“62nd” Annual “Season-Opener-Birthday-Bug-Collecting-Trip”

This past Tuesday was my birthday, and as I have done for my entire adult life I took the day off and went on my traditional “Season-Opener-Bug-Collecting-Trip”. In the past I’ve usually just had one friend go with me, but today I had three—Rich, Chris, and Bill!

We started off by heading south about 3½ hours to Tingler Prairie Natural Area in Howell Co.. I wanted to come here because: 1) it was a place I’d never visited before, and 2) there is a population here of the endemic Ozark trillium (Trillium viridescens) that I thought might be in bloom. Rain in the forecast and a patch of the real thing on the way down had us a little worried, but the day turned out spectacular with temps climbing to 80°F and skies partly to mostly sunny.

IMG_6208 (Edited).JPG

Tingler Lake – the centerpiece of Tingler Prairie Natural Area.

We never did find the trillium—even calling another friend (Casey), who had seen them here before to find out exactly where he saw them. Turns out we hit the right spot, but apparently we were too early, especially given how late spring has been moving along this year. Nevertheless, we still found much to capture our interest, including a yellow-bellied racer (Coluber constrictor flaviventris)—too quick for photos—and a black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus) that coiled up nicely under the end of a fallen log and tolerated my prodding and “cleaning” of the scene around him to get some good photos (albeit, only with the iPhone).

IMG_6219 (Edited)

Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus).

IMG_6220 (Edited)

The “cloudy” eye is actually an artifact of the flash lighting reflected by the retina.

Unfortunately, insect activity was very light. We saw no tiger beetles and only the earliest spring forms of most other insects. I took about 10 specimens each of the early-spring jewel beetles Acmaeodera tubulus and Pachyschelus purpureus, which I found on flowers and foliage (respectively) of wild geranium, Geranium maculatum. It was the first time that I’d found the latter as abundant as this, so the series of specimens will be a welcome addition to my cabinet. I also took a couple of A. tubulus on a flower of violet wood sorrel, Oxalis violacea and showed the others the characteristic end of an oak twig pruned by a twig pruner (Anelaphus parallelus) larvae (and revealed the culprit for them to see). Despite the paucity of insects, it was a beautiful and high-quality spot, and I look forward to collecting here again sometime when the season is more advanced.

IMG_6227 (Edited)

Several adult Acmaeodera tubulus feeding on petals of wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) flowers.

IMG_6221 (Edited)

Twig pruner, Anelaphus parallelus, larva cut from its gallery near the base of a pruned oak twig.

img_6222

Revealing the culprit while Chris takes notes on some of the birds he’s been hearing.

img_6237

Redspotted purple butterfly, Limnetis arthemis astyanax (family Nymphalidae), caterpillar on black cherry (Prunus serotina), one of its favorite host plants. The caterpillar mimics bird droppings for protection.

img_6226

Fire pink, Silene virginica (family Caryophyllaceae) thrives on a dry, cherty hillside.

img_6233

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum (family Berberidaceae) prefers the rich, more mesic hillsides (this is where we expected Trillium viridescens to occur).

After finishing up at Tingler Prairie, we drove east an hour and bushwhacked over rough Forest Service 2-track to Bald Hill Glade Natural Area in Ripley Co. It had been close to 10 years since my previous visit, but I remembered the roads well. We had to park, however, about a mile from the entrance to the glade due to fallen trees across the final stretch 2-track. The landscape had changed considerably since my last visit—gone was the dense, close forest lining the 2-track, and in its place stood open woodland brought to this condition by active management that included the use of prescribed burning apparently as recently as the past season.

img_6238

Dwarf iris (Iris cristata).

img_6240

These diminutive plants are distinguished from other members of the genus by their short stature and sepals with midline beards.

img_6241

Bald Knob Glade Natural Area.

After hoofing through the forest we reached the glade and found a beautiful—if somewhat sterile—scene before us. The recent burn included not only the woodland but also the glade itself, and no unburned refugia could be found anywhere. Floristically, this is beneficial for the glade, which needs periodic fire to prevent woody encroachment, but in my experience such burns also result in severely depressed insect populations for years afterwards. It takes time for the insects to find and recolonize the glade, and in this case the lack of unburned refugia will only increase the amount of time that will be needed for the insect populations to recover.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed our hike through the area, watched and listened to the calls and songs of a number of cool birds, including summer tanagers, indigo buntings, blue-gray gnatcatchers, and—a first for me—the splendidly yellow prairie warbler. We also took photographs of the glade and some of its plants (with the big camera), and on the way back to the car we found several of the Polistes wasp-mimicking light flies, Pyrgota undata (family Pyrgotidae). Interestingly, all were mating pairs, and the ones we observed closely (as we photographed them with the big camera) were engaged in a most curious “French kissing” behavior. I can’t wait to read up more on this when I prepare to post the photos of this behavior.

img_6246

Widow’s cross (Sedum pulchellum).

55963458_10158503157048677_1504766440970911744_n (1)

Me, Rich, Bill, and Chris.

Eventually, impending dusk signaled a close to the day, and after driving east another 1½ hours to have pizza dinner in Poplar Bluff we made the long drive back to St. Louis (arriving at my home at 12:30 a.m.!).

NOTE: All photos in this post were taken and processed with an iPhone X. The “real” photos taken with our “real” cameras will be shared as they become available.

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

Revisiting the Highlands tiger beetle (Cicindelidia highlandensis)

In September 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America in Orlando, Florida, which was being held in conjunction with the International Congress of Entomology. My first thought when I made plans to attend these meetings was that this would be a chance for me to get another look at the Highlands tiger beetle (Cicindelidia highlandensis). One of Florida’s rarest endemic tiger beetles, this species is restricted entirely to remnant sand scrub and pine woodland habitats along the Lake Wales Ridge of Polk and Highlands Counties in central Florida (Choate 2003). I was thrilled to have found adults (in good numbers) on my first attempt back in 2009, and I was also thrilled to have successfully managed to photograph the beetle at that time. However, in the years since, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with those photographs—taken during what was my very first year of insect macrophotography. I’ve learned a lot since then about lighting, diffusion, and composition, but perhaps the biggest annoyance of those photographs is the fact that in every one the antennae and/or legs are “clipped”—a result of my being so enamored with my newfound macrophotographic capabilities that I nearly completely ignored other aspects of photographic composition.

Chris Brown photographing Cicindelidia highlandensis

Chris Brown photographs a Highlands tiger beetle.

Chris Brown—long-time field accomplice and himself a tiger beetle aficionado and insect macrophotographer—was also at the meetings, and since he had never seen the Highlands tiger beetle before we made plans to slip away one day and visit the spot where I had seen them back in 2009. I knew our chances of finding them were slim—it was very late in the season (late September), and the species is a so-called “summer species” with peak of adult activity in July and August. We figured, however, that even if we didn’t find adults we would still enjoy the day in the field, and for some time after arriving at the site that’s all it was. Finally, in an open sandy area near a small lake we saw the first adult. I let Chris take his shots, as this was his first opportunity (see photo above), while I continued to search for additional adults. Eventually I found one and began the long process of “whispering” to it to coax it into allowing me the photographs I desired.

Cicindelidia highlandensis

Highlands tiger beetle (Cicindelidia highlandensis).

As you can see in the photograph above, my compositional preferences have changed since I took those first photographs back in 2009. In contrast to the “as close as possible” style that I initially adopted, I now prefer to back off from the beetle enough to include elements of the habitat in which it occurs. While this compositional style may show less detail on the beetle itself, I believe it adds perspective and results in a more interesting and aesthetically pleasing photograph. I also now like to get down as low as I can, often placing the camera directly on the ground rather than always shooting from “elbow-height”, for a more unique perspective of the beetle, and my use of better flash diffusion results in more even lighting and minimizes the distracting specular highlights that are often the hallmark of flash macrophotography.

Cicindelidia highlandensis

This individual demonstrates the thermoregulatory “stilting” behavior of the adults.

Sadly, my flash unit failed soon after I began photographing the beetle, which is a real shame because the beetle began demonstrating the characteristic “stilting” behavior that the adults use for thermoregulation in their hot environment. The photograph above is the only one that I could “rescue” through some rather heavy-handed post-processing to make up for the failure of the flash unit to fire (it is fortunate that I have shifted to routinely using a combination of ambient light and fill-flash rather than flash only, or I would have had not even this photograph to rescue!). I suppose this means I’ll just have to revisit this species once again (now that I have not one but two new flash units!), which isn’t all bad because I would also love to see and photograph once again the moustached tiger beetle (Ellipsoptera hirtilabris), another Florida endemic (or near so) that I saw here also during my first visit but not during this one.

