Gossamer Tapestry

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

Saturday, August 01, 2009

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.

White-lined Tiger Beetle (Cicindela lemniscata)

Cicindela punctulata chihuahuae

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At 19:31, Anonymous Ann in Somerville said...

Impressive wind scorpion, and the two-lined tiger beetle is a stunner.

At 01:40, Blogger wcs said...

Well, of course! I never even thought that those places would be major attractions for such cool critters.

At 09:51, Blogger R.Powers said...

The biggest bullfrog I have ever seen came from a magic gas station years ago. I guess he was chasing the bugs.

At 10:26, Blogger robin andrea said...

Ah, the night life is beautiful there.

At 10:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next time I'm driving out in the country at night I'm going to look for one.

At 15:27, Blogger Kathie Brown said...

So Doug, did you put up that mesquite girdler just for me? Wonderful insects you got there. That pink and yellow moth looks like candy! I like that teal colored beatle at the bottom but you can keep that wind scorpion! YUK!

BTW, your face is now appearing on my blog!

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

Great post and terrific photos.

A new phrase for my vocabulary....
"Magic Gas Station"

Thanks for sharing.

Posted a nice moth today.
It may be a trash insect for many, but I like it.


At 22:53, Blogger DeniseinVA said...

Great insect collection. Popped in here from Kathie's Sycamore Canyon blog.

At 16:19, Blogger Barb said...

Came to visit from "Sycamore Canyon" - Now I'll always think of "magic Gas Stations" when I travel.

At 16:44, Anonymous Doug said...

Ann- thanks. I realized that I have done too much insect photography at the expense of scenery and people pics this trip.

Walt- it's another example of how a focused interest alters what you see in the world.

FC- Your part of the world has excellent magic gas stations. A couple of years ago I collected a large diversity of longhorn beetles along Rt. 24 between Otter Creek and Gainesville.

Robin- You understand my kind of night life.

lilliannattel- Good luck. I hope you find a good one.

Kathie- Thanks, thanks for the shoutout on your blog, and thanks for the fine hospitality.

Troy- Thanks, I'll go check out your bug.

Denise and Barb- Thanks and welcome to the Tapestry.

At 20:37, Blogger Kathie Brown said...

Doug, I just posted a new photo of a butterfly on my blog and people are asking me what it is. Any chance you can stop by and ID it for me?

At 00:46, Blogger Marvin said...

I'll never think about isolated gas station in quite the same way ever again.

At 12:40, Blogger Cobban said...

I'm with Marvin. The White-lined Tiger Beetle is my fave.

At 14:47, Blogger rodger said...

Uh-hunh...some excuse for hanging out at the rest stop.

At 16:10, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

I like those tiger beetles, and moth. Very cool.

At 05:59, Blogger TR Ryan said...

Magic Gas Station - I love it! All your insects are larger than life. The wind scorpion makes me shudder. I might have to pass! I hope to see Kathy and Gus in October and maybe a magic station or two.

At 15:50, Anonymous Dave Ingram said...

Beautiful photographs and enjoyable reading Doug - it's amazing how much life you can find in the most "ordinary" of places. A magical stop on the Circus of the Spineless!


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