Some years ago, I sent a list of 47 species of Buprestidae for which I had records of occurrence in Tennessee to Joshua Basham, who had recently become interested in the family and wanted to develop a checklist for the state. One of the species on that list—Chrysobothris orono Frost, 1920—caught Josh’s attention, not only because it is a beautiful and very uncommonly encountered species, but also because of the dubious nature of the lone Tennessee record for the species. Knull (1930) recorded a specimen in his collection from ‘‘Fresno Co., Tennessee’’ without further information. However, there is no such county in the state (or any other state in the country outside of California), and Josh was also unaware of any town by that or a similar name in the state.
A few years later, in 2012, Josh and colleague Nadeer Youssef succeeded in finding C. orono in Tennessee at South Cumberland State Park—just one hour east of their facility in McMinnville! They collected nearly two dozen specimens from late May to late July during that and the following year, all associated with exposed roots of Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) growing on the edges of high bluff tops. This was a significant find because it confirmed the occurrence of the species in the state, which heretofore had only been recorded from a handful of states/provinces along the eastern seaboard and around the Great Lakes. Moreover, they found a carcass of an individual that died while emerging from its host, confirming Virginia pine as a larval host. Until then, red pine (P. resinosa) was the only confirmed larval host for the species (Wilson 1969) [Paiero et al. (2012) did also record the species as reared from jack pine, P. banksiana; however, I am unaware of the source of that record]. Both the confirmed state and larval host records were documented in our recent joint paper (MacRae & Basham 2013).
I was especially interested in news of this species being collected in Tennessee, as it was a species I myself had never encountered (having in my collection only a single specimen received in trade). Josh and I had been looking for an opportunity to get out into the field together, so in late May this year I met up with him and Nadeer in McMinnville to look first for Chrysobothris seminole at the type locality in Georgia and then C. orono at South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee. We were a little concerned about the timing of the trip, considering this year’s late spring and that our visit would be on the early side of the dates of occurrence recorded at the site. Nevertheless, Lady Luck shone down upon us, and within minutes of arriving at the site we saw the first beetle. Josh saw it just as it flew from an exposed root and watched it land on a nearby rock. I had hoped to get in situ field photographs of the species, but protocol for the first encounter with any rare, flighty species is to collect the specimen live as a studio backup in the event that I am unsuccessful with field photographs. Josh graciously allowed me to collect and keep this first specimen, and Nadeer saw another individual which he netted in flight shortly afterwards.
Alas, these would be the only individuals we would see, so I would have to be content with the photos shown here that were taken later that night on a Virginia pine root with an emergence hole.¹ In addition to C. dentipes (see subtext below), we also encountered two other very nice species of Buprestidae at the site. However, discussion and photos of these will be saved for a future post…
¹ It is possible that the emergence hole is that of Chrysobothris dentipes (Germar, 1824), which we also found associated with exposed pine roots at this locality. However, the size of the hole does seem to match the slightly larger C. orono.
Knull, J. N. 1934. Notes on Coleoptera, No. 4. Entomological News 45(10):207–212 [BioStor].
MacRae, T. C. & J. P. Basham. 2013. Distributional, biological, and nomenclatural notes on Buprestidae (Coleoptera) occurring in the U.S. and Canada. The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 89(3):125–142 [pdf].
Paiero, S. M., M. D. Jackson, A. Jewiss-Gaines, T. Kimoto, B. D. Gill & S. A. Marshall. 2012. Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) of Northeastern North America. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 411 pp. [pdf].
Wilson, L. F. 1969. Life history, habits and damage of Chrysobothris orono (Col., Buprestidae) on red pine in Michigan. The Canadian Entomologist 101(3):291–298 [abstract].
© Ted C. MacRae 2014
10 thoughts on “Chrysobothris orono in Tennessee”
Thanks for this great story! Reading such reports I sometimes asked myself if I really have the right profession. In my next life I will became a lepidopterist only doing field work 😉
Well, that would be nice to do nothing but field work. I, too, have another job that pays the bills, but at least it is also mostly field entomology-based (just not dealing with beetles).
Oh, I forgot to mention my trust that will pay the bills 😉
I had my street rod (’33 Ford coupe) painted in McMinnville, Tenn., a job that seemingly took forever. Had I known about the presence of this Buprestid,I could have passed the time beetle hunting! Looks like a beautiful park.
Reblogged this on macrocritters.
Great story and photos
Beautiful habitat. Forgive me, but, I think Joshua could have snapped a more flattering shot …….
I think it’s perfectly flattering – A man at work. Sort of the equivalent of the plumber under the sink. :~)
I knew there was a reason I liked the photo anyway!