For our month long stay in the Tucson area we stayed in Picacho Peak, about an hour + drive from our friends in East Tucson. When we arrived and got set up we noticed these bugs on the trees……not having seen them ever before, we were curious. I went to the office and asked what they were…..
……Tarantula Hawk Wasp!!
This picture doesn’t really show you the size, they are about 2 inches long, the sting is considered the second most painful insect sting in the world!!! OMG! These were at our site! The girl assured me that they would not bother us if we left them alone, that they are actually good to have around….wait! It gets worse! This is kind of gross……The female tarantula hawk wasp stings and paralyzes a tarantula, (so we have tarantula’s too?????) then drags the specimen to a specially prepared brooding nest, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s abdomen, and the entrance is covered. Sex of the larvae is determined by fertilization; fertilized eggs produce females while unfertilized eggs produce males. When the wasp larva hatches, it creates a small hole in the spider’s abdomen, then enters and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep the spider alive. After several weeks, the larva pupates. Finally, the wasp becomes an adult and emerges from the spider’s abdomen to continue the life cycle. Disgusting!!! Needless to say we gave them a wide berth and luckily we were not bothered by them at all!
Our campground was right on the Sonoran Desert, it gave me time to go out and explore! The interesting thing I found was when the Saguaro Cactus die they just fall over and look the same laying on the ground, until they dry up. If they get too much water they get too heavy and cannot support their own weight.
We also spent some time in the Saguaro National Park, I love these majestic cactus!
As I said, we were there over Christmas, it was a fun time to be on the desert!
One of our day trips we did with our friends was a visit to the Biosphere 2, originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system, or vivarium. It remains the largest closed system ever created. Biosphere 2 was only used twice for its original intended purposes as a closed-system experiment: once from 1991 to 1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. Both attempts, though heavily publicized, ran into problems including low amounts of food and oxygen, die-offs of many animals and plants included in the experiment, and squabbling among the resident scientists and management issues. It taken over for research by the University of Arizona in 2007, and they assumed full ownership in 2011.
On another day we traveled the Ghost Town Trail. It leads you between 3 ghost towns of Arizona, Gleeson, Courtland and Pearce, near the Dragoon Mountains. The scenery of southern Arizona is beautiful, an expanse of grasslands!
First stop was Gleeson. Gleeson was first inhabited by Indians who mined the area for Turquois. When the white settlers arrived they discovered copper, lead and silver in the area, and a mining camp was formed. In 1900 John Gleeson came to the area and he opened the Copper Belle Mine. In 1912 a fire destroyed 28 buildings but it was quickly rebuilt, with a population of 500. By 1930 the mines had all shut down. The post office closed in 1939.
Next town was Courtland. It got started later than Gleeson but grew to 4 times it’s size. By 1909, with 5 mining companies, the population grew to 2000! But the mines played out and so did the town, the post office closed in 1942.
10 1/2 miles down the road is the town of Pearce, the only one of the three towns that still maintains a post office. Pearce was also the first established town. Jimmie Pearce had set up a ranch in the area and discovered gold on his property, gold with a high ore content of silver as well. He started the Commonwealth Mine which produced until 1979. I believe Pearce sold it in 1910 for 250,000.00 dollars. The post office opened in 1896, it and some of the original buildings are still standing today.
While there we got to see this little roadrunner too!!
Next up, Gammon’s Gulch!
Until next time…….