Long Weekend Bug Collecting Trip!

On Saturday, I’ll be joining a number of other Missouri biologists as a Group Leader for a BioBlitz at Penn-Sylvania Prairie (“C” on the map above).  Penn-Sylvania Prairie is a 160-acre tract of native tallgrass prairie in southwestern Missouri owned by the Missouri Prairie Foundation. I’ll be leading the “Beetles” group (of course), and as far as I can tell there has been little to no work done to survey beetles in this prairie.  Late May is an awesome time to look for beetles in southwestern Missouri, and with the forecast calling for sunny skies with highs in the mid-80’s, what better opportunity to add an extra day to an already long holiday weekend and do a…

Long Weekend Bug Collecting Trip!

The BioBlitz is not until Saturday afternoon, so I’ve padded the itinerary with a few nearby southwestern Missouri spots that I’ve wanted to visit for some time now.  The first stop will be Ha Ha Tonka State Park (“B”) and its mosaic of dolomite glades and post oak savanna.  My interest in this area stems from two jewel beetle specimens collected there by a student at the University of Missouri, who gave them to me for identification.  These two specimens caused a stir when I first saw them, as I could not definitely ID them – they resembled Agrilus impexus, a common inhabitant of the desert southwest and Mexico, but they were much larger and, of course, were found in Missouri.  These specimens played a key role in clearing up a case of taxonomic confusion on the identity of Agrilus impexus when I sent them to U.S. Agrilus-guru Henry Hespenheide.  Through comparison with type specimens, he determined that these were among a smattering of specimens collected across the Great Plains that represent the true A. impexus, while the common southwestern U.S. species to which the name had long been applied was actually an undescribed species.  He described the latter as Agrilus paraimpexus (Hespenheide 2007), and the true A. impexus remains rare and little known.  Obviously, my two specimens are the only ones known from Missouri, and indeed only one other specimen of this species has been collected in the past 60 years!  I know that makes finding it a long shot, but the student who collected them told me he swept them from woody vegetation along the edge of a glade at Ha Ha Tonka Savanna Natural Area.  I suspect they may be associated with honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), thus, I will have my beating sheet and will be beating lots of honey locust on Friday – wish me luck!

On Sunday, I’ll work my way slightly northeast to some of the sandstone glades that are found in St. Clair Co. where the Osage Plains to the west transition into the Ozark Highlands to the east.  The two most interesting of these are Lichen Glade Natural Area (“D”) and Dave Rock Natural Area (“E”).  Here, sandstone glades and bluffs are surrounded by dry and dry mesic sandstone woodlands dominated by post oak (Quercus stellata) and blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica).  Many years ago, I beat a single specimen of Agrilus frosti off of post oak at Lichen Glade.  I have not collected the species since, and I know of only one other Missouri specimen collected by state agriculture personnel in a malaise trap in central Missouri.  I also hope to photograph the lichen grasshopper (Trimerotropis saxatilis), which I have seen commonly at both of these sites.  This Great Plains species is at its eastern limit of distribution in Missouri, occurring exclusively on sandstone and igneous glades where its cryptic coloration makes it nearly invisible against the acidic, lichen-covered rocks that dominate these habitats.

Otherwise, I have no specific goals for the trip, but as late May is prime time in this area for jewel beetles, I’ll be doing lots of general beating on the oaks and hickories that many species in this family favor as hosts for larval development.


Hespenheide, H. A.  2007. The identity of Agrilus impexus Horn, a new species, and taxonomic notes and records for other Agrilus Curtis species (Coleoptera: Buprestidae).  Zootaxa 1617:57–66.

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13 thoughts on “Long Weekend Bug Collecting Trip!

  1. I wish I could be there. I’d love to join an entomology group like this and experience the banter (mostly incomprehensible to me, not doubt!) and the techniques that are applied. I would just get in the way, but it sounds like fun.
    Note that I have just ordered a collapsible net, pooter and collecting bag from BioQuip…I think the Entomo-Borg have assimilated me.

    • The banter is the best part – and I’m not always incomprehensible in real life. 🙂

      Congratulations on your BioQuip purchase. Maybe in a future post I’ll show my very simple, homemade pooter (hmm, that sounds somewhat repulsive).

  2. I’ll be there at Penn-sylvania, too, Ted, surveying the ants, taking some pictures, and hob-nobbing with the other bioblitzers. Maybe we can team up to blog on that event. Anyway, see you there!

  3. I’m envious but I’m on my way to Prescott for an art show, and I’ll also add a day of bug hunting on the Plateau, plus the nights between show days of course. Henry was beating Mesquite for Agrilus last year in AZ at this time. We didn’t get much on the days that I joined in. This year the mesquites are teaming with Chrysobothris and Agrilus,so I guess I’ll have to send them to him – probably to hear ‘it’s one or several of these undescribed SW species.’

  4. Pingback: Sections » Blog Archive » Using Google Maps for Collecting Trips

  5. Sounds like a great trip! I collected MO for the first time last year while on a road trip, stopped by Brazil Creek Campground in Mark Twain. It’s funny I never got to MO even though I lived in IL for much of my life. I can tell you every inch of the Shawnee National Forest though…

    Hope there are some lep-ers on that BioBlitz!

    • Hi Chris – Missouri is a pretty decent place for entomology, it’s ecotonal position in the continent results in faunal elements from east and west, north and south. The result is that a lot of things are on the edge of their distribution and thus, species of conservation concern. Of course, the diversity here doesn’t come close to matching that of California – my 5 years there were not nearly long enough!

      We had two lep guys at the BioBlitz – I think they recorded 19 species of butterflies and skippers (no prairie endemics, however) and collected a bunch of moths at the blacklights that await determination.

  6. Found this via Blue Jay Barrens…since we got our 80 acres back in 2000 (doing wildlife management & prairie restoration), I’ve been learning entomology as fast as I can (given all the other stuff going on) and finally hit beetles a few years ago. Thank goodness for BugGuide.net and the TX-ENTO list, both full of helpful people who know a lot more than I do. I’m finally at the point where I can–by hunting through my books and the pictures and info at BugGuide–figure out a few of them for myself. (The species lists on the site aren’t up to date…again…as I keep finding things I hadn’t found before, but might be interesting anyway.)

    I’ll be coming back here to learn more, when time allows.

    • Hi EMoon – thanks for visiting. Insect IDs, esp. beetles, are tough to self-learn, but the internet resources available today make it less daunting now than it was when I got started. Good luck!

  7. Good one. We have Bug Blitzes here in Aussieland too. They are equally productive but the fate of entomologists is worse than it is for the bugs! CSIRO Entomology is merging with other sections of CSIRO and the new name will not contain “Entomology”!

    • Hi, David. The same thing is happening here – at my alma mater (University of Missouri, Columbia) the Department of Entomology was split up into programs that were merged into a larger “Division of Plant Sciences”. Ugh!


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