Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November morning at the Santa Cruz River in Marana, Arizona

Even after the first chilly November nights, when the temps dropped into the low thirties, there is still insect live along places that have water. I walked the dogs along the Santa Cruz River today, from the Wheeler Taft Library to the Ina Rd overpass. 3 dogs, 2 cameras ....

Petrophila jaliscalis, a little Crambid Moth
During the day these little crambid moths can be found sleeping in the vegetation close to creeks and streams. They are night active and come to lights in late summer to fall..
 Adult females enter the water to oviposit, carrying a plastron-like layer of air as a source of oxygen 
The larvae are aquatic, living within a silken web in fast-flowing streams;
they scrape diatoms and other algae from rocks in streams.

Brochymena parva, a Stink Bug

Where grasses overhang the river bank, nearly every blade of grass served as a perch for a Ruby Spot. Mostly males, and they flashed their transparent red wing patches at each other to demand space. When females appeared there were wrestling matches. But a few couples did pair up.

How many Ruby Spots can you count?

Hetaerina americana (American Rubyspot) male

Hetaerina americana (American Rubyspot) pair in tandem position

could be Iris oratoria, the Mediterranean Mantis

With all those insects around, the shrike is going to get lucky

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back at Rock Disk Park in Marana

Most of the park is now under water. The Santa Cruz River broke out its bed and is still feeding the new pond. I guess we'll have out very own Salton See soon.
Butterflies are still very active and concentrate on the few plants that are still in bloom. Fatal Metalmark, Dainty Sulphur, Grass Skippers, Bordered Patch, Checkered Skipper, Pygmy Blue, Painted Lady, Western Whites

I thought that these nymphs  are Bird Grasshoppers Schistocerca sp., but most Bird Grasshoppers are adult and laying eggs by now. So maybe this is something else?

Coleomegilla maculata (Spotted Lady Beetle) are often found feeding on pollen but they also seem to be drawn to fresh seeds of grasses and desert broom. I'm not sure if they actually feed on seeds though.

Diabrotica undecimpunctata (Spotted Cucumber Beetle) All winter long these guys are active close to any body of water.

 Diabrotica balteata (Banded Cucumber Beetle). This species is relatively rare here.

Condylostylus sp. Dolichopodidae (Longlegged Flie) with prey. These pretty flies were all over the velvety Dature leaves.

Polistes aurifer, a lonely male that had not much energy left. Only the young queens will survive the winter

There was also several rare bird sitings - these geese for example. But they were acting like a bonded pair even though they are two different species. These bonds often form in captivity, so I suspect that they escaped from a zoo

The area where the river broke in

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fountain Hills Fountain Pond

Bird photography with handicaps: Art show duty with ten minutes to spare.  Raising sun in my eyes. Unpredictable diving subjects. Teasing girls and males full of hormones. Chatty dog walkers with curious dogs. Hordes of American Coots (not my intended subject) full of anxieties: missing out on opportunities,  being pursuit by phantoms, grass on the other side of the fence ... Soggy meadows and art show foot wear. My empty stomach.
The worst camera for the subject and several mostly empty batteries.
I tried to make the best of it - thanks for photo editing software!

On great yellow legs

different View Points

Catching the Red Eye

Whose worm?

True Colors

More about the location - an extremely typical Arizona snow bird Mecca - see last year's blog here

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hover flies of the desert SW: Copestylum spp.

Many Syrphids or Hover Flies resemble bees or wasps and may be mimics of those armed Hymenoptera, because Syrphids themselves are harmless nectar feeders. The larvae of certain species are predatory, for example on aphids.

In the desert southwest Syrphids of the genus Copestylum are very common. Almost everyone has noticed the big black Mexican Cactus Fly, Copestylum mexicanum that reminds me of a Carpenter Bee. The common name is accurate this time, Copestylum larvae feed on rotting plant material, and around here, that usually means dead cactus. If one digs through the mushy brown soup inside a dead saguaro, one will find many larvae of C. mexicanum (top left), C. isabellina (top right), and C. apiciferum (bottom left). The small C. avidum develops in dead pencil chollas and other smaller cacti.

