Following the incredible excursion of the second annual trip to Arizona, I knew I had to take my new group somewhere new for the third annual trip in 2016. For the 2016 trip I decided venture a little further southeast past the Santa Rita Mountains and thus the Patagonia Mountains were my next target for exploration. Having heard about the wonderful amount of diversity and amazing scenery it has to offer, I secured a campsite at Patagonia Lake State Park and it became our base camp for the first half of the trip. Due to this region being new to everyone on the expedition, I looked forward to all the unexpected events that would soon follow.
2016: “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today…”
The 2016 trip to Arizona was by far the one with the most rainfall and thunderstorms, but as Californians who were suffering from a long drought, we sure didn’t mind. The drive to Patagonia Lake was also a very wet and somewhat frightening experience due to heavy down pours of rain, windy mountain roads, and a very bright lightning display across the interstate. Despite all the intense weather above us, we managed to get to our campsite at the lake safely and in time before the park closed.
The next morning we woke up to warm weather and sunshine, and quickly ate breakfast so that we could be on our way to explore around the lake. We checked the park map and found out there was a trail nearby our campsite, so we found the trail and began our “bug hunt” for the day. Once we had passed the initial part of the trail that over looks the lake we were excited to see that the trail was leading us somewhere very lush and full of vegetation. The trail itself was shaded by large sycamore trees, oak trees, and willow trees, as well as the occasional thicket of blooming Baccharis. The trail eventually ended at one of the lakes’ beaches but we had managed to see quite a bit of the diversity this lake holds.
The trail we followed around the lake harbored a great amount of insect diversity and once again I saw and caught insects I had never encountered before. Insects such as the Viceroy, Mesquite girdler (Lochmaeocles marmoratus), Black and white click beetle (Chalcolepidius apacheanus), Orange-barred Sulfur (Phoebis philea), and the Arizona red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis arizonensis) were all firsts for me on the lakeside trail.
Walking through this area had me feeling as though I wasn’t in Arizona anymore. It was very interesting to learn that a place such as this lake and its surrounding habitats existed almost in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully for us the small town of Patagonia, Arizona was only about 8 or so minutes away. This was a very quiet town with not much going on other than the bird watchers and bug nerds (ourselves) visiting the town’s wonderful bakery, Ovens of Patagonia.
The next day was much more overcast and rain was predicted in the forecast in our area but that did not stop us from enjoying ourselves and adventuring somewhere else. After picking up some delicious pastries we headed down Harshaw Road and decided to explore Harshaw Creek. Since it was still overcast and not as warm as I had hoped, most insects were not out and about but we ended up having a great time looking for insects regardless. Those that we did come across however, were new to the others in my group and they absolutely loved collecting and photographing each new specimen they found.
Harshaw Creek proved to be a good place to find Pipevine swallowtails, flower beetles (Cleridae), many different leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), and Carpenter bees (Apidae). Our brief exploration of the area was cut short due to a wall of rain that quickly made its way over to us. Even though the rain chased us back to our campsite we still managed to enjoy the rest of the day by napping in our tents until the rain subsided. The rain kept us from doing much else that evening since it returned and didn’t end until the next morning, but by then we were ready to head to our next location.
For the last few days of the trip I took my group to the one place I knew best and the one place I knew the weather would be much better. We made our way to Bog Springs Campground in Madera Canyon and being there for a third time felt wonderful. This is one place in southern Arizona I know I would never get tired of visiting, solely on the fact that it is a beautiful location and I know I will always find something new. This time around, I took my group and I to the Proctor trail and we followed it passed where I had previously stopped at before and found that the trail actually continues all the way into the canyon.
Once again we were cut short in our exploration of this trail due to rain but by then we had seen a number of insects and fascinating new plants. The next day I decided to explore an area a little further passed the Proctor area, near the north side of the canyon entrance. Here we found a lot of cow patties and some creeks that crossed over the dirt road a few times. To our surprise the green metallic dung beetle, Phanaeus quadridens, was buzzing around these cow patties and we managed to catch a few in our nets. We found some more wood-boring beetles (Buprestidae) on the Velvet-pod Mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa) and a few darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae) walking across the sandy ground.
On our last day of the trip I decided to stop by the Proctor trail area to see if by any chance we could find any insects that were new to me and the rest of the group. We walked around the parking lot for a while and found some familiar faces like the wood-boring beetles (Buprestidae) and the cloudless sulfur butterflies (Phoebis sennae), but to our amazement we found something I had never seen before. I had swung my net at what I thought was a Pepsis wasp or tarantula hawk, but to my surprise it ended up being a very cool cerambycid (longhorn beetle). I later identified the beetle as the Tar wasp mimic (Tragidion deceptum), which apparently can be quite common in the area after the monsoonal rain, and this beetle was by far the coolest insect we found on the trip.
This trip to Arizona was definitely an amazing experience and to some the rain might have put a damper on their enjoyment, but to me it was another cool aspect of southern Arizona that I enjoy very much. Being able to explore Patagonia Lake and the town of Patagonia, Arizona was something I also very much enjoyed (yes, entomologists can have fun doing non insect related activities as well). This excursion to Arizona was a completely new experience for me and for the other who joined me on this wonderful adventure. I hope to visit Patagonia Lake again in 2017 for the fourth annual trip to Arizona, but if not, it will most definitely be on the list for trips in the future.