Garden Canyon, Huachuca Mts., March 16, 2014
Hiked up Garden Canyon which is in the Fort Huachuca Military Reservation. They give you a map at the gate. Only a few things in bloom but lots of water, lots of springs, some coming out of the road bed, and two places where we found petroglyphs. Didn’t see any manzanita in this canyon although there are some in Ramsey Canyon and a bunch in Carr Canyon to the south. Found several madrone (Arbutus arizonica).
Upper Bug Springs Trail, Catalina Mts., March 23, 2014
Hiked from the trailhead at Bear Canyon a couple of miles down the mountain and back. Later, I found out why this trail is so popular, it is part of the Arizona trail. From Molino Basin it climbs a peak and then heads towards Reddington Pass. Nice cross section of different climate regions but there is one other I’d like to try from Sycamore reservoir to Incinerator Ridge, going through Pusch Ridge Wilderness. In some areas Arctostaphylos pungens was setting seed and in some places A. pungens was still in bloom. Also found A pringlei in bloom, a big surprise. The calyx and stems were covered with sticky hairs, bright pink and mostly the flowers turned white as they opened. When I was looking at the flower mass a couple of thrips came out onto my thumb. Stuck on top and underneath in the hairs were two tachnid wasps. Probably came from the silverleaf oak (Quercus hypoleucoides) galls nearby. There were also many madrone but none of them seemed to be flowering. Had a thought about the sticky vs non-sticky A. pringlei and A. pungens, maybe A. pungens’ strategy is to bloom early while A. pringlei‘s strategy is to bloom later but protect the blooms with sticky hairs. Still, A. pungens gets hit pretty hard with something making holes in the flowers. I read in a book about California bees (Lebuhn, 2013) that Osmia bees make holes in flowers to provision their nests. So they may be one the culprits. Still looking for Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus), probably have seen it but haven’t been able to pin down a picture.
One pollinator I have been seeing this spring is the bee or hover fly (family Bombyliidae, genus Bombylius). A bee mimic, it has a long proboscis with which it can sip nectar. I don’t know whether it can actually pollinate but if some pollen grains get on them they might stick because the fly is as hairy as a bee. There is evidence that the females eat pollen (Panov, 2007). These flies are nest parasites of ground dwelling bees and will hover around the bee’s hole and will flick their egg close or in the hole. The larvae hatch, eat all the pollen and sometimes kill and eat the bee larvae (Wijngaard, 2014), (Boesi, Polidori, Andrietti, 2009).