2019 Arkansas/Oklahoma Insect Collecting Trip iReport

Alternative title: Rich and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

This is the seventh “Collecting Trip iReport”; this one covering a 5-day trip to Arkansas and Oklahoma from June 7–11, 2019 with my friend and local collecting buddy Richard Thoma. As with all previous “iReports” in this series, this one too is illustrated exclusively with iPhone photographs.

Previous iReports include the following
2013 Oklahoma
2013 Great Basin
2014 Great Plains
2015 Texas
2018 New Mexico/Texas
2018 Arizona

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…and so it begins!

Day 1 – Ozark National Forest, vic. Calico Rock, Arkansas
It’s been many years since I’ve visited these sandstone glades overlooking the White River near Calico Rock. Conditions were partly sunny when we arrived, but water on the ground suggested rain earlier in the day. We had only a short time to start exploring before the wind started blowing up and the smell of rain filled the air. I did manage to beat one Amniscus sexguttata from a branch of living Pinus echinata and collect a couple of Strigoderma sp. from Coreopsis lanceolata flowers before steady rain forced us to retreat.

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White River near Calico Rock, Arkansas—before the rain.
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White River near Calico Rock, Arkansas—rain’s a comin’!

Day 2 – Ouachita National Forest, Winding Stair Campground & Ouachita Trail, Oklahoma
We walked the trail from the campground S about 2½ miles and back. I started off with Acmaeodera tubulus on Krigia sp. flowers, eventually finding a lot of them on this plant at higher elevations along with a single Acmaeodera ornata, and I beat a few Agrilus cepahlicus off of Cornus drummondii. This had me thinking it would be a good buprestid day, but it wasn’t, the only other species collected being some Chrysobothris cribraria off of small dead Pinus echinata saplings and Pachyschelus laevigatus on Desmodium sp. Also beat a few miscellaneous insects off of Cercis canadensis and Vaccineum arborea and swept some from grasses and other herbaceous plants. Back at the campground I collected Chrysobothris dentipes on the sunny trunks of large, live Pinus echinata trees.

Emerald Vista, along the Talihema Scenic Drive.
Acmaeodera tubulus on flower of Rosa carolina.
Acmaeodera tubulus on flower of Rosa carolina.
Canthon sp.
Apheloria virginiensis reducta (ID by Derek Hennen).
The biggest cairn I’ve ever seen.

Ouachita National Forest, Talimena Scenic Dr at Big Cedar Vista, Oklahoma
There were lots of native wildflowers like Coreopsis tinctoria and Ratibida columnifera in bloom, so we stopped to check them out. There were lots of butterflies, however, I found only a single Typocerus zebra on Coreopsis lanceolata.

View south from Talimena Scenic Drive at Big Cedar Vista.
Coreopsis tinctoria (plains coreopsis).
Ratibida columnifera (upright prairie coneflower).

Ouachita National Forest, Winding Stair Campground, Oklahoma
We returned to the campground in the evening to do some blacklighting. I had high hopes, but only five cerambycids came to the lights, all represented by a single individual: Monochamus carolinensis, Acanthocinus obsoletus, Amniscus sexguttatus, Eutrichillus biguttatus, and Leptostylus tranversus (the first four are pine-associates). I also picked up a few other miscellaneous insects.

Rich processes the day’s catch as the blacklight hums in the background.

Day 3 – Medicine Park Primitive Campground, Oklahoma
There wasn’t much insect activity going on in eastern Oklahoma, so we drove out west to the Wichita Mountains for hopefully better luck. We found a small park with a primitive campground in the city of Medicine Park—my first thought was to beat the post oaks dotting the campground, but when I went into the native prairie between the campground and the creek I never came out! Right away I found what must be Acmaeodera ornatoides on flowers of Opuntia sp., then I found more on flowers of Gallardia pulchella along with Acmaeodera mixta. The latter were also on flowers of Thelesperma filifolium along with Acmaeodera neglecta—took a nice series of each, and I also got a few of the latter on flowers of Coreopsis grandiflora. Strangalia sexnotata were on flowers of C. tinctoria and Torilis arvensis, and then on the latter plant I saw a male Strangalia virilis—a Texas/Oklahoma specialty that I’ve never collected before! I spent the next hour looking for these guys and ended up with 3 males and 2 females along with a few Trichiotinus texanus—another Texas/Oklahoma specialty—and a single Agrilaxia sp. nr. flavimana (could be A. texana). One single Typocerus octonotatus was on flowers of Achillea millefolium. I think we may come back here tomorrow—I’d like to look for more S. virilis and beat the post oaks (the reason we stopped here to begin with).

