Beetles of Oregon

When packing for my July trip to Oregon, I reluctantly decided at the review last moment to leave my macro gear at home. I simply didn’t have any room for the Canon EF 65mm F2.8 MPE Macro lens and the Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite. Later, while hiking in the rich ecology of the Cascades and finding really cool insects (such as these beetles), I winced. The photos would most likely have been much better if I had brought the gear, but I think my Canon EF24-70 f2.8 L and Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS “point-and-shoot” digital camera did an OK job.  Either way, I had a lot of fun photographing them and was excited to see these beetles, most of them for the first time.  Enjoy!

Butterflies of Oregon

I just returned from a 9-day trip to Central Oregon. I took over 2,000 photos, quite a few of them were shots of insects. This will be the first of many galleries 24option demo I plan on posting here (as well as on and Enjoy!

San Gabriel Mountain Orb Weaver Spider

While on a hike today in the San Gabriel Mountains, I found this spider.  I’m having difficulty identifying it, so if you can help, feel free to leave a comment.

Spotted Tree Borer Beetle

Discovered this handsome fella in the Buckeye Flats Campgrounds in Sequoia National Park last month.  The spotted tree borer (Synaphaeta guexi) is 11-27mm in body length and is most commonly found  from April to July.

Beetles of May (part 1)

Well, it’s been waaaay too long since my last post.  I’ve been concentrating on a different project for the last few weeks, but I’ve always had my camera on the ready for any springtime insects I come across.  And boy, have I come across a lot 24option binary!  My last post shared with you my excitement of finding a scarab beetle outside my apartment.  Since then, I’ve found and photographed over a dozen different beetles around California.  I’d like to start sharing with you again.

The project I’ve been working on the last few weeks has allowed me to get closer to nature.  I’ve decided it’s about time I get back into shape and work off some of my weight.  To do this, I’ve resolved to hike 100 times before 2010.  So far, I’ve hiked 12 times in the last 25 days and hope to keep on pace of three hikes a week in order to meet my goal.  If you would like to track my progress, head on over to  Along with GPS tracks, maps, and videos, I’ve included photos from my hikes which now and then include insect shots.

Speaking of which, here’s a handful of beetle photos I’ve taken in the last three weeks:

Ironclad beetle (Phoeodes pustulosus)
Male and female woolly darkling beetles (Eleodes osculans)
My two captive beetles “got busy” and one mounted the other.  You can make out the footprint of this gal’s partner on her back.
A stout, oval darkling beetle (Coniontis sp.)
An unidentified beetle on a dime to show size.
Another unidentified beetle on a dime to show size.

I have a lot more beetle photos to post – it’s just a matter of finding the time to edit them!

Scarabs Are Here

It rained briefly on Friday night, bringing out chafer beetles in respectable numbers.  The plant-eating beetles are in the same family as scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae) Yesterday evening, I found over a dozen hanging out around the lights of my apartment complex.  These beetles are easily spooked, dropping off of the stucco wall and onto the ground when I got too close.  On the way out this evening, I spooked one (of three) from a well-lit wall of my complex and when I returned a half hour later, it was still playing dead.

These chafer beetles (Serica perigonia) are one of 40 Serica found in California. They are brown, reddish brown, to black in color, have a subtle iridescence under strong light, and measure 7-9 mm in body length. The three Serica perigonia I caught each measure about 9 mm. At first look, I thought that their coloring look a bit drab, but when I photographed them using my ring flash, the iridescence of their elytron really came out.

Notice their beautiful fork-like antennae (called lamellate antennae) in the photo above.

No, the beetle isn’t dead in the photo above. It feigns death for long periods of time when it feels threatened.

I captured three and brought them into my apartment to take a few photos.  I placed them on my desk in a glass vial next to a vial of dead beetles I found in the Mojave a few weeks ago. I had hoped to identify the Mojave beetle specimens eventually but hadn’t made much progress… until now! Incredibly, three living Serica perigonia were able to help my identify the three dead beetles as Serica perigonia.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to ID them if I had not placed them together on my desk. What’s the chances of that?

If you want to see more photos of California scarab beetles, check out the punctate bear beetles (Paracotalpa puncticollis) I photographed in Joshua Tree a few weeks ago and blogged here.


