There’s a tendency for people to think that everything in Arizona will kill you, insects and arachnids included. The truth is most are relatively harmless and won’t attempt to injure you unless provoked. Maybe that sentiment says something about Arizonans as well.
Here is a short list of some tiny (and not-so-tiny) critters you may find wandering around your house or out on the trail hunting for their next meal. Instead of immediately squishing that spider, try to capture it with a cup and relocate to a place a little more suitable.
1. Apache Cicada (Diceroprocta apache )
This insect is actually less scary than its appearance would have you believe. You’ll typically hear them from the trees in the summer, a mid-toned buzzing sound right around the start of monsoon season. The males make this sound to attract potential mates.
He's just hanging out, waiting for a date.
2. Arizona Bark Scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus)
When people talk about the dangers of scorpions, they are referring to this creepy-looking arachnid. It's more scrawny than its less poisonous relatives and they are adept at climbing up spaces. If you get stung by one, expect plenty of pain and a potential trip to the hospital. The people most at risk from their stings are children, elders, and anyone in poor health. On a positive note, no one has died from a scorpion sting in at least 20 years.
They glow under black lights, so keep one handy if you want to look for them. Also, if the tail is held up high like this, they are ready to sting.
3. Arizona Sister (Adelpha bredowii eulalia)
This native butterfly is one of many you’ll find fluttering around the state. You’ll be hard pressed to find one drinking from a flower though; they typically consume tree sap, mud, the liquids of rotting fruit, and other rotting things you may find around the desert.
4. Desert Centipede (Scolopendra polymorpha)
This particular brand of centipede is found in a long stretch of desert throughout the Southwest and down into Mexico. They are carnivorous and typically feed on insects, lizards, and rodents. Their pinches are painful so beware where you are stepping in the dark.
This is the giant centipede version which can grow to 8 inches long.
5. Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma)
Huge, hairy, and, surprisingly, harmless. This is one of those arachnids that will leave you alone if you leave them alone. They may bite if provoked but their belly hairs are the biggest form of protection. When a predator attempts to eat one for lunch, they will find the belly hairs irritating.
This blonde one was spotted on a trail in Sedona.
6. Giant Hairy Scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis)
This guy looks intimidating but unlike its relative, the Arizona bark scorpion, its sting is less dangerous (although just as painful). The giant hairy scorpion is easy to spot at five inches and will typically come out at night to eat crickets and termites.
This picture shows just how different it looks compared to the bark scorpion.
7. Palo Verde Root Borer (Derobrachus geminatus)
If you have palo verde or other desert trees in your yard, you’ve probably seen one of these walking around your yard or, as I’ve seen them, crawling up your exterior walls. They can grow up to nearly four inches long (excluding the antennae) and you will see them when they emerge from the ground to mate.
A mature beetle like this won’t dine on your lovely trees but its larva babies will munch on the roots.
8. Pinacate Beetle (Eleodus)
Commonly referred to as stink bugs, you’ll usually find them slowly walking along the desert looking for a cool place to hide. They typically walk around obstacles and are harmless to people. However, if you poke one and it takes this stance, make a run for it: they can spray a nasty secretion up to two feet away that is difficult to wash off.
9. Pyramid Ant (Dorymyrmex bicolor)
These are one of the most commonly sighted ants you will find in Arizona and you can spot them by their volcano-shaped mounds. True to their name, their bodies are red and black.
10. Sonoran Bumblebee (Bombus sonorus)
If you see a bumblebee flitting around your yard, chances are it’s this little guy who’s found in Arizona and throughout the West. They reportedly love sunflowers and nightshade but will visit other flowers.
What other kinds of multi-legged creatures have you seen creeping near your home? Tell us about them in the comments below!