The size, colour and speed of the pinacate (pin-uh-KAW-tay) beetle make it easy to spot on the desert.
Unfortunately this one was moving so fast I could hardly keep it in focus. So I placed a twig in its path to slow it down.
It immediately went into a defensive headstand. The first time I saw this I was startled. This time I was pleased — it stopped moving so I could finally focus on it in the dying light.
Like the small milkweed bug, pinacates rely on chemical protection from predators. But they take it one step further. Their bottoms-up stance is a warning. Ignore it and you get a blast of apparently noxious-smelling chemicals. I say apparently because I’ve never tried to provoke one to the point that it let loose with the spray. It has worse enemies than me to look out for.
While the spray deters some predators, the pinacate is no match for the grasshopper mouse. It grabs the beetle with its paws, stuffs the bottom end into the sand and begins dining at the top end, stopping short of the nasty gland at the other end.
Pinacate beetle/Clown beetle/Stink beetle Eleodes spp (probably E. obscurus)