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Creosote Bush Walkingstick

Diapheromera covilleae

 

Diapheromera covilleae male photo © by Mike Plagens

My vision was trained just a few decimeters away and still it took many minutes to pick out this master of crypsis. It was found in Vekol Valley, Sonoran Desert National Monument, Maricopa County, Arizona on 9 Aug. 2008. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) has been a part of the arid Southwestern United States and Mexico for less than 12,000 years. Yet already an extensive fauna of well-adapted insects has evolved to utilize the now abundant resource.

Heteronemiidae -- Common Walkingstick Family

By moving and feeding at night in the Sonoran Desert the Creosote Bush Walkingstick avoids excessive heat and drying winds. It also avoids visual predators such as birds and lizards. The specimen at left is a male (length about 9 cm not including the antennae) and was likely in search of a mate. It was on a small shrub and presumably would need to navigate across the ground to search nearby bushes. The female is shown below.

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Diapheromera covilleae female photo © by Mike Plagens

A week later I returned to the same area, searched the creosote bushes until I located a female. Notice that the female is colored gray, the color of creosote bush twigs her size, whereas the male has a browner coloration, the color of twigs of his girth! An adult male was standing by about 50 cm away with constantly waving antennae - presumably sampling air for pheromones, but did not approach or move away for more than 2 hours of observation. Vekol Valley, Sonoran Desert National Monument, Maricopa County, Arizona on 16 Aug. 2008.


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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2008