I was about to preface this post with all the goings-on in the country and world right now, and how weird and surreal and scary it’s been, but I decided not to. There’s enough of that everywhere you look. Instead, I’ll just say this: treat essential workers kindly. Be patient, and gracious, and know that we are very, very tired. We’re exhausted, we’re worried about our families, and we’re incredibly anxious about coming home after a shift and wondering if we might be an asymptomatic carrier of the COVID-19 virus. So please, be nice to essential workers. And wash your hands!
Whew! All that said, with everything shut down these days, my main escape from the madness is a hike to find bugs and animal bones. And honestly, pandemic or not, that’s what I’d be doing anyway! A little decompression in nature is always welcome, but right now, it’s downright necessary. Luckily, the bugs are really starting to come out, and the weather has been lovely. Without further ado, here’s some of the interesting arthropods I’ve found in the last couple of weeks.
Several days ago I went on an afternoon hike at the Babad Do’ag trail. It sits at a relatively low elevation along the Mount Lemmon Highway and is your classic Sonoran Desert landscape. It was a cloudy, cooler day so the bugs were a little slow. I found my first tarantula of the season and to say I was thrilled would be an understatement!
A lot of this hike was spent looking under rocks. Along this trail they are large and flat, perfect cover for all sorts of critters.
I found more than arachnids under rocks. There were all kinds of smaller beetles, and tons of bristletails.
There were plenty of honeybees out and about, and I encountered this strange pollen wasp, which I’d originally mistaken for a syrphid fly:
On my way back, I found a rather large millipede curled up on the trail. I was afraid it was dead, bit it was just very cold. I held it for a while, letting it warm up in the palm of my hand, before releasing it under the safe cover of a rock.
I returned to this same location a few days later. It was a sunny, warm day and I might have gotten a bit of a sunburn on my arms! It’s easy to forget how bright and hot that Sonoran sunshine is until it’s too late. Aside from an abundance of Vitamin D, there were lots and lots of bugs to see.
There were many different beetles on the blooming flowers. It’s nice to see beetles again — they’re noticeably absent in the winter and early spring.
Some other interesting finds: a colony of termites on the underside of a saguaro boot, and a colony of ants, Crematogaster sp., under a rock.
At one point, I flipped a rock that had both a termite colony and a scorpion burrow underneath. Their tunnels had been separate, but once the rock was lifted, termites started spilling into the scorpion’s burrow. The scorpion started grabbing termites left and right, and stuffing them into its mouthparts! At one point, it had at least one termite in its mouth, and one in each pincer. Watching this was comical, but it was also amazing how efficient the scorpion was at hunting.
I plan on going out again soon. It’s gotten considerably hotter in the last few days, so I’ll be exploring at a higher elevation. In the meantime: take care of yourself, be kind, wash your hands, look for cool bugs and other wondrous things in nature.