Even though I ended the bait trapping season last weekend, I still plan to get out on a weekly basis to explore some areas that I haven’t been able to visit yet this season. Tops on the list for me is Hughes Mountain Natural Area, an exposed rhyolite dome in the St. Francois Mountains that features dry oak-hickory woodlands surrounding xeric igneous glades.
The main thing I was hoping to see was Tragidion coquus, a spectacular longhorned beetle that seems common in some areas (e.g., Texas) but is rarely seen in Missouri. I saw one here three years ago in late September at the woodland/glade interface, and a recent conversation with fellow cerambyciphile Dan Heffern, who mentioned that they seem to prefer recently burned oak woodlands, makes me think that is why I saw it here (the surrounding woodlands are managed with periodic prescribed burns to stave off woody encroachment of the glade proper).
I hiked along the trail through the forest leading to the main glade, noting an abundance of many-rayed aster (Symphyotrichum anomalum) in bloom and a few persisting blooms on now-rank plants of slender false foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia).
After reaching the main glade, I stayed along the interface around its entire perimeter, hoping to see one of the beetles either resting on foliage or in flight. It was a good day to look—sunny and relatively warm, but no beetles were seen. In fact, even though we haven’t yet had any frost, there was not a lot of insect activity in general with the exception of marvelously cryptic lichen grasshoppers (Trimerotropis saxatilis), which were common on the glade along with a variety of other grasshoppers.
There was also little blooming on the glade, which made the chances of seeing the beetle even lower since they are known to be attracted to flowers such as thoroughwort (Eupatorium spp.) and blazingstar (Liatris spp.). I did find a few persisting blooms of the hot-pink largeflower fameflower (Phemeranthus calycinus), but most other plants were well past bloom. Eventually I completed the walk around the glade perimeter and worked my way back.
At one point, I found a clump of small shagbark hickories (Carya ovata) that were oozing sap at several points along the main trunks and noted a variety of insects feeding at the sap flows. I checked carefully, thinking that they might include T. coquus, but none were seen—just flies, butterflies, and a wheel bug assassin bug (Arilus cristatus). Shortly afterwards, I reached the car—my bottles empty but my soul nourished by another day surrounded by nature.
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 Oklahoma, 2013 Great Basin, 2014 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 yuccavora, Agrilus restrictus, Agr. arizonicus, Chrysobothris chiricauhua, Mastogenius 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!
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.
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).
Day 1 of the trip ended in typical monsoon fashion – heavy, thunderous rainstorms moved into the area during late afternoon, dimming prospects for blacklighting. Still, we set them up anyway at several spots and checked them later in the evening (flood waters preventing us from going to all the spots we wanted to). Not surprisingly, the one trap that yielded interesting specimens was in the lowest (warmest) area and received the least amount of rain. For me it was a nice series of Cylindera lemniscata.
Day 2 – Southwestern Research Station, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona
There is a large stand of a narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias sp.) at the station, so we stopped by in our way up the mountain to check it for beetles. Got a nice little series of Tetraopes discoideus (tiny little guys!) on the stems as well as a few Rhopalophora meeskei, two Lycus spp., and one Pelonides humeralis on the flowers.
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.
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.
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!).
Chiricahua National Monument
Not a bug collecting stop, but we wanted to drive into the monument and see the incredible rock formations which are best appreciated by driving through Bonita Canyon and then up to Massai Point. The unusual spires, columns, and balancing rocks are a result of erosion through vertical cracks in the compressed volcanic ash which was laid down in layers 25 million years ago and then uplifted. Tilting during uplift caused vertical fractures and slippage, into which water then worked its way to create today’s formations. One of the columns I saw is 143 feet tall and only 3 feet in diameter at one point near the base! Mexican jays were our constant, close companions as we hiked through the pinyon pine/oak/juniper woodland.
Vicinity Gleeson, Arizona
There is a wash across N Ghosttown Trail with stands of Baccharis sarothroides growing along the sides. Art previously collected a single Cotinis impia on one of the plants, so we came back to check them. We didn’t find any, but we did find two fine males and one female Trachyderes mandibularis on a couple of the plants. I also found a dead Polycestaaruensis.
