Sonoran Desert Arthropods

Invertibrate animals with an exoskeleton and a segmented body. Includes insects, spiders, crustaceans, scorpions, millipedes and centipedes. Thousands upon thousands of species - a nature lovers cornucopia of diversity and intrigue.

Dragonflies & Damselflies


 © by Mike Plagens

Four, similar membraneous wings, with often rapid and precise flight. Adults and immatures are entirely predaceous. Immature stages live in water but adults can wander far from water in search of prey. More info



Day flying insects with four, broad, often colorful wings. Immature form are caterpillars feeding on plant leaves. More info



Often nocturnal but not always. Four broad wings with drab or else colorful scales. More info



 © by Mike Plagens

One pair of hardened wing covers protecting a second pair of membraneous flight wings. Mouthparts designed for chewing. Immature stage a grub. More info

True Bugs


Insects with two pairs of wings and mouthparts designed for piercing-sucking. First pair of wings may be part leathery. Many forms are wingless. More info

Walking Stick


Unlike a praying mantis, the first legs are slender and not armed with sharp claws. Eyes small. More info

Praying Mantis


 © by Mike Plagens

First pair of wings are leather, second membraneous. First pair of legs strongly raptoral and sharp clawed. Predaceous on mostly soft-bodied insects. More info

Ground Mantis

Litaneutria minor

Small praying manitises that hide in plain site by looking just like the sand they are sitting on! More info



The wings, which are held tent-like over the body, are covered with short, soft hairs. Usually not found far from water. More info

Green Lacewing


 © by Mike Plagens

Delicate, intricately veined wings, often emerald green. Mostly nocturnal at lights or alighted on vegetation. Larvae eat aphids, etc. More info

Lacewing Larva


 © by Mike Plagens

The Aphid Lion. Small torpedo-shaped, somewhat compressed insect without wings. Eat aphids, etc. and on rare occasion will bite into flesh in search of moisture. More info

Ant Lion


Delicate, intricately veined wings, largely nocturnal. Drab gray or brown for hiding by day. Conspicuous antennae which dragonflies lack. More info



Delicate-looking insect with a pair of lethal weapons: Raptorial prothoracic legs. More info

Desert Cockroach


Pale tan cockroach adapted to desert conditions. Comes to porch lights but never lives in people's homes. More info



Slender, light brown cockroach inhabits lawns and gardens. Capable of weak flight. Introduced amd Non-native. More info

Black Webspinner


Mostly seen at lights are the winged males. Females and immatures live in silken tubes under leaves/rocks in moist gardens. More info



 © by Laurie Nessel

Aquatic insect of cool, clean, streams. Elongate abdomen with two long, hair-like tail append-ages. Adults emerge early spring. More info

Flower Thrips


 © by Mike Plagens

On close inspection most blooming flowers have minute (< 1 mm) cigar-shaped insects. Most are pale yellow, but there are black species also. More info

Pavement Mite


fast-running red mite, Balaustium, © by Mike Plagens

Bright red mites a bit smaller than 2mm often seen running against white concrete or on flowers. More info

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 © by Mike Plagens

One pair of membraneous wings. Mouthparts designed for lapping or piercing. Immature stage is a maggot. Includes gnats and mosquitoes. More info

Grasshoppers and Crickets


© by Mike Plagens

Saltorial insects with two pairs of wings, the first, top pair often leathery and protective. Chewing mouthparts. Immatures lack wings but resemble adults. More info

Bees and Wasps


Two pairs of membraneous wings - second pair normally smaller than first. Buzzing, high-frequency wing beats. Stinger often present. Mouth parts chewing-lapping. More info



Workers without wings and normally residing in large colonies. Reproductives (queens, males) with two membraneous wings. Stingers sometimes present. More info

Creosote Bush Walkingstick

Diapheromera covilleae

Wingless insect with six legs and attaining a large size greater than 8 cm. Body and appendages are all long and twig-like to hide completely. More info

Desert Subterranean Termite

Heterotermes aureus

Mud-like carton tunnels extend from soil up into wooded structures. White abdomen with darker brown at mandibles in head. More info

Encrusting Termites

Gnathamitermes perplexus

Rarely seen directly above ground. Twigs and grasses near soil are encrusted with mud-like carton. More info


Thermobia domestica

Common household insect in the Sonoran Desert. Three long hair-like appendages at tail and two long antennae. No wings. More info



 © by Mike Plagens

Eight segmented legs and a body with two segments - head and thorax fused. May inhabit an intricate web or hunt freely. Without antennae. More info



© by Mike Plagens

Eight legs with a prominet pair of pedipalps at anterior formed to pincers. Tail or telson normally with sting at posterior. More info

Desert Millipede

Orthoporus ornatus

 © by Mike Plagens

Two pairs of legs per each of many body segments. Habitat mostly subterranean and above ground only at night after rain. More info

Greenhouse Millipede

Oxidus gracilis

Again, two pairs of legs per segment. Common millipede in moist gardens of Sonoran Desert. Mostly hidden beneath vegetation or debris or soil. More info

Desert Centipede

Scolopendra polymorpha

Many segments and legs, but with only one pair per segment. Nocturnal. By day remains hidden beneath rocks or soil. More info


Porcellio sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Terrestrial crustacean found mostly in watered gardens and compost. 7 pairs legs. Flattened profile. More info

Common Pill-Bug


Not a bug or insect at all! Curls into tight ball. Lives among damp leaves and under logs. More ... has a number of Arizona contributers with great collections of identified insect photos:

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2016


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