When I discovered this area two weeks ago, at least the Desert Broom along the dirt road that connects Box and Florida Canyon was still in bloom and attracted scores of wasps, butterflies, beetles, and grasshoppers. But even those bushes had gone to seed by now.
The rocky dry creek bed under its dense canopy of Mexican Blue Oaks (Quercus oblongifolia) where I had found several interesting grasshoppers now also seemed quite abandoned by insects.
The hiking trail begins next to the Florida Work Center of the Santa Rita Experimental Range. The range, the first of its kind in the country, was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 to study recovery efforts on land that suffered from the devastating effects of overgrazing and drought.
Following the creek and its gallery of 400 year-old oaks, we hiked through lush grassland towards the juniper-oak-pine forest of the higher elevations.
Only Cody’s tail rivaled the effect. All four dogs loved exploring the unfamiliar terrain.
Rusty old stock tanks held only a few inches of water. Tadpoles and insect larvae were moving in the murky green soup and made us wonder whether they would find their way out in time. As we started to feel the strain of the steady climb we marveled at the miles of partly buried metal feeder line that brought water from the mountain top: what a plumbing job.
Agaves, Sotols and Yuccas added some spiky silvery accents.
Eventually we reached clearings and openings that had been created by a fire that swept through the canyon in 2005. Beautiful skeletal remains are still recognizable as those of Aligator Junipers and various species of oaks, and even of the rare Madrones.
We didn’t quite make it to the 7,800 feet high Florida Saddle but climbed a lower hilltop – to enjoy the great view over the Santa Cruz valley, eat some apples, let the dogs rest, and maybe see some hill-topping insects? It was quite cool and windy…
|Lampetis webbii LeConte 1858.|
Loose rows of golden spots reflected the sunlight, but he most striking feature were the electric blue legs and feet: Either Drummond's or Webb's Blue-footed Buprestid. Buprestids are called jewel beetles in Europe with good reason: they are beautiful. Their ponderous and prosaic American name Flat-headed Metallic Wood-boring Beetle points to their biology: While the adults live on pollen or sweet juices, the larvae of the larger species live mostly in the sap or core wood of trees. The flat thoracic segments of these legless larvae are what’s described by 'flat-headed'. The cross-sections of their tunnels (galleries) and the exit holes are broad ovals while those of Cerambycids are more round. Buprestids attack mostly weakened or damaged trees. The females of some species are so attracted to the smell of fire that they fly nearly into the flames of a forest fire to lay their eggs.
Last September, the manager of the Little Outfit Ranch in the Canelo Hills had collected a couple of Lampetis for me, also from a fire damaged oak, but this one in Florida Canyon was the first that I saw in the wild. As for the species:
|Lampetis drummondi and Lampetis webbii|
|Tree Cricket Oecanthus sp.|
The last few Arizona Thistles were visited by so many Mexican Yellows Eurema mexicana that the butterflies sometimes looked like flower petals.
After a great exhausting day we were greeted at home by our wayward Husky who was waiting in the driveway and very happy to have her pack-mates back.