2019 was an incredible year for arthropod observations! As December quickly draws to an end with a new decade on the near horizon, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite bug photos and stories from this year.
The first tarantula I spotted in 2019 was this beautiful Aphonopelma sp. (maybe A. madera?) at Molino Canyon Vista on March 10. As far as tarantulas go, he was quite small, despite being sexually mature. He moved in such a purposeful manner, carefully plodding over the rocks and gravel, and I didn’t hesitate to let him crawl onto my hand. He was the first wild tarantula I held, and I never felt afraid — just so excited.
On May 2, I was incredibly lucky to find a clutch of newly-hatched assassin bugs on a spine of a saguaro in our front yard. They were marching about, stretching their tiny, threadlike legs — soon to become hunting machines!
The Arizona Unicorn Mantis I found on May 18 at Molino Basin remains one of my favorite finds of this year. So cryptic and bizarre in appearance, I’m still amazed I was able to spot it in the first place! I’ve observed dozens and dozens of mantids in the months since, but I have yet to see another one of this fascinating species.
Turning over rocks often leads to interesting finds, and it was exciting to find this pseudoscorpion right off the Broadway Trailhead at SNPE on May 23. It appeared to be a gravid female — and was considerably larger than any of the pseudoscorpions I would periodically see in Michigan.
In late May and early June, as the seasonal streams at mid-elevation along the Mount Lemmon Highway started to dry, the air was filled with the crackle of cicada song — Platypedia sp., the tiniest cicadas I’ve ever seen. Their exuviae littered the ground — the pools of water — every bit of vegetation. Their singing was unlike any other cicada song I’ve heard, and it made for a frenetic, charged atmosphere in an otherwise peaceful setting.
In mid-June, I was very lucky to find a harvestman in mid-shed. This was at 6000′ along the Mount Lemmon Highway; it was such a careful, delicate process, and it was fascinating to watch.
By early July, the palo verde beetles were starting to emerge. The first one I saw was frighteningly big; they aren’t great at flying, and when they collide with walls/lamps/any surface, it’s loud! Handling them wasn’t easy. They wiggle in such a manner that it’s hard to avoid the sharp spines on the pronotum — not to mention those big jaws!
Another highlight of the year was this Zuni Click Beetle, found at Molino Canyon Vista on July 24. Easily the most impressive Elater I’ve seen!
Another beautiful beetle, which was a common blacklighting observation during IECC, was Chrysina gloriosa. Their little tarsal claws, by the way, were extremely sharp! Removing one of these beetles from your skin was challenging.
During the last week of August, I found a lovely mamma lynx spider with her brood at the Gordon Hirabayashi Rec Area. The translucent spiderlings looked like they were made of glass, perfect miniatures of their mother. I saw lots of lynx spiders this year, and I think they’re one of my favorite local arachnids.
In mid-September, I found an oddly adorable solpugid under a rock at SNPE. It seemed shocked by the sudden sunlight, and after a few photos I quickly replaced its shelter. I was rather taken by the long sensory hairs on its legs!
And, lastly, in mid-November I photographed this odd-looking Tenebrionid (Araeoschizus sp.) under a piece of bark at Molino Basin — just a few weeks after a brush fire tore through the area. I was amazed by how many invertebrates I found, both spiders and insects, seemingly doing just fine despite the scorched landscape.
I’m excited for what 2020 will bring! I’m hoping to expand my explorations to areas beyond the immediate Tucson area — perhaps south, toward the borderlands, or west.