Zion is home to many insects and arachnids. There are abundant hiding spaces, food sources, and sunny days to bolster the bug population.
Bugs, Beetles, and Others
Box Elder Bugs
Description: small black and red true bug. Flat, seed shaped body ~ 1-1.5 cm long Habitat: forested areas of deciduous trees (especially the box elder tree) and buildings when the temperatures drop Diet: seeds from trees of the maple family Fun Facts: Harmless, though stinky when crushed
Description: large black ground-dwelling beetle. Sausage-shaped body ~5 cm long. Back wing covers may have a ridged appearance Habitat: all over the park, seen commonly along the Pa’rus Trail Diet: scavenges on dead and dying plant and animal material Fun Facts: “Darkling Beetle” is the common name for many similar looking beetles in the park. Stand on their front legs with backside in the air to emit foul smelling odor as a defense against predators
Description: Frankenstein-like insect has an ant shaped head and cricket shaped body. Tan and red in color with striped abdomen up to 6 cm long Habitat: burrows under logs or rocks Diet: decomposing plant and animal matter and other live insects Fun Facts: Nocturnal insect is sometimes called a potato bug or old bald man PAINFUL BITE
Wasps, Bees, and Ants
(Pepsis formosa) Description: large black/blue wasp with vibrant orange wings. Slender body 3-5 cm long Habitat: widespread throughout park Diet: fermented nectar, especially from whorled milkweed Fun Facts: drinking fermented nectar can cause erratic flight patterns. Female tarantula hawks will sting and paralyze tarantulas, drag them to a burrow, and lay their eggs inside the tarantula. Wasp larvae will eat their way out of the tarantula.
VERY PAINFUL STING
Globe Mallow Bee
Description: Small black body 7 to 9 millimeters long Habitat: Specialist bee found in desert scrubland where globe mallow plant is prevalent. Nests are commonly found in compacted soils Diet: Adults gather nectar for food for themselves, gather pollen from globe mallow plant for offspring Fun Fact: Also known as a chimney bee, the Globe Mallow bee creates small towers of dirt near its nest
Western Harvester Ant
Description: large red-brown ant ~1 cm long Habitat: desert and arid grasslands in mounded nests Diet: seeds, pollen, or newly dead insects Fun Facts: colonies build large nests with little vegetation surrounding the area. A colony’s queen can live up to 40 years, but workers only live up to 6 months. STINGS IF BOTHERED
Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Moths
Description: large yellow and black striped butterfly with wingspan up to 12 cm. Caterpillars are brown and fleshy. Habitat: near slow-moving water sources especially where milkweed is present Diet: caterpillars will eat leaves of host plants, while adults feed on nectar from thistle, milkweed, lilac, etc. Fun Facts: There are two species of swallowtail butterflies in the park, the two-tailed swallowtail, and the western tiger swallowtail.
Description: mostly black butterfly with orange wing spots and white line on each wing. Wingspan up to 12 cm. Habitat: Gambel’s oak woodlands, riparian canyons Diet: caterpillars feed on leaves of oak trees while adults eat rotting fruit, mud, and water Fun Facts: Looks nearly identical to the California Sister butterfly
Description: adult is large red-orange dragonfly up to 8 cm long. Larvae are large and greenish gold Habitat: adults live in riparian areas, while larvae live underwater in streams and ponds Diet: adults eat soft bodied insects, while aquatic larvae eat insects and possibly small fish Fun Facts: Females will lay eggs in streams and ponds by dipping the tip of their abdomen on the surface of the water
Southwestern Tent Caterpillar
Credit: Zion National Park Photo
Southwestern Tent Moth
Credit: Zion National Park Photo
Southwestern Tent Caterpillar/Moth
Description: caterpillar is mostly blue with brown and orange markings up to 5 cm long, and covered with orange hair. Adult is light tan or medium brown small, fuzzy moth with a 2.5-5 cm wingspan. Habitat: cottonwood trees, and occasionally willow trees Diet: caterpillars eat significant amounts of cottonwood leaves, unsure of adult moth diet Fun Facts: Larvae (caterpillars) build large silky tents, where they find shelter, warmth, and a molting location. They will leave the tents to feed on cottonwood leaves, which can cause significant defoliation. After growing to their largest larval stage, caterpillars will pupate (build silken cocoons), then emerge as moths after 12-18 days.
Description: female is a small black spider with a red hourglass shape on bottom of spherical abdomen, less than 2 cm in length. Male is a slender brown spider with cream colored markings on back of abdomen Habitat: widespread throughout park, often in or around buildings Diet: insectivorous web-builder Fun Facts: female spiders often hang upside down in their webs, waiting for food. Males of North American black widow species are not often killed by females while mating, allowing them to make multiple times during their lives. If injured while mating, the female black widow can feed on the dead or dying male
Description: slender, tan, hairy legged spider with legs up to 5 inches long Habitat: rock walls, tree trunks, inside buildings Diet: hunts insects, but not a web-building spider Fun Facts: has no permanent web or home, but wanders around hunting for food. Females carry egg sacs in jaws and young on their backs
Description: large, thick bodied hairy spider, usually tan to dark brown in color Habitat: open arid land, often in underground burrows Diet: opportunistic omnivores, usually consume insects Fun Facts: While female tarantulas usually stay very close to their burrows, in the late summer male tarantulas go on a migration to find receptive females in their homes
Description: large scorpion with dark gray body and tan-gold appendages, up to 12 cm long, plus tail Habitat: washes or low elevation valleys in burrows Diet: large insects, small reptiles, amphibians, and mammals Fun Facts: Nocturnal hunter that fluoresces under UV light. CAN STING IF BOTHERED