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Interesting Insect Information


Courtesy of Arizona State University

| dragonflies | tiger beetles | aphids | milkweed bugs | ladybird beetles
blister beetles | butterflies | bees


grasshopper Rick Overson-150.jpg Why does the pallid-winged grasshopper seen in Phoenix have bright yellow wings?
Pallid-winged grasshoppers are strong flyers that are attracted to city lights. They are grey and well camouflaged while sitting, but expose bright yellow wings when flying. It is believed that the bright yellow initially attracts predators when the grasshoppers take flight, but when the grasshopper lands and folds its wings, it virtually disappears from the view of the would-be predator.

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dragonfly Comanche Skimmer Pierre Deviche-150.jpg How do dragonflies regulate their body temperature?
You’ll commonly see them sitting on a twig soaking up warmth from the sun. They can also generate heat by rapidly beating their wings. If they get too hot, dragonflies can divert blood from the thorax into the abdomen to cool, perch in the shade, or assume a position called the obelisk, where the abdomen is pointed directly into the sun and the wings rotated downward to shade the thorax.

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Tiger beetles

AZ land tiger beetle Oliver Niehaus-150.jpg Is there a downside for the tiger beetle being one of the fastest moving insects?
Yes. When they pursue their prey at high speeds, they temporarily go blind. Entomologists long wondered why tiger beetles attack their prey in fits and starts. It turns out that if they move too quickly, their eyes don’t gather enough photons (illumination) to form an image of their prey. That is why they have to stop, look around, and go again.

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Will aphids spread from one species of plant in my yard to other kinds of plants?
That depends. Many aphids are monophagous, which means that they can feed from only one specific plant species. However, other aphids eat from a veritable smorgasbord (polyphagous), feeding on more than 100 different plant species.

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Milkweed bugs

How do milkweed bugs avoid being eaten by birds and other predators?
Milkweed bugs sequester toxic glycosides from the milkweed plant or seeds (Asclepias spp.) that they eat, which accumulate in their bodies. It is very distasteful to potential predators.

Why are milkweed bugs so colorful?
These bright colors serve as a warning, alerting would-be predators that they are distasteful, so that nothing even tries to eat them. This adaptation is known as aposematism.


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Ladybird beetles (“ladybugs”)

Ladybugs Ron Rutowski-150.jpgAre all relatives in the ladybird beetle family beneficial?
Most members of the ladybird family are beneficial, but some exceptions are the Mexican bean beetle and the squash beetle.

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Blister beetles

blister beetle John Alcock-150.jpg Do both male and female blister beetles produce the caustic substance that blisters human skin?
No. Only males manufacture this substance, known as cantharidin; however, they transfer this defensive material to the females as they mate.

How do female blister beetles chose a mate?
To impress a female blister beetle, males must weigh as much as or more than their prospective mate. Biologists believe that when a male climbs onto a female’s back to mate, she can tell how much he weighs. Lightweights need not apply.

What do the larvae of blister beetles eat?
Larvae of the beetle emerge from eggs laid in the soil and burrow to feast on grasshopper eggs.

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butterfly_2 John Alcock-200.jpg How many species of butterfly occur in Arizona?
According to the Phoenix Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association, 361 different butterfly species have been recorded from Arizona.

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bees Charles Kazilek-150.jpg Which country produces the most honey?
China is by far the dominant honey producer according to reports (2005) by the United Nations.  In the United States, the USDA estimates that there are up to 212,000 hobbyist beekeepers and 1,600 commercial operations. The value of the 2007 honey crop was $153 million.

You can rent your pollinators?
According to the National Honey Board, the first time a colony was rented out to help pollinate crops was in 1909. Now, more than 2.5 million colonies are rented for pollination, producing agricultural crops that topped $5.7 billion in the U.S. The California almond crop, produced from 420,000 acres of trees, is entirely dependent on honeybee pollination, requiring up to 1 million bees.

Are bees native to the Americas?
No. Honeybees were brought to the New World by European settlers during the 1600s. Europeans had developed techniques for managing bees and European honeybees were attractive because they could be kept in hives. Some Native American tribes called honeybees “the white man’s flies,” and the arrival of bees often heralded the encroachment of settlers.

How did Africanized bees come to the Americas?
The Africanized honeybees were brought to Brazil and cross-bred with European honey bees. It was thought they could better tolerate the hot tropical climate in South America. Several of these Africanized colonies escaped, swarmed into the Brazilian jungle and hybridized with local European bee colonies. Over the years, these colonies have been spreading northward, arriving in the United States in 1990.

How do Africanized bees differ from European bees?
Africanized honeybees are defensive and easily irritated. They react to a perceived threat with considerable force and much faster than the European honeybees. When resources fall short, Africanized honeybees will desert the hive, filling their honey stomachs for a long migration. This allows the colony to move farther distances than European honeybees. A feral Africanized honeybee colony produces more males than a European hive. The honey that Africanized bees make is quickly consumed for colony reproduction and population growth, so even though Africanized bees produce a lot of honey, little is stored in combs.

Who leads a hive?
Honeybees have a fascinating social organization. Different workers specialize in different tasks. In some ways, their society rivals that of any human organization of the world. Daily chores are completed without a governing body. In essence, they live in a bustling city, each knowing exactly what it should be doing.

How do honeybees improve human health?
In addition to honey and beeswax as valuable commodities, bees also produce pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom, which play roles in alternative medicine and health food. Moreover, bee stings have been used for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, and other diseases, though the medicinal value of bee products remains controversial.

bees Jacob Sahertian-200.jpgHow do queens get chosen?
There are no genetic differences between queen and worker bees. However, what they are fed as developing larvae is critical to which role they take on. All larvae are fed royal jelly by worker bees for the first three days. If the larva is fed royal jelly throughout the larval stage, it will turn into a queen bee. If the larva is fed honey and pollen for the last three days, she will develop into a worker. A queen can live for about two to three years, but workers typically live for six weeks to several months, depending on the season.

Do all bees sting? What causes an allergic reaction?
No, there are stingless bees. When bees sting a person, a normal response is inflammation of the area around the sting. It may turn itchy and red and last for several days. For a person with an allergic reaction, the response to the sting proteins is different. Histamine is released into the blood stream, affecting the smooth muscle around the trachea and lung bronchi. People can have difficulties in breathing, start sweating, vomiting, and lose consciousness. An Epipen (epinenephrine) injection should be given to these patients, if they have a prescription, in addition to transporting them to the hospital. People can build up either hypersensitivity or resistance to the bee venom over time. 

Why are some bees called “nectar robbers”?
Due to their large size, carpenter bees cannot enter tube-like blossoms such as sage to feed on nectar. Instead, they slit open the base of the flower, called a corolla, to access the nectar—a practice known as “nectar robbing” (without even pollinating the flower).

What are sweat bees?
The Halictid bee family is commonly called sweat bees, because most members are attracted to human sweat. The females can give a minor sting.

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