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.
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).
The day ended enjoying steaks, Malbec, and Jameson with two of the best hosts ever!
Day 3 – Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Our first stop of the day was Box Canyon, a gorgeous, rugged canyon on the east side of the range. Mimosa dysocarpa was in bloom, off which I beat two Agrilus aeneocephalus, several Hippomelas planicauda, and one Stenaspis solitaria. Norm gave me an Acmaeodera cazieri that he’d collected on an unidentified yellow-flowered composite, and right afterwards I found some small, low-growing plants with purple flowers and sticky leaves (eventually ID’d as Allionia incarnata, or trailing four o’clock) to which Acmaeodera yuccavora and A. cazieri were flying in numbers. After that I crawled up top and beat the mesquites, getting one Chrysobothris sp., a mating pair of S. solitaria, and a couple of large clytrine leaf beetles.
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…
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.
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!
Day 4 – Prologue One of the downsides (if you can call it that) of having great collecting is the need to take periodic “breaks” to process all the specimens and make my field containers available for even more specimens. Thanks to Steve and Norm for making their place available to Art and I so we can do this before heading out to our next set of localities.
Copper Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
Copper Canyon is the classic spot for finding the charismatic Agrilus cavatus (see photo), but first we did some sweeping in the low vegetation near the parking area, where Norm got one Agrilus arizonicus and two Agrilus latifrons – and gave them to me! (Thanks, Norm!) I did some beating of the oaks, and after much work I ended up with a single Agrilaxia sp. and pogonocherine cerambycid on Emory oak (Quercus emoryi) and a couple of giant clytrines on the Arizona oak (Q. arizonicus). I then started sweeping the low-growing Acaciella angustissima – right away I got two A. cavatus. They were in the area past the cattle guard on the right where lots of dead stems were sticking up, and although I continued to sweep the plants more broadly in the area I never saw another one. Finally, Norm called me up to a small Mimosa dysocarpa near the car off which he collected three Agrilus elenorae – and gave them to me! (Thanks, Norm!) I gave the tree a tap and got one more, and in my last round of sweeping I came up with a Taphrocerus sp. (must be some sedges growing amongst the grasses).
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.
Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch of the National Audubon Society, Elgin, Arizona
Cool temperatures and a blustery wind discouraged most insects from finding our blacklights. However, our blacklight did find some other interesting local residents. These two individuals could be the stripe-tailed scorpion, Paravaejovis (Hoffmannius) spinigerus, a common species in Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
Day 5 – Miller Canyon Recreation Area, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
There was a lot of Baccharis sarothroides growing in the lower canyon near the parking area, so I checked it all out hoping to find Tragidion annulatum. None were seen, and in fact there was very little insect life in general. I did pick up a couple of Acmaeodera solitaria by sweeping – not anything significant but the 15th species buprestid of the trip and found a dead Cotinis mutabilis, and Art got a nice series of Chalcolepidius click beetles on B. sarothroides and Prosopis glandulosa. Puzzling the lack of insect activity, given how green all the plants were and how fresh the growth looked. I guess we’ll have to look elsewhere.
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).
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.
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!).
Day 6 – Vicinity Sonoita, Arizona
Unsuccessful attempt to collect Hippomelas martini, only recently described (Bellamy & Nelson, 1998) and part of the type series taken somewhere near this spot (“20 mi NE Patagonia, Hwy 82”) by “sweeping roadside vegetation”. At other locations it had been recorded on Calliandra sp., and I found patches of the plant here along and on top of the road cuts. This gives me confidence that I found the right spot, but I didn’t encounter this or any other beetles by sweeping the patches or visually inspecting them.
Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
We decided to come back to Box Canyon since we’d had such good luck last time. I started at the spot above the dry falls where I collected so many Acmaeodera cazieri and A. yuccavora on flowers of Allionia incarnata. This time it was hotter, drier, and windier, and the flowers were semi-closed. Still I found a few of each. I then started walking down the road towards the lower canyon crossing where I would meet up with Art. Things were really hopping on the Mimosa dysocarpa, with Hippomelas planicauda abundant (finally collected my fill) and several other Buprestidae also beaten from the plants: Agrilus aeneocepahlus, Acmaeodera scalaris, Acmaeodera cazieri, Chrysobothris sp., and a species of Spectralia! (seven species of Buprestidae at one location I think is the high for the trip.) I checked other plants and flowers along the way down but didn’t find much.
