Insects, Spiders, Centipedes, and Millipedes of Pinnacles

Common Buckeye
Deceptive patterning on the wings of a common buckeye butterfly.

NPS / Gavin Emmons

Although often overlooked, invertebrates comprise many thousands of wildlife species at Pinnacles. Their lack of bones, teeth, fur, and feathers may make them seem primitive, but don’t be fooled. In many cases their life histories are just as complex as those of larger animals, and often much more bizarre. And they are usually much easier to find and observe than larger wildlife.

An inventory of bees conducted in the late 1990s found roughly 400 species of bees at Pinnacles. This is the highest known bee diversity per unit area of any place on earth! The diversity of butterflies here is not nearly as high (70 species), but in the right time and place it is possible to see many hundreds of individual butterflies in a single day. Currently 500 species of moths are known to occur in the park, with the total number expected to be more than 1,000. About 250 species of aquatic invertebrates have been recorded at Pinnacles, including 41 species of dragonflies and damselflies. Most other invertebrate groups remain largely unstudied.

Several invertebrates found at Pinnacles are endemic to our area, being found elsewhere rarely or not at all. The Pinnacles shieldback katydid (Idiostatus kathleenae) is about 2 cm long, wingless, and dark gray in color. It is active at night, feeding on the flowers of California buckwheat and other plants. The Pinnacles riffle beetle (Optioservus canus) is a tiny (2 mm) brown beetle that lives in fast-flowing sections of Chalone Creek.

The most common way to study invertebrates is to capture and kill them. While this method may be appropriate under many circumstances, a visit to Pinnacles is not one of them. In order to protect the wildlife at Pinnacles, collecting is prohibited without a scientific collecting permit issued by the park. A great tool for getting a good look at invertebrates going about their lives is a pair of close-focus binoculars. With 8X binoculars, from eight feet away you will have a view as if you were only one foot away! That’s plenty close for watching a bee gather pollen, a butterfly sip nectar, or a tarantula wasp sting and drag off a tarantula.

Rubyspot damselfly perched on the green stem of a plant.
Dragonflies and Damselflies

Spot these flashy predators of the insect world darting around ponds and streams at Pinnacles.

Close up on the icy blue wings and antennae of a Sonoran blue butterfy, perched on a white flower.

How many species of these colorful pollinators would you guess are present at Pinnacles? Hint: it's a lot.

Photo of a common flower moth perched on a purple flower.

Butterflies may often get the credit for being beautiful, but some moth species at Pinnacles are downright spectacular.

Close of up a metallic green sweat bee perched on a flower.

Bee diversity at Pinnacles ranks among the highest known anywhere on earth.

Ladybugs clustered together for warmth on a branch.

Pinnacles is the site of twice-yearly migrations of ladybug beetles.

Photo of furry brown legs and rounded body of a female desert tarantula.

Learn more about why these secretive creatures are an important part of ecosystems at Pinnacles, and tips on how you might spot one.

Last updated: May 6, 2019

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5000 East Entrance Road
Paicines, CA 95043


831 389-4486
Please call the number above for all park related inquiries. For camping questions contact the Pinnacles Campground at (831) 200-1722. For the park book store, please call (831) 389-4485.

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