Last week Pete and I went on a multi-purpose trip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Zion National Park, UT to do some visiting with friends, climb, and (most importantly), look for insects.
It was a sunny week with highs in the mid 70s. In Zion, the boxelder bugs were out in full force, and one lone butterfly followed us for a couple miles up Angel’s Landing. Other than that, I think most of the bugs were hiding in the ground and not out-and-about. With the exception of the one day in Zion, we spent most of our time climbing near Red Rock NCA, and though I kept a vigilant eye on the ground for beetles, I saw very few: only a couple pinacate beetles and one dune beetle. The dune beetle was nearly dead on the trail, and the pinacate beetles must have been scared up by the foot traffic near the road. Both of these beetles
are members of the Tenebrionid family, the darkling beetles. Most of the genera in this family are active at night, though there are exceptions. Apparently the pinacate beetles are known for doing a sort-of headstand and emitting a stinky odor to ward off predators, but the ones I saw weren’t doing that.
I had an inkling that most insects in this desert would be nocturnal, avoiding the mid-day heat, and I am fairly certain that had I gone back in the evening, I would have found a plethora of ground dwelling insects and other arthropods. Unfortunately, it was just not going to happen with my low energy level after the days of sunshine and climbing. Also, our trip was just a few weeks early for most flowering plants, which typically flower late March, I am told. They have received usually high amounts of rain this winter, and so are expecting an especially good spring bloom. I bet there will be lots of insect activity then.
In the end, I was able to collect a couple beetles and bring them home, and I am excited to do some drawing with new specimens. Next time, I will have a better idea of what to look for and when, and hopefully can schedule in some night-time bug-hunting.