Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Diversion to Southeast Arizona in the Monsoon: Insects and Arachnids

Here are some of the insects (and others) seen on my annual trip to Southeast Arizona when the monsoon rains bring out life forms of all kinds...

This trip lasted from July 24 - 29, 2014.

For insects and arachnids (as for most life) the top priorities are 1) eating and 2), reproducing (not necessarily in that order). That theme keeps showing up in my photos!

Here are some (mostly) non-Coleoptera.

Robber fly with prey, east of Madera Canyon Road.

A large robber fly with what looks like a Mydas fly as prey. East of Madera Canyon Road.

Robber fly with Euphoria (a scarab beetle) prey. I think this may be Diogmates sp. (a hanging thief).

Apiomerus sp. - an assassin bug - after flying into a small spider web. Madera Canyon Road area.
Eupackardia calleta, a Giant Silkmoth. It appeared at my "woodsy" light in the upper Madera Canyon area.

A Jerusalum cricket which showed up at my parking lot light, upper Madera Canyon area.

Now the beetles, which were the focus of the trip. When I arrived at Madera Canyon on the 24th, there had been a long break on the monsoon in that area of Arizona (I would say over a week, based on the radar that I had watched in advance on weather web sites, and from talking to local people). The typical beetle abundance and diversity seemed low along Madera Canyon Road amongst the mesquites, and I wondered if this Colorado Potato Beetle might be a "special" beetle of the trip! So it was the first photographic subject!

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, on some member of the Solanaceae along Madera Canyon Road.

In the next few days, the monsoon came back in a big way, and some fantastic soaking rains fell day and night (but luckily not CONTINUOUSLY day and night in ONE place!) in the areas south of Tucson. Somehow, the storms never really seriously disrupted my activities (as big thunderstorms can completely ruin a black lighting evening). Although the massive storm that raged from around midnight until about 5 am on Saturday night while I was in my tent in Madera Canyon didn't exactly make for peaceful sleeping conditions!

More beetles.

Curculio sp., an acorn weevil. This is a female, with a very long beak. Upper Madera Canyon.

Now the beak-length differences are obvious between the sexes! Curculio sp., upper Madera Canyon.

Copris arizonensis. This well-horned male was lurking in the vicinity of a mercury vapor light near Pena Blanca Lake. This is only the second of this species I have seen, and in both cases the "lurking" behavior was displayed, near, but not "at" a light.

Enaphalodes hispicornis, a large cerambycid (long-horned beetle). Mount Lemmon, Santa Catalina Mountains.

Moneilema gigas, the common Moneilema in Arizona. Typically associated with cactus. The monsoon season is the time to reproduce, as many insects were demonstrating!

Chrysina lecontei, at Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson.

Enoclerus bimaculatus, a clerid or checkered beetle. I have seen this species on every trip to Madera Canyon over the past several years. 

Strategus cessus, an ox beetle. Mount Lemmon again.
Some arachnids now.

A large orb weaver, upper Madera Canyon area. 

The same spider as above. It has distinctive protrusions on the abdomen. I saw what seemed to be a similar species at Peppersauce Canyon a few years previously with Margarethe Brummermann and Eric Eaton. Identity to be determined later.

This seems to be Paraphidippus aurantius, which shows a huge amount of variation in colors and patterns. Margarethe Brummermann spotted it in my campsite in Madera Canyon and we both attempted various photos of it, including in natural light to preserve the green colors. This is one of my best images (not exactly tack-sharp).

Another angle of the same spider.

A scorpion, near Madera Canyon Road. Appears to be an Arizona Stripe-tailed (Vaejovis spinigerus).


  1. Great series! The Jumping Spider turned out so well ... I'm pretty sure the scorpion is a Stripe-tail

    1. The natural light made a big difference with the spider, that's for sure. Thanks for the scorpion tip!