately 23 miles apart and in isolated Karst areas with no possible connection to each other.
You would think that these would be different species? But so far the research shows they are the same. How amazing is that?
Cave species are very fragile and some live in a specific cave and no where else in the world. These TROGLOBITES are accustomed to a near constant temperature and humidity. Even the slightest disturbance can disrupt the life cycles of these amazing species.
As updated research becomes available we will add new articles.
fringed myotis is found across the western United States.
The fringed myotis is found across the western United States. It has been found as far east as the Trans-Pecos region of Texas during summer months, as far north as British Columbia and as far south as Mexico.
The fringed myotis is found across the western United States. It has been found as far east as the Trans-Pecos region of Texas during summer months, as far north as British Columbia and as far south as Mexico.
The female damselfly is laying her eggs. Mating season for the Damselflies in our pond has begun. Just last week the nymphs emerged from the pond water to shed their skin and become colorless damselflies. As the young damselfly matures it will gain a beautiful color. The adult damselfly only lives one to three months; its main job is to find a mate and continue the life cycle.
See the photo below of the damselflies mating. It starts with the male damselfly grasping the female with his abdominal claspers. The same species of damselfly with fit like a lock and key.
Copulation can take from several minutes to several hours depending on the species. The male damselfly stays in tandem with the female while she lays her eggs. I watched as the red damselfly gently carried his bride to an inviting lily-pad.
This dedicated female damselfly, pictured above, was moving her abdomen every which way to try and find the water.
If the female damselfly could not find water to lay her eggs she would straighten her abdomen as if to signal lift off to her partner. The male Damselfly would gently lift her to another location.
Female damselflies normally use a bladelike ovipositor to place eggs inside plant tissue. From previous years I have seen the larva of the damselflies underneath the lily pads. When you turn the lily pad over you will see lines and markings with the damselfly eggs.
After about three weeks the young damselfly nymphs emerge and live underwater, insatiably feeding on small aquatic animals like tadpoles, mosquito larvae and just about anything it can get a hold of.
The damselfly and dragonfly nymphs are completely predatory, and not vegetarians at all.
As the female damselfly lays her eggs she is also supplying a healthy meal for our fish. We have three large goldfish, some say Koi, that will feast on the nymphs all year. During this mating season I do not have to add any fish food to the pond.
Many successive molts take place over a period of eleven months before the final nymphal stage is reached. The mature dragonfly nymph crawls out of the water onto a rock or plant stem during the night or early morning hours.
The nymphal skin splits dorsally and the winged damselfly adult pulls itself out to become fully expanded. It will take several days before it reaches top flight capacity.
Damselflies have been used as indicator species for assessing habitat and water quality in a variety of wetlands, natural water in forests, and lakeshore habitats around the world. Studies indicate they are one of our most beneficial insects.
Do Damselflies sting? No damselflies are not capable of stinging and are harmless to man.
The damselfly’s scientific name is Zygoptera, it is Greek for paired wings. Our pond with fish is visited by a dragonfly now and then; but we receive daily stopovers from red and bluedamselflies resting on the lily pads. Even though a damselfly is similar to a dragonfly, it is a weaker flier, but still very fast and agile. Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order Odonata which is one of the most popular insect groups.
Having approximately 5,000 species, the Odonata order, (a subgroup of insects), is very diverse and it is easy to spot the insect members. Odonata insects have very large eyes, thin transparent wings, tiny antennae, slender abdomens and an aquatic larval stage called a NYMPH.
An easy way to tell if an insect is a part of the Odonata Order – if the insect’s eyes are a large portion of the head and if the abdomen is thin and long.
Damselflies have long thin bodies that are often brightly colored with green, yellow, red, blue, brown or black. In the above photo the damselfly has a unique light purple color. The color glistened almost pearl-like as she elegantly flew from lily-pad to lily-pad.
What is the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly? Dragonflies are more stout and when perched their wings extend out sideways. The damselfly is a bit slender and when resting damselflies hold their wingsabove the body. Compare the images of the thin damselfly above and the stout dragonfly below.
Damselflies are found mainly near shallow, freshwater habitats and are graceful fliers with long net veined wings. We have a small pond with three goldfish/Koi that are grateful to the Damselflies for the abundant fish food they provide. Dragonflies and damselflies begin their lives as nymphs, living underwater for a year of more.
To attract damselflies and notmosquitoes to your pond simple use a powerful pond pump, filter system. Mosquitoes do not like moving water and will not lay eggs in your pond if you have a good pump. The damselflies like to perch on vegetation, so include tall plants in or around your pond area along with lily pads.
Damselflies are cousins of the dragonfly. Their colours can be stunningly vivid. The adults capture prey while flying; by using their hair covered hind legs. Damselflies hold the prey in their legs and consume it by chewing.
Both dragonflies and damselflies begin their lives as nymphs, living underwater for a year of more. The nymphs make the best food for your fish. The presence of dragonflies and damselflies, at your pond, is an indication of a good quality ecosystem.
In the above photo the damselflies are competing for the water lilies in our small pond. Zygoptera, Damselflies, copulate while perched, sometimes flying to a new perch. Mating for the damselfly while perched can last from five to ten minutes. Competition amongst males for females is fierce. The picture below is the position for copulating/mating damselflies.
The damselfly mates/partners fit together like a lock and key, in this way they can recognize the correct species when mating. The female damselfly’s thorax and the male abdomen vary slightly for each species of Zygoptera. The males have four appendages at the tip of the abdomen. Two of them are claspers, used to hold onto the female damselfly during mating.
Each male damselfly has his own territory and will defend it. When it is time to mate the female damselfly will enter the male’s territory.
When finished copulating, the female flies away, and finds herself a pond or other water body, where she will lay her eggs. Female damselflies normally use a bladelike ovipositor to place eggs inside plant tissue. Currently in our pond we have the last molting of the nymphs taking place. The damselfly mating and egg laying should start in the next week or so. It is a banquet for the fish in our pond that is repeated over and over. The larva or nymph will spend an average of 1-3 years in the water and feed on other larva or tiny insects.
Most damselfly nymphs have three leaflike gills at the tip of the abdomen, whereas dragonflies have internal gills. A damselfly had its last molting and pictured above is the skin that was left. The damselfly nymph photo was taken today. After emerging from the larval stage, the damselfly takes to the air to feed and mate. Today I noticed the lily pads in our small pond are chock-full of these damselfly molting skins. A large, colorful population of damselflies are frolicking about the irises, lilies, philodendron and other potted plants.
If you see these nymph skins in your pond it is a good thing. Actually a great thing! This means your pond is healthy and should be visited by many damsel or dragonflies that will mate, lay eggs and start the process all over again.
The female damselfly deposits her eggs in emergent plants, floating vegetation or directly in the water. Naiads or nymphs hatch from eggs and live in water. The damselfly nymphs or naiads develop through stages with the last stage crawling out of the pond, water and emerging from the last molting skin. The two pictures above are molted skins left on the lily pads of our pond. The adult damselfly only lives one to three months, while the nymphs can live up to three years in the water depending on the species.
The photo above shows the Life Cycle of the damselfly
The greatest numbers of the Odonata Order species, dragonflies and damselflies, are found at sites that offer a wide variety of microhabitats, though dragonflies tend to be much more sensitive to pollution than damselflies.