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!
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.
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 Mimosadysocarpa – just for the record!
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.
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!
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.
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).
It was a fantastic seven days in the field with Arthur, and it was a great pleasure to (in some cases, finally) meet Margarethe, Barbara, Steven, Norm, and Pat. I appreciate the warmth, generosity, and hospitality that all of them displayed to me and look forward to our next encounter, hopefully in the near future. Now, for some light reading during the plane ride home!
Shortgrass/sage brushland habitat in Medicine Bow Natl. Forest, Wyoming
In September 2010, Chris Brown and I explored shortgrass/sage brushland habitat atop the Laramie Mountains in southeastern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest (location “J” on this map). We were entering the final days of our 7th Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip™ and, to that point, had found every tiger beetle species we had set out to look for. This day, however, was the official “skunk” day of the trip, for although we did see one Cicindela limbalis (Common Claybank Tiger Beetle)—collected live to become the subject of one of the crappiest tiger beetle photos I’ve ever taken—we did not see the tiger beetle that we were there to see; Cicindela longilabris (Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle). Of course, I rarely have trouble finding consolation on a skunk day, and during fall this is even easier—the deep blue sky, crisp fall air, and vivid colors of a morphing landscape are enough to make even a bad day of insect collecting better than a good day of just about anything else. And then there are the band-winged grasshoppers (family Acrididae, subfamily Oedipodinae)! When there are no tiger beetles to be had, there are almost always members of this group around, and other than tiger beetles I don’t think there is another group of insects that I enjoy photographing more.
Arphia pseudonietana (red-winged grasshopper) | Medicine Bow Natl. Forest, Wyoming
As we walked the trails not finding tiger beetles, I noticed these very dark grasshoppers every once in a while. They flew with a particularly noisy crackling sound that exposed bright red hind wings before dropping to the ground and instantaneously becoming almost completely invisible. Once I accepted that tiger beetle photography just wasn’t gonna happen that day, I began paying attention to these grasshoppers and, after working a few individuals, finally found one who was willing to let me get close enough for some photos. I’m not terribly fond of this first photo—the perspective is still too high as I had not yet learned by that time to get down flat on my belly for photographing anything on the ground (remember, this was two years ago). Nevertheless, it is the only one that I have that shows the entire body of the grasshopper. Since this location isn’t too far west of the Nebraska border, I figured an identification should be possible using the Nebraska grasshopper guide (Brust et al. 2008)—based on that work and subsequent examination of photos at BugGuide, I surmise this individual represents Arphia pseudonietana (red-winged grasshopper). There are other species of Arphia in Nebraska, some of which are easily confused with A. pseudonietana; however, most of these are more common further east. The only other species in the genus that occurs west into Wyoming is A. conspersa (speckle-winged grasshopper), and although it is similar in appearance and may have red hind wings (though more commonly orange to yellowish), adults are most common during spring and early summer. Arphia pseudonietana adults, on the other hand, are most active during mid-summer through fall.
The pronotum bears a single notch just in front of the middle.
Grasshoppers, particularly in the western states, tend to be loathed by ranchers who see them as competitors with cattle for meager forage resources, especially in dry years. This species does feed preferentially on a variety of grasses such as western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis); however, it doesn’t seem to occur at economically important levels except in association with other, more numerous grasshopper species. I’m glad to know this, because for some reason I just don’t want anybody regarding band-winged grasshoppers of any kind as a pest. Other grasshoppers, fine—just not my beloved bandwings!
