Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


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I often see Euphoria beetles in prickly pear cactus flowers (Opuntia engelmannii). On May 21st I noticed this pair apparently living up to their genus name. For a closer look, click the excerpt below.

For the origin and meanings of euphoria, the word, here’s a brief account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2021 at 4:37 AM

19 Responses

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  1. You must have been euphoric to capture them in flagrante delicto.

    Steve Gingold

    May 27, 2021 at 4:59 AM

  2. Do you think they are around this year more than others, Steve? I found quite a few of them lately in cacti on our property [https://wp.me/p107Dr-1Fj]. I don’t recall having seen any in the years before.


    May 27, 2021 at 6:29 AM

    • I’ve been seeing plenty of them in prickly pear flowers in Austin for as long as I can remember, and their numbers here this year here aren’t at all unusual. I’m surprised that you hadn’t noticed any in Fredericksburg till now. I wonder if the fact that these beetles often bury themselves deep inside prickly pear flowers kept you from seeing them well—but that wouldn’t explain why they’re obvious to you now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2021 at 6:43 AM

      • Thanks for the info, Steve. Maybe it’s just that my eyes weren’t open enough. 😉 Or that I wasn’t walking around our “wilderness area” – where the cacti are – often enough.


        May 27, 2021 at 7:21 AM

        • Now that you’re aware of these beetles, I suspect you’ll be seeing plenty of them in prickly pear flowers from here on.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 27, 2021 at 7:33 AM

  3. What finds, for the bug pair (twofer), and the prickly pear!

    I noticed you posted another prickly pear shot May 6 (with ants). My observations of prickly pear is they did horrible in the February freeze. Most of the ones I spotted were brown, misshapen, and hacked off. Have seen one recovered batch, an occasional “paddle” grouping emerging. Have not seen any blooms. At DQ Ranch Road, a once-robust bank of prickly pear has been crudely trimmed nearly to the ground. Will they come back? I say, “Nevermore!” (Better glory days from last year for that prickly pear bank, with bee at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_KsOsj5H3U.)


    May 27, 2021 at 7:38 AM

    • I remember after the freeze people were showing pictures of prickly pears turned to mush. That hasn’t been my experience. The prickly pears I’ve noticed this spring, including the one shown here from along Yaupon Drive, seem pretty normal and have put out flowers. The group you showed is a spineless variety, presumably a cultivar; I wonder if that accounts for its lower resistance to freezing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2021 at 7:52 AM

  4. What a wonderful place for a bit of euphoria!

    Peter Klopp

    May 27, 2021 at 8:04 AM

    • If we were that small we might have fun in those flowers, too—assuming something larger didn’t eat us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2021 at 8:11 AM

  5. Their colors match. Very cool.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 27, 2021 at 8:32 AM

  6. My hypothesis still is that the amount of water in the prickly pears had as much to do with their freeze damage as the temperature. In any event, I’m seeing them come back. Even the huge bank of natives at the gate of the El Capote ranch south of Seguin has new pads emerging out of the pile of brown mush. Anyone who’s tried to get rid of them knows how determined they are to keep growing and spreading.

    I suspect your beetles are the species known as Kern’s flower scarab. I’ve seen them a good bit on prickly pears, although I found them on beauty berry flowers in east Texas, too. There’s an interesting tidbit hidden away on the BugGuide page: “Haldeman originally wrote the name as E. cernii but specifically stated it was named after a Mr. Kern. The spelling “kernii” has been in prevailing usage and is retained as the proper spelling per the ICZN code.”


    May 28, 2021 at 6:18 AM

    • I’d say your prickly pear hypothesis holds water. Likewise the observation that those cacti are pretty hardy.

      I’ve also assumed that these scarab beetles are Euphoria kernii, and in some past posts have identified them that way and even linked to the bugguide.net page. This time I got to wondering if more than one similar species could be living here, so I mentioned only the genus. Not sure what prompted my diffidence. I’m glad you mentioned that cernii tidbit, which was new to me. My guess is that Haldeman wanted to uphold the traditions of Latin, in which there was no k, and c was always pronounced as k. The change to c getting pronounced differently before e and i didn’t take place till the Romance languages developed from Latin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2021 at 6:57 AM

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