Magic Gas Stations
Doug has been a bad blogger. I've been busy with my travel, and out of contact with the Internet for long periods of time. I can do email and comment on blogs via iPhone, but I can't put up new blog posts that way. I'm still in Arizona, having a wonderful time at my conference.
I've been hitting the magic gas stations in southeastern Arizona this week, It's fun because there are so many more of them out this way than there are at home.
You want magic? I'll give you magic.
A magic gas station is one that is out in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps on the edge of town. It doesn't have to be a real gas station- a convenience store, motel, or any well lighted establishment that's in a location without a lot of competing light sources will do the trick. Magic gas stations function like very high wattage black or mercury vapor lights. They bring in lots of insects from a long distance and can be great collecting spots.
Wind Scorpion (Solfugidae) at the rest stop on Interstate 19
The magic gas station pictured at the top of this post is in Tubac, Arizona, just 15 or 20 miles north of the Mexican border. The first time that I went there I was actually gassing up my rental car and not specifically looking for insects. A huge longhorn beetle (Lochmaeocles marmorata) landed right on my car. There were no Lochmaeocles this year, but I got a nice series of a close relative called the Mesquite Girdler (Oncideres rhodosticta).
Mesquite Girdler (Oncideres rhodosticta)
Further north along Interstate 19, the Border Patrol checkpoint functions as a magic gas station. Still further north, the outside walls of the bathrooms at the rest area are also good collections spots. Thursday night, I saw a new (for me) species of tiger beetle there. The Sonoran Tiger Beetle (Cicindela wickhami) is one of many species of plants and animals that just barely make it into the US in extreme southeast Arizona from their broader ranges in Mexico.
Sonoran Tiger Beetle (Cicindela wickhami)
I've seen tiger beetles extraordinarily abundant at magic gas stations before. Several years ago I was at a Chevron station in Sunsites, Arizona. The pumps were covered with hundreds of tiny pink White-lined Tiger Beetles (Cicindela lemniscata) interspersed with dozens of much larger green Cicindela punctulata chihuahuae. A spectacular sight, indeed.