This year I was invited to attend the 66th annual Lepidopterist Society meeting in Tucson, Arizona. The meeting was held at a hotel near the University of Arizona’s campus and while a majority of the presentations were done at the hotel’s main hall, the University invited members of LepSoc to visit the entomology collection and assist in sorting/identifying specimens. This was the first LepSoc meeting I have ever attended and it was by far one of my favorite visits to the southern region of the state.

Madera Canyon was as green as I’ve ever seen it.

A Familiar Feeling

The day before the start of the meeting there were planned visits to different locations south of Tucson, arranged by other members. I decided to set out on my own adventure with a friend of mine to a very familiar location. Madera Canyon, one of the most well-known areas to many entomologists, was where I decided to take a friend of mine who had only been there once before. Thankfully for us the weather was cooperating and the thunderstorms had decided to move to the west of the Santa Rita Mountains. We had arrived fairly early so the area was still a bit cool, but once the sun peaked through the clouds, the temperature and humidity rose, bringing the surrounding vegetation to life.

We encountered a number of species that we had and hadn’t seen before. The tarantula hawks were nectaring off flowers of a bush that I didn’t recognize and were distracted enough that they allowed us to get pretty close. There were a very high concentration of the tiny crescent (Dymasia dymas chara), a fairly common butterfly around this time of year, on mimosa flowers. Other butterflies made appearances like the Marine blue (Leptotes marina), the Zela metalmark (Emesis zela cleis), the Bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia crocale) and the Golden-headed scallopwing (Staphylus ceos). We were able to get a good couple hours of collecting/photographing time before a thunderstorm decided to roll over the mountain and chase us out of the canyon.

Meet and Greet

After making it back to the University, my friend and I met with a few members of the Lepidopterist Society. We had some nice conversations about past collecting trips and specimens they have collected in the region, as well as past projects and future plans for research. As the day went on and the sun began to set we quickly made our way back to the hotel where the LepSoc members were meeting and asked if anyone was going to out to blacklight. A few members said they were going to but needed a guide to get to the location. Thankfully for me, they were planning to head over to Madera Canyon and set up their lights/sheets. I volunteered myself to be a guide and lead these fellow entomologists to the canyon. Despite doubts from other members that the night would be rain-free, everyone in my group decided to go anyway.

Manduca florestan, one of the many species of Sphingids found in Madera Canyon.

As we arrived and helped our fellow lepidopterists set up their blacklights we were greeted by others participating in the same activity. Once the sheets were set up, it then became a waiting game and soon enough insects of all kinds began to show up. There were not as many large insect visitors except a few moths and beetles, but a majority of what came to the sheet was much smaller and more diverse. A surprise appearance by Eacles oslari made the night for me, and a few Chrysina lecontei also made their way to the sheet, allowing my friend to finally have all the Chrysina species found in Arizona in his collection. Once everyone had their fill of moths, beetles, flies, and more, it was time to pack up and leave to get some rest for the next day of adventures.

A Great End to Brief Adventure

On my final day of the LepSoc 2017 meeting, my friend and I went to Madera Canyon one last time to collect a few more specimens but were unfortunately stopped by a very large and fast-moving thunderstorm. It appeared very suddenly and didn’t seem like it was going to subside for a long while. So, we decided to return to Tucson and wait until the blacklighting that was going to take place in the evening. We met with a few LepSoc members, who we ended up befriending by the end of this trip, and were invited to join them in Box Canyon for the night. Once again we were advised to not go to that area because of the road being washed out near the canyon, but we decided to go anyway. What’s a trip to southern Arizona without a little sense of adventure?!

On the way to the blacklighting location we passed over some very unstable roads and there was one section of the road that was definitely washed out. But, through perseverance and a little bit of cheering by my fellow lepidopterists, I managed to get the little rental car up and over the washed out road. We finally made it to Box Canyon and our new friends began to set up their lights. Within minutes of the lights turning on, moths began to pelt the sheet. Large sphingids, as well as some noctuids and arctiids, began to all show up to the sheet almost in unison. The saturniids also showed up within an hour and both me and my friend were able to collect everything we were expecting to see (with a few exceptions). Overall, this became a great end to this very brief adventure to southern Arizona for the annual LepSoc meeting.

I was very glad to have participated in this event and I hope to continue to participate in these annual meetings in years to come. I return to Arizona every year, so I’m hoping the trip in 2018 will be even more productive than this meeting and the trip I held in August.

Quick PSA: I haven’t been able to make as many posts as I have wanted to, mostly due to how many trips and adventures I’ve been on this year, but I am resuming these posts now and will have many more adventures, guides, and info to share!

Farewell for now Arizona, I will see you again next year!