Giant Agave Bug

Acanthocephala thomasi

Giant Agave Bug, Acanthocephala thomasi, photo © by Michael Plagens

Feeding and mating on flowering stalks of Yucca madrensis at Florida Canyon, Sta. Rita Mts., Arizona, USA. 26 July 2013

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These massive bugs demand attention by virtue of their size and coloration. When mating (as this one is!) or feeding, they can take their time in making an escape from perceived danger. That is because they have defensive chemical weapons built right into their abdomens. When threatened they squirt out the acrid material directly at the bird, etc. In the eye, the chemical can blind temporarily, or in the mouth the attacker spits it out together with the bug. There are also sharp spurs on the legs that make for a painful kick.

Agaves and yuccas are the principal hosts for these bugs; these plants are frequently found on the terraces and slopes adjacent to sycamore canyons. The mouthparts consist of a long beak that is used to pierce into the plant's buds or developing fruit. The bugs suck out liquid nourishment.

Coreidae -- Leaf-footed Bug Family

More Information:

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Arizona Naturalist
Sycamore Canyons
Invertebrates in Arizona's Sycamore Canyons


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 4 July 2014