Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Arizona Wednesday

The entrance to French Joe Canyon

I’m way behind on posting about my Arizona trip. The problem is that once I got to the conference, I was going the entire time, from about 6 AM till after midnight most nights. So this week, I’ll play catch up and recap my trip. Last Wednesday was the day that we drove from Tucson down to Rio Rico for the conference. We did not, however, take the direct route. Our path took us far to the east to Benson, Arizona, where we headed south along the east flank of the Whetstone Mountains to a favorite collecting spot called French Joe Canyon.

Gyascutus caelatus

John and I have been visiting French Joe for about five years now. We first discovered it late in the day, and were only able to take a short walk. We quickly discovered a large population of a beautiful metallic wood-boring beetle called Gyascutus caelatus. These bad boys are about as big as my thumb, and take off with an alarming buzzing sound. They sit in the branches of acacia shrubs, and feed on the foliage and flowers. This is the first time I’ve managed to get photos.

Trachyderes mandibularis

We found lots of other beautiful stuff, including an amazing longhorn beetle called Trachyderes mandibularis. I’m not really happy with the photos- they don’t pose well. This is another big bug, about as big as the Guyascuta, and that’s if you don’t count the antennae. Their elytra (wing covers) are a very shiny black and yellow pattern. They look like they have been shellacked.

The plateau above San Rafael Valley, with approaching thunderstorm

John descends from the plateau into San Rafael Valley

Painted Grasshopper (Dactylotum bicolor)

We grabbed a quick lunch at a convenience store (this was the trip of eating badly) and headed further south to the head of San Rafael Valley. Just above San Rafael is a brood grassland plateau. We encountered very beautiful painted grasshoppers there. Descending into the valley itself, we found a diversity of other interesting grasshopper species. At one point, I was walking down a dry creek bed, and a nearby manzanita bush began making a very alarming buzzing sound. Retreating to the bank above the creek bed, I discovered that the source of the sound was a black-tailed rattlesnake. Alarming, but I managed to get pictures.

Boy, could this guy play the maracas

Be this time, the day was winding down. We were chased from San Rafael by an approaching thunderstorm. We decided to call it a day, and arrived at Rio Rico just in time to freshen up before the Bugs In Bondage Buffet.

OMG - Bugs in Bondage!

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At 09:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here were my thoughts.

First picture- "Hm, that's pretty big" *looking at thumb*

Second picture - "Oh! *leaning closer to screen* That's a BEETLE?"

Fifth picture- "They really exist? I'll be darned."

Sixth - "OMG! *fell of chair* That's insane!"

Seventh - "Really? Where have I seen this before?"

You never cease to amaze me Doug!

At 11:10, Blogger Floridacracker said...

I'm catching up and really enjoying the desert scenery. Pretty ironic to go to the desert and have rain delays I guess, but those mountain and cloud shots are pretty impressive.

At 17:16, Anonymous Lemuel said...

Wow! That painted grasshopper was really neat. I was not at all aware that such a ting existed.

At 19:01, Blogger DAVE said...

Awesome scenery! Awesome bugs! Make sure none hitch-hike back to the Midwest, eh? :)

At 23:00, Blogger Ur-spo said...

you are crazy as an outhouse rat for taking the photo of the snake.
the proper response is to run screaming, not photograph!
I liked the bug photos very much; and the bug bondage woman is a hoot.

At 07:00, Blogger Doug Taron said...

BID- Glad you liked the pictures. I'm really disappointed in the longhorn beetle picture. It's a gorgeous critter, and my response to the photo was similar to yours- you kinda have to squint at the picture to see that it's a beetle.

FC- this is the rainiest that it's ever been, and I've been doing this trip for 10 years now. Usually good rains really help the collecting. This year illustrates the upper limit to that effect.

Lem- I know, my response was pretty much the same the first time I saw one.

Dave- None of the critters hitchhiked back, but I did deliberately bring home a number of live specimes.

Spo- You are just now figuring this out about me?

At 11:08, Anonymous Mark H said...

Bugs in Bondage Party, a Painted Grasshoper (is he or you on acid?), landscapes so green in AZ I can't believe it's AZ.....I think there's MORE to these AZ bug collecting trips than Dr. T is letting on.

At 13:49, Blogger rodger said...

I'm pretty taken with that grasshopper too. It's beautiful!

Question: Did they serve any bugs at the BIB Buffet?

At 16:43, Blogger Homer said...

The San Rafael Valley is one of my favorite places to visit. They filmed "Oklahoma" there.

At 17:07, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Mark- It was really striking how green the desert was this year. I've never seen it so to that degree.

Rodger - They have done so before, but no bugs were served at the conference this year.

Homer- San Rafael is a fairly recent discovery for me. I like it a lot. I didn't know that about Oklahoma, but the cadence still works:

Arizona where the wind comes sweepin' down the plains...

At 08:13, Blogger burning silo said...

I would love to have seen that Painted Grasshopper (it's on my insect wish list). I'm always amazed by the hoppers in parts of the U.S. I found a beauty in some sagebrush at John Day fossil beds last year. We really don't have anything comparable up here in the north. I probably would have stuck around long enough to photograph the snake too. (-:

At 17:53, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Bev- I hope that you get to see the painted grasshopper sometime. It's definitely worth the effort to see it in person. I did move to a safer vantage point to photograph the snake.


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