A cacophony of native wildflowers!
An orgy of Euphoria kernii (Kern’s flower scarab) in Opuntia sp. flower. Multiple color forms exist for this species.
At first I thought this was a type of hover fly (family Syrphidae), but eventually I determined it to be Esenbeckia incisuralis, a horse fly (family Tabanidae)—incredible emerald green eyes!
Papilio polyxenes asterius (black swallowtail) caterpillar.
Echinocereus reichenbachii baileyi (lace hedgehog cactus).

Lake Lawtonka nr. Ma Ballou Point, Oklahoma
We stumbled into this area while looking for stands of Sapindus drummondii (soapberry)—found a small stand along the road, but it was too inaccessible. The same diversity of blooms were present as at the previous spot, so I picked a few longhorns off flowers of Coreopsis grandiflora and Gaillardia pulchella. Super windy, so we didn’t stay long.

View across Lake Lawtonka from Ma Ballou Point.
Neochlamisus sp. (case-bearing leaf beetle) larvae inside their “casas de caca” on Monarda fistulosa (bee balm).
I believe this is Harrisina coracina, a leaf skeletonizer in the family Zygaenidae. Both BugGuide and the Moth Photographers Group show records only from Texas.

Day 4 – Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
Before starting the day’s collecting, we wanted to go into the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge to have a look around. On the way into the refuge we some American bison near the road and had to stop, take photos, and simply admire these massive, majestic beasts. We then went to the Cedar Plantation, where I had visited before back in 2012 and photographed black individuals of Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina (prairie tiger beetle). No tiger beetles were out now (they come out in the fall), but I’d hoped to maybe see Cylindera celeripes (swift tiger beetle) along the 2-tracks in the area. No such luck—nevertheless, we saw a myriad of interesting insects, including several more Esenbeckia incisuralis (green-eyed horse flies) and a beautiful Trichodes bibalteatus (checkered beetle), the latter of which I photographed on flowers of Ratibida columnifera and Achillea millefolium with the big camera. Afterwards we visited the “prairie dog town” and got marvelous views and photographs of black-tailed prairie dogs.

Native American wildlife on a native American landscape.
American bison (Bison bison bison).
Wichita Mountains from Cedar Plantation.
Acmaeodera mixta on flower of Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan).
Typocerus octonotatus on inflorescence of Achillea millefolium (yarrow).
Strangalia sexnotatus on flower of Ratibida pinnata (gray coneflower)
Trichodes bibalteatus on flower of Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan).
Trichodes bibalteatus on flower of Ratibida pinnata (gray coneflower)
The author walks a bison trail through the Cedar Plantation.
Black-tailed prairie dog at its burrow entrance.
“Watch you lookin’ at, Willis?!”
Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus).

Medicine Park, Jack Laughter Park, Oklahoma
We’d noticed this spot yesterday because of the old post oaks and wealth of wildflowers blooming up the mountainside. There wasn’t much going on today, however—just a few Acmaeodera mixta on flowers of Gaillardia pulchella. I did find an Anthaxia (Haplanthaxia) sp. on my arm! Otherwise I spent some time photographing the landscape and some geometrid larvae on flowers of Gaillardia pulchella.

Opuntia sp. (prickly-pear cactus) amidst rocky exposures.
Small Oncoptus fasciatus (large milkweed bugs) nymphs colonize seed pods of Asclepias asperula (antelope-horns).

Medicine Park Primitive Campground, Oklahoma
We returned to this spot since we had so much luck yesterday. I was hoping to collect more Acmaeodera ornatoides and Strangalia virilis, but there was much less going on today than yesterday—basically didn’t see anything for the first hour and a half. I didn’t give up, however, and kept checking the area where we saw most of the S. virilis yesterday, and eventually I saw another male in the same area as yesterday on the same stand of Torilis arvensis. I found two more males in the same area over the next hour, so three males on the day was a good reward for the time spent looking for them. I also collected Trichodes apivorus and Trichiotinus texanus on flowers of Allium sp. Interestingly, beating the post oaks—the reason why I originally wanted to stop here—produced nothing. So, not very many specimens on the day, but happy with those I did get.