Mating where the eggs will be laid: C. avidum on a Pencil cholla. They will find the dead rotting parts as prospective larval food.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Madera Canyon on a cool, windy November day

View from Proctor Road towards Green Valley
Yesterday it was sunny when I left Tucson, but at Madera Canyon a cold wind was whipping the few left-over flowers. Mostly Turpentine Bush, a few Asters, and the tall sticky sun-flower relative that grows along all roads and that I still haven't identified.

Ctenucha venosa, Veined Ctenucha a day active tiger moth

Ministrymon leda (Leda Ministreak - Hodges#4291)

Anthanassa texana (Texan Crescent)

Urbanus dorantes (Dorantes Longtail)

 There was still water in Madera Creek. Where water seeps into the soil minerals are accessible to insects that many species need for their propagation. Usually the males collect them and pass them to the female during mating.   

Giant Swallowtail - Papilio cresphontes
Adejeania vexatrix, a tachinid fly at a water seep
 I think the tachinid fly is a female because her eyes are not touching each other on the top of her head. She was very intend on that dry seeming spot of gravel, so I think she also was after minerals rather than water. Or maybe she was hoping to find a host for her parasitic brood here?

Cylindromyia sp

Copestylum apiciferum

Copestylum mexicanum (Mexican Cactus Fly)

small Copestylum sp.

Copestylum apiciferum

Poecilanthrax sp.

Villa sp.

Cyphomyia erecta McFadden 1969
 Only a few insects braved the weather. But wind has a slim advantage for the insect photographer: even the flightiest, shyest bugs sit where they are and hold on for dear live. Bringing the subject into the wind shadow of my body (lucky if that didn't mean shadowing it from sunlight as well) even holding on to the plant with my left hand, I could maneuver the little point and shoot camera rather close to most bugs. The surprising result: a series of fly species.

Ichneumonid Wasp Compsocryptus sp

Bombus sonorus (Sonoran Bumble Bee)

Pogonomyrmex sp.harvesting berries

Acromyrmex versicolor, Leaf-cutter Ants, moving 'rocks' to build their chimneys

Hymenoptera: a few solitary wasps and bees and many social species are still active during fall. Some, like the ants,  will survive the winter as whole colonies, but in many species, only the young, mated queens will carry on.

Bush Katydid, Scudderia mexicana

Red-winged Grasshopper, Arphia pseudonietana

Barytettix humphreysii, Humphrey's Grasshopper

Orthoptera: To me, Grasshoppers and katydids are the character species of the Arizona fall and even winter. The chant of tree crickets was constant at Madera. Occasionally the Horse Lubbers still called and Arphia flew up snarling and flashing red wings. Humphrey's grasshoppers were laying their eggs in the loose sand. No shorthorn grasshopper has an ovipositor, so they push their whole telescopic abdomen deeply into the soil.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fifteen Minutes at Tohono Chul Park

Today I delivered 20 little canvas prints of my paintings to the gift shop of Tohono Chul Park on the north side of Tucson. I did not have time to wander through the park itself, but I checked out their assortment of different Chiltepin Peppers in the green house. The chilly pepper festival was last weekend, and there were several beauties left over that I would love to raise next year.

Last night the temperatures dipped below 40 F for the first time this fall. But I still found some interesting and photogenic insects 

The light was perfect for the Rhopalid (Scentless Plant Bug) Niesthrea louisianica on its velvety perch.

Moths were already getting active in shady areas like this Rindgea hypaethrata  on a Fairy Duster that was experiencing Spring in November.

A clutch of freshly hatched Bordered Patch caterpillars was skeletonizing a sunflower leaf.  They will to eat quickly now in case it really gets colder and their leave shrivels up.

They may have to worry also about this tiny syrphid fly Toxomerus marginatus . While the adults feed on nectar and pollen, the larvae are voracious predators of aphids, thrips, small caterpillars.

But even those predators are not safe: Close by, I found a pretty little Ichneumonid wasp that may be in the subfamily Diplazontinae. If so, its  host are aphidophagous Syrphid larvae.