Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Rhomalea eques H. Burmeister
, 1838. Type locality: Zimapan, Hidalgo, Mexico
Taeniopoda burmeisteri Bolívar, 1901. Type locality: Mexico
Taeniopoda tamaulipensis Rehn 1904. Type locality: Alta Mira, Tamaulipas, Mexico [Described from within the range of T. eques and distinguished based on pale coloring and slightly higher pronotal crest - all within the normal range of variation for T. eques.]
Taeniopoda picticornis (Walker) sensu Bruner 1907 [Bruner applied the name picticornis to specimens of T. eques, adding to considerable subsequent confusion over names. This is also the first known usage referencing Walker, with correct spelling of "picticornis", under genus Taeniopoda.]
Taeniopoda eques (Burmeister) Kirby, 1910
Closely related to, and only doubtfully distinct at species level is Taeniopoda pictipinis from further south; differing significantly only in lighter overall coloring:
Rhomalea picticornis Walker 1870. Type locality: Oaxaca, Mexico
Taeniopoda picticornis Stål 1873 [Stål's description of the species was given as if a new name, with no reference to the original 1870 authorship under Rhomalea by Walker; thus in effect it is a new description of a new name, which is treated as a junior synonym.] Type locality: Mexico
Taeniopoda pecticornis (Walker) Scudder & Cockerell 1902 [generic reassignment plus misspelling]
Taeniopoda stali Bruner, 1907. [published as new name for specimens of T. picticornis sensu Stål, which is equivalent to the original application of the name by Walker, but the application of the name was misunderstood by Bruner.] Type locality; Guerrero, Mexico
Explanation of Names
eques is Latin for "(horse) rider, knight, horse and rider"
The bright lines on the head make it look from the side like a horse's head with a bridle, and the overall effect is reminiscent of the armor, harness and other equipment on a medieval knight's horse- which probably explains both the common and scientific names.
Large and shiny, mostly black. Tegmina (front wings) with yellow veins and with variable contrasting yellow to orange stripes on body, legs and head. Face sometimes mostly yellow or orange. Antennae yellow to red-orange with black rings and tip (sometimes mostly black). Hindwings red with black borders.
There are pale-colored forms (greenish, yellowish, or even somewhat orangey) that in extreme development have black color reduced to markings on an overall lighter background, but the body shape, large size, and red hind wings still make these unmistakable as belonging to this species. Light individuals are rarely encountered in the U.S. (most likely in se. Arizona), but are locally more common in Mexico. A photo of one such light specimen may be seen on the Birdspiders.com web site here
. Specimens intermediate to the dark and light extremes are often striking and quite beautiful.
So far Romalea microptera and Taeniopoda eques are not known to overlap distributions, but they could conceivably meet in southern Texas, and the two could be confused. R. microptera has a low pronotal crest and mostly comes in lighter and more broken color patterns (though black individuals occur too). It is more likely to be seen as adult through a longer portion of the year (and often earlier) than is T. eques.
Southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and west Texas, south into at least Hidalgo, Guanajuato, and Jalisco, Mexico.
Desert shrub, grassland, and oak areas.
Varying somewhat from year to year and with local weather conditions. Nymphs hatch in spring or summer (usually following warm season rains) and mature in summer or late summer, often present at least into November or December.
Various shrubs, broadleaf weeds, and dead insects. (1)
Too bulky to properly fly, though long-winged males can coast a short distance. Males make clicking sound apparently with wings. (1)
Length of wings varies greatly, with some individuals having fully developed wings that exceed the tips of the abdomen and hind femora. Some of these long-winged individuals can briefly take to the air, but not so as it can be properly called "flight". In others the wings are much shorter, and they can be used for little more than a threat display. These insects (especially males) will not hesitate to rear up, wave their front legs, spread their wings, make hissing sounds, and even lunge toward perceived threats. This can be quite entertaining for us humans, but apparently it is an effective defensive behavior. In addition the insects' bold coloration is believed to be aposematic in nature, an advertisement of unpalatable or toxic chemicals contained within the insects' bodies.
Capinera, p. 150 and plate 32. (1)