Thelesperma filifolium (stiff greenthread).
Coreopsis grandiflora (large-flowered tickseed).
Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel).
Coreopsis tinctoria (plains coreopsis).
Torilis arvensis (erect hedge parsley), introduced.
Opuntia sp. (prickly-pear cactus).
Opuntia sp. (prickly-pear cactus).
Allium sp. (wild onion).

Medicine Park, Jack Laughter Park, Oklahoma
I was pretty much done for the day after spending all morning at the refuge and most of the afternoon at the previous spot, but Rich wanted to take another look at Jack Laughter Park because he’d found some interesting grasshoppers there. As with earlier in the day there were few beetles of interest to me, but I did collect a couple of Trichiotinus texanus on flowers of Cirsium undulatum. I checked out some large post oaks with large dead branches thinking that might be what Strangalia virilis was breeding in but never saw any, and eventually I turned my attention to photographing a few interesting native plants that I found along the way.

Krameria lanceolata (trailing krameria).
Cirsium undulatum (wavyleaf thistle or gray thistle) inflorescence.

Cirsium undulatum (wavyleaf thistle or gray thistle) can be distinguished by its wavy leaves that are gray-green on both upper and lower surfaces.

Day 5 – Epilogue
We were tempted to do one last little bit of collecting on the way back to St. Louis, but since had pretty good luck during the last couple of days and the drive alone would take more than nine hours we decided to leave well enough alone and get home at a reasonable hour. A walk with Beauregard when I got home to stretch the post-drive legs was the perfect way to end the mini-vacation.

©️ Ted C. MacRae 2019

Redux: Now you see me…

Chalcophora virginiensis

Chalcophora virginiensis (Drury, 1770) | vic. Calico Rock, Arkansas

…now you don’t!

Chalcophora virginiensis

Chalcophora virginiensis (Drury, 1770) | vic. Calico Rock, Arkansas

Chalcophora virginiensis (Drury, 1770) is the largest jewel beetle (family Buprestidae) in eastern North America. This beetle is also known as the “sculptured pine borer”, and its easy to see why—its hyper-sculptured, shiny metallic body glitters like a jewel in the sunlight! This feature is typical of many species in the family and, in fact, is the source of the family’s other common name—metallic wood boring beetles.

Such dramatic sculpturing and coloration makes cabinets of jewel beetle specimens among the most beautiful in any museum, and for those who have only seen these beetles as pinned specimens in cabinets it can be hard to imagine what purpose such appearance serves. In its native habitat, however, on native host plants, the reason becomes clear. Rather than conspicuous and easily seen, such coloration actually helps the beetle to blend in with its environment and become almost invisible. Measuring well over an inch in length and possessing no other way of defending itself by biting, stinging, or even just tasting bad, these beetles would be a more than healthy snack for almost any avian or reptilian predator, and going about their activities during the day right under the noses of all these visually based predators makes finding mates and oviposition sites an even riskier proposition. For them, the best way to beat a visual predator is to become… invisible! The two photos above show just how dramatic a difference the substrate plays in allowing these beetles to practice their disappearing act. Land on the trunk of a dead or dying pine tree, its aged bark flaked and graying, and the sculpturing and coloration are a perfect match. Land, however, on a healthy tree, its resin-filled bark bright and full of color, and it suddenly becomes a sitting duck. It’s in the beetle’s best interest to be good at telling the difference between thrifty and unhealthy trees, which they do by “smelling” volatile chemicals emitted by trees under stress.

Those interested in more information on this species and its close relatives may wish to consult the recent review of the genus in North America by Maier & Ivie (2014) (see my review of this excellent paper here).


Maier, C. A. & M. A. Ivie. 2013. Reevaluation of Chalcophora angulicollis (LeConte) and Chalcophora virginiensis (Drury) with a review and key to the North American species of Chalcophora Dejean (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 67(4):457–469 [abstract].

