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Focus Carlsbad Summer 2021 | Bugs of New Mexico

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By John - Flickr: Scolopendra heros, CC BY 2.0,

By John – Flickr: Scolopendra heros, CC BY 2.0,


AppearanceHalf giant black ant, half scorpion.
BehaviorIts a “bark is worse than it’s bite.” They are tough looking but not aggressive.
What to DoSweep them up into a dustpan and release them into a desired location. Do NOT squash! (They release a strong smell of vinegar if squashed, hence the name vinegaroon.)
Derek Markham Flickr

By Derek – Flickr Tarantula, CC BY 2.0


AppearanceBig, hairy, startling.
BehaviorRelatively slow moving. Can be found resting on the exterior walls of homes. Older generations remember herds of tarantulas moving across roads just before a rainstorm.
What to DoLet them be. Observe their movements; honestly, they are a fascinating member of the desert ecosystem.

Giant Desert Centipedes

AppearanceHuge, crawly, and aptly nicknamed “Texas Redheads” because of the bright red head contrasted against the black segments of their bodies. Grows to lengths of 6-12 inches.
BehaviorThey scuttle and scamper around nervously. Centipedes are perpetual motion machines; their 100 legs move all at once as their bodies slither back and forth.
What to DoObserve, but do not disturb. They are venomous, but the venom is not deadly to humans.

Niñas de la Tierra

AppearanceAnother ant-looking thing which is in fact an underground dwelling cricket. Niñas de la Tierra go by many names: Children of the Earth, Jerusalem Cricket, or the potato bug.
BehaviorStartling at two and a half inches long, but not movers and groovers. They spend a lot of time underground.
What to DoLet them be.

Tarantula Hawks

AppearanceLarge black wasp with red wings.
BehaviorTarantula hawks prey upon tarantulas. Once the hawks have paralyzed the prey with a sting, they lay their eggs upon the tarantula corpse and bury it at the top of a burrow.
What to DoAvoid their sting when they buzz near your head. Unlike yellow jackets and other wasps, the tarantula hawks are not in search of picnics, so they usually disappear as suddenly as they arrive.

Article written by Kaity Hirst and originally published in Focus on Carlsbad 2021 Summer edition.

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