Arizona Bugs, part 2

If I had to pick a favorite spot out of all the places we explored on our two-and-a-half-month road trip last fall, it would be Madera Canyon in southern Arizona.  The scenery there isn’t particularly eye-catching; in fact, I didn’t take a single photo that shows what the place looks like (unlike Organ Pipe–for those of you who read my last post on the day I posted it, I edited it the next day to add some shots of scenery as well as some wee toadlets).  But there was an impressive variety of insects there (many of which I’d never seen before), even in November when the vegetation was on its way out.  I’ve already devoted two posts to things found at Madera Canyon, and there will definitely be more, but here is a collection of some interesting-looking bugs I found there that I mostly don’t have much to say about.

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These leafhoppers are Hordnia aurora.  There are just three other examples of this distinctive species on BugGuide.net, two from Madera Canyon and one from Ramsey Canyon, also in Arizona.

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This one is Graphocephala ignava, and is only the second of its species to be posted on BugGuide.  The first was also from southern Arizona.

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Might as well get all of the leafhoppers out of the way here.  I found a bunch of these on agave, and Andy Hamilton (who identified all of these hoppers) said this was a Cuerna species, “probably C. yuccae, but you would have to send specimens to the Illinois Natural History Survey to get a positive identification.”

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This thorn-mimic treehopper on New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana) is Enchenopa sericea.  It is the third example of this species on BugGuide (again all from Arizona), and my photos are apparently the first documentation of a nymph of this species.  Andy wrote, “Thanks so much for this!  This species represents ‘true’ Enchenopa (adults with brown wings, nymphs with ‘anal tube’ as long as 4 preceding segments, as in Smilia) as opposed to Membracis (adults with black wings, nymph with short anal tube 2-3 segments long). It will now be possible to combine genetic, morphological and developmental information into a comprehensive package to correct the taxonomy of these genera.”  I see that on the first photo posted of this species, he commented: “This is probably the only species in the USA that is actually a member of this genus [Enchenopa]; the others have black wings, as in true Membracis.”  So I gather that my photo of this adult and nymph together has paved the way for all the other Enchenopa species in the US (most of which don’t have names yet) to be moved to Membracis.

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I regret that the only example I saw of the beautiful metallic wood-boring beetle Acmaeodera amabilis was this one that was caught in a spider web.

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This beetle may not be beautiful, but it is certainly interesting looking.  It is the adult form of a leaf-mining species, and has been tentatively identified as Octotoma marginicollis. The only recorded larval host for that species is Perezia thurberi (now Acourtia thurberi), but these adults were feeding on some other member of the aster family, shown here, here, and here.  Anyone recognize it?  (To see all my unidentified plants from Madera Canyon, click here.)

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I think the beetle in the first photo with the pale front end was an aberrant individual; the rest of them looked more or less like this.

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I’ve already shown photos of two other Madera Canyon weevils here; this one belongs to another family (Brentidae, the straight-snouted weevils) and has been tentatively identified as a Coelocephalapion species.

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Until now I’ve managed to write 163 posts in an insect-themed blog and only include a single photo of a butterfly (plus one of a parasitized swallowtail caterpillar), so here are a few to add to the pile.  The one above is a Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana) nectaring at some kind of thistle.

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This Texan crescent (Anthanassa texana) was one of many rather haggard-looking butterflies sucking on the soil of the dry wash behind our campsite.

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This was the least beat-up looking Arizona sister (Adelpha eulalia) I came across.

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It was also the only one that was willing to pose for a proper portrait.

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This huge bagworm (Psychidae) had decorated its case with large pieces of oak leaves.

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I got to see it extend its front end from the case to munch an oak leaf…

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…and saw that it had a tachinid fly egg on its thorax, meaning that a fly larva was probably already developing inside it as it nonchalantly munched away.

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There is a common (in Madera Canyon, that is) moth whose larva skeletonizes the undersides of oak leaves, hiding under webbing.  On silverleaf oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), the larva incorporates the woolly white trichomes (leaf hairs) into its webbing so that the leaf looks thicker than normal but the damage is not otherwise evident.  On this less hairy oak leaf, some of the skeletonizing and frass is plainly visible.

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In this backlit shot of the same leaf, the frass pellets can be seen more clearly, but more importantly you can see that much of the excrement has been shaped into a serpentine tube in which the larva hides.  Species of both Acrobasis (Pyralidae) and Catastega (Tortricidae) have this habit, and both genera include species that feed on oak, so I’m not sure which this is but I suspect the former.

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This one is also a bit of a mystery.  It seems to be the cocoon of a campoplegine ichneumon wasp, spun inside the remains of a fuzzy caterpillar, possibly a lycaenid (Lycaenidae is the butterfly family that includes blues, coppers, and hairstreaks).  I posted this photo on BugGuide, along with these thoughts, and ichneumon specialist Bob Carlson seemed to agree, but said: “One group of species in Hyposoter spins its cocoons inside the skin of lymantriid [tussock moth] larvae, but I cannot recall other such cases. Some Palearctic species of Hyposoter parasitize lycaenids, but I am not aware of Nearctic species that do. Also, the cocoon strikes me as too stout for Hyposoter.”

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There were tarantulas on the move…

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…and less conspicuous arachnids like this little jumping spider.

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Madera Canyon was the only place we visited on this road trip where we were finding so much good stuff that we were compelled to camp in the same spot for three nights.  Each morning, a flock of Mexican jays would visit our picnic table and some deer would graze near our tent.

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Every night, a fox would show up and chomp on juniper berries that had fallen on the road in front of our campsite. The above shot was my best attempt at focusing in the dark.

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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3 Responses to Arizona Bugs, part 2

  1. Looks like a great trip, Charley. Very nice shots.

  2. MattHelms says:

    Wow – that Tarantula looks exactly like Aphonopelma behlei but I’ve never even heard of them being so far south (or that low in elevation).

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