I noticed these critters at the end of an hour long bike ride. One in which I had the bejesus scared out of me because I nearly hit a snake… what kind, I don’t know. It is the first one I’ve seen here not in captivity. Both the snake and I shrieked and moved out of each other’s way without looking back. I don’t think it was a Rattler… but…
So when I saw these shadows racing across the concrete sidewalk (I was back to civilization, or, so I thought… it is all relative), my first reaction was to keep pedaling. One thing you have to remember about desert wildlife… it always finds ways to hurt you.
But then I saw some beautiful yellow flowers and I finally slowed down enough to stop (yes, I was still pedaling like crazy even though that snake was a good 2 miles back!) And after shooting some flower pics (which I’m sure I’ll be sharing), I decided to head back to see what those bug shadows were about.
It was further back than I thought, that is how fast I was going! And, apparently I was still going at a good pace because when I finally got back to the bugs, I stopped suddenly and heard this man swear and yell, “why’d you stop?” I had not realized that someone was biking in my draft.
Of course, when I said, “Bugs!” He must have thought I was afraid to pass them or just plain nuts.
This is an Iron Cross Blister Beetle. As far as I can gather from Google… it is indigenous to the Sonoran Desert, which Quartzsite lies within — the Sonoran Desert is the only one with Saguaro Cactii thus easy to know its boundaries.
Its bright coloring is a warning to potential predators because blister beetles contain the irritating compound cantharadin that can cause skin blisters or severe to fatal poisoning if ingested. Apparently humans die if they ingest 20, alive or dried. (Makes you wonder how they tested this fact…) Horses die from far less. If alfalfa hay has any of these beetles (and there are more blister beetles than this kind) mixed in, it has been known to fatally poison the horse.
Normally these beetles emerge in large numbers in mid to late spring and move together in bands crawling or running across the ground. They feed on succulent leaves and flower petals. Exactly as I found them.