Wow! What is this bug that was found in Arizona?!?!

Female Acorn Weevil (Conotrachelus posticatus)

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Identifying this bug is relatively easy with that long snout! That snout is known as a proboscis which they use to chew their food. The Weevil in my photo above is an adult female.

During the spring, the female adults will lay their fertilized eggs into young acorns. Young acorns still have a soft outer shell which allows these bugs to lay their eggs in them.

Come mid-summer; the acorns begin to grow. While they are growing, their outer shell is also hardening. At this time, the eggs will hatch into grub-like larva that will feed on in the inside of the acorn.

In the Fall, the acorns begin to fall to the ground. At this point, the grub-like larva slowly chew a perfectly round hole about 1/8 inch wide which they will use to make their way out of the acorn. Because the shell has entirely hardened by this point, this is a lengthy process that will take the rest of the Fall season.

Fall has passed, and winter has begun, and those grubs have finally chewed a hole big enough for them to leave the acorn. Once out of the acorn, they will burrow themselves into the soil, which is where they will be for the next one to five years. Being underground helps keep them safe from predators that would love to eat them as they are a protein-packed snack for other insects and mammals such as spiders and skunks. They will emerge from the ground as full-grown adults (as seen in my photo), and the process will be repeated.

As adults, these bugs become a huge target for the Weevil Wasp (Cerceris spp), which are lone hunters that only prey on Weevils. Like the Tarantula Hawk, these wasp use these weevils as a food source for their larva.

One of the first questions I get asked after identifying a bug is, is it harmless to my plants and trees. Well, rest assured that these bugs are harmless to your plants and existing trees. Because of their larval diet, they can have an impact on new oak trees sprouting. The acorns that the larva are eating are the seeds of the oak tree. Once the larva has eaten the insides of the acorn, it can longer sprout into an oak tree.

Author: Dave Zeldin

What are Cicadas, what do they do, and why do they make that noise?

It's that of time year here in Arizona! The time of year when the trees start singing! To some, it's annoying. To others, it is a sound they look forward to every year. I love the sound. It reminds me of just how impressive these insects are that are making that noise.

These insects I speak of are Cicadas, of course! I know you do not need to read this article to know that it is the time of year that the cicadas start to sing because well, the Cicadas have no problem letting us know of their presence.

What I have found interesting is that although just about everyone in Arizona knows that the sound coming from the trees is the Cicada's, most people have no clue what these bugs look like let alone anything about the insect and their life cycle. The purpose of this article is to help people understand a little more about these insects in the trees that they hear every year during the summer months.

There are about thirty-seven species of Cicada in the State of Arizona. Up here in Prescott, Arizona, the most commonly heard Cicada this time of year is the Grand Western Flood Plain Cicada (Megatibicen cultriformis), which you will see in my photo below.

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This particular species of Cicada is commonly found in riparian areas that are well-populated with Willow, Sycamore, and Cottonwood Trees. They are also often seen in steep-sided gullies and river basins.

Cicadas began their life cycle in an egg that is laid in dead branches and twigs. Once these eggs hatch, Cicada nymphs emerge. These nymphs will begin to burrow themselves underground where they will spend the next few years feeding on the sap from the tree roots — the amount of time spent underground is dependent on the species of Cicada. I have heard about some species of Cicada that will live underground as nymphs for up to seventeen years before emerging.

Final instar nymphs will emerge from underground and begin their next stage of life, which is when they become winged adults. This stage is when a lot of people will start to notice them. Not only because you will hear them singing in the trees, but you may also begin to see their freshly shed exoskeletons in your yard. Most of the time, these exoskeletons are seen on fences, walls, and trees. Below you will see one of my photos of a freshly shed Cicada hanging out next to its exoskeleton it had just shed a few minutes prior.

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Once they have shed their exoskeletons, they will make their way up into the trees (if they have not yet already) where they will again feed on the tree sap and begin their songs. I am sure many of you wonder, why do they make that loud noise? Well, that noise you hear is the males calling the females to mate.

Once the Cicadas have found a mate, they have reached the end of their life cycle. An adult Cicada will live for about 2-6 weeks after it has mated. About this time, summer is coming to an end, and the singing from the trees has vanished. The adults have died, and the eggs in the branches and twigs have Cicada nymphs forming inside of them. These nymphs will hatch in about six weeks, make their way to the ground, and burrow down until they are ready to emerge, which starts another cycle.

I get a lot of people asking me if these insects are going to cause any harm to their trees. Entomologists have determined that these insects are not capable of causing damage to plants. There is no reason to be concerned about these insects. They are harmless to you, your pets, and your trees.

I hope by reading this article, you have learned something new and possibly gained an appreciation for an insect you otherwise may have thought was just a nuisance.

Monsoon has arrived fashionably late! What about the snakes?!?!

With the arrival of monsoon, many people will start to notice a significant increase in snake activity throughout the state of Arizona. As a matter of fact, I ran a snake relocation call this morning up here in Prescott, Arizona, which turned out to be a Sonoran Gophersnake.