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Cicindela 44(3–4) is issued


The latest issue of the journal Cicindela arrived in my mailbox yesterday, and it’s safe to say that I’ve got the issue “covered.” The issue features three papers, one of which documents my recent encounter with Cicindelidia ocellata rectilatera (Reticulated Tiger Beetle) in Arkansas (MacRae 2012), the first confirmed occurrence of the subspecies in that state and a northeastern extension of its known range. (This paper is an expansion of my post Just repanda… er, wait a minute…) Normally restricted to (though abundant in) Texas and New Mexico (Pearson et al. 2006), the only previous records of this subspecies east of Texas are at two localities near the eastern side of the Sabine River dividing Texas and Louisiana (Graves & Pearson 1973). More recently, however, the subspecies was also recorded just north of Texas in southwestern Oklahoma Schmidt 2004). Whether these recent extensions to its known range reflect an expanding distribution or are merely artifacts of sampling is unknown; however, one of the Arkansas localities has been visited frequently by tiger beetle enthusiasts over the years, as it is a known locality for the very attractive Cicindela formosa pigmentosignata (Reddish-green Sand Tiger Beetle), lending some support to the range expansion hypothesis.

In addition to the paper, one of the photographs that I took of C. ocellata rectilatera in Arkansas graces the cover of the issue.

Two other papers are also contained in the issue, one documenting an additional occurrence of Opisthencentrus dentipennis in Brazil by Ron Huber (2012), and another by Kristi Ellingsen featuring photographs and habitat description for the first tiger beetle to be found in Tasmania, Australia (Ellingsen 2012). A truly international journal!

Lastly, please consider subscribing to Cicindela. Subscription rates are only $10 in the U.S. and $13 outside of the U.S., amounts that even the most casually interested can justify! Also, if you have a more serious interest in tiger beetles, I hope you’ll consider submitting a manuscript for consideration. Subscription information and editorial policy can be found inside the front cover of a recent issue or at this post.


Ellingsen, K. 2012. Discovery of the first tiger beetle found on the island of Tasmania, Australia. Cicindela 44(3–4):55–57.

Graves, R. C. & D. L. Pearson. 1973. The tiger beetles of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae). Transactions of the American Entomological Society 99(2):157–203.

Huber, R. L. 2012. Another locality record for Opisthencentrus dentipennis (Germar) in Brazil. Cicindela 44(3–4):55–57.

MacRae, T. C. 2012. Occurrence of Cicindelidia ocellata rectilatera (Chaudoir) (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae) in Arkansas. Cicindela 44(3–4):49–54.

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.

Schmidt, J. P. 2004. Tiger beetles of Fort Sill, Comanche County, Oklahoma, with a new state record for Cicindela ocellata rectilatera Chaudoir. Cicindela 36:1–16.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Just repanda… er, wait a minute…

Update 10/7/12, 10:41 a.m.—Thanks to Ben Coulter, who pointed out my rather silly misidentification of these beetles that actually represent Cicindelidia ocellata rectilatera (Reticulated Tiger Beetle). I have only my failure to even consider the possibility of a southwestern species to blame for the error, as the evidence was staring me right in the face (the lack of any trace of lateral connecting band and, most obviously, the reddish parts on the underside). No wonder the habitat didn’t seem quite right! I was not aware of the occurrence of this species east of Texas, so I’ll have to dig a little bit to see if this is an unusual record. Pearson et al. (2006) show the northeastern limit of distribution coming very close to but not actually reaching the southwestern corner of Arkansas, and the closest records given by Graves & Pearson (1973) are in western Louisiana and adjoining Texas. It would be immensely rewarding should this turn out to be a new state record (though there are many sources still to check to confirm this)—not to mention the irony of it in view of the post title (call it a double “er, wait a minute”!). At any rate, I should have been a lot more excited when I saw it than I was.

After a fun-filled day of photographing the Limestone Tiger Beetle in northern Texas, it was time to start working my way back to Missouri. I had one last goal that I wanted to accomplish before spending my last day in our state’s White River Hills, and that was to find and photograph the unbelievably gorgeous Cicindela formosa pigmentosignata. Dubbed the “Reddish-green Sand Tiger Beetle” by Erwin & Pearson (2008), this brilliant violaceous and nearly immaculate subspecies of the Big Sand Tiger Beetle is restricted to sandy areas of open pine forests in eastern Texas, southwestern Arkansas, and northwestern Louisiana (Pearson et al. 2006). I had a few specific localities that I’d gleaned from colleagues and the literature and targeted the two “best” (specificity of location, recent occurrence, and reasonably “on the way” back to Missouri) for Day 7 of the trip. The first site in Texas looked perfect—deep, dry sandy 2-tracks leading through open pine/oak forest, and I was actually surprised when I’d searched a mile or so of track and hadn’t yet seen one (the habitat just looked that good). Still, I spent quite a bit more time searching, thinking that numbers could be low and it might take such an effort. Sadly this was all in vain, and the time came to give up and try again at the second locality in Arkansas. The story was largely the same at this second locality also, and by late afternoon I had come to accept that this was one challenge that I was going to lose (for now at least).

