City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

October 10, 2016

October 10th

A Stinky Supporting Cast

Daytime weather has warmed and this has arrested the turning of leaves. It is almost the end of insect season: a few flying moths and small insects are seen, the crickets have recovered to full song, but a few notable ground-dwelling insects, not previously mentioned, are all but gone due to the low overnight temperatures. These supporting characters are commonly seen on the road when walking up the first mile of the canyon.

Stink Beetles (Eleodes obscurus): Stink beetles are a large (2cm) black beetle with ridged wing plates. They are usually seen, as one is today, kneeling with their abdomens sticking up. Their defense is a smelly oil shot from the rear. At summer’s peak, up to fifteen of these stink bugs can be seen along the first mile.

Eastern Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata): In this city, mature boxelder bugs are a plague. In droves they infiltrate any small opening in a home to breed, but in the canyon, strangely, there are few mature boxelders can be found. Almost the entire population is made up of immatures, and this is probably the result of heavy predation. The immature boxelder is about 4mm long, has two prominent red back wings flanked by grey side bars, and a noticeable white spot at the apex of its abdomen. In the summer, up to five hundred small immature boxelder bugs can be found in the first mile of the canyon road. Two days ago, wherever an insect carcass fell, a small red, round rosettes of about fifty immature boxelder bugs would form to devour the meal.

Consperse Stink Bug (Euschistus conspersus): This is a small beetle with an armored back plate and small head. It is similar in appearance to the green stink bug, but the body is grey, not green. At summer’s peak, up to 100 can be found on the roadside of the first canyon mile.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys): The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is a small beetle with camouflaged grey-brown back plates and an extended head. It is an invasive species. They are usually found on trees, picnic benches, and on leave litter along the road.

All of these stinky supporting cast members in the canyon’s ecology feed on insect carrion. When a dragonfly or cricket falters, its corpse will be covered with a immature boxelders and quickly removed. Since these carrion eaters no longer active between mile 1.1 and 1.4, there are two cricket carcasses on the road that have remained undisturbed for two days.

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