The Private Lives Of Giants
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We sometimes refer to all insects, generally, as “bugs.” In fact, there is a large subdivision of insects, the order Hemoptera, which includes about 40,000 species of insects known as “true bugs.” True bugs are, generally, insects with sucking mouthparts. Many bugs feed exclusively on plant juices, but there are predatory bugs as well.
In our desert there is a species of bug known as the Giant Mesquite Bug. These are giants as bugs go, reaching a length of more than an inch. They feed exclusively on the juices of mesquite trees and are harmless to humans. In fact, they don’t seem to do much damage to their host trees. Usually, there will be no more than a few dozen of these big insects feeding on a tree and the trees seem to thrive despite the infestations.
The other day I found a few of these bugs. Giant Mesquite Bugs truly are weird looking, with their long legs, their big bodies, and their tiny heads. If you look closely at this one, you’ll see that it has inserted its long proboscis into a mesquite seed pod and is apparently sucking up plant juice as if through a soda straw. These big bugs would appear to be tempting targets for predators such as insect eating birds but I’ve never seen anything try to eat one of them. Evidently, they don’t taste good at all and the red patterns on their bodies may serve to warn would-be predators that they aren’t edible.
Here’s a pair of Giant Mesquite Bugs, also feeding.
These are a mixed couple. The bug on the left is a male, the bug on the right is a female. Males are somewhat smaller than females. But, what most easily identifies the males is their oversized legs. They look like insect Arnold Schwarzeneggers. I don’t know why they have such huge legs, maybe it’s just that the ladies find them to be attractive. What strikes me as being kind of cute about this image is that the male seems to be showing real affection for his girlfriend. Note that he’s draped a couple of his legs around her as they feed together. How sweet!
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting. The first image was shot at ISO 200, f16 @ 1/160. The second image was shot at ISO 125, f13 @ 1/160.