Gossamer Tapestry

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

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wilcox Playa

Willcox Playa with the Dragoon Mountains in the background

To experience some of the finer things in life, you have to travel. Want some really fine wine? Bordeaux or the Rhine Valley might fit the bill. For art glass, go to Venice. And for the finest in tiger beetles, you have to go to...Willcox, Arizona? Who would have thought. But it's true, this old lakebed hosts over 20 species of tiger beetles, including about 4 that are endmeic or near endemic forms.

Cicindela marutha- the Arid Lands Tiger Beetle

Cicindela ocellata - The Ocellated Tiger Beetle

My day at Willcox was not as good as my visit last year. the reason can be seen in the photo. Many of the salt flats that offered some of the best activity last year have been flooded in the heavy monsoon rains this season. Where there were thousands of beetles across the salt pan last year, there are now hundreds on the edges of the pool. Still, it was a pretty good day. I saw six species. That's three fewer than last year. Sadly, the three that I didn't see were the three I most wanted specimens of. Oh well, I did get some photos. I'm very pleased that my pictures of Cicindela marutha are the first photos of living individuals to be posted on BugGuide.net. I also saw some amazing huge ant mounds.

Cicindela puctulata chihuahuae - The Punctured Tiger Beetle

HUGE ant mound. It's nearly 3 feet high.

My day ended earlier than I would have liked because a huge thuderstorm descended on us. I had a bit of trouble getting out of the Playa due to flooding of the dirt road that leads into it. Fortunately, I was able to make it out in time to get to my much anticipated meeting with Kathie of the Sycamore Canyon blog. Kathie and her husband Gus were delightful hosts and all-around great folks. I really enjoyed meeting them in person. The super yummy homemade pizza for dinner didn't hurt things, either.

Kathie and me. Photo by Gus.

After dinner, Kathie and I went blacklighting in the wash behind her house. It was her first black lighting experience. We saw a bunch of scarab beetles and some really cool sphinx moths. The whole day got my Arizona trip off to a great start. Now I'm about to head off for lunch at Rosa's with Sandy. This is turning into my trip to meet other bloggers in person.

Blacklight setup in wash in Sycamore Canyon. The moths are mostly white-lined sphinx.

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At 17:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice tiger pics. Can you believe I've never been to Wilcox Playa? I've collected Arizona many times and always knew about it, but my first focus on these trips has always been buprestids - not many bups on salt flats! My interest in tigers has grown lately, so I think I'll have to get there sometime. For this year, I'm planning to spend a week in western Nebraska and Kansas during late September.

At 19:06, Blogger robin andrea said...

Wonderful tiger beetle photos. I had no idea that so many species could be found in Arizona. Blogger meet-ups can be quite fun. Looks like you and your Arizona hosts had a grand time.

At 20:56, Blogger R.Powers said...

Sounds like a good trip even with the water.

At 21:51, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great shots--thanks for sharing!

At 13:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff! Great photos.... Glad you're sharing this with us.

At 15:22, Blogger Kathie Brown said...

Hey Doug, you beat me to it. I'll post my account later today but then you have to come ID the insects for me. I don't remember all their names. It was fun showing you a small part of Sycamore Canyon Wash and then going black lighting. I never knew you could have so much fun with bugs!

At 18:59, Blogger Kathie Brown said...

Okay Doug, my post is up and I've linked back to you. Can you come tell me the names of the insects now. I did my best trying to remember what you said. I know you said one was manducca (sp?) something or other but I need your help! By the way, I really like your photo of the sheet glowing blue!

At 01:35, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I am glad you are having a decent time.
Do you ever change that shirt?

I post something in your vein and honor tomorrow.

At 09:53, Blogger Ur-spo said...

By the way, Heather has a nasty spider that needs identification. Please help her out when you can.

At 11:45, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Cool. Is it tiger beetle season in Chicago, too?

At 13:15, Blogger rodger said...

Insex again?

At 16:47, Blogger TR Ryan said...

What a great post - two of my favorite bloggers meeting and my favorite tiger beetle. Hope you are having a great time. That part of Arizona is awesome. Happy Travels.

At 18:01, Blogger Fresh Kiki said...

Awesome pictures! I cannot wait to Black light on the Vineyard- can't wait to see what we get- have you looked at Cape Air?- for flights back to Boston?

At 22:56, Blogger Amila Salgado said...

I have still not met a blogger yet!
I hope that day would be too far away. Nice insects.

At 05:51, Blogger cedrorum said...

Glad you got out of there ok. Great pictures as always. Why do so many tiger beetles have bright showy colors? I would think they would want to be less obvious to other critters eating them. I can't remember you saying they were noxious. Enjoy your trip without the humidity.

At 13:17, Blogger H Oh said...

How cool! Does she feed everyone homemade pizza? That's my favorite! The black light method looks awesome, I'd like to try it sometime!

At 16:32, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Boy, did I enjoy this post. Looks like a great place. Never been to the Wilcox playa there. It's on my 'bucket list'.

It's six more tigers than I have seen recently (grin).

Hope you are having a good time.

If you have 2 spare minutes, check out our butterfly post. A few nice individuals there along with some common and colorful stuff.

For Butterflies, Click here.
Troy and Martha

At 23:59, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Ted- Willcox is fantastic. Do try to get there if you possibly can.

Robin- It is indeed being a grand time. Unfortunately, it has reduced my blogging. I hope that friends don't geel neglected because I haven't been reading their blogs.

FC- I'm having a wonderful time. But then, I always do out here.

Bug Girl- I have some even shinier ones that I'll be posting soon.

Mark- Thanks. I hope this doesn't seem like too much of a rerun for the folks who were around when I blogged last year's conference.

Kathie= You did a great job of ID on the moths even before I could get back to you. I like the otherworldly glow of the blue sheet, too.

Spo- I always wear that shirt and the butterfly shirt that you made while I'm down here. The butterfly shirt at the banquet is now a tradition.

Dave- There are tiger beetles out right now, though the green metallic species that most folks know is done for the year.

Rodger- Yes. I've started wondering if copulation doesn't distract and slow the insects to the point that they're easier to photograph.

tr- Wish you were there. I'll need to do a tiger beetle hunt in Oklahoma some time.

CG- I'm really looking forward to blacklighting on the Vineyard, too. I'll try to call later in the week with more travel details.

Gallicissa- Thanks. As for meeting other bloggers, most of the folks that I interact with on blogs are a bit far from Sri Lanka. Though my friend Nancy from Texas (another entomologist) will be there this fall.

cedrorum- I think that the reflective colors break up the pattern of their body shape. A lot of them can be remarkably hard to see in the wild.

h- Welcome to the Tapestry. I don't know if Kathie feeds everyone homemade pizza, but I'm glad that I got to have some. It was wonderful.

Troy- I'm having a grand time. I'll click on over to your place.

At 09:19, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

In answer to your question:
All butterflies photographed in Texas. If you ever have the chance to go to the butterfly festival in Mission in October(just a couple of miles from the Rio Grande), by all means go. 50-75 species in a day with dozens of rarities is not unusual.
We go almost every year.

However, many of the butterflies were photographed locally (Botanic Gardens, Nature Refuge, and a couple in the back yard).

Looking forward to more great posts about your trip.



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