You are probably asking yourself, why does the rain cause the snakes to become more active? Well, that is mostly because after spending months underground or in deep cover, they have gone a long time without a sip of water. When those first heavy rains hit our state, the snakes will emerge from their underground lair for that first sip of water and a meal. Often times, Rattlesnakes will be seen coiled up in the rain, drinking water off of their scales during these first few heavy storms. For us reptile enthusiasts, it is a fascinating behavior to see in the wild. Dr. Brendan O’Connor has taken some amazing photos of this behavior as seen at the bottom of this article.

Another reason why snakes become more active during this time of year is that their food source also becomes more active. This makes it much easier for them to get that first meal that they desperately need after emerging. Once they get that first much-needed drink of water and meal, they are ready to rock and roll!

This time of year, we will start to see a significant increase in the number of rattlesnake bites here in Arizona. Below are some things to know that may help you avoid a rattlesnake bite.

If you are out hiking, stay on the trail. A lot of rattlesnake bites happen when people wander off-trail and into the bushes or rock piles. Don't put your feet or hands in places you are not able to check for rattlesnakes first. One thing I always like to discuss is night time activity with rattlesnakes. Most people do not realize that rattlesnakes become incredibly active at night this time of year. So don't think that you can let your guard down when that sun goes down. Always use a flashlight when outdoors at night and watch where you are stepping and/or putting your hands.

You might be wondering, what do I do if I encounter a rattlesnake?

I always tell people that remaining calm is probably one of the most important things you can do in these situations. When you stay calm, you can make more rational decisions. Unless cornered with nowhere to go, most rattlesnakes are going to flee when a human encounters them. We are big and scary and are not looked at as a food source. Therefore, they want nothing to do with us. But, they will defend themselves when necessary. That being said, throwing rocks, sticks, or anything else at a rattlesnake is never a good idea. That gives them a reason to defend themselves.

The best thing you can do is walk away. No, the rattlesnake's will not chase you, but it is an excellent idea to keep an eye on the snake as you are walking away. Here is a video made by Bryan at Rattlesnake Solutions proving that rattlesnakes do not chase people.

If you have a rattlesnake encounter that calls for relocation, call your local rattlesnake relocation service immediately such as Rattlesnake Solutions.

If you have any questions regarding snakes, you can email me directly at zeldinadventures@gmail.com. Feel free to follow me on Instagram or Facebook to learn more about our wildlife through my photography.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus) drinking water from its scales.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus) drinking water from its scales.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus) drinking water from its scales.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus) drinking water from its scales.

2019 GRASSHOPPER WATCH!

The pallid-winged grasshopper (Trimerotropis pallidipennis) seems to have taken over Las Vegas! They have entirely blanketed some areas so thick that they are being picked up by weather radar!

This is a nightmare come true for those of you with acridophobia (An irrational fear of grasshoppers and locusts)! For people like me, these situations spark interest and instantly makes me wonder...how and why?!?!? I need details! Take me there so I can see it with my own eyes! Unfortunately, a Las Vegas trip isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Most of us here in Arizona are now wondering, are we next?!?! Do we need to prepare?!?!

The simple answer to that is, there is a good chance we can and will encounter a very similar situation here in Arizona. Many people here in Prescott, Arizona, have already started to report that they have seen the grasshoppers in large numbers. Yesterday during a quick trip to the hardware store, as I opened my car door in the parking lot, a grasshopper hopped right into my car! I quickly noticed that they were all over the parking lot.

It does appear that we are already encountering a large population of these grasshoppers here in Northern Arizona. The question is, will it get worse? Well, nobody can give a definite answer to that. We will just have to wait and see.

What we can say is that we have had grasshopper swarms like the one going on in Las Vegas right now here in Arizona on multiple occasions. Between 1952 and 1980, we have had at least six of these grasshopper swarms in Arizona.

It seems as the South West portion of the United States has had the perfect conditions for these types of swarms. Experts believe that a long period of very little precipitation followed by a large amount of rainfall is what creates these ideal conditions for these swarms. With the long period of very little rain, the grasshoppers can deposit their eggs into the ground without them being damaged by the storms. This results in millions of grasshoppers hatching all at once.

During these summer months, the grasshoppers will begin their northern migration through the deserts of North America, and this is when we see these large swarms. That being said, I think we all should be prepared here in Arizona.

Luckily, this species of grasshopper is entirely harmless to humans. They do not carry diseases, they don't bite, and most likely will not cause any damage to your yard. If you have crops or gardens, then you have a reason to be concerned as these grasshoppers feed on vegetation. Swarms of this size can surely do a significant amount of damage to your garden. Now your wondering, how to do I keep them out of my garden?!?! This is an area in which I do not have experience in. I have to send you to Google for these answers. I know there are many different options out there, but I could not tell you what actually works and what doesn't.

What I can tell you is, like many insects, these grasshoppers are attracted to lights. Using amber light bulbs in your front yard is an excellent way to keep these grasshoppers away from your yard at night. Those bright 5000K+ light bulbs is a great way to invite these grasshoppers to your yard if that is what you are wanting.

For now, we just wait to see if those grasshopper swarms make it here or not. If they do, please send me your photos with locations to zeldinadventures@gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Steve Marcus