The Highlands tiger beetle belongs to a group of species called the abdominalis species-group, with all four of the included species (C. abdominalis, C. floridana, C. highlandensis, C. scabrosa) occurring in Florida (three of which are endemic or near-endemic to Florida). For those interested, I have seen and photographed all four of the species and presented a “mini-review” with photographs and links to posts with more detailed information about each species, along with a key to the species to allow for their identification.

REFERENCES:

Choate, P. M., Jr. 2003. A Field Guide and Identification Manual for Florida and Eastern U.S. Tiger Beetles.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville, 224 pp.

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

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!

Image may contain: mountain, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: sky, mountain, tree, outdoor and nature

Cave Creek Ranch, Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains.

Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, bridge, shoes, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: tree, cloud, sky, mountain, plant, outdoor and nature

Majestic peaks loom over the canyon.

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: 2 people, including Ted MacRae, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Me with Margarethe Brummermann.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

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

Image may contain: one or more people, mountain, cloud, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

Margarethe Brummermann searches for beetles in Sunny Flat Campground.

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

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).

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: one or more people and camera

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

Image may contain: outdoor

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.

IMG_3133 (Edited)

Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: 2 people, including Ted MacRae, mountain, beard, cloud, outdoor and nature


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.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Tetraopes discoideus (family Cerambycidae).

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: flower, plant, sky, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

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!).

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: cloud, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, mountain, cloud, tree, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, nature and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: outdoor

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).

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Giant mesquite bugs (Thasus neocalifornicus).

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

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).

Image may contain: flower, plant, sky, outdoor and nature

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!

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, table and indoor


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.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, tree, grass, plant, outdoor and nature

Box Canyon from just above the dry falls.

Image may contain: flower, plant, sky, nature and outdoor

Prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana) blooming along the roadside.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Hippomelas planicauda mating pair on Mimosa dysocarpa.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

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

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Acmaeodera cazieri (left-center).

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

Acmaeodera yuccavora.

Image may contain: plant, flower, tree, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: sky, cloud, plant, outdoor and nature

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…

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Sarcostemma sp. (family Asclepiadaceae).

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: plant, sky, flower, tree, nature and outdoor

Unidentified plant.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Ted MacRae and Norm Woodley, cloud, sky, outdoor and nature

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!

Image may contain: night and outdoor

A beacon in the night!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, night, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Art, Steve, and Norm checking the lights.

Image may contain: plant

Chrysina gloriosa.

No photo description available.

A male oz beetle (Strategus aloeus).

No photo description available.

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

Image may contain: 1 person

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.

No photo description available.

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).

Image may contain: cloud, sky, mountain, tree, outdoor and nature

Copper Canyon to the northwest.

Image may contain: cloud, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Copper Canyon to the north.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, plant, mountain, outdoor and nature

Bear Canyon to the south.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Bear Canyon to the north.

Image may contain: plant, sky, outdoor and nature

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.

No photo description available.

No photo description available.


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.

Image may contain: plant, flower, sky, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Turkey vultures hanging out waiting for me to die!

Image may contain: sky, cloud, tree, mountain, outdoor and nature

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).

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Dendrobias mandibularis – major male.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Them’s some mandibles!

Image may contain: plant, sky, tree, flower, outdoor and nature

Gyascutus caelatus on Acacia rigidula.

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

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

Image may contain: flower, plant, sky, nature and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

Lampetis webbii, collected on Rhus sp.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

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!).

Image may contain: 2 people, including Ted MacRae, people smiling, people standing and indoor

Meeting Pat Sullivan!

No photo description available.

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

Image may contain: plant

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

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

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

No photo description available.

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

No photo description available.

“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.

Image may contain: 1 person, plant, sky, flower, tree, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Halfway down from the “dry falls”.

Image may contain: sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

The “dry falls” about halfway up the canyon.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

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!

Image may contain: cloud, sky, mountain, grass, outdoor and nature

Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains.

Image may contain: plant, sky, flower, shoes, tree, outdoor and nature

Acanthocephala thomasi on Baccharis sarothroides.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: plant, sky, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: cloud, sky, nature and outdoor

Rain headed my way!

Image may contain: cloud, sky, mountain, nature and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: sky, twilight, mountain, outdoor and nature

A gorgeous sunset to start the evening.

Image may contain: sky, twilight, night, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

A bee assassin bug, Apiomerus flaviventris.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

An ocotillo, or calleta, silkmoth – Eupackardia calleta.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

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!

Image may contain: sky, plant, tree and outdoor

Euphoria leucographa on Baccharis sarothroides.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: outdoor

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

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Tragidion sp. mating pair on Baccharis sarothroides.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Mating pair of Stenaspis verticalis on Baccharis sarothroides.

Image may contain: plant, sky, shoes and outdoor

Chalcolepidius lenzi at a sap flow on Baccharis sarothroides.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

Lateral view of Chalcolepidius lenzi.

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

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!

Image may contain: cloud, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

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.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, tree, outdoor and nature

Spectacular views from 7000 ft!

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

A lichen moth on flowers of Ceanothus sp.

Image may contain: flower, plant, sky, tree, cloud, outdoor and nature

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

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

The spectacular vistas just keep on coming!

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, cloud, outdoor and nature

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).

Image may contain: plant, sky, flower, nature and outdoor

Obligatory dusk shot of Moneilema gigas on Opuntia imbricata.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Another individual on the same plant.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, twilight, nature and outdoor

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.

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

2018 New Mexico/Texas Insect Collecting Trip “iReport”

This is the fifth in a series of Collecting Trip “iReports”—so named because I’ve illustrated them exclusively with iPhone photographs (see previous articles for 2013 Oklahoma2013 Great Basin, 2014 Great Plains, and 2015 Texas). Note that I continue to use my “big” camera for specific insect targets—and these will be featured from time to time on this site. However, I use my iPhone camera much more during these trips for general photography to document habitats, landscapes, and miscellaneous subjects because it is so small and handy and because it is also capable of capturing reasonably good photographs (see this post for tips on making the most of the iPhone camera’s capabilities). This allows me to spend more time looking for and collecting insects—usually my primary objective on these trips! Collectively, these iPhone photos (which are usually posted real time on Facebook, along with short narratives) form a nice trip synopsis when assembled into a single post.

This report covers a collecting trip I made with Jeff Huether from June 2–9, 2018 to southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. I’ve dabbled in this area before, primarily just a quick stop at Mescalero Sand Dunes many years ago, but not specifically targeted this area for any systematic collecting. Thus, most of the locations that we visited were new to me, which automatically means that I would find at least a few things of interest—and more probably a lot (as long as the insects are active). We had great success at many localities, having found areas where sufficient rain had occurred to trigger insect emergence despite the drought that was plaguing much of the area. Highlights were the areas along Hwy 380 between San Antonio and Bingham, the Mescalero Sand Dunes, and the dunes near Kermit, Texas. I haven’t yet tallied the number of species collected, as much of the material is still waiting to be mounted and identified. However, I estimate that it is in the neighborhood of about three dozen buprestids and maybe half that many cerambycids, including some quite charismatic species that I’d not collected previously (e.g., Prionus arenarius and Tragidion armatum).

Stay tuned, because I made a second insect collecting trip during 2018, this one with Art Evans to southeast Arizona during late July and early August.


Day 1 – Sandia Mountains, New Mexico
We flew into Albuquerque this afternoon and, after getting the car, supplies, and something to eat we came up to Sandia Crest Recreation Area looking for Cicindela longilabris (long-lipped tiger beetle). This was the first place I stopped on the first day of the trip for the first species I wanted to look for, and I found it in the first five minutes I was here!

Image may contain: people standing, sky, mountain, tree, cloud, outdoor and nature

View from near the summit of Sandia Mountain.

We stopped at the Capulin Picnic Ground on the way down the mountain. There were some oaks with fresh-looking foliage that I beat – no Buprestidae but a nice series of a treehopper (Telamonthe?) and a few odds and ends. There was also Robinia off which I beat a series of what is surely Agrilus egenus.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Penstemon sp. ID by George Yatskievych.