Cicindela duodecimguttata Cicindelidia ocellata rectilatera | Nevada Co., Arkansas

As I searched one bit of potential habitat at the Arkansas location, I noted the presence of Cicindela repanda (Bronzed Tiger Beetle). This species is dreadfully common throughout much of the eastern U.S. in just about any near-water habitat, which told me I was probably too close to water to find the higher, drier-ground preferring Big Sand Tigers. I’ve seen millions of C. repanda through the years (this may not be an exaggeration), and since they show so little polytopism (geographically-based variation), at least in the parts of its distribution that I have visited, I hardly pay them mind anymore. As I was walking, however, something caused me to take a closer look—some of them didn’t seem quite “right.” Of course, you can’t just walk up to a tiger beetle and stoop down for a good look at it. Stalking is required, usually of several individuals before finding one that you can approach closely enough to see the necessary characters, and when I did this I realized most of the C.repanda” I was seeing were actually a different species—Cicindela duodecimguttata (12-spotted Tiger Beetle)!

Even tiger beetles get bored during sex—this female preening her antennae seems oblivious to the male engaging her.

I get the impression from literature sources that 12-spotted Tiger Beetles are quite common further east, especially in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. However, here in the central U.S. they are not commonly encountered. In fact, these are the first of the species that I have seen since I began photographing tiger beetles more than 3 years ago. In Missouri the few instances that I have seen them were along creeks and small rivers with banks composed of sand and a fair bit of dark clay. This makes sense, given their generally darker coloration compared to Bronzed Tiger Beetles, and it is this character that first stands out amongst the hoardes of C. repanda with which it usually co-occurs.  Once the darker coloration draws the eye, the markings of the elytra—reduced and broken into six spots (usually) on each one—confirm its identity. Despite the similarity of appearance to C. repanda, this species is actually more closely related to Cicindela oregona (Western Tiger Beetle), an exceedingly common species found from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast and north deep into Alaska. In fact, the two species are so closely that they have formed a hybrid zone where they come into contact along the front range of the Rockies—one could almost argue that they are only subspecifically distinct because of this. 

A male pauses briefly while hunting for prey (or mates).

That I found them in this particular habitat was a bit of a surprise to me. I mentioned that in Missouri I’ve seen them on darker creek and river banks, but the creek bank at this location was quite lightly colored and seemed to consist almost entirely of sand. There were a few C. repanda mixed in with this small population. In all, it was a welcome consolation prize that made up for not finding C. formosa pigmentosignata—sort of!

Habitat for Cicindela duodecimguttata Cicindelidia ocellata rectilatera along Mill Creek, Nevada Co., Arkansas.


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., 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.

Added: Graves, R. L. & D. L. Pearson. 1973. The tiger beetles of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae). Transactions of the American Entomological Society 99(2):157–203.

Added: Pensoft

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Chrysobothris viridiceps

Chrysobothris viridiceps on dead branch of Quercus alba | Baxter Co., Arkansas

Despite their general popularity among beetle collectors, jewel beetles (family Buprestidae) have an admittedly deserved reputation for difficult taxonomy. Part of the reason for this is the existence of several highly speciose genera. In North America, for example, nearly half of its described species belong to just three genera—Acmaeodera, Chrysobothris, and Agrilus (the latter, with nearly 3,000 described species and many more awaiting description, being possibly the most speciose animal genus in the world). Identification of species within these genera is difficult enough due to their sheer numbers and is further complicated by the existence a number of “species-groups”—i.e., groups of very closely related species that have only recently become reproductively isolated from each other (likely in response to host partitioning) but have not yet evolved obvious unique morphological characters. Perhaps the most famous of these is the “Chrysobothris femorata species-group.” A dominant component of hardwood forests throughout North America, members of this group have confounded taxonomists, collectors, and foresters alike for many years. Fortunately, the recent revision of the group and formal description of several species by Wellso and Manley (2007) have brought much needed clarity to the group. While problems still remain (C. femorata sensu novo probably still encompasses several undescribed species), most individuals can now be identified with some confidence.

