This is another of the interesting species that I encountered during my examination of material submitted for identification this past winter. Acmaeodera carlota is one of 149 species/subspecies in North America belonging to this very difficult genus (recall my recent post, Aaack!-maeodera), and as with so many of its congeners it wasn’t described until after the last revision of the genus more than a century ago (Fall 1899). Obviously, the genus badly needs another revision – or at least a revised key – so that the known species can be identified with some degree of confidence without having to send specimens to a specialist. There have been a handful of buprestid workers in recent decades who may have been able to accomplish this daunting task, but to date none have been willing to embrace this considerable challenge.
As far as is known, A. carlota occurs only in Arizona. Fall (1932) described this species from a few specimens collected from cactus blossoms near Globe, Arizona (~90 miles east of Phoenix). Since then, the only specific information recorded about this species was by Westcott et al. (1979), who reported adults cut from wood of Quercus dumosa near Sunflower (~60 miles northwest of the type locality) and collected from flowers in west-central Arizona near Wikieup. Fall’s original description leaves much to be desired (as is the case for nearly all original descriptions prior to the last 50 years or so), and to this point no images have been published in the literature or appeared on the web. This particular specimen was found in a batch of material sent to me by cerambycid-enthusiast Jeff Huether (the same batch containing the previously discussed Acmaeodera robigo), and the only reason I was able to identify it was by comparing it to a specimen given to me by the late Gayle Nelson, who collected the species near Wikieup after its occurrence was reported there by Westcott and colleagues. The interesting thing about this specimen is that it was collected near Page, Arizona – nearly 200 miles north of any of the previous known localities and just south of the Utah border. In suspect this species occurs even more broadly and is not, as the limited records suggest, restricted to Arizona.
Acmaeodera carlota belongs to a group of species that I loosely refer to as the A. tubulus-species group. It is not clear that all of the species are actually closely related, but they do all resemble each other in their small size (<8 mm), general appearance (i.e., black with confused yellow maculations on the elytra), and inclusion in the so-called ‘Truncatae’ group (a subdivision of the genus established by 19th Century coleopterist George Horn to include those species having the prosternal margin nearly straight and not retracted from the sides). Within the Truncatae, the species in the tubulus-species group are distinguished by lacking a subapical crest on the last ventral segment and general appearance. Only three species were known at the time of Fall’s revision (conoidea, neglecta, and tubulus); however, an additional eight species have been described since (carlota, ligulata, neoneglecta, opuntiae, parkeri, sabinae, starrae, and thoracata). I have collected many of these species in my travels across the southwestern U.S. and lack only starrae and thoracta in my collection (the latter is known only from the type). In the case of A. carlota, note the rather flattened dorsal surface that is densely clothed with long, stiff, dark, suberect hairs; the coarsely, contiguously punctate pronotum; and the subrugose, slightly irregular elytral intervals, which serve to distinguish this species from others in the group.
The group’s namesake, Acmaeodera tubulus, is widespread and common across the eastern U.S., making it relatively easy to identify. However, the remaining species of the tubulus-species group are limited to the south-central and southwestern U.S., and the lack of available identification keys and suitable descriptions makes them nearly impossible to identify except by comparison with determined specimens. As a result, I have built a key to the species in the Acmaeodera tubulus-species group that I use to assist in my own identifications. The key is based on distinguishing characters given in the original descriptions (if any) and augmented by my examination of the material at my disposal. I invite users to test the key with their own material and let me how well it works.
My sincere appreciation to Jeff Huether for allowing me to retain this specimen in my collection as a voucher for the range extension that it represents.
Fall, H. C. 1899. Synonpsis of the species of Acmaeodera of America, north of Mexico. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 7(1):1–37 [scroll to “Journal of the New York Entomological Society”, “v. 7 1899”, “Seq 12”].
Fall, H. C. 1932. Four new Buprestidae from Arizona. The Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 8(2) (1931):81-84.
Westcott, R. L., W. F. Barr, G. H. Nelson, and D. S. Verity. 1979. Distributional and biological notes notes on North and Central American species of Acmaeodera (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin, 33(2):169-181.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010