Monsoon Season

The Sonoran Desert is one of the most lush deserts in the world, because of its unique pattern of rainfall. Not only do we get winter rains, which are slow and steady, but we also have a monsoon season in the summer, consisting of regular heavy thunderstorms. We had our second monsoon rain of the summer last night, so I decided to go on a nature hike this morning.

1-Mite

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Everywhere we looked we saw these red mites, and they were larger than any I had ever seen before. A little research showed me that they were Dinothrombium magnificum, the Giant Red Velvet Mite. Most velvet mites are the size of a pinhead, little red specks that move about. These were at least half a centimeter long, and the species has been found to grow to a full centimeter in length. That makes them the largest mite species in the world. They prey on termites, a crucially important task here in Arizona where most buildings are infested with termites.

2-Whiptail

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This is a whiptail lizard eating a scorpion that it had found. I would assume that the scorpion was dead when the lizard took it. That’s going to be a big meal for such a small lizard!

3-Coralbean

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Coralbeans, Erithrina flabelliformis, produce beautiful flowers, and afterwards long beans with bright red seeds. They are good landscaping plants, and will attract hummingbirds to your garden as they visit the large blooms to feed. The colorful seeds can be used in jewelry-making as beads, but it is important to keep in mind that they are extremely toxic. Wearing them won’t hurt you, but a child putting it in their mouth can cause serious harm.

Speaking of things that could hurt you:

4-Scolopendra

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Meet Scolopendra heros, the Giant Desert Centipede. It has a reddish body except for the head and tail ends, which are black. Other areas have different color patterns. What makes them so cool is their size. As the United States’ largest centipede they can grow to 8 inches in length and pack a severe bite.

5-Scolopendra(Click image to see larger view)

While rarely life-threatening, the bite causes immediate pain and swelling which can last for anywhere from 15 minutes so several hours. I collected two of these this morning, a task requiring long forceps, a net, and nerves of steel.

6-Gartersnake

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On the way back, I caught this little black-necked gartersnake. This is the surest sign that there is standing water in the canyon somewhere, as they eat primarily tadpoles, frogs, and toads. They will eat insects and earthworms, and small lizards as well. Gartersnakes “musk” when handled, producing a strong-smelling fluid that does not wash off easily.

7-Gartersnake

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On another note, with the new rainfall, the Gila monsters are back out!

1

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This was taken a night ago, at around 10 pm. The daytime temperatures are a little too hot for Gila monsters, but at 85 degrees the nighttime is perfect for them. They use scent to locate their food, so the darkness doesn’t bother them much. Compare this to the cooler springtime, when they are usually out during the daytime.

~The Homesteading Hippy

 

 

1 thought on “Monsoon Season

  1. Pingback: Arizona Springtime | The Homesteading Hippy

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