Day 2 – Walking Sands Rest Area, New Mexico
Quick stop to check the lights – later in the season Jeff has collected Prionus palparis here, but this time we saw nothing. Also checked the nearby vegetation, there was Dalea in bloom but no beetles on the flowers.

Photo

Hwy 380 between San Antonio & Bingham, New Mexico
We saw a few things in bloom at the Rio Grande bridge crossing so decided to stop. I took a fair series of what must be Acmaeodera mixta off of the Thelesperma flowers (along with a few mordellids for Enrico and one meloid for Jeff). Otherwise not much activity at the spot.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

Bone dry Rio Grande!

There were some cool looking red sand dunes on Hwy 380 east of San Antonio, so we stopped to see if there might be any tiger beetles. There weren’t any, but I found yucca stems infested with cerambycid larvae, likely Tragidion. I collected 6–8 stems to bring back and try to rear out the adults. Jeff also found a single Chrysobothris sp. on sage, otherwise we saw few beetles.

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

Going east on Hwy 380 we went into an area of higher elevation with junipers. We stopped to check the Thelosperma flowers, but there were no bups on them. I collected a few noisy cicadas and some Acmaeodera quadrivittatoides on Opuntia flowers. I then started beating the junipers, however, and got a fair series of a small green Gyascutus plus two tiny Chrysobothris. They were extremely difficult to collect – winds were very stiff and the beetles were very active. I probably lost as many as I collected. To finish off I found a mating pair of Moneilema sp. on cholla.

No photo description available.

Acmaeodera quadrivittatoides in a flower of Opuntia sp.

Image may contain: Ted MacRae, standing, tree, sky, beard, outdoor and nature

Yours truly standing next to a cholla (Opuntia imbricata).

In addition the the Tragidion larvae that I collected two stops back, Jeff saw one adult at the previous stop. So, when we saw thick stands of yucca along the roadsides just a few miles down the road we stopped to take a look. They were out and not uncommon on the flower stalks and down in the basal rosettes. I collected about a dozen of them and also another Gyascutus.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

A Tragidion female on a yucca flower stalk.

Image may contain: flower, food and nature

Tragidion sp. mating pair on yucca flower stalk.

Image may contain: flower

Tarantula hawk (family Pompilidae) on yucca flower stalk. This must be a mimicry model for Tragidion.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

I believe this is a cactus dodger cicada (Cacama sp.).

At the last stop we noticed a lot of emergency vehicles rushing to the east. Just a couple of miles down the road we ran into an accident blockade. Since we were stopped I was tempted to look at the Rick shop, but then I started looking at the cholla and found several Moneilema sp. adults on the plants.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Walking Sands Rest Area, New Mexico
We came back up to the rest stop because of the dunes – there are Prionus spp. that live in the dunes, so we put out some pheromone to see if we could attract the males which fly at dusk and early nighttime. In the meantime we walked around looking for nocturnally active beetles – found a few skin beetles (Omorgus sp.) feeding in dried dog poop and a huge tenebrionid (Eleodes sp.) strangely perched up in a bush. Also photographed a cool little sun spider (Solifugida). When we went back to check the pheromone there was one male Prionus arenarius running around under the lure!

Image may contain: outdoor

Skin beetle (Omorgus nodosus) feeding on dried dog poop at night. ID by Bill Warner.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

A sun spider (Solifugida) pauses briefly from its frantic search for prey.


Day 3 – Valley of Fire National Recreation Area, New Mexico
We came over the hill and saw a huge black area in the valley below. I thought it was just an area of thick woody vegetation, but it was actually a lava field! Very cool. There were tons of cicadas, I think also cactus dodgers (Cacama spp.) but look different from the one we saw yesterday. I beat a lot of Celtis and only got one Chrysobothris sp. (looks like analis), and there was nothing on the junipers. We also didn’t see any Moneilema on the abundant cholla. I did catch two Acmaeodera mixta on an unidentified white flower. I think yesterday’s rains must have missed this area!

Image may contain: sky, grass, tree, mountain, plant, outdoor and nature

Malpais Lava Beds.

Image may contain: 1 person, plant, flower, nature and outdoor

A tarantula hawk (family Pompilidae) on flowers of milkweed (Asclepias sp.).

Image may contain: sky, plant, flower, cloud, outdoor and nature

I believe this is another species of cactus dodger cicada (Cacama sp.).

Image may contain: plant, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Malpais Lava Beds.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Lead-footed bugs (family Coreidae) on cholla cactus (Opuntia imbricata).

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

Malpais Lava Beds.

Image may contain: flower, plant, outdoor and nature

Cactus dodger cicada (Cacama sp.)?

Image may contain: sky, plant, flower, tree and outdoor

Male cactus dodger (Cacama sp.) on cholla cactus in mid-song.

We drove a couple miles down the road and made just a quick stop to check flowers along the roadsides. No beetles seen – seems to be super dry, but I did photograph one of the tiniest butterflies (something in the family Lycaenidae) I’ve ever seen.

Image may contain: flower, plant and nature

Western pygmy blue (Brephidium exilis). ID by Doug Taron.

Sierra Blanca Mountains, New Mexico
Jeff wanted to look for an Epicauta up here, but the whole drive up the mountain we could only comment on how dry it was and how extensively the area had burned. I only found two wood borers – an Anthaxia (Melanthaxia) and a lepturine cerambycid, both on iris flowers. We did find the Epicauta though, also on iris flowers.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

Atop the Sierra Blanca.Mescalero Sand Dunes.

Image may contain: plant, flower, sky, tree, nature and outdoor

Perhaps Erysimum capitatum (Brassicaceae). ID suggested by Erik Emanuelsson.

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Flower longhorn (subfamily Lepturinae) on flower of iris.

Vicinity Sunset, New Mexico
There were some mallow in bloom along the roadsides, so we stopped to see if there were any Acmaeodera on them. There weren’t, just a few meloids that Jeff was interested in. I found a a single Euphoria kerni on a flower of Acacia greggii and, of course, large numbers of them on thistle flowers. The area seems to have gotten some rain, but not much activity to speak of yet.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Euphoria kernii in their typical “buried-butt-upwards” post on a thistle flowerhead.

Mescalero Sand Dunes, New Mexico
This area got rain last night, so we suspected there would be a lot of insect activity, and we were right! The place was alive when we got here at ~6 pm. I walked the area while we waited for dusk to set out pheromone. I collected a series of Enoclerus zonatus off of yucca blooms, beat an Actenodes sp. (something new for me), a Chrysobothris octocola, and a nice series of treehoppers off of mesquite, and found 3 Batyle suturalis ssp. on an unidentified yellow comp.

Image may contain: sky, beach, mountain, nature and outdoor

Mescalero Sands Recreation Area.

No photo description available.

A skin beetle (Omorgus nodosus) makes tracks in the sand.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

Enoclerus zonatus on yucca.

Image may contain: plant, flower, sky, outdoor, nature and food

Another Enoclerus zonatus individual on yucca. Note the larger spots on this one compared to the other, an example of intraspecific variation.

As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, I hiked around to the backside of the dunes and then bushwhacked across them to get the perfect perspective for photographs when the sun hit the horizon – spectacular sunset!

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

Sunset on the dune.

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

What a sunset!

Image may contain: Ted MacRae, standing, beard, sky, outdoor and nature

I’m happier than I look! 

By the time I got back to the car, Jeff had already placed three lures out, so we started making the rounds and found at least one or two Prionus arenarius males running frantically in circles under each one. At the second lure, I started searching the area nearby and found a female walking on the ground! (Females are very rarely encountered, and it seems a little more than coincidental to me that for each species of Prionus, whenever we have collected good numbers of males with lures we have also found at least one or a few females in the same area – maybe cheaters [in the ecological sense]?).

As we made the rounds we picked up an amazing diversity of tenebrionids and a few carabids walking in the sand, and we finished off by picking up Jeff’s light trap, which had attracted one more Prionus male and a very light-colored Polyphylla sp. male.

Image may contain: outdoor

Incredible huge blue spider on the dune at night.


