Insects and Arachnids

A paved path meanders through a desert scrubland. Watchman Tower, a 3,000 foot sandstone tower, is pictured in the background, with dark skies looming overhead
Pa'rus Trail facing Watchman Tower

Zion National Park photo


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

Nine small red bugs with dots of black along their body are crawling over a Western Tent Caterpillar cocoon
Box Elder Bugs crawling over Western Tent Caterpillar Cocoon

Zion National Park Photo

Box Elder Bugs

(Boisea rubrolineatus)

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

Large black beetle crawling over dead leaves on ground
Darkling Beetle (Eleodes obscurus)

Zion National Park photo

Darkling Beetles

(Eleodes obscurus)

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

Small tan bodied insect crawling along the sandy ground
Jerusalem Cricket
(Stenopelmatus navajo)

Zion National Park Photo

Jerusalem Cricket

(Stenopelmatus navajo)

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

Black bodied insect with brown wings obtaining nectar from milkweed plant
Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis formosa)

Zion National Park Photo

Tarantula Hawk

(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.

Small black backed bee deep inside a globe mallow flower. Only the bees back and pollen coated legs are visible in the orange flower
Globe Mallow Bee (Diadasia diminuta)

Vince Tependino, ARS Bee Research Lab

Globe Mallow Bee

(Diadasia diminuta)

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

Many red ants crawling around their sandy nest
Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis)

Montezuma Castle National Monument Photo

Western Harvester Ant

(Pogonomyrmex occidentalis)

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

Black and yellow winged butterfly pollinating a red thistle plant
Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio multicaudata)

Zion National Park Photo

Swallowtail Butterfly

(Papilio multicaudata)

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.

Large black winged butterfly with orange spots on wing tips
Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

Zion National Park Photo

Arizona Sister

(Adelpha eulalia)

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

Strikingly red dragonfly perched on branch
Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturate)

Zion National Park Photo

Flame Skimmer

(Libellula saturate)

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

Long, black and green caterpillars crawling over each other in their tent nest Long, black and green caterpillars crawling over each other in their tent nest

Left image
Southwestern Tent Caterpillar
Credit: Zion National Park Photo

Right image
Southwestern Tent Moth
Credit: Zion National Park Photo

Southwestern Tent Caterpillar/Moth

(Malacosoma incurvum)

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.



Long legged black widow spider, spread out on its web with the tell tale red hourglass on its abdomen
Black Widow (Lactrodectus hesperus)

Zion National Park Photo

Black Widow

(Lactrodectus hesperus)

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. HIGHLY VENOMOUS BITE. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY

Tanned, long legged spider is hunched down on a downed tree
Golden Huntsman (Olios fasciculatus) 

Zion National Park Photo

Golden Huntsman

(Olios fasciculatus)

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

Large, hairy tarantula is walking gingerly on the tips of its legs along the red dirt ground
Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma iodius)

Zion National Park Photo

Desert Tarantula

(Aphonopelma iodius)

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

Go to our Desert Tarantula page for more in depth information about Zion's Desert Tarantula



Tan bodied, black backed scorpion with large pincers in front, crawling along sandy trail
Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis)

Zion National Park Photo

Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion

(Hadrurus arizonensis)

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


Last updated: October 2, 2022

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


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