It Came From Outer Space!

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while now:

In February, I found a some sort of pod attached to a tree branch.  I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but I knew it wasn’t a natural bloom from the tree.  I cut it off and brought it home with the idea that I would find out sooner or later what was in it.  For weeks, it sat motionless in a plastic container on my desk.  It didn’t grow or shrink.  It didn’t change color or wilt along with the leaves I cut off with it.  It didn’t do much of anything, actually.  After a month, the plastic box with the pod blended in with the rest of the stuff on my desk.  From time to time, a book would be placed on top of it.  My keys.  My wallet.

In early April, I went on a weekend trip to the desert (as reported here). When I returned…


The plastic container was filled with over 60-70 baby praying mantises!

For a week, I watched the population grow to about 100 mantis hatchlings. Some ended up dying soon after their birth and littering the bottom of the container. Others were eaten by the marbled cellar spider (Holocnemus pluchei) I had in the container long before the pod (which I now know is called an ootheca).

Looking in from time to time, I was able to photograph the birth of a mantis. It pops out of the pod and hangs from a thread as it untangles itself. Click on the image below to view it large.

Eventually, I let the baby mantises loose in a bush outside of my apartment.

Maybe in a few months, I’ll have a few adult mantises to photograph!

Joshua Tree Trip Report – April 24-26, 2009

This past weekend was my third and final trip to Joshua Tree for a while. I ended the month completing 3/4ths of my New Year’s resolution of visiting the Mojave Desert every weekend in April. The trips began taking the toll during the five hour drive through Friday-afternoon traffic and the seemingly endless search for a campsite (I finally found one after an hour-long search in the dark).

The entomological theme of the weekend would have to be beetles, beetles, beetles! The trip offered a good amount of bug photo opportunities, but beetles seemed to be everywhere. The Mojave had quite a few flowers still in bloom, as did the Sonoran, and the bugs came out in great numbers to sample the flowering feast. It is interesting to note that I found at least one or two small beetles for each flower in the Sonoran Desert, and yet the same flower just 40-50 miles to the north in the Mojave would be in bloom, but without any guests crawling around inside the pollen-filled flower.

I spent most of my free time hiking around, peering inside flowers like the purple Mojave aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia) or the pink beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) for insects. It’s amazing how much life I found living on just one healthy golden cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa) in the desert. I spent at least a half hour at one 4-foot tall cholla looking at beetles, ants, stink and assassin bugs, jumping spiders and bees. Looking up from my camera from time to time, I would see lizards climbing through Mojave yucca, or a butterfly landing briefly on a desert sunflower (Gereae canescens).

During the course of the weekend, I photographed over a half dozen beetles, many of them I found and photographed for the first time. I had a difficult time identifying some of these, so if you could help, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment:

This is a master blister beetle (Lytta magister) the largest beetle I’ve ever captured! It is so large, in fact, I saw it crossing the road while I was driving 45 mph. According to the excellent Field Guide to Beetles of California, the master blister beetle can grow as large as 33 mm. However, from the mandibles to the end of the elytron, this specimen measured 38 mm! I captured it and photographed it on this creosote bush before releasing it. (They normally feed on Encelia farinosa, or Brittlebush).

This not-yet-identified weevil seems to be saying, “What are you lookin’ at, buddy? Haven’t you ever seen a snout beetle eating before?

This is a small 3-4 mm metallic wood-boring beetle (Anthaxia sp.). This is the only photo I could take before it flew off.  They seem more skiddish than other beetles I’ve photographed. With those eyes, I bet they have better vision than most beetles as well.

This one was photographed on the same flower as the Anthaxia and weevil above.  It measures about 3-4 mm.

I first photographed this mystery beetle last weekend.  Here it wades through the jungle-like bloom of a teddy-bear cholla cactus (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). It measures about 3-4 mm and has fine white hairs covering its elytron and pronotum.

A cactus bee (Diadasia opuntiae) takes a rest inside of a teddy-bear cholla cactus flower. It was common to find these bees rolling around in the pollen for many minutes at a time. I guess life is good for these solitary bees without a queen bossing them around. I’m not sure of the gender differences of cactus bees, but we nicknamed them “bachelor bees” since they always seem to lay around and drink nectar all day.