Day 4—Mescalero Sand Dunes, New Mexico

We noticed a stand of soapberry (Sapindus drumondii) along the sides of the road just west of the entrance to Mescalero Sands Recreation Area last night, and I immediately thought of Agrilus sapindi, so this morning on our our way to the dunes we stopped by. I started beating the flowering branches of the larger soapberry trees but wasn’t really getting anything. Then I noticed an A. sapindi flying to a low non-flowering plant, so I caught it and resumed beating – now with more gusto knowing they were here. I still wasn’t getting anything and, again, saw another adult fly and land on a low non-flowering plant. Lesson learned – I started sweeping the low plants and started getting them. I worked all five stands in the area and got about 3 dozen adults, plus a few A. ornatulus, one A. limpiae, and spectacular Neoclytus.

After finishing with the soapberry, Jeff had noticed some tiny Acmaeodera on an unidentified white-flowered composite. We started searching in earnest and collected several dozen adults. I’m not sure what they are, but they are tiny and vittate (maybe A. quadrivittatoides). We also did a lot of sweeping of the short shrubby oak also and came up with a couple of Brachys. Overall a great morning/early afternoon in the field!

Image may contain: sky, cloud, house and outdoor

The only thing cooler than this abandoned homestead was the squawking ravens hanging out on it!

Image may contain: sky, cloud, tree, plant, grass, outdoor and nature

Soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) stands along Hwy 380 – host for Agrilus sapindi.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Host for unidentified Acmaeodera sp.

We next went into the Recreation Area proper to each lunch, after which we explored the rest of the area accessible by vehicle and saw a stand of cottonwood back in the dunes. We got out to see if there might be any Buprestidae on them (e.g., Poecilonota), but they were devoid of insects. The midday heat on the dunes was extreme! I did find, however, a single Prionus elytron lying on the sand beneath the cottonwoods, so we know they are further back in the dunes as well.

Image may contain: sky, mountain, nature and outdoor

Mescalero Sands Recreation Area.

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

Mescalero Sands Recreation Area.

We worked the variety of blooming plants in the vicinity of the entrance. I collected ~22 of the small Acmaeodera that were on the white-flowered plant at the soapberry spot on two blossoms of a single yellow-flowered pad Opuntia sp., a couple of Acmaeodera spp. on Gaillardia sp. flowers, a few more Acmaeodera spp. on Prosopis, and several Acmaeodera mixta on another as-yet-unidentified white flower. It was hotter than bejesus we later learned 103°F!) – I had wanted to check out one more stand of soapberry at the entrance, but we were exhausted and dehydrated and had to quit!

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

Some kind of wasp on some kind of flower.

Image may contain: plant, sky, outdoor and nature

There are four separate bird nests in the cholla plant – a veritable avian apartment!

Image may contain: flower, plant and nature

Cholla (Opuntia imbricata) blossom.

Vicinity Hobbs, New Mexico
We got a hotel in Hobbs and grabbed a sandwich for dinner, then went out west of town to see if we could find some good habitat for evening collecting. We found a spot of open rangeland about 8–9 miles west of town, set out the pheromone lures, and began beating the mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa). We had high hopes because there was still standing water, meaning that the area had gotten good rains on Sunday night. Boy were we correct! Beating the mesquite was amazing. For buprestids I got 10 individuals of an Actenodes sp., 4 individuals of a Paratyndaris sp., 4 Chrysobothris spp., 4 Acmaeodera spp., and 1 Agrilus sp. I also got several tiny cicadas, a couple treehopper species, and a few clerids and other odds and ends. We setup a blacklight and the scarabs were quite diverse, but the only thing I took was a tiger beetle (Cylindera lemniscata). I also picked up a Phyllophaga cribrosa and a tenebrionid walking on the ground at night. No Prionus came to the lures, any my searches of the ground at night turned up no Amblycheila.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Tiny scarab beetles in the genus Diplotaxis congregate on low plants to “catch” pheromone trails in search of mates.

No photo description available.

Giant millipedes (genus Orthoporus) were common at night, a sure sign of recent rains. ID by Derek Hennen.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Ted MacRae, people smiling, people standing, sky and outdoor

Ted of Arabia and Jeff.


Day 5—Sand Dunes near Kermit, Texas
We stopped just outside the Kermit Sand Dunes to beat the mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) to see what might be out. I collected 8 species of Buprestidae: nice series of an Acmaeoderopsis (hoping A. prosopis), 1 sp. Actenodes, 2 spp. Chrysobothris, 1 sp. Paratyndaris, 1 sp. Agrilus, and 2 Acmaeodera spp. We eventually gave up – the heat had not only wilted us, but the Acmaeoderopsis were flying away immediately upon hitting the sheet.

Image may contain: Ted MacRae, smiling, standing, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Updated field pic (the last one was taken in 1999!).

We drove a little further towards the heart of the dunes and found a spot where there were some blowouts and classic sand flora. Immediately upon starting out we noticed Acmaeodera mixta adults flying around commonly, so I swept through the vegetation a bit and collected a representative series. On Oenethera sp. flowers I found a single A. immaculata and later several A. mixta and a very small Acmaeodera (looked like the one we collected yesterday at Mescalero). In one spot I found a few plants of an unidentified yellow composite with a few more A. mixta, and on Baccharis I found one A. obtusa(?) along with A. mixta. Coming back to the car Jeff and I noticed huge numbers of A. immaculata flying to an unidentified shrub, from which we each swept a nice series. Eventually the heat (103°F) again overwhelmed us, and we had to get in the car, eat, and cool down for a bit on the way to another spot.

Image may contain: sky and nature

The dunes are part of an extensive series of dunes stretching from West Texas through southeastern New Mexico.

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

Acmaeodera mixta on flower of an unidentified yellow composite.

We returned to an area with stands of soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) that we had seen when we first arrived in the area. I swept all of the small plants on the east side of the highway and got a single Agrilus sapindi – not nearly as abundant as we had seen at Mescalero Sands.

On the west side of the highway there were some larger mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa). I found one Chrysobothris octocola on the trunk, then Jeff and I noticed Acmaeoderopsis flying to the tips of the high branches. I got my aerial net and just started betting them as they flew in while we stood and watched. I caught them from several trees, but a majority from a single tree. That worked much better than beating this morning – I probably lost as many as I collected because they flew so quickly upon hitting the sheet.

Underneath one large mesquite I found several prionid elytra – couldn’t tell if they were Prionus or Derobrachus, but then I noticed burrows in the ground very similar to those we saw for Prionus integer in Colorado (see photo). We dug a few out but found nothing. Something to keep in mind.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

The high plains of west Texas.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Burrows like this one look suspiciously like those of Prionus integer in Colorado – did another Prionus make this one?

We returned to the dunes for some evening collecting. I beat the two large mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) trees by the parking area and got an Actenodes and a few Chrysobothris octocola – no Acmaeoderopsis, I guess they hide elsewhere for the night. Once dusk fell we began checking the pheromones and light – only a single male Prionus arenarius came to the pheromone, but we got several individuals of two Polyphylla spp. (P. monahansensis – larger, and P. pottsorum – smaller) at the light. Walking around the dunes at night there were significantly fewer tenebrionids and other insects walking around, but I did pick up two cool “concave” tenebs and a Pasimachus ground beetle.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

I’ve never seen a mourning dove make a nest in the ground before.

Image may contain: people standing, sky, grass, mountain, outdoor and nature

I always thought these oil pumps looked like dinosaurs bobbing up and down.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

“Bobbing dinosaurs” dot the landscape.

Image may contain: plant, flower, tree, sky, outdoor and nature

Bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus)—something tells me I should not touch this plant!

No photo description available.

A very small (<1.5” in length) scorpion visits the light looking for a meal.

No photo description available.

Face-to-face with a scorpion!


Day 6—I-10 Rest Area at mile marker 162, Texas
Just a quick stop to use the facilities, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to photograph these three Reakirts blues all on one flower (a fourth flew away before I could snap).

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

Reakirts blue (Echinargus isola). ID by Doug Taron.

San Felipe Park, near Fabens, Texas
We took a chance on going further west to the dunes near Fabens, since we’ve had such good luck with rains in the area. However, when we got here and started looking around it was apparent that nothing was happening here – dry, dry, dry with temps just over 100°F. I saw a few insects but only a single buprestid – Acmaeodera quadrivittatoides, and I missed it! We decided to cut bait and head back east and north towards Carlsbad – we should be able to get to the area in time for some late afternoon and evening collecting. You can’t win ‘em all!

Image may contain: bird

This roadrunner was rather annoyed with us for intruding in his spot of shade under a Siberian elm.

Image may contain: plant, sky, outdoor and nature

A broad-nosed weevil.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

A mating pair of walkingsticks. Note the great size difference between the male (smaller) and female (larger).

