Sonoran Desert Coleoptera (Beetles)

Beetles are mostly an easy group of insects to recognize due to the hard shell formed from the first pair of wings (elytra). Below the first pair of hard wings are the membraneous flight wings (which are short or missing in some species). Beetles develop from an immature larval stage often referred to as a grub. Grubs typically live beneath the soil or inside plant tissues. Occasionally they appear like caterpillars and feed on the leaves of plants. Beetles range in size from less than 1 mm to well over 100 mm in length. There are many thousands of beetle species in the Sonoran Desert occupying virtually every sort of habitat. This guide can only present a few of the common, conspicuous species.

Pinacate Beetle

Eleodes ca. spinipes

Large and jet-black. Sticks rear end up when disturbed. Forages by walking on ground. More info

Desert Ironclad Beetle

Asbolus verrucosus

One of two very similar tank-like beetles that can be found lumbering along on the desert. More info

Desert Ironclad Beetle

Cryptoglossa variolosa

Large, black, heavily armoured. Bumpy surface. Lumbers along soil. More info

Dead Wood Darkling

Armalia sp.

The many species of darkling beetles each have a different life history. This one came out of a dead tree branch. More info

Teneb Beetle


Dark gray-brown beetle that emerges at night to forage for an omnivorous diet. Many similar species. More info

Predaceous Ground Beetle


This fast-running beetle is a nocturnal hunter. Black with blue or green iridescence. More info

Small Ground Beetle


 © by Mike Plagens

Shiny black beetle living on or near mostly damp soil. Elytra with distinct striations. More info

Foliage Ground Beetle

Lebia sp.

Smaller carabids that usually hunt on foliage and mostly at night. Elytra with green sheen and deep striations. Predatory. More info

Tiger Beetle

Cicindela oregona

 © by Mike Plagens

Active and agile predators; large eyes and long legs. Flies about and lands/runs near damp sandy soil. Bright metalic blues, greens or browns. Several species. More info

Sunburst Diving Beetle

Thermonectus marmoratus

Glossy black with spots of golden yellow. Inhabits shallow pools in the depths of riparian canyons. More info

Predaceous Diving Beetle


Streamlined like a torpedo, equipped with paddle legs, and a pair of fold-up wings. More info

Convergent Lady Bird

Hippodamia convergens

Tomato-red with ca. 12 black spots. Pronotum shiny black with two converging white lines. Predatory on aphids and found on wide variety of plants. More info

Seven-spot Ladybird

Coccinella septempunctata

Tomato-red with seven black spots. Pronotum shiny black with two, lateral white spots. Predatory on aphids and found on wide variety of plants. Introduced. More info

Ashy Gray Lady Bird

Olla v-nigrum

Distinct pattern on dorsum of head and pronotum. Feeds on aphids particularily on trees in the spring. Can also be black with two orange spots! More info

Cactus Lady Beetle

Chilocorus cacti

Two red spots on glossy black elytra. Often found on prickly pear cactus, but also other plants with prey bugs. More info

Click Beetle

Elater sp.

Many species with distinctive shape and habit of snapping into a summersault to right themselves when placed on their back. More info

Red-shouldered Leaf Beetle


Elytra are shiny black and the belly had a coat of short white hairs. Found on leaves of palo verde. Several species. More info

Creosote Litter Leaf Beetle

Pachybrachus mellitus

Golden yellow brown. Small beetles less than 5mm. Found on leaves of Larrea. More info

Casebearer Leaf Beetle

Cryptocephalus atrofasciatus

Small, often colorful and intricately patterned. Head nearly obscured from above by pronotum. Many kinds. Found on fresh leaves of buckwheats and other plants. More info

Mesquite Casebearer

Cryptocephalus maccus

Small, shiny and intricately marked beetle with head obscured from view above. Found on new leaves of Velvet Mesquite. More info

Striped Willow Flea Beetle

Disonycha alternata

Elytra with three dark stripes on an amber background. Pronotum red-orange. Can jump. Found on new foliage of willows in spring. More info

Three-lined Potato Beetle

Lema daturaphila

Yellow with three black stripes. Pronotum with two black spots. Found on plants in potato family, Solanaceae. More info

Brittlebush Leaf Beetle

Trirhabda geminata

Light gray with pale yellow bordering. Feeds exclussively(?) on leaves of Brittlebush. More info

Mining Leaf Beetle

Monoxia sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Very small beetle that is usually associated with thick-leaved desert plants. Creates hollow blisters within the leaves. More info

