A Pesky Night In Arizona

To amble among the streets of Arizona at night is not a hobby for the squeamish.

The moment Rachel and I made our way to the less traversed paths of the apartment complex we spotted black streaks darting past our feet.  To confirm anybody’s hesitant guess, they were indeed cockroaches.  At night in the outdoors there is a cockroach within five feet of you at all times.

This sort of entourage accompanied us for the duration of our excursion.  Our footsteps caused one of two calculated responses.  They either fled across the pavement in a smooth, ‘s’ shaped trajectory, or they froze in place, hoping we didn’t see them.  At first their flight response was the more disturbing and startling, yet we decided that to be the preferred of their options after some near or actual crunching occurred due to those who chose the ‘fight’ response.

Let’s just say I hadn’t expected cockroaches, the indestructible insects alleged to be impervious to the heel, to disperse their innards as easily as they had.  I had caught one with the notion to feed it to my toad, but was reminded by my sensible wife the unsanitary nature of these creatures, and I thought twice of being so cruel as to trick my friendly little toad into consuming the equivalent of uncooked pork soaked in toilet water.  I was thankful for that revelation, as I am sure you are too.

Every now and then a cicada would streak across our path, dragging along the sidewalk like a plane down a runway but not quite able to lift off.  We extended our walk past the complex walls to ambulate by some empty fields and homes.  An instant change occurred.  Cockroaches no longer dominated the scene, but had to share their invasion with crickets.  Varying in size even more than the half-inch to two inch cockroaches, these crickets ages ranged from miniscule babies to hefty adults.  Their own particular gait betrayed the difference between themselves and their roachy rivals.

While the cockroaches were smooth and controlled in motion, the crickets were high on crack!  Typified by abnormal behavior, they would crawl forward an inch, stop, crawl two inches in the opposite direction, hop a foot to the left, hop an inch to the right, then scuttle into a crack.  Such motion made them hard to catch, however, their nutrition made them valuable fodder, and their sanitation level clearly has the roaches beat.

After collecting a few I made an intriguing discovery.  At night, not only are the roaches and crickets active, but so are the ant colonies.  Now, this is common enough information.  But what I had discovered was that these two hang out around and among the ants as they work about the entrance of the colony.  Nighttime is the busiest time of the day for ants to continue their construction and renovation of the colony, thus bringing lots of soil to the surface.  Apparently, at least as I surmise, this delivers much delectable grub for the cockroaches and crickets.

Strangely, the ants do not seem to mind, and allow the bigger bugs to hang around, even though they could dismember any one of them if the colony so desired.  After snagging a couple more snacking crickets we moved on.  The stars were out, the temperature was refreshing, the camaraderie was great – WAIT!  Look there, on the edge of the sidewalk.  A young preying mantis!  He stood there following our movement with his large eyes, swaying in non-existing wind.  I collected the cute little specimen and we moved on.

As we entered a subdivision our walk commenced as thus: chat, chat, sidestep cockroach, sidestep cricket, chat, chat, turn on flashlight to avoid crawling insects while crossing a dark patch, chat, chat, sidestep, you get the picture.  During one of the flashlight checks something big crawled just out of sight into some rocks at the end of the sidewalk.  At first we thought it to be a large cockroach, but its movement felt somewhat more sinister to me.  So I shined the light after it.

At first it just looked like an abnormal rock, until I could see the contour of eight legs, a bumpy and bulging abdomen, and an equally bumpy head.  Now what could that be?  None other than the most creepy part of our entire week: a very large and quick spider!  But why is it so bumpy all over?  Oh, of course, she is carrying hundreds of little babies on her person.  This spider was not just a creepy spectacle, but a time bomb full of nasty minions.   Suddenly the sandals I wore for the walk seemed like a really bad idea.  I took a couple of pictures in between fits of disgust and fear.

As we headed back nature had one more occupant to show us. Now what is that?  Something about an inch long hovering past us.  It wasn’t one of our previous encounters, and not the right behavior for a bumble bee, hmm.  We couldn’t identify these silent and elusive passersby until we saw one land in a blooming bush.  Aww, they’re fuzzy big moths.  Yet another nocturnal friend to catalog in our entomological finds for the night.

While the walk was very intriguing, home felt like a safe alternative for our weary feet and parched throats. Our animals sure enjoy the grub!  It was fun Arizona, we’ll see you next time we feel like braving the outdoors at night.

Created in August of 2010.

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