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

I think I found our retirement home!

Vicinity Carlsbad, New Mexico
After getting lost in the Fabens Sand Dunes and then a whole lot of driving back east into New Mexico, we arrived in Carlsbad with just enough time to grab a sandwich and head out to some promising habitat we’d noticed on the way in for some evening/night collecting.

The area contained a ribbon of woodland with mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), black acacia (Acacia rigida), and catclaw acacia (A. greggii). I beat only one tiny Chrysobothris sp. off the mesquite, but off the black acacia I beat three individuals (four actually, one got away) of a large, chunky Chrysobothris sp. that I do not recognize, plus an undetermined cerambycid and a few clytrines. Actually, before I collected the Chrysobothris I had given up on the lack acacia until I was walking by one plant and saw the first one sitting on a branch. I popped it in the vial and started beating the other plants in the area with renewed enthusiasm the find the other two (three!).

We setup the lights and the pheromones, but not much came to the former and nothing to the latter (expected, since there was no sand habitat nearby). The sunset beforehand, however, was magnificent, and I did find a couple of miscellaneous beetles walking around at night.

Image may contain: 1 person, sky, cloud, tree, plant, twilight, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, plant, cloud, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, cloud, twilight, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: plant and outdoor


Day 7—vicinity Loco Hills, New Mexico
We saw an area with stands of soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) alongside the road so stopped to sample it for Buprestidae. I got 3 Agrilus limpiae on trees right around the car but nothing on all the rest of the three stands nearest the car on either side of the road. I hope the south area of Mescalero Sands is not as dry as it still appears around here.

Soapberry (Sapindus drummondii).

Mescalero Sand Dunes, New Mexico
We found the central dunes of the southern area and immediately found several Acmaeodera mixta adults on mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) flowers. I started beating the mesquite and picked up a nice series of Acmaeoderopsis, one Actenodes, and a few other miscellaneous Acmaeodera off the larger trees. There was some soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) in bloom around the dunes, but beating it produced no Buprestidae.

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor

A lone windswept soapberry tree hangs on precariously to life in the dunes.

Image may contain: nature and outdoor

Acmaeodera mixta on flowers of mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa).

We stopped at a spot outside the dunes because it looked pretty green with a number of plants in bloom suggesting recent rain. I saw but did not take Acmaeodera mixta on white flowers of undetermined composite. I did collect a small series of bright red and black clerids on a small blue-green euphorbiaceous plant. Also saw a little horned lizard, who cooperated just enough to get a few snaps!

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

A young Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) tries to make himself look big!

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

Image may contain: plant, flower, sky, nature and outdoor

White-flowered composite blooming in the desert.

Vicinity Carrizozo, New Mexico
We stopped at a thick stand of yucca that we’d noted on the way past here earlier in the week, the hope being that we would find Tragidion armatum on the stems. Sadly we did not see any, nor did we see more than just a couple of the pompilid wasps that the beetles mimic. Surely this is a result of the lack of rain in the area, which the hotel clerk confirmed during our earlier check in. Cicadas, on the other hand, were everywhere!

The low sun illuminates the yuccas, while the higher clouds shade the mountains behind.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, nature and outdoor

The low sun illuminates the yuccas, while the higher clouds shade the mountains behind.

Image may contain: sky, plant, cloud, flower, tree, outdoor and nature

How many cicadas do you see on this single yucca stem?

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Promising clouds tease a thirsty landscape.

For the final stop for the day we returned to Valley of Fire Recreation Area – not really to collect insects, but to look about this fascinating landscape. The Lava Beds are thought to be 5,000 years old, having formed over a 30-year period when lava poured from Black Peak to the north (not a volcano, but a volcanic vent) at a rate that would fill 15 bathtubs every second! It was a serene and otherworldly walk in the falling darkness – nice way to cap off an evening.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

Towering clouds try to squeeze out some moisture.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, nature and outdoor

Lots of virga, little rain.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

A 400-year old juniper watches another sunset.


Day 8—vicinity Bingham, New Mexico and west on Hwy 380
We stopped at another yucca stand very near where we’d found the Tragidion armatum last weekend – no problem finding them here either. I got plenty of photographs of the beetles (despite having to go ‘au natural’ with the lighting – my flash unit had died!), as well as of cicadas, wasps, and other insects on the yucca stems and pods. Otherwise I only collected two Acmaeodera (looks like A. immaculata) on flowers of Sphaeralcea sp., what looks to be A. disjuncta/paradisjuncta on Ephedra sp., and a single Moneilema sp. on Opuntia imbricata. Nice stop!

Image may contain: sky, plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Variety of wasps on yucca.

We then stopped by “the juniper spot” again to see if I could get a better series of the Gyascutus (G. carolinensis?) that we found on the junipers (Juniperus monosperma). Boy, did I ever! I collected about 30 specimens this time, made easier by the fact that it was cooler and not nearly as windy! I also again collected two small Chrysobothris sp. on the juniper, a single Moneilema sp. on cholla (Opuntia imbricata), and a single Acmaeoderopsis sp. beating mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa).

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

One of the more exciting finds of the trip – a jewel beetle in the genus Gyascutus on Juniperus monosperma (I believe this is G. carolinensis).

Image may contain: plant

The greenish waxy bloom that covers the body must help the beetle blend into the foliage on which they perch.

Image may contain: 1 person, plant, outdoor and nature

A cactus beetle in the genus Moneilema on its host, cholla (Opuntia imbricata).

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

A multi-tool comes in very handy for collecting cactus beetles!

We stopped at another spot further west on Hwy 380, where last weekend when we were here we saw few beetles but I did collect yucca stems infested with Tragidion armatum larvae. It rained here later that day, so we stopped by again on our way back to see if the rains had prompted more insect activity. It didn’t seem to, but I did find a Tragidion armatum adult feeding on a yucca flower and photographed a big-as-heck katydid.

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Tragidion armatum adult female feeding on a yucca flower.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Big katydid. You can tell this is a brachypterous adult because the anterior wings are on top and their costal margins oriented outside (in nymphs the posterior wings are on top and their costal margins oriented inside).

Image may contain: plant, grass, outdoor and nature

Perfect camouflage!

“The Box”, vicinity Socorro, New Mexico
Last stop of the trip – we just wanted to find some habitat to beat around in before finding a hotel in Socorro for the night. I beat a couple of small Chrysobothris sp. from the Juniperus monosperma – no Gyascutus – and a couple of treehoppers from Prosopis glandulosa – no Acmaeoderopsis, then turned my attention to the cholla (Opuntia imbricata), in what must have been the thickest stand of this plant I’ve ever seen. There were two species of cactus beetles on them – Moneilema sp. and Coenopoeus palmeri, the latter a first for the trip. After hiking up to the canyon overlook, I realized that the collecting and fun were finally over (until Arizona in August!).

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

Cactus beetle (Moneilema sp,) on a cholla (Opuntia imbricata) skeleton.

Image may contain: plant, sky, flower, outdoor and nature

The “other” cactus beetle (Coenopoeus palmeri).

Image may contain: plant, flower, sky, outdoor and nature

How many cactus beetles can you count?

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, mountain, beard, nature and outdoor

Last selfie of the trip. That wry smile is the satisfaction of knowing that the trip was success, I collected lots of great beetles, and I learned a ton!

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

North America’s most “extreme” jewel beetle

When Chuck Bellamy passed away two years ago, he left behind a remarkable legacy of study on the family Buprestidae (jewel beetles) that includes not only his insect collection—surely one of the best in the world in terms of representation of genera and species in the family—but also his extensive library of primary literature. Both of these assets, built over a period of decades, are now housed in the California State Collection of Arthropods at the CDFA Plant Pest Diagnostics Laboratory in Sacramento, California. Chuck, however, was not just a jewel beetle collector and taxonomist—he was also a skilled photographer, focusing (pun intended) largely, though not exclusively, on his beloved jewel beetles. Digital cameras were still far in the future when Chuck began photographing these beetles, and as a result the bulk of his photographic legacy exists in the form of 35mm slides. I was the fortunate recipient of his slide collection, numbering in the thousands, and have been slowly scanning his slides into digital format with the goal to eventually make them available to the larger community of buprestid workers. Some of his best photos were published in a memorial issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin (2014, volume 68, number 1), and I featured a few additional photos in this post shortly before the publication of that issue. There remain slides, however, of many additional species, a large number of which surely represent the only field photographs of live adults. As I convert his slides to digital format, I hope to share some of the more interesting here.

