Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Madera Canyon in July 2014

Last Friday I took some members of the Sabino Canyon Naturalists on a mini 'Bug Safari' to one of my favorite canyons. Madera Canyon stretches from the grasslands in Pima County  up to the high elevations of the Santa Ritas in Santa Cruz County.
In the late afternoon we collected and photographed in the grassland, mainly around the famous 'sap-oozing' Desert Broom bushes. The first rains had come down a few days earlier and the monsoon parties on the cracked branches were in full swing.

Giant Agave Bug, Acantocephala thomasi

Longhorn Tragidion densiventre and Scarab Euphotria leucographa
There were at least three species of paper wasps sharing with several species of scarabs, longorn beetles and Giant Agave Bugs.

Cricket Hunter Chlorion sp. and Fig Beetle Cotinis mutabilis
As always, the charismatic Chlorion Wasps, the Cricket Hunters got the most attention. But those shiny green Fig Beetles are also very pretty.

Climaciella brunnea (Wasp Mantidfly) and Apiomerus spissipes (Bee Assassin)

Pasimachus californicus
Bee assassins and a rare brown Wasp Mantispid were the most obvious predators in the mix, but we also found a nice ground beetle, a Pasimachus californicus.

Whiskered Screech Owl babies, photo by Lois Manowitz
At sunset we moved from the grasslands into the canyon. On the way we stopped under a big old sycamore. A pair of baby owls were peaking out of their nest hole, but only the top of their heads was visible. Whiskered Screech Owls! I have no camera for dusk conditions, but my friend Lois had visited the same nest and she had some great shots to share!

Now it only has to get dark!

In the meantime, we pick nick. Guess who forgot to tell everyone to wear dark colors for this adventure!

The Mercury Vapor light illuminates the gazebo in ghostly green, and a sunset storm is hanging over Green Valley
Under the gazebo between the top parking lots we hung a bed sheet, a Mercury Vapor and a UV light, all powered by my brand new generator. At this elevation Emory and Silver Leaf Oaks dominate, interspersed with a few Alligator Junipers.

Macrodactylus uniformis (Western Rose Chafer) and Lycus simulans below
While waiting for the insects to arrive at the sheet, we had a pick nick and then hunted with flashlights. On Desert Broom bushes we found great clusters of mating netwing beetles, Lycus arizonicus and Lycus simulans. In some instances the aggregations consisted of both, netwing beetles and Rose Chafers.

Ascaloptynx appendiculata, Vella fallax,
Dicromantispa sayi

At the light things were still a little slow for this usually rich location, but we soon had an owlfly, 2 different mantispids, and the largest AZ antlion, so the family Neuroptera was very well represented.

Arachnis aulaea and Apocrisias thaumasta (Tiger Moths), Artace colaria, Lappet Moth
 Moths were disappointingly few but we had at least 2 nice tigermoths and a big white  lappet moth. Most big moths fly late at night, but a sudden strong wind ended our light trapping at 9:30 pm, so we may have missed the sphingids and saturniids.

Strategus cessus, Prionus californicus

Chrysina beyeri and C. lecontei
 Big black hornless Ox Beetles (Strategus cessus) tumbled around the light, and 2 or 3 species of Prionids arrived. The Jewel Scarabs were represented by Chrysina beyeri and lecontei, gloriosa surprisingly missing. I found 2 beetles of that species later at a light at Kubo Cabins.

Phyllophaga vetula and Dichotomius colonicus
Many different June bugs genus Phyllophaga were feeding and mating on the oaks around us and soon showed up at the sheet. Several tiny and one big dung beetle soon joined them.

Scorpion under flash light and uv light photos Suzi and Steve Manthorpe
 At 9:30 heavy gusts of wind forced us to quit. Some of us went to carry back the sheet and light that I had placed deeper in the forest next to the dry creek bed. As they came back with news about a scorpion hiding under the sheet, we all marched down to see it fluoresce in the light of my little portable uv light. The effect was amazing: it turned from brown at visible light wavelength to bright luminescent green. The camera, however, saw turquoise.   

Polyphylla hammondi and Cotalpa consobrina
On the way home I stopped along the pecan plantations of Continental Ranch to look for Strategus aloeus, but I found only the golden Cotalpa consobrina and several Polyphylla hammondi males.
Those always remind me of our German Maikaefer that we loved so much as children.


  1. Thank you again for your awesome photos!
    Did you see any Trachyderes mandibularis on the broom?
    Thank you again for taking the time to share your wonderful adventures.

    1. T. mandibularis is usually a little later. I saw more around Superior last year than in Madera

  2. This time of year is very buggy:) Thanks for an ID on the Chlorion Wasp. I had seen one last year and it was pretty amazing. Lots of cool critters being seen right now including those baby Whiskered Screech owlets:)

  3. Amazing how many species can be found in and around a large canyon. I find something exciting nearly every time I explore a new area of Utah's widely known Provo Canyon. Madera Canyon looks like a heavenly place to go exploring from what I see on your blog.

  4. I'm so bummed to be missing the mothing in AZ this season! I hope you're finding a lot of good ones. Costa Rica moths weren't so bad though...