Christmas in January

One of the ironies about collecting insects is that the winter months can be just as busy as the summer months, sometimes more so. Despite the lack of insect activity during these short, cold days, I actually find myself at times a little overwhelmed with the amount of “work” I’ve set myself up to do.  There are specimens to mount, label, curate, and incorporate into the main collection.  Data from the just concluded field season need to be assembled and summarized so that reports and manuscripts can be written.  Applications for collecting permits need to be submitted, which can only be done once plans for the upcoming season have been formulated.  The fact that entomology is also my profession only exacerbates the situation.  Not that I’m complaining!  I love the fact (and sometimes still have a hard time believing) that I actually get paid to play with bugs, which affords me the opportunity to study them as I wish in my free time.

hiperantha-interrogationis-cruentata_dorsal_21Hiperantha interrogationis cruentata (ventral)In addition to these winter tasks for my own collection, I’ve also for a number of years now taken on the task of identifying material for other collectors.  While this may seem very nice of me, I can’t honestly claim that my motives are completely altruistic.  Doing this has given me the chance to develop relationships with a great many entomologists, specializing in taxa both within and outside my sphere of interest.  Often, material sent to me contains specimens that represent new distributional or host plant records, providing fodder for my own research.  Less frequently but more exciting, such material will contain species that I haven’t yet encountered on my own.  In most cases, the sender will be gracious enough to let me keep an example or two for my collection.  Such is the case with this gorgeous buprestid beetle, Hiperantha interrogationis, which was included in a recent shipment to me as a “gift” from long time friend and expert cerambycid specialist Dan Heffern.  This Neotropical representative of the tribe Stigmoderini (which also contains the Australasian genera Calodema and Metaxymorpha, featured in this recent post) not only represents a new species for my collection, but a new genus as well (reminding me of the old adage, “some of the best collecting is in other people’s collections” – or something like that).  Measuring right at 25mm in length, this spectacularly beautiful specimen is a welcome addition to my collection!

Hiperantha interrogationis is the only member of this otherwise South American genus to occur as far north as Central America and Mexico (Bellamy 2008).  This particular specimen was collected in Jalisco, and as such represents the subspecies cruentata, occupying the northernmost portion (Colima, Durango, Jalisco, and Nayarit) of the distributional range of the species (Bellamy & Westcott 2000).  Hiperantha interrogationis cruentata is distinguished from nominotypical populations by having all of the dorsal color pattern in red (nominate H. interrogationis exhibit some yellow markings) and the median longitudinal vittae of the elytra widely interrupted, thereby resulting in the formation of a distinctly transverse postmedian band. The apical transverse band of the elytra is also usually much wider in this subspecies than in the nominate form.

In a familiar refrain, not much is known about H. interrogationis other than distributional records.  Adults have most often been encountered on flowers of tropical trees, but larval hosts are completely unknown.  Manley (1985) published observations on the feeding behavior of adults on flowers of “Niguito”, Muntingia calabura (Elaeocarpaceae) near Guayaquil, Ecuador.  The adults were observed to be rather strong, high fliers that hovered over flowers in the tops of the trees before alighting, often on the terminal flower of a high branch.  Adults were observed consuming the petals of the flowers but were never observed feeding on the foliage.  After consuming all the petals of a flower, a process that required around 20-30 minutes, the adults moved off to adjacent foliage to groom themselves or rest.  No adults were observed on flowers of any other plant species in this area, but Bellamy & Westcott (2000) later recorded both subspecies on flowers of Acacia angustissima (Fabaceae) and the nominate subspecies on flowers of Chilopsis linearis (Bignoniaceae).

My sincere thanks to Dan Heffern for giving me his single specimen of this gorgeous species.


Bellamy, C. L.  2008. World catalogue and bibliography of the jewel beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestoidea),  Volume 2: Chrysochroinae: Sphenopterini through Buprestinae: Stigmoderini.  Pensoft Series Faunistica 77: 632-1260.

Bellamy, C. L. and R. L. Westcott.  2000. The genus Hiperantha: subgenera, type species, unavailable names and the Mexican fauna (Coleoptera: Buprestidae).  Folia Heyrovskyana 8(1):25-34.

Manley, G. V.  1985. Notes on the biology of Hyperantha interrogationis Klug (Coleoptera: Buprestidae).  The Coleopterists Bulletin 39(1):16-17.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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8 thoughts on “Christmas in January

  1. How exciting this is Ted. WOW!! If I knew 30 years ago what I know today, I would also have studied entomology but who knows how the path of your lfe will go in the future. Like most people at that age, I only noticed the bigger animals and this small word was unfortunately ignored by me.

    An excellent and most informative post again. Thank you!!

  2. Does the pin in that picture go all the way through the buprestid?

    Um, well… you see, the thing is… Aw heck, I’m busted! I PhotoShopped the pin head out of the dorsal shot. The angle of the pin in the ventral shot made that too difficult (at least for my newbie skills).

    But thanks for noticing! 🙂

  3. You have a very cool profession, and it’s neat to see the passion in your writings. Entomology was one of my favorite classes over 25 years ago… I had a wonderful collection over a few years, sadly gone now. But I learned enough to multiply my appreciation for the diversity of life many times over, and to help my son comfortably find joy in picking up grasshoppers and katydids!

  4. well, you’ve really got the perfect job! it’s like not working at all 🙂

    re photoshop, good thing that I don’t show ventral views, else, I will also get caught. hehehehe

    this buprestid is really beautiful. reminds me of the Philippines’s own Pseudhyperantha sp.

  5. Ted, you have a new fan. I enjoy reading your well-written and informative posts on your career. I wish other entomologists were as open as you on sharing their perspective of the job. If you’re ever around Los Angeles, give me a holler and I’ll buy you a beer (unphotoshopped, of course).

  6. estan – thanks, but in the interest of full disclosure the beetle collector/taxonomist part of “Ted the entomologist” is strictly avocational. The professional part of me does ag biotech research (interesting, though not quite as much as taxonomy, but at least I still get to play with bugs).

    The similarity to Pseudhyperantha is striking, yet entirely superficial, as it belongs to not only a different tribe (Dicercini) but a different subfamily (Chrysochroinae). Here is a quite beautiful photograph of P. jucunda that I found at Coleop-Terra, a wonderful site with striking photographs of many spectacular tropical beetles.

    Kolby – thank you very much for your kind words. I’ve made it to Los Angeles a time or two (used to live in Sacramento) and certainly like beer, so you’re on!


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