For the first of these featured species, I can think of no better one than Lepismadora algodones. This tiny little jewel beetle is the only representative of the genus, which was not even known until 1986 when it was discovered by Mimi & Rob Velten in the Algodones Sand Hills of southeastern California. The species and genus were described the following year (Velten & Bellamy 1987), making Lepismadora the most recently discovered new genus of jewel beetle in the U.S. The recentness of its discovery is remarkable, since southern California in general and the Algodones Sand Dunes in particular were thought to have been relatively well collected at the time of the beetle’s discovery. Also remarkable is the distant relationship of this monotypic genus to any other North American species; its closest known relative being the genus Eudiadora—known only from Argentina (Bellamy 1991).

Lepismadora algodones

Lepismadora algodones Velten, in Velten & Bellamy, 1987 (Coleoptera: Buprestidae)

Even more remarkable, however, are its highly localized distribution and extreme habitat. The entire type series (one male holotype and 159 paratypes) and all individuals collected since its description have been found only in a single old canal on the west side of the Algodones dunes. Summer temperatures in the dunes routinely reach in excess of 110°F and are even higher in the depressed canal where the beetles are found. Astoundingly, the adults are active only during the hottest hours of the day (ca. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), during which time they can be found on the flowers and foliage of fanleaf crinklematTiquilia plicata (Boraginaceae). The reason for the beetle’s highly restricted distribution is a mystery, as the plant on which the beetles are found is rather widespread across the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. A final mystery is the still unknown larval host plant—it could be T. plicata, but it could just as likely be something completely different.

Algodones Dunes

Old canal on the west side of Algodones Sand Hills, type locality of Lepismadora algodones.

I moved to California a few years after the species was described and, of course, soon set out to find it for myself. I had driven to southern California from my home in Sacramento to meet the late Gayle Nelson (another important mentor of mine), who told me where to find the beetle and what the host plant looked like but also warned me about the extreme heat I would encounter. His advice was to hike the canal until I had half a bottle of water, then turn around and hike back. Mindful of his advice, I arrived at the dunes the next day around mid-morning, filled my water bottle and hydrated myself as much as I could, and climbed down into the canal. The heat was overpowering—more so down in the canal and far beyond anything I had ever experienced to that point, and after quickly recognizing the host plants I began tapping their tiny, prostrate branches over my beating sheet and looking for the beetles. I went as far as I could down the canal, perhaps 200 yards, before I had to turn around, but I had not yet seen any beetles and was starting to lose hope. I continued to tap host plants on the way back, though by then not really expecting to see anything. About halfway back I saw something laying on the ground a short distance ahead. As I approached I saw it was a small plastic vial with a white cap, and when I picked it up I saw inside a dried out T. plicata twig and a dead adult beetle—unmistakably L. algodones! While excited to have found the species, it was at the same time a bit unsatisfying for the specimen to be one that somebody else had collected before me and then lost (for all I know, it could have been Chuck Bellamy, considering that the beetle was apparently intended to be kept alive, possibly for photography!). I slipped the vial into my pocket, started tapping branches again, and found three additional adults in the immediate vicinity of where I had found the vial (and doing much to soothe my dissatisfaction with the first specimen). Those would be the only specimens that I would find that day, though I would succeed in finding another individual on a subsequent visit two years later.

REFERENCES:

Bellamy, C. L. 1991. A revision of the genus Eudiadora Obenberger (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 93(2):409-419 [Biodiversity Heritage Library].

Velten, R. K. & C. L. Bellamy. 1987. A new genus and species of Coroebini Bedel from southern California with a discussion of its relationships in the tribe (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 41(1):185–192 [pdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Insect Identifications and Etiquette

I’ve been a student of insects for most of my life, and of the many aspects of entomology that interest me, field collecting and identification remain the most enjoyable. My interest in beetles first began to gel during my days at the university (despite a thesis project focused on leafhoppers), and early in my career I settled on wood-boring beetles (principally Buprestidae and Cerambycidae) as the taxa that most interested me. To say that species identification of these beetles can be difficult is an understatement, but I was fortunate to have been helped by a number of individuals—well-established coleopterists—who freely shared their time and expertise with me during my early years and pointed me in the right direction as I began to learn the craft. Some of the more influential include colleagues that have since passed (e.g., Gayle Nelson, John Chemsak, Chuck Bellamy, and Frank Hovore) and those that, thankfully, continue with us (e.g., Rick Westcott and Henry Hespenheide).

It has been a little more than 30 years now since I began studying these beetles, and due in great part to the help I received early on and the motivation that it inspired within me, I have gained a certain amount of proficiency in their identification as well. Not surprisingly, I too regularly receive requests from people looking for help with identifications. I rarely turn down such requests (in fact, I don’t think I have ever turned one down)—it not only helps my own research but also, occasionally, allows me to fill a gap or two in my collection. More importantly, however, it is my duty—I benefited greatly from those who shared their expertise with me, so it’s only fair that I continue by their example.

As common a practice as this is among collectors, it seems odd that there are few written guidelines on the etiquette of requesting and providing identifications. Note that this is something different than borrowing specimens for study, which has its own set of expectations and responsibilities. As someone who has both requested and received requests for specimen identifications for a long time now, I have my own thoughts about reasonable expectations in this regard. Perhaps you, too, will find these thoughts useful the next time you contemplate asking somebody to identify your specimens (or accepting a request to do so).

Guidelines for requesting identifications

  1. Always ask permission to send specimens before doing so. ‘Nuff said.
  2. When you do send specimens, read  and follow the guidelines suggested to avoid creating additional work for the identifier who must repair specimens damaged in shipment.
  3. Leave extra room in the specimen box. While tightly packed specimens minimize shipment size and can reduce cost, it also increases risk of damage during shipment due to ‘bumping’ or during removal from the box for ID. More importantly, it allows little or no room for the addition of identification labels to specimens. Additionally, many identifiers find it helpful to remove all of the specimens from a box and group them by related taxa to facilitate identification. The reassembled specimens may require more space than they did in their original arrangement.
  4. Send the entire available series of specimens. A common practice among those sending specimens for ID is to hold back specimens from a series and send only one or a few examples. Whether this is to, again, minimize the size of the shipment, confirm a provisional ID, or safeguard specimens perceived as desirable, it nevertheless prevents the identifier from having access to the range of data and variability represented in the series. This is important if the series contains 1) multiple species, 2) previously undocumented distributions or ecological data, or 3) unusual morphological variants. An exception to this is when very long series of specimens are available and sending the entire series would be unwieldy and/or unnecessary. In this case, the identifier should be informed that only a partial series of specimens was sent.
  5. Allow retentions. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes individuals have balked at my requests to retain specimens that proved useful for my studies. This is poor etiquette, as it shows little respect for the value of the service being provided by the person making the identifications. More common is to allow retention of examples from a series, but not singletons. This also, in my opinion, is poor etiquette. I remember one of my early sendings to Gayle Nelson that contained a single specimen of Agrilus audax, a very rare North American buprestid known by only a handful of specimens. Not surprisingly, Gayle did not have this species in his collection, and while I, too, was a student of the group I didn’t hesitate to give this specimen Gayle—established and well-respected expert of the family that he was. To this day the species remains unrepresented in my collection, yet I have never second guessed that decision due to the value of what I gained in his respect and mentorship in the years since. Most identifiers are both humble and sparing in their requests for retentions.¹
  6. Allow time for identifications. Individuals with expertise in a given group are generally few in number, and those willing to provide identifications may be fewer still. As a result, they usually have a number of boxes on hand at any one time awaiting identification. Get an idea from them at the start of how long they expect it will be before they can complete the task. If the projected timeline passes and you don’t hear back from them, an inquiry is fine, but be polite and understanding.

