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Prairie reptiles and insects

June 7, 2010

When you’re out looking around on the ground for flowers, you tend to spot other lowly critters, too.

As mentioned in my last wildflower post, I saw a few eastern short-horned lizards out on a Kimball County shortgrass prairie.

Camouflaged baby horny toad.

I loved how this adult's coloration matched the lichens.

Saw a lizard, too. For some reason, my camera wouldn’t focus on him when he was on the ground (too well camouflaged?). I had to photograph him on a boy’s sweatshirt sleeve.

Northern earless lizard?

I’m still on the lookout for rattlesnakes. Someone I know killed two of them near their home in Wildcat Hills last week. But no rattlesnakes spotted in Kimball. We did find a western hognosed snake, though. Wish I’d gotten a good picture of his original display posture, belly-up to show off a yellow, white, and black pattern, with bright pink mouth agape and black tongue lolling. (“I’m just a dead snake. Go away.”)

Those are not my fingers. I would not pick up a snake. Not even a hognose, which are not known to be biters.

Western hognose snake hiding its head.

There were also plenty of insects.

This tricolored bumble bee caught my eye. Not sure what it was doing sitting on the ground.

Here’s another stinger. This may look like a large ant, but it’s too furry. It’s a “velvet ant”, which is actually in the wasp family. It was a beautiful coppery color, which does not show well in this photo. I wanted to get a better picture, but I was not about to poke my fingers into the grass to flush it out.

Dasymutilla asopus?

Speaking of noxious little insects, here’s a blister beetle, known for the chemical in its hemplymph (“bug blood”) that can cause blistering of the skin. And it was sitting on my hand. Oh goody. I just thought it was pretty as it was nom-nom-noming on some milkvetch flowers.

Pyrota genus?

Here’s a darkling beetle. Saw many of these 2-inch beetles.

Eleodes obscurus?

Must have been a good day for beetles to be “twitterpated.” There was plenty of, as a rancher put it, “bug porn.”

Bow-chicka-bow-bow

The love nest of a pair of blue-margined ground beetles.

If you’ve hiked the Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument, it’s likely that you’ve seen some of these ground beetles running across the asphalt. They are fairly large, black beetles with impressive-looking pincers on the front. The blue racing stripe only shows up when the light hits it just right.

The front end of a blue-margined ground beetle.

Not everybody appreciates these kinds of critters, but I’m married to an entomologist, so I’ve developed more of an interest in insects. As a decorative plate gifted from my mother-in-law reads: “all nature’s creatures are beautiful, even the small ones”.

Well, except maybe the parasites. I just can’t bring myself to enjoy the little blood-suckers. SLAP! Stupid mosquitoes!

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2010 8:15 am

    Splendid photos and explanations.
    Have you tried using Listerine in a spray bottle to ward off mosquitoes? I dilute it 1-1 with water and use the peppermint variety because it doesn’t smell as medicinal as the original. It really works! Spray it around your doorways to keep them from coming into the house –most importantly–it’s not as toxic and may even be non-toxic.

    • Jeff Bradshaw permalink
      June 7, 2010 3:19 pm

      Hey Suella:

      There actually is no research indicating that Listerine will repel mosquitoes. Some of the compounds contained within Listerine such as menthol, thymol, and eucalyptol have derivatives that repel some insects; all of these are alcohols and very quickly evaporate and would only give very short-term repellence. I would stick with the recommendations from the folks at CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm), they know this stuff and do A LOT of research on it.

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