Males and females both exhibit completely divided post-median fasciae

I have previously discussed three of the seven now recognized species occurring broadly in eastern North America—the nominate C. femorata, still regarded as an important pest of ornamental and fruit tree plantings, C. caddo, one of the new species described by Wellso and Manley (2007) and associated with dead hackberry (Celtis spp.), and C. quadriimpressa, mostly associated with dead branches of oak (Quercus spp.). The individuals shown here, photographed on branches of a dead white oak (Quercus alba) in north-central Arkansas this past June, represent a fourth species in the group, Chrysobothris viridiceps. Unlike most members of the C. femorata species-group, C. viridiceps can be readily recognized in the field  due to the uninterrupted costa (raised narrow ridge) that completely bisects the posterior fovea (rounded pit) on each elytron. In all other species this costa is interrupted by the fovea. Moreover, this species is the only one in the group in which the males (easily distinguished from females by the bright green frons, or face) exhibit bicolored antennal segments, with the outer portion of each segment yellow and the remainder bright metallic green. While the species name is Latin for “green face,” this character is useless for species identification, as males of all species in the group exhibit a more or less green face.

Males sport not only the green face for which the species is named, but also distinct yellow areas on the antennal segments

Females are a little more difficult to distinguish in the field because, like those of other species of the group the antennae are more uniformly reddish. Likewise, the face also lacks the green coloration of the male, and although still useful for species identification the differences among females between the different species are more subtle and require microscopic examination. However, as in the male the elytral foveae are completely divided, allowing even females to be recognized relatively easily.

Females tend to be more reddish on the legs, antennae and face

One thing I have noticed about the different members of the C. femorata species-group is the usefulness of host plant association in distinguishing the different species. Of the seven species occurring in my region, I’ve seen C. femorata associated mostly with stressed but still living trees in genera other than oak or hickory (e.g., maple, sycamore, apple, poplar, ash, etc.), C. adelpha associated exclusively with dead hickory (Carya spp.), and C. caddo associated almost exclusively with hackberry (Celtis spp.). The remaining four species are all associated primarily or exclusively with oaks, but even these species often segregate according to branch size, with C. viridiceps occurring mostly on the smallest branches, C. quadriimpressa on somewhat larger branches, C. rugosiceps on very large branches and the upper trunk, and C. shawnee on large trunks and even stumps. Not surprisingly, these size preferences reflect the relative size of the beetles, with C. viridiceps (7–13 mm in length) generally being the smallest of the four species and C. shawnee (9–18 mm in length) the largest.

Okay, now to get photos of C. adelpha, C. rugosiceps and C. shawnee!


Wellso, S. G. and G. V. Manley. 2007. A revision of the Chrysobothris femorata (Olivier, 1790) species group from North America, north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Zootaxa 1652:1–26.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Return to Calico Rock

Sandstone glade | nr. Calico Rock, Arkansas.

Although western sand dune endemics were the top goals on my  during last fall’s Annual Tiger Beetle Trip, I started the trip by leaving St. Louis in the most unlikeliest of directions—south! No, I wasn’t trying to get to Denver without having to drive the tedious stretch of I-70 through Kansas. Rather, I wanted to take advantage of the chance to witness active adults of the Missouri/Arkansas disjunct population of Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina (prairie tiger beetle)—perhaps my favorite of all tiger beetle species—on the sandstone glades near Calico Rock in north-central Arkansas. Widely disjunct from the main population’s eastern limit of distribution in central Texas, I’ve seen them at many locations in the White River Hills of southwestern Missouri and adjacent Arkansas over the past ten years, but never in the area around Calico Rock where they are best known from the state. I already had precise localities where I knew I could see them, as I had found 3rd-instar larvae earlier in the year (some of which had already emerged as adults), so I wanted see them and document the range of variability exhibited by adults at this southeasternmost known extent of the disjunct population’s distribution.

Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina | nr. Calico Rock, Arkansas.

Although the adults were not quite as numerous as I have found them at certain sites in Missouri, I had no trouble finding them once I got to the area where I had collected the larvae this past June. While showing Steve Spomer our Missouri population last year, he commented that our Missouri adults seemed much less flighty than adults he had seen at Calico Rock. I must say that I agree with him, as I found the adults much more difficult to photograph than those in Missouri. To be honest, I had to stalk nearly ten individuals before the male in the photo above finally allowed me to get close to him. When adults are numerous this is not a problem, but in this case every failed attempt required several more minutes of searching for the next subject. Eventually, however, I got my mojo and started having success with the photographs.