Canyon Ragweed Leaf-miner


Closely associated with Asteraceae plants. Flat, v. small, shiny beetles found on leaf surfaces. Larvae tunnel inside a leaf. More info

Mallow Leaf Miner

Stenopodius flavidus

This beetle pair is tucked into a fold of a desert mallow leaf. The larvae would be found tunneling with leaf tissue. More info

Leaf-Miner Beetle

Octotoma marginicollis

These small beetles chew on leaves of various plants as adults, but the flattened larvae tunnel into leaves. More info

Clavate Tortoise Beetle

Plagiometriona clavata

Closely associated with Datura plants. Mottled, golden brown and partly transparent shell that can hide body, head and legs. More info

Burroweed Leaf Beetle

Leptinotarsa lineolata

Pronotum is metalic green and elytra have dark stripes. Found on leaves of Hymenoclea. More info

Ambrosia Leaf Beetle

Zygogramma tortuosa

Light tan marked with burgandy brown. Found on leaves of Ambrosia. More info

Warty Leaf Beetle


Resembles a fecal pellet of a caterpillar, and acts like one!. Several species on variety of desert plants, this one on Hymenoclea. More info

Ornate Checkered Beetle

Trichodes ornatus

Bright yellow and black markings on a small squared-off beetle. Notice clubbed antennae. Often in or on flowers feeding on pollen. More info

Soft-winged Flower Beetle

Attalus sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Small, mostly colorful beetles found on foliage and within flowers. Narrow pronotum between elytra and head. Many kinds. More info

Long-jawed Longhorn

Trachyderes mandibularis

Males only have the enlongated mandibles and very long antennae. Both sexes are orange with black cross marks. More info

Flower Longhorn

Crossidius sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Yellow-orange and black with long, stout antennae (horns). Found on flowers in late summer/fall. More info

Longhorn Beetle

Schizax senex

Dark burgandy to black with a paler yellow stripe along dorsum following wing edges. More info

Double-banded Bycid

Sphaenothecus bivittata

Dark brown with two light-colored bands. Long, stout antennae (horns). Found on flowers in late summer/fall. More info

Mesquite Girdler

Oncideres rhodisticta

Robust beetle with long antennae. Gray marked with dark gray and small, jewel-like spots. More info

Cactus Longhorn

Moneilema gigas

Lumbering, flightless beetles often found chewing on new cactus growth. Big antennae with a white ring on each. More info

Ocotillo Borer

Chrysobothris edwardsii

When an ocotillo dies or becomes weakened the larvae of these 5mm-long beetles might be among the insect recyclers. More info

Flower Buprestid

Acmaeodera gibbula

Black beetle with two rows of five yellow spots along center line and three red spots along each lateral edge. More info


Acmaeodera alicia

Bullet-shaped beetles usu. back and marked with bright colors. On flowers and foliage in spring and fall. More info

Flower Buprestid

Acmaeodera acanthicola

This colorful flower buprestid is much smaller than most species, about 3 mm. More info

Wood-boring Beetle

Hippomelas spenicus

One of largest buprestids in Sonoran Desert. Dark brown with coppery pubescence. Large-eyed and wary. More info

Round-headed Borer

Chrysobothris sp.

Mostly dark brown or black with coppery sheen. Shiny dots on elytra. Adults are attracted to dead or dying tree branches. Many similar species. More info

Net-winged Beetle

Lycus sanguineus

Bold black and red on wings that have finely netted vein structure. Found on flowers mostly in spring. More info

Fernandez Net-winged Beetle

Lycus fernandezi

Orange and black net-patterned elytra. Notice notch in black portion. Often on flowers taking nectar. More info

Net-winged Beetle Larva

Lycus sp.

Immature beetles look totally different than the adults. This one is very odd-looking! More info

Wedge-shaped Beetle

Ripiphorus vierecki

Does not look like a beetle! Elytra are small dark shoulder pads. Resembles a bee. Feathery antennae. More info

Wedge-shaped Beetle

Macrosiagon sp.