A stink bug nursery is set up on the tip of a golden cholla cactus spine. The white objects are the eggs and the dark objects are the newborn stink bugs, each measuring about 1 mm.

This ant was patrolling a golden cholla cactus when I found him.

Did I mention you should post a comment?  Yes, please post a comment if you can help identify any of the insects or if you just want to share something. Here’s more photos from my trip:

Joshua Tree Trip Report – April 17-19, 2009

Last April, I visited Joshua Tree National Park with about a dozen of my closest friends.  We hiked through a desert in bloom. We found a few desert inhabitants that we had not seen before. At night, we laughed around a campfire while roasting hot dogs and making s’mores.  We laid out on large boulders and enjoyed the expansive starry night. It was a very memorable trip. Anyone following this blog knows that I’ve become a desert rat since that April trip, having returned many times. Early this year, in fact, I resolved to go to the Mojave Desert every weekend in the month of April, hoping to catch some of that magic again.

I’m happy to report that the magic was back in the desert last weekend!

It wouldn’t be an easy task for me to explain the greatness of the weekend. Even superlatives won’t be able to express the awesomeness of the experience. Nonetheless, the weekend will be referenced for years to come by me and my two friends who were there to experience the magic. For Nathan, this was the first trip to the area and he’s already to go back within the month. For Peter, this was his second journey to the park. The first trip was so memorable, he brought his girlfriend with him this time. While we sat atop a 70-foot boulder and watched the sun set over Pleasant Valley, he got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes.

Joshua Tree NP is for all types of lovers, especially nature lovers. It has taken many years of searching, but this would be the trip where I photographed my first (and second) desert tortoise. I also photographed the beautiful punctate bear beetles with its iridescent green pronotum and yellow elytron. Two of them, in fact! We joked on Sunday morning that the only way this weekend could get any better is if we found a rattlesnake… and we did!

Here are a few of my favorite nature photos from the weekend:

A juvenile blister beetle (Nemognatha lurida) rests on a leafy-stemmed coreopsis (Coreopsis calliopsidea).

A short-horned grasshopper (Acrididae) perfectly blends into the gravel of a wash.

I watched this cricket hunter wasp (Chlorion aerarium) efficiently and quickly dig a burrow into the desert. I sat just outside of its burrow, where it brought out earth,  increasing the size of its underground home. It would use its specialized mandibles to grip and carry gravel, some pieces as big as itself.

While searching for desert tortoises, I came across two cactus bees (Diadasia opuntiae) seemingly fighting over territory: a hedgehog cactus flower (Echinocereus engelmannii). They fought long enough for me to switch lenses on my SLR camera. (View the slideshow at the end of this post to see a macro shot of this fight.)

Sadly, this southwestern speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus) is dead. We witnessed its demise after unsuccessfully trying to save it from being run over by vehicles as it tried to cross a paved road. After it was run over while curled, Nathan and I used a stick to move it into the desert. We watched as it violently writhed for about ten seconds, its mouth wide open and bleeding, before it stopped moving forever. Even though it has the means of killing me in about an hour, I still felt sad when it died.

My first encounter with a desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). This beautiful creature didn’t mind our presence and walked by us and into this shaded spot under a boulder to escape the afternoon sun.

This is the second desert tortoise we met in the park. Like us, it was hiking through an area north of Skull Rock. It too didn’t seem to mind the four of us taking photos and video of it, a good sign that it hasn’t been threatened by humans, thus has not become fearful of humans.  Either that, or its a diva tortoise looking to get a break in Hollywood.

I got to use my butterfly net for the first time on this trip, something I’ve owned for over a year. My first and third swing of the net EVER captured these flying beauties, punctate bear beetles (Paracotalpa puncticollis). Since I’m a bug shutterbug and not a bug collector, I released both after taking photos of them – including photos of one flying away! (see the gallery below)

Here’s more photos from my trip.  Please post a comment if you can help identify any of the insects:

Just Published: Flowers

Just in time for Mother’s Day, a book of flowers!

I found forty of my favorite flower photos and finely fashioned them into this full-color folio. (*whew!*)

Click on the image below to find out more.