2018 Arizona Insect Collecting Trip “iReport”

Hot on the heels of the previous installment in this series, I present the sixth “Collecting Trip iReport”; this one covering a trip to Arizona during July/August 2018 with Art Evans and—like the previous installments in this series—illustrated exclusively with iPhone photographs (see previous installments for 2013 Oklahoma2013 Great Basin2014 Great Plains, 2015 Texas, and 2018 New Mexico/Texas).

This trip was a reunion of sorts—not only had it been 20 years since I’d collected in Arizona, it had also been 20 years since I’d spent time in the field with Art Evans—which just happened to be in southeast Arizona! For years I looked forward to our next opportunity, and when he told me of his plans for an extended trip to take photographs of his forthcoming Beetles of the Western United States, I couldn’t pass up the chance. Art had already been out west for five weeks by the time I landed in Phoenix on July 28th, and together we drove to Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains and spent the night before beginning a 7-day adventure in and around the “Sky Islands” of southeastern Arizona.

As with the recent New Mexico/Texas post, the material collected still has not been completely processed and curated, so I don’t have final numbers of taxa collected, but there were a number of species—some highly desirable—that I managed to find and collect for the first time, e.g., the buprestids Acmaeodera yuccavoraAgrilus restrictus, Agr. arizonicusChrysobothris chiricauhuaMastogenius puncticollis, and Lampetis webbii and the cerambycids Tetraopes discoideus and Stenaspis verticalis. Who knows what as-yet-unrecognized goodies await my discovery in the still unprocessed material?!


Day 1 – Chiricahua Mountains, Cave Creek Canyon
After arriving at Cave Creek Ranch late last night, we awoke to some stunning views right outside our room!

View of Cave Creek Canyon at Cave Creek Ranch, Chiricahua Mountains.

Cave Creek Ranch, Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains.

Cave Creek Ranch, Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains.

The first buprestid of the trip was a series of Pachyschelus secedens on Desmodium near Stewart Campground. We beat the oaks and acacia along the way to Sunny Flat Campground but didn’t find much. Once we got near Sunny Flat I did some sweeping in an area with new growth of Helianthus sp. and got a series of Agrilus huachucae, a few lycids, and one Leptinotarsa rubiginosa. I beat one Acmaeodera cazieri from Acacia greggii and found another on flower of prickly poppy (Argemone sp.). On the roadside at Sunny Flat I found several Acmaeodera spp. on a yellow-flowered composite – one A. rubronotata, one A. solitaria(?), and three A. cazieri. Also collected one A. cazieri on a rain gauge, Mecas rotundicollis and one as yet undetermined acanthocinine cerambycid on miscellaneous foliage, one tiger beetle (Cicindela sedecimpunctata?) on the roadside, and two orange lycids in flight.

Majestic peaks loom over the canyon.

Blue pleasing fungus beetle (Gibbifer californicus) – family Erotylidae.

Me with Margarethe Brummermann.

Reddish potato beetle (Leptinotarsa rubiginosa) is an uncommon relative of the much more well known (and despised) Colorado potato beetle (L. decemlineata).

Margarethe Brummermann searches for beetles in Sunny Flat Campground.

Bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia) – family Nymphalidae.

Desert flats east of Portal, Arizona
We came to this spot to look for Sphaerobothris ulkei on joint-fir (Ephedra trifurca), but after not finding any for awhile I got distracted by some big buprestids flying around. Caught several Hippomelas sphenicus, one Gyascutus caelatus, and two Acmaeodera gibbula on Acacia rigida, and the first and third were also on Prosopis glandulosa along with Plionoma suturalis. We finally found S. ulkei – searched the area for almost three hours, and Art and I each caught two and Margarethe caught one – also one each of P. suturalis and A. gibbula. I also got a mating pair of A. gibbula on Acacia greggii. After dinner, we went back and placed an ultraviolet light – checked it a couple hours later and got a nice series of Cylindera lemniscata and a few meloids (for Jeff).

Desert flats below Portal, Arizona – dominant woody vegetation is mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), sweet acacia (Acacia constricta), and three-pronged joint-fir (Ephedra trifurca).

Art Evans photographing Hippomelas planicauda in the ‘studio’ afterwards.

Sphaerobothris ulkei, collected on Ephedra trifurca.

Day 1 of the trip ended in typical monsoon fashion – heavy, thunderous rainstorms moved into the area during late afternoon, dimming prospects for blacklighting. Still, we set them up anyway at several spots and checked them later in the evening (flood waters preventing us from going to all the spots we wanted to). Not surprisingly, the one trap that yielded interesting specimens was in the lowest (warmest) area and received the least amount of rain. For me it was a nice series of Cylindera lemniscata.


Day 2 – Southwestern Research Station, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona
There is a large stand of a narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias sp.) at the station, so we stopped by in our way up the mountain to check it for beetles. Got a nice little series of Tetraopes discoideus (tiny little guys!) on the stems as well as a few Rhopalophora meeskei, two Lycus spp., and one Pelonides humeralis on the flowers.

Tetraopes discoideus (family Cerambycidae).

Rhopalophora meeskei and Lycus sp. on Asclepias sp.
IMG_3151 (Edited)

At the Southwestern Research Station with Barbara Roth, Art Evans, and Margarethe Brummermann.

Road from Southwestern Research Station to Ruster Park
After leaving the SWRS on our way up to Rustler Park, we stopped to check a couple of bushes of New Mexico raspberry (Rubus neomexicanus). Margarethe thought there might be lepturines on the flowers, but instead we found a few Acmaeodera spp. and some Rhopalophora meeskei.

New Mexico raspberry (Rubus neomexicanus).

Further up the road we made another quick stop to check roadside flowers – just a single A. rubronotata on a yellow-flowered composite, but spectacular views of the valley below.

Looking west from the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Gayle Nelson once told me about finding Chrysobothris chiricahuae on pine slash at Rustler Park, so I was pleased to see several fresh slash piles when we arrived. I saw a Chrysobothris (presumably this species) on the very first branch in the very first pile that I looked at, but I missed it (damn!) and didn’t see any more in that pile. However, in the next pile I visited I saw two and got them both. I looked at a third pile and didn’t see any, nor did I see any more on the two previous piles that I looked at. Still, two is better than none (assuming this is, indeed, what they are!).

Rustler Park, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.

Chiricahua National Monument
Not a bug collecting stop, but we wanted to drive into the monument and see the incredible rock formations which are best appreciated by driving through Bonita Canyon and then up to Massai Point. The unusual spires, columns, and balancing rocks are a result of erosion through vertical cracks in the compressed volcanic ash which was laid down in layers 25 million years ago and then uplifted. Tilting during uplift caused vertical fractures and slippage, into which water then worked its way to create today’s formations. One of the columns I saw is 143 feet tall and only 3 feet in diameter at one point near the base! Mexican jays were our constant, close companions as we hiked through the pinyon pine/oak/juniper woodland.

Vicinity Gleeson, Arizona
There is a wash across N Ghosttown Trail with stands of Baccharis sarothroides growing along the sides. Art previously collected a single Cotinis impia on one of the plants, so we came back to check them. We didn’t find any, but we did find two fine males and one female Trachyderes mandibularis on a couple of the plants. I also found a dead Polycesta aruensis.

Vicinity Tombstone, Arizona
Art saw Gyascutus caelatus here previously, so we came back and found them abundantly in sweet acacia (Acacia rigidula), which was in full bloom. They were extremely flighty and hard to catch, so we each got only four. I also collected one Stenaspis solitaria on the same and a Trachyderes mandibularis female in flight.

Trachyderes mandibularis female

At another spot nearby, we stopped to look for Lampetus webbii, which Art had seen but not been able to collect when he was here a couple of weeks ago. We did not see any (but read on…), and I saw but did not collect a Trachyderes mandibularis and two Stenaspis solitaria. I also saw and photographed some giant mesquite bugs (Thasus neocalifornicus).

Giant mesquite bugs (Thasus neocalifornicus).

Note the heavily armed and thickened hind legs of the male (L) versus the more slender and red/black banded hind legs of the female (R).

Not sure of the ID (other than ‘DYC’ – damned yellow composite).

The day ended enjoying steaks, Malbec, and Jameson with two of the best hosts ever!


Day 3 – Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Our first stop of the day was Box Canyon, a gorgeous, rugged canyon on the east side of the range. Mimosa dysocarpa was in bloom, off which I beat two Agrilus aeneocephalus, several Hippomelas planicauda, and one Stenaspis solitaria. Norm gave me an Acmaeodera cazieri that he’d collected on an unidentified yellow-flowered composite, and right afterwards I found some small, low-growing plants with purple flowers and sticky leaves (eventually ID’d as Allionia incarnata, or trailing four o’clock) to which Acmaeodera yuccavora and A. cazieri were flying in numbers. After that I crawled up top and beat the mesquites, getting one Chrysobothris sp., a mating pair of S. solitaria, and a couple of large clytrine leaf beetles.

Box Canyon from just above the dry falls.
Prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana) blooming along the roadside.

Hippomelas planicauda mating pair on Mimosa dysocarpa.

Allionia incarnata, flower host for Acmaeodera cazieri and Acm. yuccavora.

Acmaeodera cazieri (left-center).

Acmaeodera yuccavora.

Lubber grasshopper (Taenipoda eques). The striking coloration warns potential predators that it is chemically protected.

Datana sp. caterpillars.

Vicinity Duquesne, Arizona
We came here to look for Tetraopes skillmani (this is the type locality). We found the host plant (Sarcostemma sp.), but there were no beetles to be seen anywhere. Maybe another location nearby…

Sarcostemma sp. (family Asclepiadaceae).

Patagonia Pass, Patagonia Mountains, Arizona
We went up higher into the mountains to get into the oak woodland, where I hoped to find some of the harder-to-collect oak-associated Agrilus spp. Right away I beat one Agrilus restrictus off of Emory oak (Quercus emoryi), but no amount of beating produced anything more than a single Enoclerus sp.. I also beat the Arizona oak (Q. arizonica) and got only a single Macrosaigon sp. On Desmodium sp. I collected not only Pachyschelus secedens but a nice series of Agrilus arizonicus. For me it is the first time I’ve collected either A. restrictus and A. arizonicus, the former being quite uncommon as well, so all-in-all not a bad stop.

Agrilus arizonicus mating pair – the males are brighter green than the females, which are more coppery.

Unidentified plant.

Me, Art Evans, and Norm Woodley.

Sycamore Canyon, Santa Cruz Mountains, Arizona
We came here for night lighting, but while we still had light I did some sweeping in the low vegetation and collected a mixed series of Agrilus arizonicus (on Desmodium sp.) and Agrilus pulchellus – the latter a first for me, along with two small cerambyids that could be Anopliomorpha rinconia. Conditions were perfect (warm, humid, and no moon), and we had lots of lights (Art’s five LED units, Steve’s MV/UV combo setup, and my UV setup), but longhorned beetles were scarce – just one Prionus heroicus and one Lepturges sp. for me, and Steve got a few others including a nice Aegomorphus sp. I did also collect a few scarabs – Chrysina gloriosa and Strategus alous – because they’re just so irresistible!

A beacon in the night!

Art, Steve, and Norm checking the lights.

Chrysina gloriosa.

A male oz beetle (Strategus aloeus).

Eacles oslari is a western U.S. relative of the imperial moth (E. imperialis).

Insects whirring around my head!

Day 4 – Prologue
One of the downsides (if you can call it that) of having great collecting is the need to take periodic “breaks” to process all the specimens and make my field containers available for even more specimens. Thanks to Steve and Norm for making their place available to Art and I so we can do this before heading out to our next set of localities.

Copper Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
Copper Canyon is the classic spot for finding the charismatic Agrilus cavatus (see photo), but first we did some sweeping in the low vegetation near the parking area, where Norm got one Agrilus arizonicus and two Agrilus latifrons – and gave them to me! (Thanks, Norm!) I did some beating of the oaks, and after much work I ended up with a single Agrilaxia sp. and pogonocherine cerambycid on Emory oak (Quercus emoryi) and a couple of giant clytrines on the Arizona oak (Q. arizonicus). I then started sweeping the low-growing Acaciella angustissima – right away I got two A. cavatus. They were in the area past the cattle guard on the right where lots of dead stems were sticking up, and although I continued to sweep the plants more broadly in the area I never saw another one. Finally, Norm called me up to a small Mimosa dysocarpa near the car off which he collected three Agrilus elenorae – and gave them to me! (Thanks, Norm!) I gave the tree a tap and got one more, and in my last round of sweeping I came up with a Taphrocerus sp. (must be some sedges growing amongst the grasses).

Copper Canyon to the northwest.

Copper Canyon to the north.

Agrilus cavatus on its host plant, prairie acacia (Acaciella angustissima).

Robber fly (family Asilidae) with prey (a ladybird beetle).

Bear Canyon Crossing, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
There was quite a bit of Mimosa dysocarpa in bloom along the roadsides on the west side of the Bear Canyon crossing, which I beat hoping to find some more Agrilus elenorae. I didn’t find any, but I did get several more Hippomelas planicauda, which is a nice consolation prize – and a great photo of the last one! Other than that I did a lot of sweeping and found only a single Acmaeodera cazieri.

Bear Canyon to the south.

Bear Canyon to the north.

Hippomelas planicauda on one of its hosts, velvetpod mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa).

Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch of the National Audubon Society, Elgin, Arizona
Cool temperatures and a blustery wind discouraged most insects from finding our blacklights. However, our blacklight did find some other interesting local residents. These two individuals could be the stripe-tailed scorpion, Paravaejovis (Hoffmannius) spinigerus, a common species in Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.


Day 5 – Miller Canyon Recreation Area, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
There was a lot of Baccharis sarothroides growing in the lower canyon near the parking area, so I checked it all out hoping to find Tragidion annulatum. None were seen, and in fact there was very little insect life in general. I did pick up a couple of Acmaeodera solitaria by sweeping – not anything significant but the 15th species buprestid of the trip and found a dead Cotinis mutabilis, and Art got a nice series of Chalcolepidius click beetles on B. sarothroides and Prosopis glandulosa. Puzzling the lack of insect activity, given how green all the plants were and how fresh the growth looked. I guess we’ll have to look elsewhere.

Acanthocephala thomasi, a leaf-footed bug (family Coridae).

I was all lined up for a side shot of the bug when suddenly he took flight.

Turkey vultures hanging out waiting for me to die!

Actually they were all hanging out around a dead cat, some of which I scared up as they were feeding on it.

Vicinity Naco, Arizona
We decided to try some desert thorn-scrub habitat so headed east towards Bisbee. Just north of Naco we saw some habitat where it had rained recently – everything was green with the sweet acacia (Acacia rigidula) and creosote (Larrea tridentata) in full bloom. Immediately out of the car I found a Dendrobias mandibularis on Baccharis sarothroides (and when I came back to it later I found a big, major male on it – see photos). On the sweet acacia we found a handful of Gyascutus caelatus (one of which I got a nice photo of), a mating pair of Sphaenothecus bivittatus, and a Cymatodera sp. Finally, out along the roadsides a riot of different yellow composites were in full bloom, including Heliomeris longifolia off which Art got a couple of Acmaeodera solitaria and I got two specimens of a large Acmaeodera sp. (blue-black with numerous small irregular yellow spots).

Dendrobias mandibularis – major male.

Them’s some mandibles!

Gyascutus caelatus on Acacia rigidula.

A blister beetle (family Meloidae) in the genus Zonitis – either sayi or dunnianus – on Heliomeris longifolia.

Heliomeris longifolia – host flower for both the Zonitis blister beetle and Acmaeodera sp. jewel beetle.

Vicinity Tombstone, Arizona
We decided to go back to the spot north of Tombstone where Art had earlier seen Lampetis webbii and give that species another shot. We looked at the Rhus sp. tree that he’d seen them on, and then we each followed the wash in opposite directions looking at the Rhus trees along them, which growing above the banks but never further away than about 25 feet. Along the way I collected several more Gyascutus caelatus on sweet acacia (Acacia rigida), which were more abundant this time than last and also easier to catch. After walking about 1/4-mile down the wash I saw something fly from a Rhus tree and land low on the bushes nearby. I quickly netted it, pulled it out, and was elated to see that it was, indeed, Lampetis webbii! I searched the Rhus in the area more carefully but didn’t find any more, then found some Rhus growing up along the road. At one point, I saw a large buprestid fly and land high in the top of another Rhus tree. I couldn’t tell for sure if it was L. webbii, but I extended my net as far as I could, positioned it beneath the beetle, and tapped the branch hoping it would fall in. Unfortunately, it flew away instead of dropping, so I can’t say for sure whether it was L. webbii or just a wayward G. caelatus. At any rate, L. webbii is yet another species that I have not collected before now and the 17th buprestid species of the trip.

Lampetis webbii, collected on Rhus sp.

Stenaspis solitaria on Acacia rigidula.

Ramsey Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
After returning from Tombstone, we visited Pat & Lisa Sullivan at their home at the end of Ramsey Canyon. Pat is a scarab collector who runs lights at his home nightly, and after a delicious dinner we spent the rest of the evening checking the lights. I was hoping to collect Prionus heroicus, and I got my wish. Also got Prionus californicus and several other non-cerambycid beetles such as Chrysina beyeri, C. gloriosa, Lucanus mazama, and Parabyrsopolis chihuahuae (the latter a first for me). I also placed a prionic acid lure (thanks Steve!) and got three more male P. heroicus. We also hunted around the rocks and roadsides hoping to find Amblycheila baroni but didn’t find any. Art did, however, find a female P. californicus and gave it to me (thanks!).

Meeting Pat Sullivan!

Darkling beetles (family Tenebrionidae) such as this one come out at night to feed on decaying vegetation.

Chrysina beyeri (family Scarabaeidae) is one of three species in the genus occurring in Ramsey Canyon.

Black-tailed rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus), collected by Pat in Ramsey Canyon.

Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes lateropens), collected by Pat in Yuma County.

“Sometimes the best collecting is inside!”

Day 6 – Vicinity Sonoita, Arizona
Unsuccessful attempt to collect Hippomelas martini, only recently described (Bellamy & Nelson, 1998) and part of the type series taken somewhere near this spot (“20 mi NE Patagonia, Hwy 82”) by “sweeping roadside vegetation”. At other locations it had been recorded on Calliandra sp., and I found patches of the plant here along and on top of the road cuts. This gives me confidence that I found the right spot, but I didn’t encounter this or any other beetles by sweeping the patches or visually inspecting them.

Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
We decided to come back to Box Canyon since we’d had such good luck last time. I started at the spot above the dry falls where I collected so many Acmaeodera cazieri and A. yuccavora on flowers of Allionia incarnata. This time it was hotter, drier, and windier, and the flowers were semi-closed. Still I found a few of each. I then started walking down the road towards the lower canyon crossing where I would meet up with Art. Things were really hopping on the Mimosa dysocarpa, with Hippomelas planicauda abundant (finally collected my fill) and several other Buprestidae also beaten from the plants: Agrilus aeneocepahlus, Acmaeodera scalaris, Acmaeodera cazieri, Chrysobothris sp., and a species of Spectralia! (seven species of Buprestidae at one location I think is the high for the trip.) I checked other plants and flowers along the way down but didn’t find much.

Halfway down from the “dry falls”.

The “dry falls” about halfway up the canyon.

Pseudovates arizonae – the aptly named Arizona unicorn mantis.

Lower Madera Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Madera Canyon is perhaps the most famous insect collecting locality in Arizona – maybe in the country, and it is hard to make a visit to Arizona without stopping by here. We elected to work the lower canyon first in an area where Chrysobothris chalcophoroides has been taken on Arizona oaks (Quercus arizonicus). Hiking towards the oaks I found some Stenaspis solitaria in a Baccharis sarothroides and marveled at the variety of other insects active on the plants (see photos) – later I would also collect an elaphidiine cerambycid on the plant. Next I started working the oaks, beating every branch I could reach with my net handle. With one whack of the stick a single Paratyndaris sp. and a single Brachys sp. landed on my sheet – those would be the only buprestids I would collect off the oaks! Other than that I collected one Hippomelas planicauda on Mimosa dysocarpa for the record. While I was working the oaks up in the knoll, the weather started turning with blustery winds, and I could see the rain coming in the distance. By the time I got down from the knoll the rain had arrived, and I walked back to the car in a sunny downpour using my beating sheet as an umbrella!

Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains.

Acanthocephala thomasi on Baccharis sarothroides.

What appears to be a so-called “cricket killer” wasp (Chlorion aerarium) also feeds on sap on Baccharis sarothroides.

A longhorned beetle, probably in the genus Aneflus, rests on the foliage of Baccharis sarothroides.

Rain headed my way!

Rain passing into neighboring Florida Canyon.

Montosa Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Just to try something different, we went to Montosa Canyon – the next canyon south of Madera Canyon – for tonight’s blacklighting. We set my sheet up just E of the crossing and Arts ground units back to the west along a gravel road on the south side of the crossing. Moths came in numbers, but the beetles were light – I collected only blister beetles (Epicauta sp.) and a Cymatodera sp. checkered beetle at the sheet, a series of tiger beetles and a female Strategus cessus at the second ground unit, and a male Strategus aloeus and two Stenelaphus alienus at the third ground unit.

A gorgeous sunset to start the evening.

A deepening dusk brings the promise of insects at the lights. 

A bee assassin bug, Apiomerus flaviventris.

An ocotillo, or calleta, silkmoth – Eupackardia calleta.

One of the western riparian tiger beetles.

Day 7 (last day) – Vicinity Continental, Arizona
There was a photo posted on BugGuide of Stenaspis verticalis taken last week, so we decided to give it a shot and see if we could get lucky and find it ourselves. We checked all the Baccharis sarothroides within ½-mile if the spot but didn’t find it. I did, however, collect four Euphoria leucographa, two Chalcolepidius smaragdula, two Aneflus spp., and singletons of Stenaspis solitaria and Dendrobias mandibularis. I also took a couple of Hippomelas planicauda on Mimosa dysocarpa – just for the record!

Euphoria leucographa on Baccharis sarothroides.

Chalcolepidius smaragdinus on Baccharis sarothroides.

Lower Madera Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
We returned to work the lower canyon area. I’d heard that the tiger beetle Cicindelidia obsoleta santaclarae has been taken in the area last week so was hoping to run into it. While Art worked the east side of the road I worked the west, initially following FR-781 into what looked like grassland areas where the tiger beetle might occur. I didn’t see any but took Acmaeodera scalaris on Heterotheca sp. flowers and Acmaeodera solitaria on Argemone mexicana flowers. There was also a fresh wind-thrown mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) with a bunch of Chrysobothris octocola and one Chrysobothris rossi on it. Still the area looked abused from grazing and was uninteresting, so I looked for another area to explore.

Northwest of the parking lot I spotted another grassy area that was dotted with Baccharis sarothroides, so I decided to give that area a look. After clambering several times through barbed wire fence, I reached the area and began to give it a look. Still no tiger beetles, but every time I passed a B. sarothroides I inspected it closely. I’d looked at several plants when I came upon one with a Stenaspis solitaria sitting in the foliage, and when I looked down on one of the stems and saw a big male Tragidion sp. on the underside of the stem. After securing it, I looked closer at the plant and saw a pair of annulated antennae crawling up another stem – I knew right away it was a mating pair of Stenaspis verticalis! After carefully moving to the other side to confirm, I dared to take a few photos in situ (see below) and then secured the couple. Of course, this gave me newfound motivation to work the entire area to look for more. It was very hot by then, and I was already quite thirsty, but I summoned up all the stamina that I could and worked as many plants as I could, ending up with six Tragidion spp. and three Stenaspis verticalis. The latter was one of my top priority targets for this trips, and the only thing more satisfying than getting it is doing so on my last day on the field.

View to south edge of Madera Canyon – Elephant Head is at the right.

Chrysobothris octocola female ovipositing on freshly killed mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa).

Tragidion sp. mating pair on Baccharis sarothroides.

Mating pair of Stenaspis verticalis arizonensis on Baccharis sarothroides.

Chalcolepidius lenzi at a sap flow on Baccharis sarothroides.

Lateral view of Chalcolepidius lenzi.

Barrel cactus in bloom.

Montosa Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
We  returned to Montosa Canyon and stopped at the Astronomy Vista partway up. It was hotter than bejeebuz! There was not an insect to be seen except giant cactus bugs and a single Euphoria leucographa that Art found on a sapping Baccharis sarothroides. Temp was 103°F even at this elevation!

Stunning vista during the day! 

We needed to escape the heat, and I wanted to see oaks for one more crack at Mastogenius, so we drove up to the 13-km marker and I collected on the way back down to below the 12-km marker. Conditions were much more agreeable (temps in the 80s), and near the top there was a Ceanothus sp. bush in bloom, off which I collected Rhopalophora meeskei and Stenosphenus sp. – both genera represented by individuals with black versus red pronotum. Then I started beating the (Mexican blue, I believe) oaks, and right away I got a Mastogenius sp.! Kinda small, so I’m thinking not M. robusta and, thus, probably M. puncticollis (another species new to my collection). I also beat a largish Agrilus sp. that I don’t recognize, a few clerids, two R. meeskei, one Stenosphenus sp., and a couple of leaf beetles. There was also another type of oak there – Arizona white, I believe, which I beat as well but only got one clerid.

Spectacular views from 7000 ft!

A lichen moth on flowers of Ceanothus sp.

The biggest, fattest, bristliest tachinid fly I have ever seen!

The spectacular vistas just keep on coming!

An ancient alligator juniper stares down yet another sunset (perhaps its 50 thousandth!).

We stopped by the Astronomy Vista again on our way back down the canyon, and I found a pair of Moneilema gigas on cholla (Opuntia imbricata).

Obligatory dusk shot of Moneilema gigas on Opuntia imbricata.

Another individual on the same plant.

Sunset over “Las Cuatro Hermanas”.

It was a fantastic seven days in the field with Arthur, and it was a great pleasure to (in some cases, finally) meet Margarethe, Barbara, Steven, Norm, and Pat. I appreciate the warmth, generosity, and hospitality that all of them displayed to me and look forward to our next encounter, hopefully in the near future. Now, for some light reading during the plane ride home!

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

Sunset beetles

Acmaeodera immaculata? | vic. Vogel Canyon, Colorado.

Acmaeodera immaculata? (family Buprestidae) | vic. Vogel Canyon, Colorado.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am fond of natural sky backgrounds for insects found during the day on flowers and foliage. Not only does the sky provide a clean, uncluttered background that allows the subject to stand out, it also gives the photo a more appropriate temporal flavor—i.e., photographs of diurnal insects should look like they were taken during the day. It’s a little bit tricky setting the camera to allow flash illumination of the subject while still allowing the sky to register as well, but I find such photographs more pleasing and interesting than those with a jet-black background, typical in flash macrophotography, and far more pleasing than those with a jumble of sticks and weeds cluttered behind the subject. These days my daytime insect photos almost always incorporate a blue-sky background (examples here and here) unless: 1) I actually photographed the subject at night (examples here and here); or 2) I wish to highlight an intensely white or delicately structured subject (examples here and here).

Aulicus sp. | vic. Black Mesa, Oklahoma

Trichodes oresterus? (family Cleridae) | vic. Black Mesa, Oklahoma

But what about in between day and night—specifically, sunset? Incorporating a sunset sky into a flash-illuminated macrophotograph is even trickier than incorporating a blue midday sky because the central problem—low light levels—is magnified. Blue sky photographs challenge the fast shutter speeds and high f-stops usually needed for macrophotographs, but relatively minor adjustments to ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop are usually sufficient to allow the sky to register while still being able to maintain depth of field and minimize motion blur. At sunset, however, because there is much less illumination of the sky, more aggressive settings are often required to allow the sky to register on the camera sensor—settings that can sometimes result in too much motion blur or insufficient depth of field. These problems can be mitigated to some degree with the use of a tripod (and very cooperative subjects), but for dedicated “hand-held” enthusiasts like myself this is not an option. Why bother? Because the results can be spectacular! The setting sun often creates stunning colors not seen at other times of the day and offer a change of pace from blue skies, which, like black backgrounds, can start looking rather monotonous if used exclusively in one’s portfolio.

Linsleya convexa | vic. Vogel Canyon, Colorado

Linsleya convexa (family Meloidae) | vic. Vogel Canyon, Colorado

The photos featured in this post were taken during several sunsets on a trip earlier this past summer through Colorado and Oklahoma. I especially like the jewel beetle (Acmaeodera immaculata?) photograph—technically it has good focus and depth of field and a pleasing composition, but I really like the color coordination between the beetle, flower, and sky. The checkered beetle (Trichodes oresterus?) photograph is also very pleasing, especially the detail on the beetle, although the color of the sky is only somewhat different than a more typical daytime blue. The blister beetle (Linsleya convexa) photograph is probably the most problematic technically due to slight motion blur and being slightly off-focus at the eye—not surprising since of the three this photo had the lowest light conditions. However, the color contrast between the sky and subject make this a nevertheless striking image.

If you have experience with ambient light backgrounds in flash macrophotography, your comments on approaches you’ve taken to deal with reduced light situations will be most welcome.

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

Best of BitB 2013

Welcome to the 6th Annual “Best of BitB”, where I pick my favorite photographs from the past year. Like last year, 2013 was another year of heavy travel. For work I did my annual tour of soybean field sites throughout Argentina during late February and early March, then cranked it up for my own field season with frequent travel to sites in Illinois and Tennessee from May to October. In the meantime I spent a week at company meetings in Las Vegas in August, toured field sites across the southeastern U.S. for two weeks in September, visited Argentina again in October to finalize research plans for their upcoming season, and finished off the travel year by attending the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Meetings in Austin, Texas during November. On top of all this, I managed to slip in two of the best insect collecting trips I’ve had in years, with 10 days in northwestern Oklahoma in early June and another 10 days in California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado during late August, and I got to play “visiting scientist” during short trips to Montana State University in late July and the Illinois Natural History Survey in late October! Of course, during my brief interludes at home I wasn’t sitting still, giving entomology seminars to several local nature societies and hosting two ESA webinars on insect photography. Needless to say, come December I was more than ready to spend some quite time at home (well, except for hiking most weekends) and am happy to report that I’ve successfully become reacquainted with my family and office mates. It’s a peripatetic life—and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Okay, let’s get down to business. Here are my favorite BitB photographs from 2013. This year was less about learning new techniques as it was about refining the techniques I’ve found most useful for the style I’ve chosen as a photographer, i.e., hand-held, in situ field shots that (hopefully) excel at both natural history and aesthetic beauty. Links to original posts are provided for each photo selection, and I welcome any comments you may have regarding which (if any) is your favorite and why—such feedback will be helpful for me as I continue to hone my craft. If you’re interested, here are my previous years’ picks for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Once again, thank you for your readership, and I hope to see you in 2014!


Tremex columba, female ovipositing | Sam A. Baker State Park, Missouri

Tremex columba female drilling for oviposition into hardwood trunk | Sam A. Baker State Park, Missouri

From Ovipositing Pigeon Horntail (posted 6 Jan). I like this photo for the combination of vibrant, contrasting colors between the wasp and moss-covered wood and the visualization it provides of the remarkable depth to which this wasp will insert its ovipositor into solid wood!


Eurhinus cf. adonis on Solidago chilensis | Chaco Province, Argentina

Eurhinus cf. adonis on Solidago chilensis flowers | Chaco Province, Argentina

From Giving me the weevil eye! (posted 28 Apr). While a little soft, the color combination is pleasing and the pose taken by the beetle almost comically inquisitive.


Helicoverpa gelotopeon feeding on soybean pod | Buenos Aires Prov., Argentina

Helicoverpa gelotopeon feeding on soybean pod | Buenos Aires Prov., Argentina

From Bollworms rising! (posted 30 Mar). This is the first photo of an economic pest that has made one of my “Best of BitB” lists. The two holes in the soybean pod, one with the caterpillar and its head still completely inserted, visualizes how the feeding habits of these insects can so dramatically affect yield of the crop.


cf. Eremochrysa punctinervis | Gloss Mountains, Major Co., Oklahoma

cf. Eremochrysa punctinervis | Gloss Mountains, Major Co., Oklahoma

From “Blue-sky” tips and tricks (posted 1 July). Insects with a lot of delicate detail and long, thin appendages are especially difficult to photograph against the sky due to wind movement. See how I dealt with the antennae of this delicate lacewing without resorting to the standard black background typical of full-flash macrophotography.


Cicindela scutellaris lecontei x s. unicolor

Cicindela scutellaris lecontei x s. unicolor intergrade | Holly Ridge Natural Area, Stoddard Co., Missouri

From The Festive Tiger Beetle in Southeast Missouri (posted 25 Oct). I like this photo a lot more now than I did when I first took it. Its shadowy feel and the beetle “peering” from behind a leaf edge give a sense of this beetle’s attempts to hide and then checking to see if the “coast is clear”


Batyle suturalis on paperflower (Psilostrophe villosa) | Alabaster Caverns State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Batyle suturalis on Psilostrophe villosa flowers | Alabaster Caverns State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

From Tips for photographing shiny beetles on yellow flowers (posted 10 Aug). “Bug on a flower” photos are a dime a dozen, but shiny beetles on yellow flowers with natural sky background can be quite difficult to take. All of the techniques for dealing with the problems posed by such a photo came together nicely in this photo.


Agrilus walsinghami | Davis Creek Regional Park, Washoe Co., Nevada

Agrilus walsinghami | Davis Creek Regional Park, Washoe Co., Nevada

From Sunset for another great collecting trip (posted 1 Sep). This photo is not without its problems, with a little blurring of the backlit fuzz on the plant, but the placement of the sun behind the subject’s head and resulting color combination make it my favorite in my first attempts at achieving a “sun-in-the-sky” background with a true insect macrophotograph.


A tiny male mates with the ginormous female.

Pyrota bilineata on Chrysothamnus viscidflorus | San Juan Co., Utah

From Midget male meloid mates with mega mama (posted 8 Nov). Another blue-sky-background photograph with good color contrast, its real selling point is the natural history depicted. with some of the most extreme size dimorphism among mating insects that I’ve ever seen.


Phymata sp.

Phymata sp. on Croton eleagnifolium foliage | Austin, Texas

From ESA Insect Macrophotography Workshop (posted 13 Nov). The oddly sculpted and chiseled body parts of ambush bugs makes them look like they were assembled from robots. Contrasting the body against a blue sky gives a more unconventional view of these odd beasts than the typical top-down-while-sitting-on-a-flower view.


Fourth attempt - holding detached pad up against sky for cleaner background.

Moneilema armata on Opuntia phaecantha | Alabaster Caverns State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

From Q: How do you photograph cactus beetles? (posted 24 Nov). Photographing cactus beetles requires patience, persistence, long forceps, and strong forearms. Natural sky provides a much more pleasing background than a clutter of cactus pads and jutting spines.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this 2013 version of “Best of BitB” and look forward to seeing everyone in 2014.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Pedantic Sunday: Blister beetles don’t suck

Nemognatha cribraria cribraria on flower head Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus | Millard Co., Utah

Nemognatha cribraria cribraria on flowers of Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus | Millard Co., Utah

The beetle featured in today’s photo is the blister beetle (family Meloidae), Nemognatha cribraria cribraria. The genus Nemognatha and its relatives in the subfamily Nemognathinae are distinctive due to the greatly elongated adult mouthparts that are modified for feeding on flowers. Specifically, parts of the maxillae, or second pair of mouthparts (behind the mandibles) are elongated to allow access to nectar in flowers with deep corollas, while the fairly standard-issue chewing mandibles are used for feeding on pollen. As pointed out by Enns (1956) in his revision of the North American members of the genus, the length of the maxillae seems to be related to the particular kind of flower preferred for feeding by the various nemognathine species, with species exhibiting longer maxillae adapted to feeding on flowers with deeper corollas. In the photo above, the elongated maxillae can be seen tucked underneath the adult and appear to be nearly half the length of the body—other species in the genus have the maxillae as long as the body, or in the case of a Mexican species (N. chrysomeloides) even longer than the body (Enns 1956).

The proboscis-like mouthparts of nemognathine blister beetles are often depicted in entomological texts as an amazing example of sucking mouthparts in Coleoptera, the vast majority of which possess strictly chewing mouthparts. Borrer et al. 1976, White 1983, Downie & Arnett 1996, and Pinto & Bologna 2002 all mention that the mouthparts are modified into an elongated proboscis for “sucking” nectar, and it has been suggested that nectar uptake occurs through a median food canal, formed by concavities on the inner surfaces when the two structures are locked together into a functional unit. However, Wilhemi & Krenn (2012) used scanning electron microscopy and micro computerized tomography to study the elongated mouthparts of three meloid genera: Nemognatha and Gnathium and Leptopalpus. They demonstrated that neither the elongated galeae of Nemognatha and Gnathium nor the elongated maxillary palpi of Leptopalpus formed a median food canal through which nectar is sucked. Furthermore, the filiform galeae of Nemognatha and Gnathium are densely covered with long bristles, suggesting that nectar uptake in these two genera is accomplished by capillary action along the bristles of the proboscis. In all three genera nectar transport is likely aided by musculature around the mouth.

REFERENCES:

Borrer, D. J., D. M. DeLong & C. A. Triplehorn. 1976. An Introduction to the Study of Insects, Fourth Edition. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, xii + 852 pp.

Downie, N. M. & R. H. Arnett, Jr. (Eds.). 1996. The Beetles of Northeastern North America. Volume II: Polyphaga: Series Bostrichiformia through Curculionoidea. The Sandhill Crane Press, Gainesville, Florida, x + 891–1721.

Enns, W. R. 1956. A revision of the genera Nemognatha, Zonitis, and Pseudozonitis (Coleoptera, Meloidae) in America north of Mexico, with a proposed new genus. The University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37, part 2(17):685–909 [Biodiversity Heritage Library].

Pinto, J. D. & M. A. Bologna. 2002. Chapter 111. Meloidae Gyllenhal 1810, pp. 522–529. In: R. H. Arnett, Jr., et al. (Eds.). American Beetles, Volume 2. CRC Press, Gainesville, xiv + 861 pp.

White, R. E. 1983. A Field Guide to the Beetles of North America. The Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, xii + 368 pp.

Wilhelmi, A. P. & H. W. Krenn. 2012. Elongated mouthparts of nectar-feeding Meloidae (Coleoptera). Zoomorphology [abstract].

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Midget male meloid mates with mega mama

Pyrota bilineata on flowers of Chrysothamnus viscidflorus | San Juan Co., Utah

Pyrota bilineata on flowers of Chrysothamnus viscidflorus | San Juan Co., Utah

While looking for longhorned beetles in the genus Crossidius on flowers of yellow rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus) in southern Utah, I encountered one particular plant with numerous blister beetles (family Meloidae) on its blossoms. The orange color, two black pronotal spots, and distinctive black and white longitudinal elytral stripes leave no doubt as to its identity—Pyrota bilineata, but for good measure I sent a photo to my field mate for the trip, Jeff Huether, who confirmed its identity. I had seen singletons of this species at a few previous localities during the trip, so I was intrigued by the large numbers of individuals congregated on this single plant. As I looked at them, I saw one individual that appeared to have something stuck to the tip of its abdomen. I peered closer to get a better look and, to my surprise, discovered that it was actually a male in the act of mating. The male was tiny, only one-third the size of the female, representing about as extreme a size difference in mating insects as I’ve ever seen.

Pyrota bilineata on flowers of Chrysothamnus viscidflorus | San Juan Co., Utah

A tiny male mates with the ginormous female.

Many species of blister beetles exhibit tremendous size variability, and a unique aspect of some species’ mating behavior is the cantharidin-packed spermatophore produced by males and transferred to females during mating. (Cantharidin is a toxic defensive compound that serves as a very effective deterrent to predation.) The spermatophores are energetically “expensive” to produce and are transferred to females during relatively short-lived mating aggregations. Mating in some species may take up to 24–48 hours, thus reducing the opportunities for multiple matings, and as a result males of long-mated species end up investing rather heavily in a limited number of females compared to males that mate more often. These features lead to size assortative mating (Alcock & Hanley 1987), with males showing a preference for larger females (that are presumably more fecund) and females preferring larger males to maximize the amount of cantharidin that they receive or to ensure receipt of a spermatophore large enough to fertilize their full complement of eggs. Medium-sized individuals, likewise, would choose the largest of the remaining individuals, leaving the smallest individuals to mate among themselves. Alcock & Hanley (1987) also note, however, that not all species of blister beetles exhibit size assortative mating, even though they form large mating aggregations and individuals vary greatly in size. I have not seen any reference to size assortative mating in Pyrota bilineata; however, this example seems to suggest that the behavior is not practiced by this species. This could be due to shorter mating times (leading to more opportunities for mating) or a range of variation in body size that is not sufficient to consistently favor the behavior.

REFERENCE:

Alcock, J. & N. F. Hadley. 1987. Assortative Mating by Size: A Comparison of Two Meloid Beetles (Coleoptera: Meloidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 60(1):41–50 [preview].

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

9th Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip: Day 3.2

My plan to retrieve beetle-infested wood in Oklahoma’s Glass Mountains has morphed from a quick stop to an all-morning affair, and by the time I loaded up the bundles it was well past noon. Fortunately, my next planned stop—Alabaster Caverns State Park—was only about a 90-minute drive, meaning I would still have plenty of time to give the area a good look. Unlike the Glass Mountains, with its gypsum-capped, flat-topped mesas rising above the surrounding landscape, Alabaster Caverns is level ground fissured by deep, rugged canyons that have eroded through the gypsum cap into the soft, underlying red clay. Nevertheless, both sites are part of the same Gypsum/Red Hills geological formation, so their associated flora and entomofauna are also similar. It was during my original visit to Alabaster Caverns back in 2009 that I found robust populations of Cylindera celeripes (Swift Tiger Beetle), and in October of the following year I discovered its previously unknown larva. My originally intent in coming here this time was to look for Cicindela pulchra (Beautiful Tiger Beetle), but since I had failed to find this species in the Glass Mountains I had little optimism that I would find it here as well. Still, it’s a beautiful park and I was anxious to see some of the canyon areas that I had not explored on previous visits, after which my trip would take a turn to the south.

Alabaster Caverns State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

As I expected, no amount of searching on the flats above showed any evidence of C. pulchra, and I saw pretty much the same assortment of beetles visiting the yellow-flowered Heterotheca stenophylla (stiffleaf false goldenaster) and Gutierezzia sarothrae (broom snakeweed) blooming in profusion that I had seen on Day 2 at Gloss Mountains State Park. Since I had neglected to photograph the gray blister beetle (family Meloidae, genus Epicauta) that I was seeing so commonly the day before, I decided I should go ahead and take advantage of the opportunity while I had it. As I mentioned in my Day 2 post, these beetles were seen almost exclusively on Gutierezzia, and shown below are two of the better photos that I ended up with.

Epicauta sp. | Alabaster Caverns State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Mouthparts at 3X—love that pollen!

Another species that I saw very commonly were tiny little beetles feeding exclusively on the Heterotheca flowers. Measuring less than 5mm in length, a majority of flowers had at least one of these small gray beetles, and sometimes as many as four or five. Just based on appearance I suspected they represented something in or related to the soft-winged flower beetles (family Melyridae), and in fact they are a dead ringer for the species Listrus senilis(compare to these photos of the MCZ type specimen). This species seems to occur abundantly throughout the Great Plains (Mawdsley 1999) as far south as Texas (BugGuide). The small size of these beetles made them much more difficult to photograph, so my ‘keeper’ rate was lower than for the Epicauta beetle, but a few turned out okay:

Listrus senilis on Heterotheca stenophylla | Alabaster Caverns State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Listrus senilis at 5X—another pollen lover!

The most significant find of the day, however, was also the most unexpected—I saw numerous individuals of an Acmaeodera jewel beetle feeding on the Heterotheca flowers. Why is this so unexpected? Because throughout most of North America members of the genus Acmaeodera are almost exclusively active as adults during spring and early summer. Those occurring in southeastern Arizona are found more during July and August, a result of the summer monsoon season, but truly fall-active species are limited to a few occurring in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. When I saw the first one I presumed it was a late season straggler, but then I saw another, and another. It was clear by their numbers that now is their activity period. I do not know what species they represent, but I took numerous photos and will post them once I have made an identification. It remains to be seen whether this is an unusual habit for a known species (more likely) or a previously unknown species (less likely, though new species of Acmaoeodera continue to be discovered routinely in the U.S.)—stay tuned!

REFERENCE:

Mawdsley, J. R. 1999. Redescription and notes on the biology of Amecocerus senilis (LeConte) (Coleoptera: Melyridae: Dasytinae). Journal of the New York Entomological Society 107(1):68-72.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

9th Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip: Day 2

I didn’t mind my late start to the 9th Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip—my first stop on Day 1 was only ~30 miles south of St. Louis, so I would get in a good chunk of collecting on the day even though I didn’t leave the house until after noon. I didn’t find the longhorned beetle, Ataxia hubbardi, that I was looking for (and haven’t seen now for more than 23 years), but I did manage to see good numbers of the always impressive jewel beetle, Dicerca pugionata, and a very large, impressive male tarantula (walking on water!). After that, however, the trip would make a very early diversion from its original itinerary. The light drizzle that pestered me all day at Victoria Glades steadily turned to rain as I traveled south towards northern Arkansas, and checking the weather forecast further reduced my optimism as rain was predicted for the next two days. The tiger beetles that I so enjoy are creatures of the sun, and rather than spend the next two days being chased around the Ozark Highlands looking for dry ground, I made a snap call and bolted straight for northwestern Oklahoma, where I had planned to go after two days in northern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri (collecting populations of the disjunct Prairie Tiger Beetle, Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina, for molecular analysis by a collaborator). It was hard driving—five hours on dark, rainy roads to get to Springfield for the night, and another six hours to get to my first destination; Gloss Mountains State Park. I have been here several times over the past few years, discovering resident populations of three very interesting tiger beetles: Cylindera celeripes (Swift Tiger Beetle), Dromochorus pruinina (Frosted Dromo Tiger Beetle), and Amblychelia cylindricollis (Great Plains Giant Tiger Beetle). I did not expect to see any of these species on this trip, as they are all summer species (although I did hold out hope that I might find a few stragglers, especially of the last one). Instead, I was playing a hunch that Cicindela pulchra (Beautiful Tiger Beetle) might be found here because of the similarity of the Red Hills habitat to that just north in south-central Kansas where the species famously occurs (MacRae 2006).

Gloss Mountains State Park, Major Co., Oklahoma

It was worth the drive, as driving west got me out of rain and once past Enid, OK the cloud cover began to break up. By the time of my early afternoon arrival at Gloss Mountains State Park, skies were blue and temps were in the low 70s. Unfortunately, despite these perfect conditions my hunch that C. pulchra might occur here did not prove to be true. Nevertheless, it was a fruitful day as I collected two larvae each of all three of the above tiger beetle species (including 2nd instars of the presently undescribed C. celeripes and 3rd instars of the frightfully enormous A. cylindriformis—what an impressive creature!), photographed several beetles on yellow asteraceous flowers—two of which I show below, saw another male tarantula, and found an adult female of the truly impressive lubber grasshopper, Brachystola magna, that will become my daughters’ newest pet and has already been named ‘Bertha’ by them. My wanderings through the prairie at night with a lamp on my head did not produce any A. cylindricollis adults, but the views of the Milky Way in the dark, cloudless sky above amidst the overwhelming silence of a vast prairie cloaked in darkness were nothing short of spectacular.

Caps of gypsum over soft red clay have resulted in a landscape of flat-topped mesas.

Here are two of the beetles that I photographed on the day. This first one is a soldier beetle (family Cantharidae) that is a dead ringer for Chauliognathus limbicollis. I couldn’t find any indication that this species is known from Oklahoma—all of the BugGuide photos of this species were taken in Arizona, while the admittedly outdated key to species in the tribe Chauliognathini (Fender 1964) gives only more western states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas) in its distribution. Still, I saw the species not uncommonly as it fed on yellow asteraceous flowers.

Chauliognathus limbicollis on yellow asteraceous flower | Glass Mountains, Oklahoma

Another beetle that I photographed on flowers of Heterotheca subaxillaris (stiffleaf false goldenaster) was this small blister beetle (family Meloidae) that seems to be a member of the great genus Epicauta. I won’t even attempt a species ID due to the size and difficult taxonomy of this genus; however, this was the only example of this species that I saw amidst abundant individuals of another solid gray species that seemed to prefer the flowers of Gutierezzia sarothrae (broom snakeweed) over H. subaxillaris.

Epicauta sp. on Heterotheca subaxillaris flower | Glass Mountains, Oklahoma

During the day, I found some trees infested with jewel beetle larvae (presumably in the genus Chrysobothris), so I will return in the morning of Day 3 to harvest the wood and bring it back to put up in rearing containers in an attempt to rear out the adults. Afterwards, I will be off to my next destination—Alabaster Caverns State Park.

REFERENCES:

Fender, K. M. 1964. Tbe Chauliognathini of America North of Mexico (Coleoptera—Cantharidae), Part 2. Northwest Science 38(3):95–106.

MacRae, T. C. 2006. Beetle bits: The “beautiful tiger beetle”. Nature Notes, Journal of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society 78(4):9–12.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Lytta vulnerata cooperi

Lytta vulnerata cooperi | Idaho Falls, Idaho

I had other quarry on my mind when I visited Idaho a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn’t help but pay attention to this blister beetle (family Meloidae) feeding on rabbit brush flowers for the following two reasons: 1) its spectacular and boldly contrasting black and orange coloration, and 2) my collecting partner, Jeff Huether, is an expert on North American Meloidae. My identification of this individual as Lytta vulnerata is based strictly on one line of evidence: Jeff said that’s what it is!  My further identification as the subspecies L. vulnerata cooperi is more tenuous, being based on the distinctly sculptured elytra, immaculate pronotum, and more northerly location (nominotypical individuals, at least from what I can tell looking at photos assigned to the two subspecies, have the elytra indistinctly sculptured, generally exhibit a median line or vitta on the pronotum, and occur further south).

Note distinct elytral sculpturing and immaculate pronotum

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011