These bugs rock!

These stones were given to me recently by a local insect enthusiast who is an admitted collector of all things natural history. According to him, the stones were among numerous items that he was allowed to “salvage” many decades earlier from the home of a similarly inclined individual from the previous generation. He has stored these and other items in his home ever since but now finds himself in the mood to distribute the items he has spent a lifetime collecting. Beyond this, I know nothing of the provenance of these stones or even if they represent something truly artifactual versus just the classroom efforts of a more contemporary school child. I’ll welcome any opinions that may be had, but even if none are received these stones will nicely decorate some little corner of my “museum”—hopefully for decades to come.




Copyright © Ted C. MacRae

A visit to the Dallas Arboretum

This post is a little different from my normal fare, so feel free to glance and move on (or if you like it, let me know that too). Earlier this week I traveled to Argentina, but along the way I found myself unexpectedly spending a day in Dallas due to a missed connection. Such travel snags are never fun, especially when the result is an entire day lost from a tight itinerary. I do, however, have to give American Airlines props for comping me a night’s stay at the Downtown Crowne Plaza Hotel (very, very nice!). The following day, my flight to Buenos Aires would not leave until early evening, so I had to find some way to occupy myself after my noon checkout. Whenever I find myself in a large city looking for something to do, my first thought is always the local botanical garden. Dallas, of course, has a world class example of such—the Dallas Arboretum, situated in the heart of the city on the east side of White Rock Lake. Any time of year is a good time to visit a botanical garden, but fall is without question my favorite time. Turning leaves and late-season blooms would have been enticement enough, but this particular day found the garden in the midst of its annual fall festival, featuring a Pumpkin Village and a charming little “Small Houses of Great Artists” exhibit, and artfully placed throughout the garden were glass sculptures by world-famous Dale Chihuly. There was a lot to see, and I’m thankful that I had the luxury of exploring the garden’s many meandering paths at a leisurely pace without feeling rushed for time.

Frustratingly, I had decided not to bring my good camera with me on this trip since I didn’t anticipate any opportunities for photography. Even though I’m not normally inclined to photograph gardens and especially sculptures (preferring instead native and naturalized landscapes), I found the expert fusion of art and nature in the displays irresistible and did what I could with my smart phone (which, it turns out, takes surprisingly good photos for its size, especially for certain applications such as wide-angle landscapes). Obviously, armed with such, it’s hard to take “unique” photos of subjects that thousands of others (also armed mostly with smart phones) are passing by daily. Hopefully, however, I managed one or two that provide a different perspective. With that, I’ve picked out my 24 favorites and present them here in a brief slide show (the slides cycle continuously, beginning with “Mexican Hat Tower” and ending with “Blue Icicles”). Below that is a gallery of the photos in case the slideshow does not function in your browser or if you would like to see a larger version of a particular photo.

I know which are my favorites—are there any that you would call out (compositionally at least)?

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Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Au Bon Marché

Earlier this week a colleague in my lab presented me with this delightful print featuring beetle imagery.  A mutual acquaintance had encountered it while going through some items that had been in storage for many years, thought of me, and asked her to give it to me.  She couldn’t tell me anything more about its origins, but its whimsical, turn-of-the-century look and apparent age immediately captivated me.

I had originally intended to simply post this scan, say “Isn’t this cute?”, and leave it at that.  However, my compulsive side took over and before long I found myself in full bore Google search mode.  My initial desire was simply to translate the French text – the beetles were easy enough (1 _ Giant Borer.  2 _ Blister Beetle.  3 _ Rhinocerus Griffin¹) – but the title “Au Bon Marché” gave me a bit of trouble.  The translators I was using continually turned up results related to “cheap” and “inexpensive”, which just didn’t make sense. Eventually I figured out that it was a store name – specifically the oldest department store in Paris (dating from 1852). A bit more searching revealed it to be one of many trade cards lithographed for the store during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, presumably for promotional purposes.  Nowadays these cards seem to be popular collector’s items, especially in France.  Alas, I was not able to find an image of this specific card among the several hundred other Au Bon Marché trade card images I perused across the web – if anyone knows anything more about the history and use of these cards or about this card in particular, please do let me know.

¹ Apparently the scarab beetle version of a griffin, the mythological creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle – wise and powerful characters who spent a good deal of time seeking out and guarding gold and treasures.

Considering its century or more of age, the print is in remarkably good condition. There is just a small amount of staining and glue residue on the backside of the mounting board – perhaps it was part of a treasured scrap book in days long gone. A glass frame should do a nice job of preserving it for another several decades or so.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011



My good friends Kent Fothergill and Kelly Tindall passed through St. Louis last week on their way back home from a visit to Columbia.  I was happy for the chance to get together with them – if only for a short visit, as I hadn’t seen them since the summer before last when Kent joined forces with Chris Brown and I to conduct a survey for Cylindera cursitans (ant-like tiger beetle) in southeast Missouri.  (You may recall that I orginally met Kent when he emailed me out of-the-blue after moving to southeast Missouri in 2007 to let me know he liked tiger beetles.  I responded by suggesting that he look for this long sought-after species, which he found the very next day!)  Kent had told me in arranging the visit that they had something they wanted to give me, and since I had some specimens of theirs to return it seemed a convenient way to make the exchange.  I had no idea what it was they wanted to give me, but I knew they’d been to the recent Entomological Society of America meetings in Indianapolis and figured they must have purchased a cool beetle specimen or something for me.

After arriving at my office, they told me that they’d had the chance to meet John Acorn, a rare celebrity in the world of natural history study.  Most people known John as the host and creative force behind Acorn the Nature Nut, an award-winning television series in which John’s inspiring personality and infectious love of nature introduce viewers to various aspects of Alberta’s natural history.  John is also, however, an accomplished entomologist, with one of his special interests being… you guessed it – tiger beetles!  In 2001, John published The Tiger Beetles of Alberta: Killers on the Clay, Stalkers on the Sand, one of the most accessible and highly entertaining treatments of the family (er… supertribe) to date (if I can ever get my act together and write The Tiger Beetles of Missouri, I want to model it after this book).  John was at the ESA meetings selling original artwork of the different tiger beetle species occurring in Alberta, and Kent and Kelly mentioned to him that they had a friend back in Missouri who would love one of his prints – selecting “Cicindela purpurea auduboni black morph”.  Somehow, my name and association with this blog came up, to which John replied, “Oh, I know about Beetles in the Bush” and then signed the print for me as shown below.  Wow!

I hope Kent and Kelly understand my stunned silence upon first seeing the print they had so generously given to me and the inscription it bore.  I felt a little silly afterwards returning their kind gesture by just giving them back specimens that were already theirs.  I’m honored by their friendship and will be reminded of it now everytime I look at the print on my office wall.


Acorn, J.  2001.  Tiger Beetles of Alberta: Killers on the Clay, Stalkers on the Sand.  The University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, xix + 120 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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