Black and red; Enlarged head with pectinate antennae. Wings mostly cover abdomen. More info

Ant-Like Flower Beetle


Very small, ca. 3mm, slender beetle found often in flowers. Constrictions behind head and prothorax. More info

Sap Beetle


Several kinds of sap beetles, all quite small, are to be found in flowers and ripe fruits. More info

Master Blister Beetle

Lytta magister

Ostentatious beetles that often nibble at flowers in spring and lumber along with egg-swollen abdomens. More info

Iron Cross Beetle

Tegrodera aloga

photo © by Marc Borom

Brightly colored, large and conspicuous. Feeds on leaves and flowers in spring. Head and pronotum red. More info

Red-eared Blister Beetle

Lytta auriculata

Elytra are irridescent blue-black and are rather soft textured. Head is red. Found chewing flowers in spring. More info

Elegant Blister Beetle

Eupompha elegans

Elytra are blue-black with orange markings that may form a kind of cross or reduced to small shoulder marks. More info

Gray Blister Beetle

Epicauta sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Uniformly gray with enlarged abdomen and soft, velvety wing covers (elytra). Often eats pollen. More info

Orange Blister Beetle

Nemognatha sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Bright orange beetles often found resting in tops of flower heads. Emerge in spring. Parasites of solitary nesting bees. More info

Small Blister Beetle

Gnathium sp.

Besides the large showy blister beetles there are smaller ones too. Golden orange brown color. More info

Small Blister Beetle


Like other Meloidae these are normally found on flowers. About 6mm. Some may have black markings. More info

Inflated Beetle

Cysteodemus armatus

The elytra and abdoment are grossly enlarged with conspicuous pitting and usually yellow or white residue on the surface. More info

Diurnal Firefly

Pyropyga nigricans

Yes a firefly with no light organ for an insect that is active by day. Riparian habitats, irrigated yards and farms. More info

Fig-Eater Beetle

Cotinis mutabilis

Dark emerald green 'June bug' emerges in summer around monsoon time. Powerful digging legs. Flies well. Common in cities and riparian areas to feed on ripe fruit and leaves. More info

Golden Brown June Beetle

Cotalpa consobrina

In shady canyons of southern Arizona emerging at night after start of rains. More info

Patent Leather

Pelidnota lugubris

Elytra and prothorax are smooth and shiny devoid of surface texture. Emerges after monsoon start in southern Arizona canyons. More info

Lined June Beetle

Polyphylla sp.

Large, striped beetles emerge at night in summer and are attracted to lights. Mostly riparian areas. More info

Masked Chafer

Cyclocephala melanocephala

Robust beetles with strong legs. Found as adults in flowers or on new foliage. Often coming to lights. Many similar species, known as scarabs. More info

Grant's Rhinocerous Beetle

Dynastes grantii

 © by Mike Plagens

Stupendous beetle - the males have a pair of stout, forward-projecting horns. Large beetles come to lights. Likely only in the highest elevations of the Sonoran Desert. More info

Hide Beetle


Usually found crawling across the soil not too far from the remains of a dead animal. The larvae and adults feed upon the old, dry remains. There a many species with a variety of specific habits. More info

Skin Beetle

Dermestes caninus

Mottled gray and black on dorsum and silvery gray below. Small, about 8mm. Associated with old, dry cadavers. More info

Soft-winged Flower Beetle

Dasytinae sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

Small - a 2 or 3 mm long - brown or blackish beetles that congregate on blooming flowers. Adults eat the pollen. A number of species present in AZ. More info

Palo Verde
Bean Weevil


on Foothill Palo Verde © by Mike Plagens

Lead-gray beetles half the size of the palo verde bean. Round hole drilled as weevil emerges. More info

Bean Weevil


emerged from sweet acacia, Acacia farnesiana beans © by Mike Plagens

Brown-gray beetles about 3mm long emerge from bean pods of mesquite or sweet acacia. More info

Silver Twig Weevil

Ophryastes argentata

Mottled black and white with pitted sculpture. Prominent snout. Found on leaves and twigs of Larrea tridentata (Creosote Bush). More info

Datura Weevil

Trichobaris compacta

Silvery gray weevil about 6 mm long and found on foliage of Sacred Datura and other Jimson Weed species, Datura. More info

Cocklebur Root Weevil

Baris sp.

 © by Mike Plagens

One of thousands of possible weevil species that could be found in the Sonoran Desert. This one is associated with plants in the sunflower family. More info

Broad-nosed Weevil

Eucyllus saesariatus

Seems to be closely associated with the grass Pleuraphis. Speckled with dark and light gray. Snout broad and relatively short. More info

Composite Weevil

Apleurus albovestitus

Large beetle that might be seen in sandy areas of southwestern Arizona. More info

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