How to be an “iPhone nature photographer”

My passion for insect macro-photography is well known, so it may come as a surprise to learn that I have, during the past year or so, also become an avid “iPhone photographer”—i.e., I actually use my iPhone for “real” photography and not just selfies or quick snapshots. This is not to say that an iPhone can do everything that a digital SLR camera can do, especially when one considers the resolution of and wealth of lens options available for the latter. Nevertheless, as the world’s best selling smart phone, the iPhone has, by way of its camera function, also become the world’s best selling camera, and even though it cannot match the power of a dSLR, there are certain situations and types of photos for which the iPhone is perfectly adapted. Having gained some level of proficiency in learning what the iPhone can and cannot do when it comes to photography, I thought I would offer this photo set of a hike I did today along the Courtois Section of the Ozark Trail as a primer for the types of photos at which iPhones excel, along with some tips and tricks I’ve learned to get the most of the iPhone’s capabilities.

An iPhone is basically a fully automated, wide-angle camera (although the user can control exposure to some extent by touching the screen at the desired point). As such, it excels at landscape and general nature photos, and its small-diameter lens also allows some use for “wide-angle macro.” iPhones do not do well in low light situations or take true macro photographs (although one can use a variety of “clip-on” lenses to achieve fairly decent macro-photographs of larger insects—I have not tried this myself). As a result, I tend to use the iPhone mostly in good light situations and break out the big camera when the lighting is more challenging or if I want to take “real” macrophotographs. As with all digital photographs, good post-processing is necessary for making iPhone photos look their best, and in general a more aggressive approach than is typical for dSLR photographs will be required. The photos that follow are intended not only to give a flavor of the day’s hike, but also demonstrate my photographic approach and provide tips on composition, exposure, and post-processing. If you have gained experience in iPhone photography and have additional tips and tricks that you would like to share, I would greatly appreciate hearing about them in the comments.

Courtois Creek - immediately at the start we had to make a decision whether we could ford the creek. It was obviously too deep in most places, and we almost turned back, but then saw a path that looked like it might be passable. With air temps of 22F, we stripped off our pants, boots, and socks, packed them in our backpacks, and waded through frigid water that reached just below our hips before reaching the other side. Rich brought a towel, so we were able to dry off before getting dressed again. The whole process took almost a full half-hour.

Courtois Creek – immediately at the start we had to make a decision whether we could ford the creek. It was obviously too deep in most places, and we almost turned back, but then saw a path that looked like it might be passable. With air temps of 22F, we stripped off our pants, boots, and socks, packed them in our backpacks, and waded through frigid water that reached just below our hips before reaching the other side. Rich brought a towel, so we were able to dry off before getting dressed again. The whole process took almost a full half-hour.

This photo was taken into the sun, which can easily result in a washed out sky. To avoid this, I minimized the amount of sky in the photo (which also allowed the ripples in the foreground to be included for a sense of motion) and then touched the screen on the sky to set the exposure. This resulted in a dark photo, but it preserved the rich colors which could then be brought out with aggressive brightening and increasing the contrast in Photoshop. A standard set of commands that I generally use for all iPhone photos (slightly increased saturation, sharpening, and de-speckling) produced the finished version.

Bluffs along Courtois Creek - massive bluffs along the other side of the creek sported fallend boulders the size of dump trucks.

Bluffs along Courtois Creek – massive bluffs along the other side of the creek sported fallen boulders the size of dump trucks.

Another photo taken in the direction of the sun, causing the shadowed side of the rock to turn out very dark. Again I touched the screen on the sky to preserve the blue color and then aggressively lightened in Photoshop. Aggressive brightening generally requires a more aggressive increase in contrast, followed by the standard command set mentioned for the first photo.

We were feeling good about our decision to ford the creek as we hiked below spectacular bluffs.

We were feeling good about our decision to ford the creek as we hiked below spectacular bluffs.

This photo required fairly minimal post-processing since it was shot away from the sun and, thus, had decent native exposure. The bluff face was a little dark and needed minor brightening, but as always I set the exposure in the brightest area of the photo and then post-corrected the dark areas (this is much easier than the opposite, i.e., darkening areas that are too bright, as such areas are often blown and cannot be fixed).

Ozark Trail blaze.

Ozark Trail blaze.