I presume this 5th instar nymph also represents A. pseudonietana
Later in the day I came across this presumed 5th-instar grasshopper nymph, and although it was quite skittish I eventually managed to get this single photograph before it resumed its frenetic hopping and I gave up in frustration. This is one of the better “one-shots” that I’ve managed to take—my only criticism being that the focus was just a tad too deep to catch the front metafemoral face. I really didn’t have much time to setup for this shot—once I got the critter reasonably in-frame I fired! Anyway, I’m inclined to think this also represents A. pseudonietana, although I’m less confident in that ID than I am for the adult as I wasn’t able to find a real good comparative photograph. Nymphs of A. pseudonietana are apparently most common from mid-spring to mid summer, so the seasonality is a bit off. I would be grateful to any acridophile who stumbles across this post and can provide an ID confirmation or correction (for either the nymph or the adult). Until then, I leave you with a shot that shows why I love fall regardless of whether I’m finding insects!
Quaking aspen glows under the late September sun.
Brust, M. L., W. W. Hoback and R. J. Wright. 2008.The Grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae and Romaleidae) of Nebraska. University of Nebraksa-Lincoln Extension, 138 pp.
Today I received word from Richard Levine at the Entomological Society of America that one of my photos had been selected for the 2013 version of their famed World of Insects Calendar!
Excuse me for a moment please… (pumps fist, stirs the pot, does a very bad moon walk…)
Okay, I’m back. Honestly, this is an honor that I did not expect—at least not yet. Historically dominated by such giants in the world of insect macrophotography as Piotr Naskrecki, Thomas Myers, and others, competition for ESA’s World of InsectsCalendar is fierce. Last year more than 500 photographs were submitted for 13 slots (12 months and an introductory page) by 98 photographers from around the world. I was one of those photographers, though not selected (no surprise as I was a first-time submitter). However, I took great pleasure in seeing fellow bug blogger Adrian Thysse nab two of the 2012 slots, and I increased my resolve to try again for next year with a selection of eight mostly newer photographs.
At the suggestion of Dave Stone, I present each of those photos below along with a short description of why I submitted it. However, I’m not going to tell you which photo ultimately was selected—I thought it might be fun to see which photo you think was selected and why. As added incentive for guessing, I’m going to award 10 BitB Challenge points to each person who correctly picks the selected photograph. BitB Challenge Session #6 is coming down to the wire, so this could have a big impact on the overall standings.
The 2013 Calendar will become available for sale later this year (probably October) at the ESA website—last year’s version cost only $12 (discounted to $8 for ESA members, and free for those attending the annual meeting [which I will be attending this year]).
From Stink Bugs on Soybean in Argentina (18 May 2011). I found these Edessa meditabunda stink bug eggs on the underside of a soybean leaf in Argentina almost ready to hatch. The developing eye spots in each egg gives the photo a “cute” factor rarely seen in such super close-ups.
From Big, Bold, and Beautiful (10 May 2011). I like this slightly panned out view because of the sense of scale and landscape created by the inclusion of the plantlets and the view over the small rise.
From Oedipodine Rex (15 July 2011). Some of my favorite insect photos are not only those that show the bug in all its glory, but also tell a story about its natural history. This nymph is almost invisible when sitting on the lichens that cover the sandstone exposures in its preferred glade habitat.
From Why I Roamed the Marsh at Night (23 August 2011). I used extension tubes to improve the quality of flash lighting (decreased lens to subject distance results in greater apparent light size), and I like the symmetry of the composition.
From Crazy Eyes (17 September 2011). Even though both the insect and the background are green, there is sufficient value contrast to create a pleasing composition, punctuated by the bizarre zig-zag pattern of the eyes.
Crossidius coralinus fulgidus (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) – a rabbitbrush longhorned beetle
From Crossidius coralinus fulgidus (4 October 2011). The blue sky background provides a pleasing contrast with the colors of this particular beetle and flowers.
As the heat of summer solidifies its chokehold over the middle and southern latitudes of North America, grasshopper nymphs will begin to ramp up their development. I see grasshoppers commonly in my soybean field trials, where their feeding presents more of an annoyance to me than an actual threat to yields.
I photographed this particular individual on almost this same date last year in one of my Illinois soybean trials, not knowing for sure which species it represented. There was no particular reason for only taking this one single photograph, other than it was perched nicely when I saw it and that I did not feel like taking the time to chase it into another good pose after my first shot disturbed it.
