Monsoon season in the desert can be quite a spectacle. When I first moved to Arizona I had a hard time getting my head around the idea that dangerous rain and flash flooding could even happen here. A flooded basement in Scottsdale let me know that rain damage could and did happen in the summer in the desert. And I heard plenty of stories about people drowning in the rushing water in the washes.
Summer in Tucson is even more tropical with afternoon rain a common and welcome occurrence. Since we moved here, I’ve seen lots of surprising monsoon-related things, from snakes climbing onto my deck to escape the water to helicopters plucking stranded hikers out of the canyon after an unexpected microburst. But as we ventured out today we encountered a less than delightful monsoon-related phenomenon:
If this photo makes you think of plagues and locusts I get it.
This was not our first encounter with this. Last summer, upon heading out for an early morning walk on a super-humid day, the swarms were everywhere, both in the air and on the ground. As we considered turning around (I mean, really, what price fitness?) we met up with one of our neighbors who told us that these are flying ants-unpleasant for sure, but harmless. A quick google search told us that intense humidity and moisture can create the perfect mating environment for these ants (which don’t bite by the way). This swarming business is related to the mating activity. Quite the frenzy if you see it up close.
When we ran into the flying ants on the road this morning we knew what was going on but it wasn’t any more pleasant to be around. I was disappointed that I didn’t have my camera with me, but lo and behold I had my own personal swarm outside my kitchen door. That’s when I took these photos. I tried to get some close-ups but given all the frenetic activity it was a challenge. The ants taking a rest from the mating ritual:
I was not resting but rather swatting frantically so I could get closer:
As the humidity lifts these should clear out–can’t be soon enough for me! So as not to leave my readers with a pretty creepy visual I will share a few shots of the more lovely aspects of a well-watered desert:
The prickly pear, plump and ripe.
The stunning blooms of the barrel cactus.
One bloom opening to greet the day.