Unlike true spring-fall species, mating occurs in fall instead of spring.

In the main population, and like other members of the genus Cicindelidia, adults are active during the summer months and exhibit the classic “summer” species life history. The Missouri/Arkansas disjunct population, however, shows a phenologic shift in adult activity to the cooler fall months—perhaps in response to the generally droughty conditions that prevail during the summer in this part of the country followed by rains during late summer and into fall. (This is one reason why I think this population may be deserving of separate subspecific status.) In this regard they appear to be “spring-fall” species, but their life history does not match true members of that group, which emerge during fall as sexually immature adults, hibernate during winter, and re-emerge during spring for mating and oviposition. Thus, one never sees adults of classic spring-fall species like Cicindela limbalis mating during the fall. In contrast, adults of this disjunct population emerge, mate, and lay eggs all during the fall before the onset of winter, then they’re done. The eggs hatch during fall and require another season or two to reach 3rd-instar and pupate during the summer for fall emergence.

Coloration likely functions in crypsis, as shown by this individual nestled in amongst moss and lichens.

When viewed as prepared specimens in a cabinet, C. obsoleta and its subspecies are among the most conspicuous of species due to their large size (in Missouri and Arkansas only Tetracha virginica is larger), olive green coloration, and bold white maculations. More than likely, however, the combination of color and markings serve a crypsis function in their native habitat. This is clearly evident with the individual in the above photograph, who had retreated to a moss- and lichen-covered rock crevice in his efforts to evade my lens. Squint your eyes a little bit, and he almost disappears! It must be similar for visually based predators such as birds and lizards.

On more open ground and from a lower angle, the beetle is much more visible.

This same individual, however, becomes quite visible when chased onto more open rock surfaces (and viewed more laterally than from above). It is common to see individuals out in the open such as this, but more often than not when alarmed they fly or run to less exposed areas, relying on their cryptic coloration to avoid detection. In fact, when I follow beetles that have evaded me to the spot where I am sure they must have landed, I often fail to see them even though I am looking almost exactly in the area where they are sitting until they start to crawl and their movement catches my attention.

A rather greenish individual tries to hide amongst lichens and shortleaf pine duff.

I have observed a great deal of variability in coloration and maculation at locations in Missouri, with individuals ranging from bright green to dull olive-green to dark green and even brown, and the markings ranging from complete to interrupted. I saw a similar amount of variability in the Calico Rock population, with the exception of brownish (which I have only seen at the northernmost localities in Missouri) and fully maculated individuals. Most of the Calico Rock individuals were dull olive-green, but the female in the above photo (trying to evade my attentions by hiding amongst lichens and pine duff) was as bright a green as I’ve seen in any individual.

A very weakly maculate individual.

As mentioned above, I didn’t seen any individuals that I would consider fully maculated, and several that I saw were more weakly maculated than any I’ve seen in Missouri. The female in the photograph above was the most weakly-marked individual that I saw, with the lateral and median bands greatly interruped—the latter nearly reduced to small discal spots.

A dark, almost blackish female.

While I did not see brownish individuals as I have seen at the northernmost localities in Missouri, I did see the occasional blackish individual—the one in the above photograph also exhibiting about the greatest degree of macular development that I observed among the adults seen. My impression now is that there are clinal patterns to the coloration and macular development in this disjunct population, with markings tending to be more developed in northern localities. With the specimens collected from this and the many other locations throughout the disjunct population’s range that I have now sampled, a more critical assessment of variability in this population may now be possible.

Beetle's-eye view of sandstone glade habitat.

It has become standard practice for me to photograph tiger beetle habitats whenever I can. However, I’ve become interested recently in trying to understand how tiger beetles perceive their own habitats. While this isn’t possible to know precisely, ground level photographs can provide at least a clue into seeing the world from a beetle’s eye. I almost find this perspective of the glade habitat more interesting than the human perspective shown in the first photograph.

The last sight that their prey sees.