Later in the season I saw numerous adults representing Melanoplus differentialis (differential grasshopper), a common species in this area, and assumed this was its nymph. However, a closer look at the photo suggests it represents the closely related M. bivittatus (two-striped grasshopper). While adults of these two species are easily distinguished based on coloration, the nymphs can look very similar (especially in their earlier instars) and are distinguished on the basis of the black femoral marking—more or less solid in M. bivittatus and broken into chevrons that create a “herringbone” pattern in M. differentialis.
Wing pad size and relative body proportions suggest this is a fourth-instar nymph.
The last day of my vacation week in Corrientes, Argentina got off to a bad start—heavy rain moved in during the morning, and I feared my last chance at looking for insects was about to be washed away. The weather radar, however, showed a curious, abrupt line between rain/no rain across the river in Chaco Province. At noon I decided it was do or die and played a hunch that one of my favorite spots ~50 km west might have been spared the downpour, and if not at least I tried. Yet another example of how it usually pays to play your hunches—while the skies were gray and the ground and foliage a little damp, there was plenty of insect activity afield (and perhaps even enhanced by the first significant moisture in almost two months).
Tetanorhynchus poss. n. sp. | Chaco Province, Argentina
No sooner than had I walked 20 feet from the car did I see an enormous stick insect in a low, spreading acacia tree. I don’t know why I saw it, as it’s camouflage was quite effective, but after so many years of doing this I think I’ve just developed an eye for seeing things often easily missed. This, of course, is not your normal, run-of-the-mill (at least to North Americans) walkingstick (order Phasmida), but rather a member of the curious and exclusively Neotropical grasshopper family Proscopiidae, referred to in English as “jumping sticks” and in Spanish as “bicho palito” (stick bug). I recognized the family instantly, as I had already seen one of these a number of years ago in Uruguay (though not so large as this one), and of course Alex Wild featured what has become one of his most famous photos of a species from Ecuador in one of his Monday Night Mystery posts.
The super elongate fastigium suggests this may be a new species.
Gleefully I set about taking photos, focusing almost exclusively on the head. One thing that immediately struck me was the super-elongate fastigium (frontal projection)—many proscopiids lack this elongate fastigium, and I had not recalled seeing any example as long as the one on this individual. When I saw the super-closeup I had taken of the eyes and antennal bases from the ventral view, I knew I had my own Super Crop Challenge. Of course, it was not until after I posted the challenge that I realized identifying this insect below the family level was more of a challenge than I had anticipated. How could I award points for genus when I wasn’t even sure of this myself? Eventually I enlisted the help of Alba Bentos-Pereira at São Paulo University—he and his doctoral student are perhaps the only two people in the world that are working on this family. I had suggested, based on its location in Chaco Province and consulting Orthoptera Species File Online, that it must be either Tetanorhynchus calamus or Cephalocoemadaguerrei—both in the tribe Tetanorhynchini (Bentos-Pereira 2003). Alba kindly responded that it could be the former, it most definitely is not the latter, and perhaps most likely is that it represents an undescribed species (proscopiid taxonomy is still far from complete). He indicated that the presence of ventral spines on the metatibia would confirm membership in the tribe Tetanorhynchini (they are present), and provided several measurements from the male holotype of T. calamus that I could use to compare with my specimen. Although the absolute measurements might (and probably would) differ, their relative proportions should be the same as the type. Here are the results (measurements in mm):
As can be seen, most of the measurements are consistently 1.2–1.4X that of the male type. The head, however, is proportionately longer (1.7X), primarily due to the much longer fastigium (2.0X). Is this difference significant, at least enough to consider it a different species? I am currently awaiting Alba’s opinion on that.
Like all proscopiids, the form of the face seems to be''smiling'.'