¹ A corollary to this asking for specimens in exchange for specimens retained. An exchange involves two parties sending each other specimens that mutually benefit each other’s collections. Identifications are a service provided by one party that benefit the requester. To suggest an exchange as ‘payment’ for retained specimens ignores the value of the service being provided by the identifier

Guidelines for providing identifications

  1. Once specimens are received, protect them from damage as you would your own collection. Maintain them in a protective cabinet or check them regularly to ensure that dermestid pests do not gain a toehold.
  2. Provide the identifications in as timely a manner as possible. This is not always easy, especially for those willing to accept a large number of requests and who may find themselves inundated with boxes awaiting identification. If you cannot provide identifications relatively quickly, be honest with the requestor regarding how long you expect the identifications to take. If it does take longer, provide an update to the requestor and give them the option to have the specimens returned or confirm that they are okay with the delay.
  3. Add your identification label with your name and date (year) to at least the first specimen in the series. Even better is if you can add a small, pre-printed ID label to every specimen in the series, but this can be difficult if the number of specimens and/or diversity of species is large. If there are specimens with prior identifications that you disagree with, turn the prior ID label upside-down, replace through an existing pin hole, and add your ID label. I disagree with the practice of folding prior ID labels—not only could I be wrong, but this unnecessarily damages something with historical value, especially if new pin holes are added to the label. Always place your ID label below any existing labels (i.e., label order should reflect their sequence of placement—oldest labels nearest the specimen and newest labels furthest away).
  4. Keep retentions to a minimum. I generally ask to retain specimens only when they significantly improve the representation in my collection or provide significant new data—i.e., un- or under-represented species, undocumented distributions or ecological data, etc. The bar for singletons is even higher—usually only if they are completely absent from my collection (with ~65% of U.S. Buprestidae now represented in my collection, this is an increasingly uncommon occurrence).
  5. Following #4, provide an accounting of retained specimens. Minimally, a list of species and their number should be given, and my preference is to provide label data as well (especially if requested). I once sent a batch of beetles (in a family in which I do not specialize) to an expert for identification, and when I received them back it was obvious that a number of specimens had been retained (perhaps 1/3 of the total number). When I wrote to the identifier and asked for an accounting (remember, I was only asking for an accounting—I did not have a problem with the retentions themselves), I received a rather terse reply from the individual stating that he did not ‘have time’ to provide this. Needless to say, this level of dismissiveness was not appreciated, and I have since found another more agreeable researcher with expertise in that family to send specimens for identification.
  6. When you are ready to return the specimens, read  and follow it’s suggested guidelines to avoid causing damage to the specimens whose care you were entrusted.

Again, these guidelines are written from the perspective of a private individual sending and receiving specimens for identification. Scientists at institutions may have additional or differing guidelines on this subject, but in any case these guidelines should be communicated to and understood by individuals requesting identifications before any material is sent.

If you have additional suggestions or comments on how these guidelines can be improved I would appreciate hearing them.

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Buprestidae type specimens at Fundación Miguel Lillo, Argentina

During my most recent visit to Argentina this past February and March, I had the chance to go behind the scenes and visit the entomology collection at Fundación Miguel Lillo, Instituto de Entomología, Tucumán. It’s always a treat to visit any entomology collection—public or private—at any location. When the collection has holdings of Buprestidae, so much the better. Much to my delight, however, this collection not only had holdings of Buprestidae (not surprisingly representing primarily Argentine species), but also a small collection of type specimens designated by Antonio Cobos Sanchez (1922–1998). Cobos was one of the 20th century’s most prolific students of Buprestidae, with publications in the family spanning the period from 1949–1990 (coincidentally, 1990 being the year of my very first buprestid publication!). I was graciously allowed to photograph these specimens, some of which present interesting nomenclatural situations that are worthy of comment. These are presented below with my notes.

Jose xx & Ted MacRae

Looking at the insect collection at Fundación Miguel Lillo, Argentina.


Sufamily POLYCESTINAE

Tribe TYNDARINI

Tylauchenia golbachi Cobos, 1993 (currently placed in Oocypetes)

Tylauchenia golbachi Cobos, 1993. The species was moved to the genus Ocypetes.

Lapsus calami or mislabeled type specimen? Cobos (1973) described Tylauchenia golbachi from Argentina (now placed in the genus Ocypetes), stating the type locality as “6 kms. N. de Belén, 1.240 m. alt., Catamarca, Argentina (Willink, Terán y Stange coll., con trampa de Malaise, 1-15-I-1970…)”. The specimen above bears the holotype label, but the locality label clearly shows that it was collected in Tucumán rather than Catamarca and that the collector’s name is Guanuco rather than the above stated names. Interestingly, in the same publication Cobos gives the allotype female collection data as “San Pedro de Colalao, Tucumán, Argentina (Coll. Guanuco, 9-III-1949)”. At first I thought this might actually be the allotype rather than the holotype; however, 1) the specimen clearly bears a holotype label, and 2) it is also clearly a male based on the dissected genitalia preserved on the label below the specimen. There are two possible explanations, both of which make it difficult to determine what is the true type locality: 1) the holotype and allotype specimens are correctly labeled, but Cobos simply transposed their label data in his publication describing the species, making Tucumán the true type locality, or 2) the holotype and allotype locality labels were switched at some point and the true type locality is Catamarca, as stated in the publication in which the species is described. This latter possibility is more serious, as in addition to the doubts it generates regarding the type locality it also raises concern about the integrity of the holotype specimen. The latter explanation, however, seems less likely, as it is more difficult to imagine a scenario where only the locality label but not the others was switched than to imagine a transposition of label data in the publication. Sadly, at this point, there seems no easy way to determine which of the two explanations is correct.

Subfamily CHRYSOCHROINAE

Tribe DICERCINI

Lampetis tucumana monrosi Cobos (nomen nudum?)

Lampetis tucumana “monrosi” Cobos (ms name?)

A manuscript name? Cobos never actually proposed a subspecies “monrosi” for Lampetis tucumana (Guérin-Méneville & Percheron, 1835) (the name on the separate box label is misspelled). He did use the name for two other buprestid taxa: Tetragonoschema monrosi Cobos, 1949—now regarded as a synonym of T. argentiniense (Obenberger, 1915), and Anthaxia monrosi Cobos, 1972—now placed in the genus Agrilaxia. The holotype label on the specimen clearly states “Lampetis tucumana monrosi” in Cobos’ handwriting, so one can only presume that Cobos had identified this specimen as representing a distinct subspecies but never followed through and actually described it.

Ectinogonia (Pseudolampetis) fasciata metallica Cobos, 1969

Psiloptera (Pseudolampetis) fasciata metallica Cobos, 1969. Pseudolampetis was later considered a subgenus of Ectinogonia but is now regarded as a full genus.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave! Cobos (1969) originally described this taxon as a subspecies of Psiloptera (Pseudolampetisfasciata Kerremans, 1919. Moore (1986) moved Pseudolampetis to a subgenus of Ectinogonia, which resulted in two taxa in the latter genus bearing the name “metallica“—Ectinogonia (Pseudolampetisfasciata metallica (Cobos, 1969) and Ectinogonia metallica Fairmaire, 1856—the latter now considered a synonym of E. speciosa (Germain, 1856). In taxonomic nomenclature, two taxa in the same genus cannot bear the same name—a situation known as homonymy. In such cases, the older name has priority and the younger name, in this case Cobos’, must be replaced. This was done by Bellamy (2006), who proposed the new name moorei for this subspecies, resulting in the name Ectinogonia (Pseudolampetis) fasciata moorei Bellamy, 2006. To bring some level of absurdity to the situation, the subgenus Pseudolampetis was subsequently raised to full genus rank, being listed as such in the recent world catalogue (Bellamy 2008), and since Cobos’ name was not originally proposed within the genus Ectinogonia it no longer competes with Germain’s name in that genus. As a result, there is no homonymy and Cobos’ original name must once again stand as Pseudolampetis fasciata metallica (Cobos, 1969), while Bellamy’s replacement name must be regarded as unnecessary. This fact seems to have been overlooked when Pseudolampetis was raised to genus rank, as Cobos’ taxon is still listed in the world catalogue as “Pseudolampetis fasciata moorei (Bellamy, 2006)”! This situation is a perfect example of just how complicated these situations can be to identify, track, and update. The type locality for the unique female is given as “Chagual, 1.200 metros de altitud, Rio Marañón, en el Perú, VIII-1953 (B. Fernández leg.)”.

Subfamily BUPRESTINAE

Tribe STIGMODERINI

Conognatha rufiventris weyrauchi Cobos, 1969

Conognatha rufiventris weyrauchi Cobos, 1969. The taxon is now considered a synonym of Conognatha abdominalis Waterhouse, 1912.

