Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: 4 Views of a Cicada

A while back I went collecting with a friend in one of my favorite places in Arizona right when the very large cicadas in the area (Tibicen cultriformis) were active.   You could hear their grand songs sweeping up the canyon every few minutes, like the auditory equivalent of the wave at a baseball game, each one picking up the song from its neighbor and passing it along.  Those cicadas were enormous, so I was delighted when I found some shed exoskeletons from the nymphs clinging to my favorite tree.  I brought a few home and photographed one of them from several different angles.  Just for fun, I combined all the shots into one a few days ago (click on the image to enlarge it greatly):


I kinda like the way this looks.  What do you all think – kinda fun?  Or kinda creepy?


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!  I hope you all have a great day full of warmth, delicious food, and family.  As an extra special Dragonfly Woman Thanksgiving bonus, I present my one and only photo of a turkey:


Turkey, circa 2009.  You can just make out the tail end of a second turkey off to the left.

Fabulous photo, huh?  That’s what you get when you see a little flock of wild turkeys dashing off into the woods as you scramble to get your camera on your way to a long weekend of camping, collecting bugs, and fishing with one of your favorite friends.  Heck, I’m just happy I got a turkey in the shot!  They were moving FAST, hence the horrendous blur.

To my non-American readers: I hope you all have a great day too, even if it is just another Thursday.  Don’t want to make you feel left out.  :)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Sunday 6: The Photographer and the Annoying Little Seed Beetle

Well, getting this up yesterday clearly didn’t happen, but what can you do? Seeing as I didn’t get a single dragonfly swarm report all week and have nothing to report for Swarm Sunday, I’m going to do my Friday 5 post today. Sunday is just as good as Saturday anyway.

Some of my favorite beetles in Arizona are the seed beetles in the family Bruchidae. Someday I’ll write a post about a fantastic behavior they have that one of my classmates works on, but for today I’m going to tell you a story in photos. This is the story of the Photographer and the Annoying Little Seed Beetle. I hope you enjoy it!

Once upon a time, there was a photographer. She liked to do studio portraits of insects as a way to practice using her camera flashes, so she brought many insects into her house to photograph them. One day, she came upon an adorable little seed beetle. “What a fabulous beetle!” she exclaimed! “I MUST photograph that one.” So she scooped it up and brought it inside, determine to get a great photo of the little beetle.

She set the beetle down inside the studio, but it played dead!

I’m dead!

“Look at me!” it mimed. “I’m a dead beetle, and not very tasty, so leave me alone!

The photographer wasn’t fooled. “These beetles play dead. I will have to wait for it to start moving again and THEN I will get my great photo!”

So she waited. And she waited. And she waited some more. Suddenly, whoosh!


The beetle had righted itself and run across the kitchen counter in the blink of an eye! The photographer had to scramble to catch it before it jumped off the counter and was lost, but she grabbed it and put it back in the studio. It played dead again.

Nothing to see here… Just a dead beetle…

So the photographer waited. And she waited. And she waited some more. Suddenly, whoosh!

Run run run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the seed beetle man!

Once again the beetle had jumped up and run across the counter. Once again she grabbed it right before the beetle disappeared off the counter and placed it back into the studio.

“Maybe now I will get my good shot,” the thought.

But it wasn’t to be. The beetle played dead. The beetle ran.  When it ran, it ran full-bore across the counter like its very life depended on it. She began to despair that she was never going to get her great shot, when she got one she was excited about:

Upsie daisy!

It was an accident though. She had wanted to take a photo of the beetle playing dead, but the beetle jumped up right when she pushed the shutter release button. She ended up getting a shot of the beetle in the process of flipping itself right side up.

In the excitement of getting the shot, the beetle jumped off the counter and she had to search for it on the floor. Thankfully she found it! Her husband never would have forgiven her for releasing insects into the house.

The photographer spent over an hour photographing the little seed beetle. As adorable as it was, it wasn’t cooperative at all, so she never did get the photo she wanted. She imagined that the beetle was laughing at her.

Ha ha!

She finally decided to put the beetle back outside and start again some other day. Maybe the next seed beetle would be more cooperative…

The End

And that, my friends, is the story of how I was defeated by a stupid little seed beetle. That was the most frustrating insect I’ve ever tried to photograph! If it wasn’t playing dead, it was on the move. Normally when I’m irritated that I can’t get the shot I want it’s because I haven’t considered a camera setting that would work better, i.e. it is my fault. This seriously annoying photo shoot was all the beetle’s fault! And then I moved, so I never did get the really great shot. Sometimes that’s just how life works though.  If there’s a moral to the story I shared, that’s it.