While only two species of Proscopiidae are described from Chaco Province, there are eleven species known from northeastern Argentina (which includes the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Missiones and Santa Fe)—these are shown in the following list with hyperlinks to their respective pages at Orthoptera Species File Online, along with notes on type localities for each (or synonyms) and the length of the fastigium relative to the body:
Okay, in the title I indicated this was “My longest post ever!” Here’s why:
Congratulations to Sam Heads, whose work as a practicing orthopteran taxonomist and contributor to Orthoptera Species File Online set him up for the win with 17 points. Brady Richard takes 2nd place with 14 pts, while Chris Grinter and Dennis Haines share the final podium spot with 12 pts each. Congratulations to these folks, who jump out of the gate early in BitB Challenge Session #6.
Bentos-Pereira, A. 2003. The Tribe Tetanorhynchini, nov. (Orthoptera, Caelifera, Proscopiidae). Journal of Orthoptera Research 12(2):159–171.
Staleochlora viridicata | Cordoba Province, Argentina (March 2011)
Tucuras, langostas, and saltamontes are names in Argentina for what we in North America call grasshoppers (order Orthoptera, superfamily Acridoidea). Argentina certainly has its share of species, some of which can only be described as “gigantes”! During my first week out in the field at my home base here in western Buenos Aires Province, I encountered the hefty-bodied female in the photo below and was immediately reminded of a similar-looking individual I had photographed in neighboring Córodoba Province during my March 2011 visit. Both had short but well-developed wing pads that at first suggested they might be mature nymphs of an incredibly large species. However, when I noted both were females I decided they likely represented adults of some type of lubber grasshopper (family Romaleidae), many of which—especially the females—are brachypterous (short-winged) and heavy-bodied as adults. A little searching revealed that both belong to the genus Elaeochlora, each looking very much like the species pictured on an Argentine postal stamp and identified as E. viridis(update 9 Mar 2012 – Sam Heads has identified these as Staleochlora viridicata).
Staleochlora viridicata| Buenos Aires Province, Argentina (March 2012)
Getting at least a genus name for these individuals then prompted me to go back to photographs I had taken last year of other types of grasshoppers. One of these, Eutropidacris cristata, is truly one of the largest grasshoppers I have ever seen (update 9 Mar 12 – Sam Heads notes that Eutropidacris isnow a synonym of Tropidacris). This individual was seen in a soybean field in the northern Argentina province of Chaco. These insects, known in Argentina as “La tucura quebrachera,” apparently occur in outbreak numbers periodically and, understandably owing to their monstrous size, generate a lot of attention. In Brazil the sepcies is known as “gafanhoto-do-coqueiro” (coconut tree grasshopper),
Tropidacris cristata | Chaco Province, Argentina (March 2011)
One of the more colorful grasshoppers I have seen in Argentina is Chromacris speciosa. The individual below was photographed last March in eastern Córdoba Province, also on soybean. It’s tempting to presume that the green and yellow coloration has a cryptic function, but apparently the nymphs of this species are brightly colored red and black and have the habit of aggregating on foliage. This is classic aposematism (warning coloration) to indicate chemical protection from predation, so perhaps there is a similar function to the adult coloration as well.
Chromacris speciosa | Cordoba Province, Argentina (March 2011)
Welcome to the 4th Annual BitB Top 10, where I get to pick my 10 (more or less) favorite photographs of the year. As an insect macrophotographer I still feel like a relative newcomer, although with three seasons under my belt fewer and fewer people seem to be buying it anymore. Granted I’ve learned a lot during that time, but the learning curve is still looking rather steep. I don’t mind—that’s the fun part! With that said, I present a baker’s dozen of my favorite photographs featured here during 2011. I hope they reflect the learnings I’ve had the past year and maybe show some progress over previous years (2009, 2008 and 2010).
One more thing—I’m including a special bonus for the first time in this year’s edition. Each of the photos shown below is linked to a 1680×1120 version that may be freely downloaded for use as wallpaper, printing in calendars, or any other use (as long as it’s personal and non-profit). It’s my way of saying thanks for your readership and support.
From Red-eyed Devil (posted 8 Jan). I’ve done limited photography with prepared rather than live specimens. However, the recreated aggressive-defensive posture of this greater arid-land katydid (Neobarrettia spinosa)—or “red-eyed devil”—was too striking to pass up. A clean background allows every spine and tooth to be seen with terrifying clarity.
