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Owens Peak #3: Insects & Spiders
© W.P. Armstrong (Updated 9 November 2021)

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Work In Progress

Owens Peak Insects

While hiking on Owens Peak near Palomar College (Sunday 3 June 2012) I bumped into this handsome bug (Apiomerus crassipes) that makes a living assassinating bees. For more information about the bee assassin, see the following page on Wayne's Word: https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/redmite4.htm#beeassassin.

A swarm of flying ants over Owens Peak north of Palomar College on18 January 2013. Its mating season again and this is their nuptial flight! For more information please refer to Wayne's Word Ant Page

The worst enemy of ants is other ants! A sample of ant body parts collected near a Pheidole vistana nest on Owens Peak. There was apparently a battle with nearby field ants (Formica moki). Some Pheidole lost their heads, but based on the ratio of body parts, presumably the Pheidole colony was victorious. Undoubtedly, the big-headed soldiers played a valuable role in this victory! Ants & The Art Of War

My favorite ants on Owens Peak (Pheidole vistana) definitely attack & kill other ant species. They also like Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey Granola Bars. In fact, I always share my bars with them!

A species of Apsena in the Tenebrionidae: My latest beetle discovery on Owens Peak. It is always a thrill to figure out the name of a new beetle (new to me), especially considering that there are at least 350,000 described species. University of California Museum of Paleontology Evolution 101: Why So Many Beetles? Go To: Wayne's Beetle Page

Harvester ant (Veromessor andrei) on Owens Peak: After giving the colony a water-saturated cotton ball and Nature Valley Granola (which they seemed to enjoy), they still went ahead and bit the hand that fed them. At least they can't sting like the red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex).

The harvester ant (Veromessor andrei = Messor andrei) was the primary diet for the coast horned lizard on Owens Peak. In the past 2 years I haven't found an active nest of this ant species. It also occurs in the Merriam Mtns north of Twin Oaks Valley, along with the red harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex subnitidus). I haven't seen horned lizards on Owens Peak in decades.

Remember When: I took this picture of a coast horned lizard 32 years ago in a field near Palomar College. Because of urbanization and the elimination of its diet of native harvester ants by Argentine ants, it is now extinct in 45% of its original range in southern California.

It is the last day of July (Summer 2014): Owens Peak was extremely hot & dry with very little animal activity. I paused in a grassy area with this harmless, friendly guy. His main concerns are where to get food and find a mate, destruction of his habitat (mostly by land developers), getting kidnapped and placed in a terrrarium prison, and the ever-present threat of tarantula hawk wasps. More Tarantula Photos

This large tarantula hawk wasp (Pepsis) with red antennae was not far from where I rescued my badly dehydrated baby tarantula. Apparently only female wasps hunt tarantulas; however, I am not certain of this one's sex. Males don't sting, but I am not about to test this wasp because the sting is reportedly excruciating! As I followed it on Owens Peak it certainly appeared to be hunting under rocks and in burrows.

Dorymyrmex insanus: My 15th ant species found on Owens Peak near Palomar College. No other North American ant has confused ant-lovers as much as this species. Whether it has actually driven any ant taxonomist insane is debatable!

A mass of honey bees under a coastal sagebrush on Owens Peak. They were quite agitated at my presence, but when late afternoon clouds blocked the sun they settled down and allowed me to take this close-up image.

I thought these tiny, camouflaged praying mantids were uncommon desert dwellers; however, I have encountered quite a few on my walks to Owens Peak! See Preying Mantid Family

I recently found this unusual stem ant queen inside a swollen coyote brush stem on Owens Peak. It is related to the acacia ants of Central America that live inside Acacia thorns. Little-known species like this is another reason why we need to protect our vanishing hillsides of coastal sage scrub in San Marcos. See link to Acacia Ant (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) In Costa Rica.

  Acacia Ant (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) In Costa Rica  

This queen from Owens Peak survived in captivity for 4 months on a liquid honey diet. Adult ants cannot eat solid foods. Their mandibles are not adapted for chewing, and solid particles much larger than pollen grains will not pass through the narrow constrictions at the neck and waist. Adults bring solids back to nest where their larvae (digestive caste) eat and regurgitate it back to adults. Hopefully, she can start a new colony in my arid front yard (if Argentine ants leave her alone). I never dreamed I would be a "nursemaid" to ants at this stage of my life!

Anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) on sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Owens Peak Spiders & Allies

Another tiny predator on Owens Peak: A ground spider in the family Gnaphosidae. For their diminutive size, these black spiders can run with remarkable speed. This one posed quietly next to my penny before I let him go. Several species of ground spiders are common in my house in Twin Oaks Valley.

Another unusual spider on Owens Peak. Larger predators might mistake this little spider for a red velvet ant and be reluctant to grap it. The problem here is that it is not a very good mimic, at least in my opinion. Is This An Example of Imperfect Mimicry?   Another Ant Mimic Spider From Twin Oaks Valley

A solpugid (sun spider) encountered on my Owens Peak walk near Palomar College. This is a smaller version of the ferocious "camel spider" described by troops in Iraq. True spiders actually belong to a different arthropod order. More images of sun spiders: See Wayne's Word Solpugid Page; See Honeypot Ants Attacking Solpugid In Arizona

5 Jan 2018: Found this cold, dehydrated baby tarantula on Owens Peak. It seemed to like the warmth of my hand & was very thirsty. In fact, it drank so much water that its abdomen almost tripled in size. I rushed over to Petco and purchased fresh crickets, house, calcium sand, and water dish. Now it has bonded to me--stay tuned on Facebook! [Following image shows its modest little house.]

My tarantula from Owens Peak has poor vision. Compare the tiny eyes on the top of his carapace with my jumping spider (Salticid) who has keen depth perception for deadly-accurate pouncing on prey!

A crab spider (family Thomisidae) on tarweed (Deinandra fasciculata). [Deinandra = Hemizonia] The well-camouflaged and quick crab spider has caught a syrphid fly.

  Also See Insects & Spiders On Owen Peak #1