Gossamer Tapestry

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Desert Butterflies

Leon and i have been doing a fair bit of hiking here in southern California this week.  On Wednesday we ventured down to Anza Borrego State Park.  I was happy that Leon suggested Plum Canyon for our hike, because I've seen several species of butterflies that I'd like to photograph there.

The trail winds up a wash with lots of desert apricot bushes, which give the canyon its name.  There were lots of mint flowers in bloom.  I had been hoping to see Great Purple Hairstreaks and the winter color form of Leda Ministreak.  I saw lots of species of butterflies there- about 15.  The first one that paused long enough to be photographed were a bunch of American Snout butterflies.

After a bit, Leon called over to me that he had found a blue.  Turns out it was a Great Purple Hairstreak.  The good news is that it cooperates as a photographic subject.  The bad news is that it wasn't a good specimen.  It was the only individual we saw all day.

A few minutes later I managed to find a Leda Ministreak.  It was also the only one that I saw- but also a reasonable cooperative subject, and in this case a good specimen.

Plum Canyon is like a wild botanical garden with lots of cacti and other types of attractive plants.


We saw interesting insects other than butterflies, too.  This Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis sp.) preys on live tarantulas.  It stings them, drags the papalyzed spiders back to its burrow and lays eggs in them.  The developing wasp larvae feed on the internal organs of the tarantulas.  Befitting a species with such large prey, the was is huge and has a fearsome sting.  I gave this one a wide berth.  I don't think I have ever seen one in California before, though they are quite common in Arizona.

We finished the hike fairly early.  This was good, because I wanted to visit San Felipe Creek.  Becker's whites fly there, though I don't see them every year.  I have previously gotten one bad photo, and wanted to do better.  I was fortunate.  There were more Becker's Whites flying at the creek than I have ever seen at the same time before.  It was a very satisfying end to the day.


At 22:25, Blogger Ur-spo said...

this makes you happy, I know !

At 07:09, Blogger Will said...

Beautiful pictures, as always, I love the idea of a tarantula being converted into a nursery.

At 10:08, Blogger Harper's Keeper said...

I found a youtube of the confrontation between tarantula and wasp. The added soundtrack was kind of annoying but footage was kind of amazing

At 10:27, Blogger Doug Taron said...

UrSpo- Indeed. I felt very much in my element there.

Will- thanks. It's kind of a grisly nursery, considering that the wasp larvae are slowly consuming the tarantula from the inside.

HK- It is amazing to watch. Next year during the monsoon keep an eye out while you are walking Harper. You may get to see a wasp dragging a tarantula.

At 07:14, Blogger Luis H said...

Hey there Doug, now that Multiply is almost gone, I am HERE too. I was just looking at your series of postings here. You do such an amount of high quality work. It is amazing. Felicidades. Luis H.

At 09:05, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Hi Luis. Great to see you, welcome to Blogger! I'm glad that we will get to keep in touch in spite of the demise of Multiply.

At 17:27, Blogger Steve Borichevsky said...

I'd love to be in the desert shooting butterflies right now.

At 22:15, Blogger Sandcastle Momma said...

Those are beautiful photos! Plum Canyon seems like a fascinating place to visit. Thanks for taking us there!


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