Giant Mesquite Bugs are at home in the Southwest, where their favorite plant grows in the Sonoran chaparral.
The Giant Mesquite Bug is very large and conspicuous. This gives it an advantage over possible insect predators, but it also makes it easier for birds and lizards to find and eat them. They are usually found hanging around on Mesquite trees, whose wood is often used by people to smoke meats or barbecue. This native plant is a food source for the insect.
Young Giant Mesquite Bugs from this species differ greatly in their appearance compared to the adult form. Their unusual colors and design generate a lot of attention. They are bright red with many vivid white horizontal lines along their backs. Along the 'spine' is a series of white dots with a few black rings in between them. Their legs have red and black bands. This species is found mostly in the U.S., but populations also exist in northern Mexico. Offspring are usually found in large groups, clustered on a single mesquite tree. They feed on the juices pulled out of the softer plant parts, like new leaves, seed pods, and young stems. Females have flattened discs near the tips of their antennae. They emit a chemical that smells and is meant to deter predators from eating them.
Adults look darker, longer and have a triangular block of yellowish white lines crossing over their elytra. They look dark brown or olive green, with bright red bands on their black legs. Their sides are also red. They, too, can emit a chemical deterrent that has a noxious odor, but the make-up of it changes once they mature. It is thought that the chemical secretion morphs in order to be more beneficial against the different predators the bug encounters at particular life stages.
Scientific Name: Thasus neocalifornicus
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 40mm (0.59in to 1.56in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.