Kaela was able to deduce where I was with very few clues because this ecosystem in Arizona is so unique. Would developers cover the Saguaro National Park in subdivisions given the opportunity? Sure they would. The only reason they don’t is, they can’t. This is another function of government — protecting biodiversity from the profit motive.

This time, the lovely hand model holding the flying grasshopper is my youngest daughter. We didn’t see many hummingbirds, but at one bush I counted five butterfly species.

When concentrations of some species of flying grasshopper get high enough, they can form into swarms, creating the locust plagues we have all heard about. My entomology professor at Purdue once had a job helping spot potential locust hotspots. You don’t see these swarms in the U.S. because the Department of Agriculture detects and sprays them before they get to a critical mass. They still occur in other parts of the world. They are not all the same species, so I wonder if the swarming program evolved before they split or if it is an example of parallel evolution.

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Interestingly enough, just before they take off in a swarm, each grasshopper aligns himself parallel to his neighbor. You can tell that a swarm is imminent when you look down and see all the grasshoppers pointing in the same direction. Now wouldn’t that be weird. Some researchers are using robots with great success to determine what causes grasshoppers, which are essentially just very sophisticated robots themselves, to do this.

The washes there (the big ditches reserved to channel flash floods from thunderstorms) act as long, thin, interconnected ecosystems. Roads don’t bisect them and they crisscross the city out into the country. San Diego has similar ecosystems that are just big interconnected gullies saved from development for rain runoff. They have inadvertently acted as wildlife corridors and are filled with interesting wildlife. Government can protect biodiversity in many cases by simply preventing development and interconnecting ecosystems, while allowing citizens to build between and among those protected and interconnected places.

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