Saturday, October 1, 2016

Madera Canyon at the End of September 2016

Madera Creek above Proctor Road. Running clear and fresh
The end of September brought a feeling of autumn. Water in the creeks, cooler air, a wall of heavy clouds out south. Turpentine Bushes glowing when the sun did come out. The first flowers on Desert Broom open and buzzing with insects. But soon a heavy downpour drove us from the Proctor Road area.

Chauliognathus limbicollis and Scoliid Wasp

Black Tarantula Hawk, from its size probably Pepsis grossa, black form

Spiderwasp Poecilopompilus sp. that in size and coloring reminded of a Polistes
Big wasps of several different families braved the bad weather. Heavy-bodied, they always need  fuel for their flight muscles. The two last ones are spider hunters (Pompillidae) Their prey is at it's prime right now.

Cucullia sp., Hooded Owlet caterpillar
Some Caterpillars are still fattening up. I wonder if they will pupate and then pause until spring, or if a new generation of moths will still emerge this fall.

Soldier Beetles feed on pollen and nectar (?). Flowers are also the meeting ground for couples. Several other species will still reach their peak later in October.

Acmaeodera amabilis, A. amplicollis, A resplendens
 The thunderstorm spared the higher part of the canyon. From the upper parking lot, we chose the Super Trail towards Josephine Saddle.  At higher elevations, Most yellow flower disks were occupied by Buprestids (Metallic Wood-boring Beetles) in the genus Acmaeodera. I am collecting A. rubronotata for an ongoing study, but on this trip I mostly found A. amabilis, A. amplicollis and surprisingly many A. resplendens.

Belonuchus (?) sp. and Acmaeodera amabilis
A Rove Beetle had joined the Bups here - I think of that group as hidden by darkness - either  being night active or living under logs (bark) and rocks. But in tropical Costa Rica and in humid, cool northern Europe, Staphylinids often chose exposed positions - sometimes mimicking hymenopterans (bees, wasps).  Yesterday the weather was unusually cool and humid for Arizona. So maybe the hidden live-style of AZ Rove Beetles is an adaptation to the usual hot/arid climate here. Their bodies do seem more exposed that those of 'normal' beetles covered by their elytra.

Melissodes cf. confusa female
At above 5500 feet elevation, few bees were active. This one was quietly hugging her perch, waiting for the next burst of sunshine. Leafcutter bees of HB size were also still milling around.

Tiny Checkerspots and Palmer's Metallmarks
Randy memorized some names of small, delicately patterned butterflies. Many nature lovers start with those obvious beauties and later learn to appreciate the more subtle appeal of for example beetles. So there's hope?

Gyrocheilus patrobas (Red-bordered Satyr - Hodges#4602)

We saw so many Red-bordered Satyrs that Randy joked that one was following me around, trying to lure me into the abyss.  In fact, they seemed territorial and we kept trespassing. They perched rarely on flowers, but on the ground and in the low foliage of trees along the slope.

Phytocoris sp. Leaf Bug

Butterflies are considered beautiful by most. It takes closer observation to discover the beauty of some other orders of insect . I thought this Plant Bug (Mirid) in the genus Phytocoris as amazing in color and pattern as any Butterfly. But because of  the lack of public interest in the group, and the fact that this species is of no great economic importance, there is probably no easily accessible literature to identify it, just as there is no common name.

My faithful companions patiently waited for me to examine each and every flower along the trail. At least I did not turn every rock. But they never act bored. It so lovely to be out in this autumn weather. And here in Arizona, we are only at the beginning of another great outdoors season.


  1. Your enthusiasm and teachings are getting me excited about beetles! Can you recommend a good guide to start with or shall I wait for your book?

    Cynthia Williams

    1. The Kaufman Guide to North American Insects by Eric Eaton is a good start. It is neither specifically geared towards beetles, nor limited to SW insects, but it is a great help. There are several very good beetle books by Art Evans, but so far, none of them includes Arizona. He'll be my coauthor for the AZ Beetle Book, and I'm now working full steam on that one.

  2. I agree. Your leaf bug is spectacular. I'm from the midwest and will not find this on any of our leaves. When you are out, please consider photographing some western dragonflies, too.

    1. You'd be surprised how interesting and beautiful the leaf bugs of the midwest are. As for dragonflies, there are others who do a much better job. Dragonflies and Butterflies already have a great popular lobby. I'd like to concentrate more on the smaller forgotten majority of bugs

    2. Thanks Margarethe. I do agree with the dragonfly and butterfly lobby groups. I probably belong to this. But,I will search for some midwest leaf bugs. Thanks to you and others, the smaller forgotten majority are very interesting.

  3. These bugs are awesome.. never seen them before..
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