Mexico 1992—Gang of Ten

As a young collector attracted to woodboring beetles, my interests were split evenly between the families Buprestidae and Cerambycidae. In those early days, I actively sought the counsel of experts in both families, looking for help with identifications. Most were more than gracious with their help, and receiving their letters and return shipments of beetles I had sent for their examination was a highlight of each winter season. There was one man, however, whose letters and parcels I looked forward to receiving more than any other—the late, great Gayle Nelson. More than just a report of identifications, Gayle’s letters were also rich with advice, suggestions and encouragement—he became my first mentor. I coauthored my first published paper on Buprestidae with Gayle (Nelson & MacRae 1990), and when I moved to California in 1990 I had the chance to meet him in person and accompany him on a collecting trip to the great southern Californian deserts. Talk about learning from the master! In the meantime I had also struck up correspondence with long-time buprestophiles Rick Westcott and Chuck Bellamy. I guess between the three of them they saw some potential in me, as shortly after my move to California they invited me to join the upcoming World Buprestid Workers Gathering—a 2-week collecting trip in southern Mexico scheduled for July 1992. While not all of the world’s buprestid workers were able to make this trip, a majority of the heaviest hitters from the U.S. and Europe were there. The photo below is the only one I’m aware of in which all ten participants are present, and while I felt like a midget amongst giants at the time, I’ve enjoyed more or less regular correspondence with most of the participants of that trip over the many years that have since passed.

Huahuapan de Leon, Oaxaca, Mexico - July 1992 (L to R): Ted MacRae, Rick Westcott, Hans Mühle, Chuck Bellamy, Gayle Nelson, Byrd Dozier, Dave Verity, Kim Pullen, Svata Bílý, Mark Volkovitsh (photographer unknown).

Huahuapan de Leon, Oaxaca, Mexico—July 1992 (left to right): Ted MacRae, Rick Westcott, Hans Mühle, Chuck Bellamy, Gayle Nelson, Byrd Dozier, Dave Verity, Kim Pullen, Svata Bílý, Mark Volkovitsh.

That trip remains one of the best insect collecting trips I’ve ever experienced (although there are many others now that also bear that distinction). Gayle, Dave Verity and I started in the state of Guerrero and worked our way down into Oaxaca, where we met up with the others and collected together as one large group before Chuck, Rick and I split off and returned for more collecting in Guerrero. I don’t remember how many species I collected—somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 or so, but I’ll never forget finding the first specimens of what would eventually be described as Oaxacanthaxia nigroaenea Nelson & MacRae 1994. We found it at the type locality (near Tehuantepec) of what was then the only known species in the genus, O. viridis Bellamy 1990, that represented an apparently relictual line of buprestids with affinities to certain Old World genera. While that was the only new species that I described from the trip, several described by others are based at least in part on material that I collected. Another highlight of the trip was the “big, dead tree” in Cañón del Zopilote, Guerrero (literally, a big, dead tree), the high branches of which yielded several specimens of Polycesta cortezii Thomson 1878 and one Jelinekia barri (Nelson 1975). Sadly, I wasn’t much of a journal-keeper in those days, so most of the memories that remain from that trip are just snippets in time. Nevertheless, whenever I look at specimens collected on that trip I am usually able to recall the circumstances of its collection, and I recently had the chance to go through much of this material in detail again, as many of the specimens collected represented newly documented state occurrences and adult host plants. These records can now be found in a newly published paper by me and Chuck in which two new species of Actenodes collected during subsequent trips are described (MacRae & Bellamy 2013).


MacRae, T. C. & C. L. Bellamy. 2013. Two new species of Actenodes Dejean (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) from southern Mexico, with distributional and biological notes on Buprestidae from Mexico and Central America. The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 89(2):102–119.

Nelson, G. H. & T. C. MacRae. 1990. Additional notes on the biology and distribution of Buprestidae (Coleoptera) in North America, III. The Coleopterists Bulletin 44(3):349–354.

Nelson, G. H. & T. C. MacRae. 1994. Oaxacanthaxia nigroaenea Nelson and MacRae, a new species from Mexico (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 48(2):149–152.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Haldeman’s shieldback katydid (Pediodectes haldemani)

During my visit to Gloss Mountain State Park (Woodward Co., Oklahoma) this past June, I found an area of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia phaecantha) on the west flats below the main mesa. A few days earlier I had seen cactus beetles in the genus Moneilema (family Cerambycidae) associated with these plants at another nearby location, so I began checking the plants to look for any sign of these beetles. Sadly I did not find any, but the plants were in full bloom and were being visited by flower longhorns in the genus Typocerus (mostly just T. octonotatus). After having collected a small series, I approached one particular cactus plant and found this enormous katydid sitting inside the flower. Katydids normally secrete themselves in a more cryptic manner, using foliage backdrops with which they can blend owing to their green coloration. This particular katydid, however, not only lacked the leaf-like wings that many species possess but also exhibited rather strikingly contrasting dark red markings over its body that made it quite conspicuous as it sat in the yellow flower. I approached carefully so as not to spook it and took a few photographs, but as I did so it became apparent to me that it did not find my actions alarming and would allow me to take whatever photographs I wished.

Pediodectes haldemani in flower of Opuntia phaecantha | Gloss Mountains State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Pediodectes haldemani on Opuntia phaecantha | Gloss Mountain State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Almost whatever photographs, that is. I really wanted to get a super-close, full-frontal shot of the face, but it sat unbudgingly in the flower with its face buried in the stamens and masked by the inner petals of the flower. I could have tried peeling away the petal, but I was sure that fiddling my fingers that close to its face would spook it, and even if I did manage to peel back the petal then I would still have stamens blocking the view that I wanted. In the end, I decided that this slightly more distant shot of the whole body was a pleasing enough composition.

Pediodectes haldemani


I presume this individual represents Haldeman’s shieldback katydid (Pediodectes haldemani) in the family Tettigoniidae. This is not surprising, since the type locality of the species (Barber Co., Kansas) is just a few miles to the north and right smack dab in the middle of the Great Plains distribution of the species. BugGuide mentions that species identification from photos alone can be difficult in the genus Pediodectes, as color patterns vary individually and with age, and also since adults are wingless it can be difficult to tell if an individual is a nymph or adult. Nevertheless, distribution maps in Singing Insects of North America show three species that can potentially occur in this part of Oklahoma, and the photos shown here are a dead ringer for P. haldemani. I am also apparently not the first person to photograph this species at Gloss Mountain State Park.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013