From Brazil Bugs #13 – Gorgulho do fungo (posted 17 Feb). This photo of a fungus weevil, Phaenithon semigriseus, is one of the first where I nailed the focus right on the eye at such a magnitude of closeup (~3X) and also got the composition I was looking for. I didn’t notice at the time, but the beetle seems to be “smiling.”
From Bichos Argentinos #6 – Jumping Spider (posted 28 Mar). One of the field techniques I’ve been practicing this year is actually holding the plant with the subject in one hand, resting the camera on my wrist and controlling it with the other hand, and manipulating the position of the plant to achieve a desired composition. It’s a difficult technique to master, but the results are worth it. The jumping spider, Euophryssutrix, represents one of my earliest successful attempts with this technique.
From Bichos Argentinos #7 – Naupactus xanthographus (posted 30 Mar). This South American tree fruit weevil looks like it is sitting quite calmly on a branch. In reality, it never stopped crawling while I attempted to photograph it. Crawling subjects are not only difficult to focus on but also almost always have a “bum” leg. I achieved this photo by tracking the beetle through the lens and firing shots as soon as the center focus point flashed, playing a numbers game to ensure that I got at least one with all the legs nicely positioned. I’d have been even happier with this photo if I had not clipped the antennal tip.
From Feasting on the bounty (posted 4 May). Face shots of predatory insects are hard to resist, and in this one of the fiery searcher beetle, Calosoma scrutator, the angle of the subject to the lighting was perfect for showing off every ridge and tooth in its impressive mandibles.
From Big, Bold, and Beautiful (posted 10 May). I’ve taken plenty of lateral profile shots of tiger beetles, but I like this slightly panned out one especially because of the sense of scale and landscape created by the inclusion of the plantlets and the view over the small rise.
From Stink Bugs on Soybean in Argentina (posted 18 May). I found these Edessa meditabunda stink bug eggs on the underside of a soybean leaf in Argentina almost ready to hatch. The developing eye spots in each egg gives the photo a “cute” factor rarely seen in such super close-ups.
From Oedipodine Rex (posted 15 July). Some of my favorite insect photos are not only those that show the bug in all its glory, but also tell a story about its natural history. This nymphal lichen grasshopper, Trimerotropis saxatilis, is almost invisible when sitting on the lichens that cover the sandstone exposures in its preferred glade habitat.
From Why I Roamed the Marsh at Night (posted 23 Aug). I know this is the second beetle face shot I’ve included in the final selections, but it was while photographing this rare Florida metallic tiger beetle, Tetracha floridana, in the middle of the night that I discovered the use of extension tubes to improve the quality of flash lighting (decreased lens to subject distance results in greater apparent light size). This is perhaps one of the best illuminated direct flash photographs that I’ve taken, and I also like the symmetry of the composition.
From Crazy Eyes (posted 17 Sep). The three-cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) is a common pest of alfalfa and soybean in the U.S. However, despite its abundance, I’ve never noticed the bizarre zig-zag pattern of the eyes until I took this photo. Even though both the insect and the background are green, there is sufficient value contrast to create a pleasing composition. Bumping up the ISO and a lower FEC setting prevented overblowing the light greens—easy to do with full flash macrophotography.
From Crossidius coralinus fulgidus (posted 4 Oct). This longhorned beetle had settled in for the night on its Ericamera nauseosa host plant, allowing me to use higher ISO and lower shutter speed settings with a hand-held camera to achieve this very pleasing blue sky background, while retaining the sharpness of detail of the subject that comes from full-flash illumination. The blue sky background provides a more pleasing contrast with the colors of this particular beetle and flowers than the black background that is more typically seen with full-flash macrophotography.
From A Riot of Colors (19 Dec). An uncommon underside view of these purple tree fungus (Trichaptum biforme) caps and use of flash illumination allows the colors to literally glow against the bright green lichens also growing on the tree. Keeping aperture at a moderate setting allows blurring of the caps further back, adding three-dimensionality to the photo and preventing it from looking ‘flat.’
Well, there you have it, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my selections. Please do tell me if you have a favorite among theses (and if there were other photos posted during 2011 that you think deserved making the final selections).