There can be little doubt about what the beetles themselves look like from the perspective of their prey. The photograph above may not properly represent the image generated by an insect’s collective ommatidia, but it certainly must be just as frightening!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Ozark Landscapes – White River in northern Arkansas

White River near Calico Rock, Arkansas

One of my favorite insect collecting sites is a system of sandstone glades in the White River Hills of north-central Arkansas. Overlooking the White River as it courses past the quaint little town of Calico Rock, the glades atop these towering bluffs host a rich diversity of insects—some attracted from the surrounding woodlands, others restricted only to the glades. I had not visited the area before this year but went there five times this season—twice in June, once in July, once in August, and once in September.  Of the many insect species I found here this season, some of the more interesting include:

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Cylindera cursitans (Ant-like Tiger Beetle) in Arkansas

In late June I visited Chalk Bluff Natural Area in northeastern Arkansas.  Situated at the northeastern-most corner of the state, it is here where the St. Francis River enters Arkansas from Missouri, slicing through the loose Tertiary conglomerates of Crowley’s Ridge before settling into its lazy, meandering course between the two states in the Upper Mississippi Alluvial Plain.  The site’s geological history, however, is not what attracted me to it, but rather its status as the state’s only known locality for Cylindera cursitans (ant-like tiger beetle).  It was the existence of this population that convinced my colleagues Chris Brown and Kent Fothergill and I that the species must occur in southeast Missouri not only along the Mississippi River, but also along the St. Francis River some 50 miles to the west.  Persistence eventually paid off last year when Kent captured a single individual on the Missouri side of the river at Chalk Bluff Access in Dunklin Co. (MacRae et al. 2011).

Kent had to really work for that specimen, spending several hours crawling through the underbrush in wet, bottomland forests before eventually finding the lone individual.  I was confident, however, that my search at the Arkansas site would require far less effort, as Kent had also observed this population during his attempts to locate the species on the Missouri side of the river, writing “I saw more cursitans in an hour than I have seen lifetime total!” The playground/picnic area where Kent had seen them sits right next to the parking lot and is as un-curitans a habitat as one can imagine—tidy and neat, with a nicely-mowed grass lawn under the shade of large oak trees rather than the sweltering, poison ivy choked understory habitats with their attendant swarms of mosquitoes and deer flies that we’ve braved in order to find the species in Missouri.  Only the small, intermittent patches of barren sandy loam soil gave a clue that this might be good tiger beetle habitat, and even then one might expect only the more pedestrian species such as Cicindela punctulata and Tetracha virginica and not something as exciting as C. cursitans.

But occur there it does, and hardly a few steps had been taken from the parking lot before I saw that familiar “dash” of movement, looking for all intents and purposes at first like a small spider.  A closer look confirmed its true identity, and during the next hour or so I would see countless such individuals—all scrambling rapidly for cover on my approach.  I have seen a number of cursitans populations during the course of our surveys for this species in southeastern Missouri, and this population was as robust as any of them.

Despite my earlier work with this species, I still lacked photographs I was completely happy with—i.e., field photographs of unconfined beetles taken with a true macro lens and flash to control lighting.  All of my previous photographs were either taken with a small point-and-shoot camera or had to rely upon beetles confined in a terrarium.  The species is not easy to photograph in the field—the small size of the adults (6–8 mm in length) and their cryptic coloration matching the soil surface makes them almost impossible to see until they move.  They are also very skittish and are quick to flee when approached, necessitating very slow, deliberate movements in order to approach them closely enough for photographs.  Oftentimes adults will run towards and hide up against the base of a clump of grass, where they are even more difficult to photograph, but sometimes they will hide beneath fallen leaves or other debris.  Interestingly they do not flee immediately if the leaf/debris is very carefully lifted up and removed—almost as if they think they’re still hidden.  I’ve found exposing adults hiding under leaves to be an easier way to get field photographs of the species, although I have noted that some individuals (but not others) seem eventually to adjust to my presence and resume normal activity despite having a camera lens hovering inches away from them.

Once I had my fill of photographs, I walked the trail to the river and back but did not see any beetles along the trail within the forest (too much leaf litter) or along the river.  Surely the beetles occur in these other areas and are not confined in the area just to that small, man-made habitat that is the picnic ground.  Seeing this population gives me greater confidence that the species does indeed occur more broadly along the St. Francis River in Missouri than suggested by single individual caught on the Missouri side by Kent.


MacRae, T. C., C. R. Brown and K. Fothergill. 2011. Distribution, seasonal occurrence and conservation status of Cylindera (s. str.) cursitans (LeConte) (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Cicindelitae) in Missouri. Cicindela 43(3): in press.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011