Welcome to the “new” Beetles In The Bush

After much consideration, I have decided to move Beetles In The Bush to its new home here at WordPress.  To those of you coming here from the old site, thank you for following the link.  To those of you who have stumbled upon this site from somewhere else, welcome!

The decision to move was not easy, nor was it taken lightly, but it was something I had been considering for quite awhile.  The debates about WordPress versus Blogger are well chronicled, and you will find many who strongly believe in one or the other.  For me, the choice was not so clear – each offers advantages relative to the other.  What really attracted me to  WordPress, however, was the horizontal menu bar linked to static “Pages” that are separate from chronologically-ordered posts – ideal for expanded profiles, tables of contents, indices, annotated link galleries, etc.  I toyed with different methods for creating these in Blogger and actually found a way to simulate them along with the menu bar.  However, it took a lot of effort learning HTML code, and the results were just not very crisp when compared this standard WordPress feature.  Frankly, I’d rather spend my time writing posts rather than HTML code.  Moreover, I’ve always been impressed with the clean, professional look of the WordPress templates – very attractive.

Nevertheless, the idea of actually moving my blog was still a daunting thought.  Would everything transfer or would I have to start over?  Would I lose my photos?  Would the post formatting get messed up?  The more I researched it, the more feasible it seemed, and when I actually created a site for beta testing I was immediately impressed with the functionality and ease of use.  Setting up the new blog, transferring the posts and comments from the old site, adding the “page” features that I had so long desired, and all the fine-tuning to achieve the “look” that I wanted only took a few hours.  The hardest part was deciding on a template.  Alex may think I simply copied what he did, the truth is I previewed both the initial blog and the finished blog in every template offered by WordPress.  I liked the clean lines, crisp fonts, and simple elegance of this layout.  I also debated about whether to replace the old banner, but ultimately decided a move to a new site deserved a new banner to go along with it.  I suppose switching sites might mess up page stats, Google rankings, and other technical issues that concern serious bloggers.  I’ll need to keep the old site live, since that is where all the photos from the previous posts are housed – that might ‘steal’ hits that would have otherwise come to this site when people do Google searches.  I guess all I can hope is that people landing on the old site will follow the redirect.

So, welcome to the new Beetles In The Bush – I hope you’ll take a moment to explore the new pages.  I’ve included a short biography in About, a Table of Contents with a complete list of posts (and recommendations for some of my favorites), a description of my personal Insect Collection with links to inventories for certain taxa, a complete list of my Publications, and an annotated list of Links that I’ve found useful for identification and nomenclature of insects and plants.  Comments are always welcome, and feel free to Contact me directly if you have specific questions or comments.  Don’t forget to update your links from:




In Memoriam – Gayle H. Nelson

It was a very productive first day in the Black Hills of South Dakota, with several rather significant finds. However, I’m going to forego an update on these and instead dedicate this post to the memory of my friend and colleague, Dr. Gayle H. Nelson, who passed away on this day three years ago. Gayle was not only one of North America’s premier experts on Buprestidae but was also an outstanding teacher of human anatomy. With a career spanning nearly five decades and generating some 70+ beetle publications, Gayle had the opportunity to interact with many of the world’s most important coleopterists. Despite this, he was one of the most humble and accessible persons I’ve had the honor to meet. I think about Gayle often, especially while on collecting trips – remembering the places we visited and the lessons he taught me. On this 3rd anniversary of his passing, I reproduce here a remembrance that I wrote for a memorial issue of the The Pan-Pacific Entomologist, published September 24, 2006 on the 1st anniversary of his death.

“I had the privilege of calling Gayle Nelson both a mentor and a friend. I first corresponded with Gayle in 1984 as a young collector with a budding interest in beetles, and my first communication with him probably mirrors that of many others – me asking him for help identifying specimens. And, as he likely did for those many others, he graciously agreed. For the next several years, I would send him my “catch” at the end of each season and anxiously await the return shipment. Opening a box of specimens after he’d looked at them was as exciting as Christmas morning, not only to see how well I had fared in my tentative identifications, but also in anticipation of the “gifts” Gayle more often than not included for my collection. On one occasion, I had included examples of a strange looking Agrilus from south Texas that I had found during one of my earliest collecting trips outside of Missouri. They turned out to be A. toxotes, known previously only from Mexico, and a species not represented in Gayle’s collection (a true rarity by that point in his life). In his return letter, Gayle’s excitement about this find was obvious as he politely asked permission to retain a male/female pair. I agreed readily, and when the box of beetles was returned, I found added to its contents several dozen especially colorful examples of western U.S. Acmaeodera. To this young Midwesterner, those beetles were as “exotic” as if they had come from Brazil or Africa. During those early years, Gayle’s letters were rich with advice on collecting and suggestions for localities I should explore, and his kindnesses did much to solidify my passion for buprestids and eventually led to the first of our several coauthored publications.

“It was not until 1991, however, that I finally met Gayle in person while he was still residing in California. I had moved from St. Louis to Sacramento and was eager to explore the “buprestid heaven” that is southern California. Gayle had extended an open invitation to collect with him, so in early June I traveled to his home in Rancho Cucamunga, where he and his wife Jean graciously hosted me for the first two days of a weeklong collecting trip. That first evening I marveled at what was undoubtedly the most impressive private insect collection I had ever seen. Not only was it larger than any collection I had seen, but the exacting and careful manner in which the specimens had been curated and organized was enough to impress even the most retentive among us. We talked about the collecting localities he planned to show me and what species we might find there. To this still relatively “green” buprestophile whose collecting experience was limited primarily to the Missouri Ozarks, the prospect of collecting species of such “exotic” genera as Acmaeoderoides, Anambodera, Prasinalia, and Lepismadora – in one trip – almost seemed too good to be true. But true it was! Our first day in the field I met his longtime friend George Walters, and the three of us visited several of their favorite collecting localities in the San Bernardino Mountains near Wrightwood and in Lone Pine Canyon. I collected around 15 species of buprestids that day – more than I had ever collected on any previous field trip. The next day he took me to the beautiful Santa Rosa Mountains and its fabled Pinyon Flats, Whitewater Canyon and Palm Desert localities, where I added another dozen or so species to my catch – all different from the previous day. During those two days, I was not only astounded by Gayle’s endurance – he was well into his 60s by then – but also impressed with his dogged persistence in searching for his quarry. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was one of the secrets to his great success as a collector. By the end of the second day, I was so exhausted that I slept during most of the long drive back to his home. I spent the rest of the following week visiting many of the other southern California localities Gayle had recommended, looking on the plants he had suggested, and ended up with a whopping trip total of ~60 buprestid species. During the years that followed, I had the good fortune to accompany Gayle on field trips as far away as southern Mexico and close to home in Missouri and Kansas. Each time he taught me something new and re-energized my passion for collecting buprestids. I knew I was “learning from the Master!” Gayle Nelson was large in stature and in life. He was a scientist, a teacher, a dedicated family man and a friend to us all. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Below is a photograph of Gayle and several other buprestophiles (including a much younger me!), taken July, 1992 in Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, México during a world buprestid workers gathering (this photo was also published in the Pan-Pac memorial issue). The day this photograph was taken, Gayle and I had collected the first specimens of what we would later describe as Oaxacanthaxia nigroaenea – the second species in an odd little genus with Old World affinities that had been described just one year earlier by Chuck Bellamy from specimens collected in the very same area.

L-R: Svata Bílý (Czech Republic), Chuck Bellamy (USA), Hans Mühle (Germany), Gayle Nelson (USA), Dave Verity (USA), me, Mark Volkovitsh (Russia). Photo by Rick Westcott (USA).