Today We Have Critters!
Just two of them for now; I don’t want to overwhelm you.
Many of my neighbors are very shy, and it can take some doing to get really good pictures of them. Today’s critters didn’t mind me getting right up next to them with the camera.First, we have a fine specimen of the Western Fence Lizard. My National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southwestern States says that this lizard is not native to my desert, but apparently they’re mistaken. That, or else some unscrupulous lizard-snatcher has recklessly absconded with them from their homes and ruthlessly dropped them hereabouts near my house, where they could not possibly survive, and while the AZ wildlife managers weren’t looking. Or, Hey! Maybe I’m the very first person to spot one of these in my area.
Nah, probably just a mistake.
Notice the lovely blue color, and if you enlarge the picture (as Phil Plait says: click to embiggenate), you can see the spikey fringe around his neck! There are actually two of these lizards here, and I know this because each of them spent some time pretending they were “inside lizards”. Eventually, they each managed to find the guest bathroom window, and tried to claw through the screen. This turned out to be a convenient place for me to catch them and escort them outside, while explaining that even though I appreciate their efforts to rid my home of various spiders and scorpions, I really feel that their diet would be improved outside.
Then again: scorpions. I may have made a mistake there…
In any case, they are now outside lizards, but spend most of their days around my doors and windows, trying to be inside lizards again.
Moving on: this is a Giant Mesquite Bug (Thasus neocalifornicus).
OK, it’s not a giant yet, but almost. From this fabulous post, I see that this is the 5th instar of the Giant Mesquite Bug nymph, which means that at the next molt, it will reach its true form. Even at this stage, it’s just beautiful! Here, have another look:
It’s a bit over an inch long, not counting the antennae. And check out those dinky-assed wings: no way they could carry this beast! But eventually, the whole wing thing will work out, if the birds don’t get him first.
In other years, I’ve seen 4th instar versions, and they look just like those translucent red dice with the white dots. Amazingly pretty!
This is what they do to my mesquite trees:
They cut twigs like this and then just move on. Meanwhile, everything past the cut dies (you can see at the right of the picture). So at random places on the tree, there are twigs that end in dead, yellow leaves. I’ve read that this does no lasting damage to the trees (except for the twigs affected), and the dead twigs are easy to snap off, but still, it seems bad. And in years like this when everything is so thirsty, the trees need all the green and growing leaves they can have.