Hornworms marked with rows of evenly spaced diagonal white stripes are growing fat on the White Horsenettle. These are the Tomato Hornworms justly loathed by Arizona gardeners; they will grow into Five-spotted Hawkmoths, justly loved for the grace of their nectar-sipping evening dance. The revoltingly huge worms don’t just eat up the Horsenettle and other things solanaceous, but also devour plants in the Bignonia group that people treasure in their gardens, like Desert Willow and the Chitalpa trees numbers of Cascabel folk are struggling to get established here. What they’re struggling against is this hawkmoth. Those plants can be defoliated almost overnight, while the eye is tricked in a way that have the worms staying about invisible. A Cape Honeysuckle I had trained up to the eaves during this summer and that was just about to burst into an amazing show of flowers, has over the course of a few nights been skeletonized, most every leaf gone–not until then are the the varmints suddenly visible. Pulling them off is a challenge, they have such a grip, and it’s time-consuming. I’ve found a good whack with the back of a plastic dust brush obliterates them with the satisfaction video gamers must have when they blow away a zombie … Night of the Living Dead Hornworms.
The Sonoran Toadlets are also growing fast, into Toadlings, and they have come to take over the actively-watered area of the native grass pasture project where the soil is moist, the ground soft for easy burrow digging, and there is shade from sprouting amaranths and the already established Six-weeks Grama and Rothrock Grama. It’s a better paradise than any Toad Hall.
The colorful sunset is one to compete with any in the tropics, the temperature’s dropped from 104 degrees all the way to 96! As I make the last work rounds, lightning zips skyward from the Galiuro Wilderness peaks and cliffs where a storm cell has made itself cozy. Lesser Nighthawks are pleasant company tonight, as is Moon, la Luna Llena, who comes to greet from over the ridge to the East and who shines in a thick, humid vapor. The many Nighthawks dip low near and around me and tilting their wings, fly back up in a sweep to crest over the lines of mesquite trees between the pastures. The mosquitoes, though, are a trial with how their whining becomes incessant and my hands, neck, ears and face–the only places not covered by clothing for ranch work–are turned into pincussions.
I stop at The Stockpond in the last moments before it’s too dark for a human to see, and find many bats, small, fast bats this time, making quick circular forays over the water, making a dent in that explosion of mosquitoes. Plenty of Nighthawks are coming for water, bombing in through the bats to get their drink.
At Ridge House, Poorwills call across the mesas in their moonshadows, through a steady hot night breeze.