Insufficient grounds. Cobos (1969) regarded this specimen from Peru as subspecifically distinct from Conognatha rufiventris Waterhouse, 1912 from Brazil based on a suite of subtle character differences and named the taxon Conognatha rufiventris weyrauchi in honor of Prof. W. Weyrauch, who made made the holotype specimen available to him for study. Moore & Lander (2010) considered that the taxon did not represent C. rufiventris, but rather was a uniquely colored specimen of Conognatha abdominalis Waterhouse, 1912. The holotype is a male with the type locality given as “del Valle de Chatichamayo, a 1.200 m., en Peru (J. Schuiike leg.)”.

Conognatha amphititres Cobos, 1958 (syn. of Buprestis amoena Kirby, 1818; currently placed in Conognatha)

Conognatha amoena amphititres Cobos, 1958. The taxon is now considered a synonym of C. amoena (Kirby, 1818).

Insufficient grounds—part II. Cobos (1958) regarded this specimen from Brazil as subspecifically distinct from C. amoena (Kirby, 1818—originally described in the genus Buprestis) based on subtle characters and gave it the name Conognatha amoena amphititres (no etymology was given for the subspecies name). Moore & Lander (2006) regarded these differences as insufficient for subspecies status and placed the taxon as a synonym of the parent species. The holotype is thought to be a female with the type locality given as “Rio de Janeiro (Brasil)”.

Tribe CHRYSOBOTHRINI

Colobogaster weyrauchi Cobos, 1966

Colobogaster weyrauchi Cobos, 1966

Cobos (1966) described Colobogaster weyrauchi from Peru and named it after the collector, relating it to the widespread Colobogaster cyanitarsis Gory & Laporte, 1837. The type locality was given as “Pucallpá, 200 m. alt., Perú (W. Weyrauch coll. I-1948)”.

Subfamily AGRILINAE

Tribe CORAEBINI

Dismorpha grandis Cobos, 1990

Dismorpha grandis Cobos, 1990

Cobos (1990) described Dismorpha grandis from Argentina in his very last buprestid publication, stating that the species had the appearance of an enormous D. irrorata (Gory & Laporte, 1839) (thus, the name “grandis“). The holotype is a male with the type locality given as “Bemberg, Misiones, Argentina (Exp. Hayward-Willink-Golbach: 12-29-I-1945)”.

Tribe AGRILINI

Diadorina golbachi Cobos, 1974 (monotypic)

Diadorina golbachi Cobos, 1974 (monotypic)

Cobos (1974) described Diadorina golbachi from Argentina as the only member (and thus the type species) of the new genus Diadorina (the genus is still regarded as monotypic), naming it in honor of the collector. The holotype specimen is a female with the type locality given as “La Tigres, Santiago del Estero, Argentina (R. Golbaeh coll. 11-16-1-1970)”.

Tribe TRACHEINI

Pachyshelus huallaga Cobos 1969 (correct spelling is huallagus)

Pachyshelus huallaga Cobos, 1969

Cobos (1969) described and named this species after the river at the type locality in Peru. He related it to Pachyschelus atratus Kerremans, 1896 from Brazil and northern Argentina, stating that it differed by its distinct and less brilliant coloration and other features. Since the genus name is considered masculine, the correct species name is “Pachyschelus huallagus Cobos, 1969″. The unique holotype is a female with the type locality given as “Tingo María, Rio Huallaga, 700 metros de altitud, Peru, X-1946 (W. Weyrauch leg.)”.

Pachyschelus weyrauchi Cobos, 1959

Pachyschelus weyrauchi Cobos, 1969

Cobos (1969) described Pachyschelus weyrauchi from Ecuador and named it in honor of its collector. He related the unique male to Pachyschelus aeneicollis (Kirsch, 1873) from Peru and Bolivia, citing differences in coloration, body shape, and surface sculpture. The type locality was given as “El Puyo, 900 metros de altitud, Ecuador, 10-IV-1958 (W. Weyrauch leg.)”.

There are two additional Buprestidae type specimens in the collection (Colobogaster pizarroi Cobos, 1966 and Hylaeogena cognathoides Cobos, 1969), but they are in another drawer that we did not find immediately and, thus, I did not have a chance to photograph them. My apologies!

REFERENCES:

Bellamy, C. L. 2006. Nomenclatural notes and corrections in Buprestidae (Coleoptera). The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 81(3/4):145–158 [pdf].

Bellamy, C. L. 2008. A World Catalogue and Bibliography of the Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestoidea). Volume 2: Chrysochroinae: Sphenopterini through Buprestinae: Stigmoderini. Pensoft Series Faunistica No. 77, pp. 626–1260, Pensoft Publishers, Sofia-Moscow [details & links].

Cobos, A. 1966. Notas sobre Bupréstidos neotropicales. XV: Tres especies nuevas de Colobogaster Sol. (Coleoptera). EOS, Revista Española de Entomología 41(2-3):205–214 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1969. Notas sobre Bupréstidos neotropicales XVII. Especies y subespecies nuevas (Coleoptera). EOS, Revista Española de Entomología 44(1968):19–43 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1958. Tercera nota sobre Bupréstidos (Ins. Coleoptera) neotropicales descripciónes y rectificaciónes diversas. Acta Zoologica Lilloana 15:83–102 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1973. Revisión del género Tylauchenia Burm., y afines (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). Archivos del Instituto de Aclimatacion 18:147–173 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1974. Notas sobre Bupréstidos neotropicales, XIX. El género Amorphosternus H. Deyrolle y afines. Archivos de Instituto de Aclimatación 19:65–81 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1990. Revisión del género Dismorpha Gistel (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). Revista Brasileira de Entomología 34(3):539–559 [pdf].

Moore Rodriguez, T. 1986. Contribución al conocimiento de los Buprestidos neotropicales (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Revista Chilena de Entomología 13:21–29 [BioStor].

Moore Rodriguez, T. & T. Lander. 2010. Revision du genre Conognatha. Edition Magellanes 24:1–172 [introduction and generic discussion in French and Spanish; keys to species in English, French and Spanish] [order information].

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Virtual Mantle 2014

As our lives become more digitized, the relatively new tradition of sending holiday “e-greetings” continues to grow. I for one embrace this tradition, as it doesn’t really replace the old tradition of sending actual cards but rather expands the scope of people with whom I can exchange greetings. I still send “real” cards to family and close, personal friends, but I can now also send greetings to the many entomologist/natural historian friends and colleagues with whom I’ve interacted over the past year. For several years now I’ve used the “photoshopped Santa hat theme” (see 2011’s Santa Jaws, 2012’s Buprestis saintnicholasii, and last year’s Felizard Navidad), but this year I decided to send a more “super-powered” greeting!

My entomologist friends and colleagues are also increasingly joining in the act, and just as many people hang holiday cards on their fireplace mantle, I like to hang holiday e-cards on the virtual mantle here at BitB—see my virtual mantles from 2012 and 2013. This year I received greetings from entomologists both here in the USA and the far flung continents of Europe, Asia, and Australia! If you didn’t send me an e-card this year, I hope you’ll consider sending me one in 2015.

Daniele Baiocchi—Rome, Italy

Daniele Baiocchi—Rome, Italy

Svata Bílý—Prague, Czech Republic

Svata Bílý—Prague, Czech Republic

Gianfranco Curletti, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Carmagnola, Italy

Gianfranco Curletti, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Carmagnola, Italy

Eduard Jendek, State Forest Products Research Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia

Eduard Jendek, State Forest Products Research Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia

Mark Kalashian, Institute of Zoology, Yerevan, Armenia

Mark Kalashian, Institute of Zoology, Yerevan, Armenia

Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA-APHIS-PPQ, South San Francisco, California, USA

Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA-APHIS-PPQ, South San Francisco, California, USA

Pham, Hong Thai, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, Hanoi

Pham, Hong Thai, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, Hanoi

Stanislav Prepsl, Vyškov, Czech Republic

Stanislav Prepsl, Vyškov, Czech Republic

Robert Sites, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

Robert Sites, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

Ilja Trojan, South Moravia, Czech Republic

Ilja Trojan, South Moravia, Czech Republic

Mark Volkovitsh, Zoological Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia

Mark Volkovitsh, Zoological Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia

Bill Warner, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Bill Warner, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Bill Warner, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Bill Warner, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Goeff Williams, Australian Museum, Sydney South, New South Wales

Goeff Williams, Australian Museum, Sydney South, New South Wales

Junsuke Yamasako, University of Tokyo, Japan

Junsuke Yamasako, University of Tokyo, Japan

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014