If you haven’t already entered my contest and would like to do so, the deadline is tonight at midnight, Pacific time. There are some great entries already, but I’m excited by the great ideas that you all have come up with so far and I’d love to see more!  Good luck!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: What I’ll Miss About the Southwest

I am no longer a desert dweller!  I find myself in an odd emotional state where I’m very excited about the future, but I’m also a little sad that I no longer live in the southwestern US.  I’ve spent my entire life living in and thoroughly exploring Arizona and Colorado, and now I’m living somewhere completely different for the first time in my life.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are new things to explore and new adventures to be had in North Carolina and I’m thrilled to be here.  But there are things I’m going to miss to miss about living and working in the southwest too.  These include:

The Sky Islands

Sky Islands

One of the sky island ranges in southern Arizona, the Santa Catalina Mountains

The mountains in Arizona are so beautiful!  They swell up out of the valley floor at various intervals, breaking up what would otherwise be monotonous, flat land.  They form little islands of tall montane habitats separated by wide areas of desert, so there are a lot of species found only in one mountain range and nowhere else.  The mountains are full of trees and cool water.  I was always so happy when I escaped the heat of the desert summers by going to the mountains!  I don’t have mountains in my new home.  Hills, yes, but no mountains.  After spending my entire life in the Sky Islands or the Colorado Rockies, it’s strange to think I have to drive more than 30 minutes to get to the mountains now.  Not necessarily bad, just strange.

The Saguaros



I consider myself lucky that I grew up and worked around these iconic cacti.  I absolutely love them.  What bizarre, beautiful, and amazing plants!

The Creeks

Harshaw Creek

Harshaw Creek, a typical small, southwestern mountain stream

Water in the southwest is a special thing.  There are all sorts of streams and rivers.  Flash floods are rather common and are major, earth moving events that can change the course of rivers and streams permanently.  The streams have some unusual insects that do strange things, so they’re great places to work if you’re into aquatic insects like me.  Southwestern streams and rivers can be absolutely tiny too!  I can jump across many of them with little effort.  I am very excited about seeing and working in the big rivers in my new home (I live less than a quarter-mile from one!), but I’m going to miss the little guys in Arizona too.  I had a lot of good times playing and working in those tiny trickles of water.

The Sky

Arizona Sky

The bright blue Arizona sky!

It’s hot in Arizona, but it’s bearable because it’s incredibly dry.  Relative humidities of less than 10% are common during the summer before the monsoons begin.  However, dry air also means you can also see for miles and see bright, brilliant blue skies.  I adore trees and I’m enjoying seeing trees that have standard bright green leaves that turn colors in the fall, trees that grow to more than 15 feet tall.  Humidity makes those possible.  But, it also cuts down on my visibility and the brightness of the sky.  The violent storms you get in the southwest have largely been replaced with more sedate, well-behaved storms too.  I can definitely live with that, but it’s very different from living in the high plains of Colorado or the Sonoran Desert where weather is extreme and the skies are the most brilliant blue you can imagine.

The Insects (Of course!)

Sonoran Insects

Some of my favorite Sonoran Desert insects – tarantula hawk, palo verde beetle, predaceous diving beetle (I particularly like the ones in the genus Thermonectus)

Oh how I love southern Arizona’s insects!  Colorado has some great insects too, but Arizona’s insects are special.  There are many species of native bees buzzing around, crazy ant species crawling along the sidewalks, giant monstrous bugs and beetles, showy things that collectors covet throughout the world.  It’s just not the same to start summer without my June bugs and the palo verde beetles!  Granted, I’ve swapped out my June bug for one in the same genus that’s the same color, so that’s great.  I am thrilled that there are fireflies here and I have so many new species to learn and explore.  But, I didn’t see a single palo verde beetle this summer.  I really love those guys and it just doesn’t feel quite like summer without giant angry beetles swerving around the night sky.  Thankfully there were some large, surly beetles at BugShot so I was able to get my fix.  :)

Ah, the southwest!  What a fantastic place.  I love where I am now and I’m very happy in North Carolina.  Still, no matter how long I’m away, I think the southwest is always going to feel like home and I’m looking forward to going back to visit.


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Where Stoneflies Roam

Stoneflies are insects that like to be cold.  They often live in fast flowing, mountain streams and are great indicators of water quality.  Needless to say, they’re a little hard to find in southern Arizona!  In fact, you have to go up in elevation quite a ways to find them during most parts of the year.  This is the closest place where I consistently find them, Mt. Lemmon:

Mt. Lemmon

Mt. Lemmon

Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re still in a desert up on top of the mountain!  Trees that are more than 15 feet tall, water, bright vivid greens – it’s a whole different world!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth