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

Beetles by Chuck

A few months before his passing last August, Chuck Bellamy asked me if I was would like to have his photographic slide collection. I was, of course, deeply honored by this request, for in addition to becoming one of the most prolific students ever of jewel beetles, Chuck had for years photographed live adult beetles in the field and major type specimen holdings such as those at The Natural History Museum in London and the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris. As uncomfortable as it was discussing with him matters related to his impending mortality, I also knew that it was important to him that his slides end up in the hands of someone who would appreciate their great scientific value and, hopefully, make them available to the larger community of jewel beetle enthusiasts. A few weeks after he passed, three large, white, cardboard boxes showed up at my office—each one containing six or seven portfolio box binders with several hundred slides.

Chuck will be honored in an upcoming issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin. In addition to personal remembrances and a suite of papers describing new species of beetles named after him, the issue will feature some of Chuck’s best live adult images scanned from slides in the collection that I received. Choosing the photos was not easy, but I eventually narrowed down to 15 that I thought best represented the taxonomic diversity of jewel beetles, ranked them from most to least favorite, sent scanned images to fellow buprestophile Rick Westcott for him to do likewise, and tallied the combined rankings to determine the final selections. Six of the photos will appear on a plate within the issue, and a seventh will appear on the cover. I won’t spoil the surprise here by revealing what species were selected. Rather, I’ll just whet appetites by posting the photos that were not selected (despite which I think you’ll agree that they are still good photos).

Julodis chevrolati Laporte | Sep 2000, W. Springbok, Schaaprivier, Northern Cape Prov., RSA.

Julodis chevrolati Laporte | Sep 2000, W. Springbok, Schaaprivier, Northern Cape Prov., RSA.

Acmaeodera (s. str.) griffithi Fall | Apr 2001, Mohawk Valley, Yuma Co., Arizona, USA.

Acmaeodera (s. str.) griffithi Fall | Apr 2001, Mohawk Valley, Yuma Co., Arizona, USA.

Polycesta (Arizonica) aruensis Obenberger | Apr 2001, Frink Springs, Imperial Co., California, USA.

Polycesta (Arizonica) aruensis Obenberger | Apr 2001, Frink Springs, Imperial Co., California, USA.

Evides pubiventris  (Laporte & Gory) | Jan 1999, Geelhoutbosch, Northern [Limpopo] Prov., RSA.

Evides pubiventris (Laporte & Gory) | Jan 1999, Geelhoutbosch, Northern [Limpopo] Prov., RSA.

Castiarina klugii (Gory & Laporte) | Australia.

Castiarina klugii (Gory & Laporte) | Australia.

Temognatha chalcodera (Thomson) | Western Australia.

Temognatha chalcodera (Thomson) | Western Australia.

Sphaerobothris (s. str.) platti (Cazier) | 1998,  E. Jacumba, San Diego Co., California, USA.

Sphaerobothris (s. str.) platti (Cazier) | 1998, E. Jacumba, San Diego Co., California, USA.

Dystaxia elegans Fall | 1998, Warner Springs, San Diego Co., California, USA.

Dystaxia elegans Fall | 1998, Warner Springs, San Diego Co., California, USA.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014, photos by Charles L. Bellamy

Arizona collectors: Have you seen this beetle?

Placoschema dimorpha (male) | lower Madera Canyon, Arizona

Placoschema dimorpha (male) | lower Madera Canyon, Arizona

If you are a collector of beetles in Arizona, you should be on the lookout for longhorned beetles (family Cerambycidae) resembling the specimen in the above photos. Determined as Placoschema dimorpha Chemsak & Hovore, in Eya 2010 by Jeff Huether, the specimen was collected by Jeff’s son Mark Huether on 15 July 2013 as they roadside collected longhorned beetles and scarabs in lower Madera Canyon (Pima Co.). They were searching mainly on Baccharis, although there were very few flowers open at the time. It is not known what plant the specimen was collected from, but Jeff notes that it was collected around 2 pm in the heat of the day.

Placoschema dimorpha was described from just a handful of specimens (3 males and 4 females), all in Mexico, and is the only member of the genus. As a result, the above collection represents the first record of both the genus and the species in the U.S. New U.S. records for popularly collected groups like longhorned beetles are always noteworthy, and in this case its occurrence in southeast Arizona—well scrutinized for decades by legions of beetle collectors—is all the more remarkable. Perhaps its tiny size (the above specimen measures only ~10 mm) and somber coloration—unusual for the tribe Trachyderini with its mostly large and colorful members—have somehow contributed to it being overlooked until now. Others might be quick to cite climate change and recent expansion of its range northward into the U.S. as a possible explanation; however, it should be noted that the type specimens, despite being few in number, were collected from a rather large area across central and northern Mexico in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Hidalgo, and Mexico.

While this specimen agrees very well with the original description of P. dimorpha, it does differ from the male paratype figured in that work in that the lateral margins of the elytra are red only in the basal half rather than completely to the apex. As the species name implies, females are colored differently, with the elytra entirely reddish or at most a darker fascia (may be incomplete) across the apical three-fourths.

My sincere thanks to Jeffrey Huether for allowing me to photograph this specimen and present these notes in advance of more formal documentation in peer-reviewed literature.


Eya, B. K. 2010. New Mexican and Central American genera and species of Trachyderini (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae, Cerambycinae). Les cahiers Magellanes 108:1–21.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Sometimes the best collecting…

Anambodera sp. (prob. undescribed) | Nothing, Arizona

As a practicing (albeit non-professional) taxonomist, I spend a goodly amount of time examining specimens collected not only by me, but by others as well. I’ve mentioned before the benefits of doing this—both to the collector, who gets names for the specimens in their collection, and to my own research in being able to cast a broader net in my search for new distributions and host associations within my two primary focus groups—Buprestidae and Cerambycidae. Such information remains surprisingly incomplete for these two popularly collected groups of beetles, and every few years I assemble whatever records that I’ve accumulated to that point for publication in the form of a “notes” paper (e.g., Nelson and MacRae 1990, Nelson et al. 1996, MacRae and Nelson 2003, MacRae 2006, MacRae and Rice 2007). Occasionally I encounter species that I have not yet collected myself (although with ~70% of Nearctic species now represented in my collection, this is becoming more and more infrequent), and in most such cases the collector graciously allows me to keep an example or two (leading to the saying, “Sometimes the best collecting is in other people’s collections!” ☺). The ultimate find, however, is a specimen or series of specimens that represent an undescribed species. Yes, even amongst North America Buprestidae and Cerambycidae there are many species still awaiting discovery (imagine the situation with other families of beetles, many receiving far less attention than these two popular groups).

The beetle shown here, a member of the genus Anambodera, represents one such species. This individual is part of a small series collected in Nothing, Arizona this past summer by Paul Kaufman, an indefatigable amateur beetle collector who has routinely over the years provided fodder for my research in the way of new state records and, more recently, new larval host records through rearing. While the key characters that separate Anambodera from the closely related and exorbitantly speciose genus Acmaeodera (front margin of epistoma not reflexed or plate-like, front angles of pronotum rounded in side view, suture between 1st and 2nd abdominal sterna visible, etc.—see Barr 1972), the coarse elytral punctation and heavily sculptured and bronzed pronotal surface are classic gestalt for Anambodera and unlike any of the small, vittate species of Acmaeodera that they resemble. This specimen keys to A. gemina, but it clearly differs from that species in a number of characters. Anambodera is restricted to western North America, and species tend to be poorly represented in collections due to their more cryptic habits (unlike Acmaeodera, most tend not to visit flowers, but are instead found alighting on rock surfaces or bare soil). As a result, the genus is still incompletely known and in bad need of revision. Dennis Haines and George Walters are working on such a revision and have already found several undescribed species among material collected in Arizona—I’m sure they will be pleased to include these specimens in their study as well.

My sincere thanks to Paul Kaufman for faithfully sending to me for examination his “catch” at the end of each season and allowing me to publish information gleaned from the included specimens. Keep it up, Paul!


Barr, W. F. 1972. New genera and species of North American Buprestidae. Occasional Papers of the Biological Society of Nevada 39:1–13.

MacRae, T. C. 2006. Distributional and biological notes on North American Buprestidae (Coleoptera), with comments on variation in Anthaxia (Haplanthaxia) viridicornis (Say) and A. (H.) viridfrons Gory. The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 82(2):166–199.

MacRae, T. C., and G. H. Nelson. 2003. Distributional and biological notes on Buprestidae (Coleoptera) in North and Central America and the West Indies, with validation of one species. The Coleopterists Bulletin 57(1):57–70.

MacRae, T. C. and M. E. Rice. 2007. Distributional and biological observations on North American Cerambycidae (Coleoptera). The Coleopterists Bulletin 61(2):227–263.

Nelson, G. H., and T. C. MacRae. 1990. Additional notes on the biology and distribution of Buprestidae (Coleoptera) in North America, III. The Coleopterists Bulletin44(3):349–354.

Nelson, G. H., R. L. Westcott and T. C. MacRae. 1996. Miscellaneous notes on Buprestidae and Schizopodidae occurring in the United States and Canada, including descriptions of previously unknown sexes of six Agrilus Curtis (Coleoptera). The Coleopterists Bulletin 50(2):183–191.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Call for paratypes!

Acmaeodera n. sp. (Santa Cruz Co., Arizona)

Earlier this year, I featured this small jewel beetle in the genus Acmaeodera (family Buprestidae).  It was collected a few years ago in southeastern Arizona by my hymenopterist friend Mike Arduser, who over the years has given me a great variety of buprestid and cerambycid beetles that he has encountered on flowers while collecting representatives of his chosen specialty – apoid bees (bee specialists are often great collectors of flower visiting insects across many taxa!).  This particular specimen is perhaps the most exciting of all of those, as it appears to represent an undescribed species.  Unfortunately, it is the only specimen known, and describing new species based on a single specimen in a genus such as Acmaeodera – diverse, variable, and with ill-defined species limits – is not advisable.  I have enlisted the help of a few insect collectors to try to find more specimens of this species to allow proper description; however, so far no additional specimens have turned up.  The summer monsoons have begun this season in southeast Arizona, thus the next few weeks will once again provide the opportunity to encounter this beetle.  I am hoping that this post, with precise locality data, information on the circumstances of its collection, and photographs of the beetle and its habitat, will prompt any entomologists reading this to scour the mountains of Arizona during the next month (or the accumulation of undetermined material in their collections) in the hopes of encountering additional specimens to allow formal description of this species.

Label data for the specimen are as follows: “ARIZONA Santa Cruz Co. | Atacosa Mountains | along Ruby Road [E of #100 Trailhead], 6,000 ft. | August 2, 2003 10-1200 [hrs] | Aloysia flwrs – Arduser”.  The first person to search for additional specimens was my friend Paul Kaufman, who searched for the beetle in August 2007.  Here is what he had to say afterwards:

Well, we found the site based on the GPS readings you gave me.  We could not find any of the Aloysia in that location, but there were some other leguminous plants with white flowers a-buzz with bees.  No beetles however.  The area has had a fire burn through it in fairly recent history – several years maybe?  It’s hard to tell, but that could have changed things a bit.  Anyway, we drove west on Ruby Rd a few tenths of a mile and did find a drainage full of Aloysia!  This was the only location along Ruby Rd where we found any growing.  Three of us checked it very carefully uphill and downhill from the road (rough scrambling).  There were lots of bees, flies and leps, but no beetles!

The following year, North American Acmaeodera guru Rick Westcott himself went to search for this species – also without success.  He wrote:

If you remain in touch with the collector of the latter, please ask him if he got it up on the pinyon-juniper zone, or were there just oaks and junipers?  If he was at 6000′, I am quite certain there had to be pinyon.  The trail (#100) starts on the Ruby Road at 4700′ and goes to the lookout that is at 6200′.  I decided not to go to the latter, but I was close.  I did not see any flowers that were suitable for Acmaeodera, let alone did I see an Aloysia bush.  Much of the area had been burnt, though some years ago.

I sent this information to Mike Arduser, who replied as follows:

It appears now that I  must have  misinterpreted the elevation on my topo map and carried that error onto the label, because though I walked up almost to the lookout I did not do any collecting up that high. My collecting (hand net and malaise traps) was done adjacent to Ruby Rd., then upslope approximately 100 meters or so, all of it east of the #100 trailhead (which is where I parked). The only woody plants in the immediate vicinity I noted were Aloysia (in narrow rocky drainages) and a legume (forget the genus at the moment). However, I think there were a few oaks scattered around (I believe there was one where I parked). There was no evidence of fire at the time I was there.

Mike also sent me the photo shown here taken near the collection site (if nothing else, the spectacular scenery makes a visit to this place seem like a good idea), noting:

Attached is a photo from the Atacosa Mtns. Area where the new buprestid was found – the photo was taken about 100ft. elev.  above the collection site and about a ¼ mile to the west.

I’ve included a Google Map at left that shows the location of the Atascosa Lookout (#100) Trailhead.  It’s not the best overhead photo, but it does give an idea of the landscape relief and rather precisely pinpoints its location via GPS coordinates in the lower lefthand corner.  If the beetle truly does occur at lower elevations (~4,700′), then it is probably not terribly specific about this particular locality.  Perhaps it is a Mexican species that only occasionally makes it into the U.S. depending on the season. The repeated comments about apparent fire in the area by Paul and Rick suggest potential vegetational differences in the area from the time the beetle was collected compared to their subsequent visits. Although the single specimen was collected on Aloysia flowers, it is also possible that the species does not actually show a particular preference for this plant – although it does seem likely that it visits flowers of some type.  The only way to answer these questions is by finding more specimens!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend

Acmaeodera carlota in northern Arizona

Acmaeodera carlota Fall – Coconino Co., Arizona

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

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend


A Tiger Beetle Aggregation

Not long ago, I received an interesting series of photographs from Joe Warfel, a nature photographer and macro specialist based in Massachussetts.  Joe traveled to Arizona last July, where he photographed an aggregation of Cicindela (Cicindelidia) sedecimpuntata (Western Red-bellied Tiger Beetle¹) near a small pool in the bottom of a dry creek bed at night.  Joe estimates that there may have been as many as 200 to 300 beetles per square meter in the aggregation, most of which were just “hanging out” and with only occasional individuals mating or feeding on moths that had been attracted to his headlamps.

¹ Found in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of the southwestern U.S. and south through Mexico to Costa Rica. U.S. and northern Mexican populations are assigned to the nominate subspecies, while more southern populations are classified into four additional subspecies (Erwin and Pearson 2008).

Western Red-bellied Tiger Beetles are among the first tiger beetles to appear prior to the summer monsoons in the Sonoran Desert.  The species is famous for its daytime aggregations of as many as several thousand individuals, which congregate along the drying waterways and prey upon stranded tadpoles and other aquatic organisms (Pearson et al. 2006).  Joe noted that he has seen these aggregations many times before during the daytime at small pools and mudflats, with beetles usually mating and feeding frantically.  However, the aggregation shown in these photographs differs from those daytime aggregations by the relative inactivity of the beetles and the fact that they were congregated on dry ground rather than the moist areas that they frequent during the daytime.  In these respects, it seems to more resemble a communal nocturnal roost such as has been reported for several species of Odontocheila in South America.  In those cases, up to 70 beetles have been found resting on the foliage of low shrubs, apparently as an adaptation to avoid predation by multiplying chemical defense effectiveness as well as awareness of approaching enemies (Pearson and Vogler 2001 and references therein).  Cicindela sedecimpunctata is primarily a diurnal species (i.e., it is active during the daytime), though individuals are often attracted to lights at night, and adults of most diurnal species have been reported spending the night protected in burrows or under detritus and vegetation.  I am not aware of communal nocturnal roosts as a reported behavior for C. sedecimpunctata or any other North American tiger beetle species.

It is a bit ironic to think of tiger beetles – voracious predators that they are – as prey, but they must have many of their own predators to deal with since most species employ multiple antipredator mechanisms. In addition to the communal roosting behavior seen in these photos, a second antipredator characteristic exhibited by this species can be seen in their bright orange abdomen.  The abdomen is fully exposed only during flight, seemingly implying a “flash coloration” function for the bright color that disappears upon landing, momentarily confusing potential predators.  However, Pearson (1985) experimentally determined that orange abdomens in tiger beetles actually have an aposematic function in protecting them from predation against robber flies.  Most tiger beetle species with an orange abdomen also release a combination of benzaldehyde and cyanide² when captured (any tiger beetle collector is familiar with the characteristic “fruity” smell of a tiger beetle releasing benzaldehyde).  Pearson painted the abdomen of paper tiger beetles models either orange or black and endowed them with or without a drop of fresh benzaldehyde.  When presented on a tether to robber flies in the field, orange-abdomened models with benzaldehyde triggered significantly fewer attacks from robber flies than any other combination.  Interestingly however, vertebrate predators (lizards and birds) were not deterred by the defense chemicals or by the orange abdomen, perhaps explaining why only some and not all tiger beetle species produce defense chemicals and have bright orange abdomens (Pearson and Vogler 2001).

² Tiger beetles, thus, join millipedes as being among the few invertebrates that are capable of producing cyanide.

My sincere thanks to Joe Warfel for allowing me to use his photographs. More of his work can be seen at Eighth-Eye Photography.  Joe also recently had several images published in American Scientist magazine (November/December 2009 issue) for an article on harvestmen.  Check out the jaws on that juvenile!


Erwin, T. L. and D. L. Pearson. 2008. A Treatise on the Western Hemisphere Caraboidea (Coleoptera). Their classification, distributions, and ways of life. Volume II (Carabidae–Nebriiformes 2–Cicindelitae). Pensoft Series Faunistica 84. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, 400 pp.

Pearson, D. L.  1985.  The function of multiple anti-predator mechanisms in adult tiger beetles (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae).  Ecological Entomology 10:65–72.

Pearson, D. L., C. B. Knisley and C. J. Kazilek. 2006. A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada. Oxford University Press, New York, 227 pp.

Pearson, D. L. and A. P. Vogler.  2001. Tiger Beetles: The Evolution, Ecology, and Diversity of the Cicindelids.  Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 333 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend


Warning: post contains hardcore, taxonomic, sciencey geekiness!

Just as there is seasonality in the lives of insects, there is seasonality in the work of those who study them.  For the collector/taxonomist, everything revolves around the collecting season — time spent on anything else is time not available for collecting. As a result, I spend a good deal of my time during the summer in the field and on its associated planning and organizing activities, leaving the winter months for processing and identifying collected specimens, incorporating them into the permanent collection, generating reports to fulfill permit requirements, and ultimately preparing manuscripts for publication — the raison d’être.  Winter is also the time when I identify specimens sent to me by other collectors.  I do this not only because I’m such a nice guy (at least I hope I am), but also because such material often contains species I haven’t seen before or that represent new distributions and host plant associations that I can use to augment the results of my own studies.  Such work has occupied much of my time during the past several weeks, and I now find myself close to finishing the last of the nearly dozen batches of beetles sent to me since the end of last winter.

Of the three groups of beetles that I actively study — jewel beetles, longhorned beetles, and tiger beetles — it is the jewel beetles that are taxonomically the most challenging.  Tiger beetles can often be indentified in the field (especially with the publication of Pearson et al. (2006), or “the Bible” among cicindelophiles), and North American longhorned beetles have been reasonably well worked by a strong contingent of both professional and amateur taxonomists over the past several decades.  Jewel beetles on the other hand, despite their dazzling colors and popularity with collectors, continue to befuddle even the most dedicated collectors due to their extreme variability and poorly-defined species limits.  Of the 822 species and subspecies known from North America, fully three-fifths of them belong to one of just three hyperdiverse genera — Acmaeodera, Agrilus, and Chrysobothris.  No recent taxonomic treatments are available for any of these genera, thus, identifying species belonging to them requires access to primary literature, a well-represented and authoritatively-identified reference collection, and extraordinary patience!  This is particularly true of the genus Acmaeodera, the North American members of which were last treated collectively more than a century ago (Fall 1899) (at which time less than half of the current 149 species/subspecies were known to science).  The recent explosion of web-based images has helped matters (a particularly useful site for those interested in North American Acmaeodera is Acmaeoderini Orbis, with its galleries of Harvard type specimens and BugGuide photos); however, images are still lacking for many species, and others are not easily distinguished from the images that do exist.

Acmaeodera robigo Knull (Val Verde Co., Texas)

It is precisely this taxonomic challenge, however, that makes the group so interesting to me.  Opportunities for discovery abound, as basic information is incomplete or totally lacking for many species regarding their geographical ranges and life histories.  One of the species I encountered in a batch of material sent to me by cerambycid-specialist Jeff Huether contained three specimens that I eventually determined to represent Acmaeodera robigo.  Josef Knull (1954) first described this species from specimens collected at Lake Corpus Christi in south Texas, and nothing more was recorded about the species until Nelson et al. (1996) reported a single specimen cut from its pupal cell in the base of Dalea formosa (Fabaceae) at White River Lake in far northern Texas — a range extension of almost 500 miles!  Obviously, I didn’t have this species in my collection, and it was only after a series of eliminations that led me to the original description (and confirmation of my ID by Nearctic Acmaeodera-guru Rick Westcott based on the photos shown here) did I know for sure what it was.  These specimens were collected at Seminole Canyon State Historic Park, thus, extending into west Texas the species’ known range, and they exhibit variability in the elytral markings and punctation that was not noted in the original description.  While only an incremental increase in our knowledge of this species, collectively such increases lead to greater understanding of the genus as a whole, and Jeff’s generosity in allowing me to retain examples of the species increases my U.S. representation of the genus to 130 species/subspecies (87%).

Acmaeodera n. sp. (Santa Cruz Co., Arizona)

The opportunity for discovery is not limited to range extensions and new host records, but includes new species as well.  A few years ago I received a small lot of specimens collected in Arizona by my hymenopterist-friend Mike Arduser (hymenopterists, especially those interested in apoid bees, are excellent “sources” of Acmaeodera, which they encounter frequently on blossoms while collecting bees).  Among the material he gave to me was the single specimen shown here that immediately brought to my mind Acmaeodera rubrovittata, recently described from Mexico (Nelson 1994) and for which I had collected part of the type series.  Comparison of the specimen with my paratypes, however, showed that it was not that species, and after much combing through the literature I decided that the specimen best fit Acmaeodera robigo (despite being collected in Arizona rather than Texas and not matching the original description exactly).  This was before I had true A. robigo with which to compare, so I sent the specimen to Rick Westcott for his opinion.  His reply was “good news, bad news” — the specimen did not represent A. robigo, but it didn’t represent any known species either!  While the prospect of adding a new species to the U.S. fauna is exciting, basing a description on this single specimen would be ill-advised.  Only through study of series of individuals can conclusions be made regarding the extent of the species’ intraspecific variability and its relation to known species.  Until such specimens are forthcoming, the specimen will have to sit in my cabinet bearing the label “Acmaeodera n. sp.”  For all of you collector-types who live in or plan to visit southeastern Arizona, consider this a general call for potential paratypes!  The specimen was collected in early August on flowers of Aloysia sp. near the Atascosa Lookout Trailhead on Ruby Road in Santa Cruz Co.


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”]

Knull, J. N. 1954. Five new North American species of Buprestidae (Coleoptera). Ohio Journal of Science 54:27–30.

Nelson, G. H. 1994. Six new species of Acmaeodera Eschscholtz from Mexico (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 48:272–282.

Nelson, G. H., R. L. Westcott and T. C. MacRae. 1996. Miscellaneous notes on Buprestidae and Schizopodidae occurring in the United States and Canada, including descriptions of previously unknown sexes of six Agrilus Curtis (Coleoptera). The Coleopterists Bulletin 50(2):183–191.

Pearson, D. L., C. B. Knisley and C. J. Kazilek. 2006. A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada. Oxford University Press, New York, 227 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Email to a friend