A very close-up shot of a trail blaze. The main watch out with such photos is to ensure the plane of the camera matches the subject precisely, otherwise distortion will cause elongation of one side (making the blaze a trapezoid rather than a rectangle). In post-processing I set the white point in levels by greatly magnifying the image and clicking on a very white part of the blaze to get a more natural looking white rather than the dirty gray that often results when shooting largely white subjects.

Blufftop view of Courtois Creek - from a vantage point several hundred feet above the creek we could look down on our crossing point. I have a fear of heights but nevertheless hung onto the treefall in front of me to inch out for a clear view.

Blufftop view of Courtois Creek – from a vantage point several hundred feet above the creek we could look down on our crossing point. I have a fear of heights but nevertheless hung onto the tree fall in front of me to inch out for a clear view.

This was another photo taken fairly towards the sun. I wanted just a thin band of sky to add a sense of scale to the downward-looking view, but with little sky the camera automatically wanted to expose for the darker foreground, thus blowing the sky. To prevent this, I tilted the camera up slightly to get more sky, touched the screen on the sky to set exposure, then tilted back down to the composition I wanted and took the shot. Post-processing involved aggressive brightening as described for the first two photos above.

Sapsucker damage on an old tree.

Sapsucker damage on an old tree.

I approached this tree from an angle facing the sun, so I simply waited until we passed it and could turn to place the sun behind me while shooting this tree. The trick is to get the right distance for a composition that doesn’t include too much wasted space at the foot of the tree or in its canopy, so this requires some walking back and forth until the right composition is achieved (I do not use the zoom function on the camera unless I have to because of the loss of resolution).

Close-up view of sapsucker damage. Obviously they have been using this tree for many years

Close-up view of sapsucker damage. Obviously they have been using this tree for many years

A closer view of the sapsucker damage—again this is mostly a compositional challenge, which I met by getting close enough to have this interesting “looking up” perspective but still far enough away to include the lowest ring of damage at the bottom of the photo and the highest at the top. Little post-processing other than the standard set was required for this sun-behind-me photograph.

Crystallifolia forms when water drawn from the soil by certain plants oozes out of the stem and contacts frigid air. Additional water pushes out the ice, then freezes itself, resulting in long, thin ribbons of ice that curl around themselves

Crystallofolia forms when water drawn from the soil by certain plants oozes out of the stem and contacts frigid air. Additional water pushes out the ice, then freezes itself, resulting in long, thin ribbons of ice that curl around themselves

For photographing crystallofolia and other small, ground-dwelling features, I like to turn the iPhone so that the lens is on the bottom edge to achieve a true ground-level perspective. The macro capabilities of the iPhone are limited, so in this case I used the zoom function (maybe about 1/3 to full zoom), centered the feature in the photo to get the best exposure and focus, and then did a little more cropping post-processing at the bottom of the photo to minimize the amount of blurred foreground. Again, a mostly white subject such as this tends to come out dull in the native photograph, so I enlarged the image greatly in Photoshop, opened Levels, clicked on set white point, and then clicked on the whitest portion of the subject that I could find to achieve a more ‘naturally’ white subject. It can take a few tries to find a spot in the image that doesn’t result in unnatural over-whitening of the subject—one must play around a bit to find it.

Crustose lichens abound on the dolomite bedrock exposures along the "Narrows" - a long, narrow ridge between the Courtois and Huzzah Creek Valleys.

Crustose lichens abound on the dolomite bedrock exposures along the “Narrows” – a long, narrow ridge between the Courtois and Huzzah Creek Valleys.

Again, I like to use a low perspective for ground features such as these lichen-encrusted rocks strewn across the forest floor. If you let the iPhone focus naturally, it tends to focus on subjects closer to the middle of the photo, so be sure to touch the screen on the foremost subject to set the focus in the foreground. Photos with contrasting colors such as the greens, browns, and blues in this one generally benefit from a little more aggressive increase in saturation (maybe 15-20%) than I normally use for iPhone photos (usually 5-10%).

Close-up view of crustose lichens.

Close-up view of crustose lichens.

A semi- wide-angle macro photograph that combines a lichen encrusted rock in the foreground with forest and sky in the background. The camera will automatically focus on the background, so touch the screen at the top of the foreground object to set focus. It also helps to pan back a little bit to include more in the frame than is desired, then crop a little in Photoshop as the lower part of the foreground object will tend to be out of focus unless it is a perfectly vertical surface (rare). In this photo I cropped out about 1/5 from the bottom and a corresponding amount on each side to maintain original aspect ratio.

More dolomite exposures with crustose lichens.

More dolomite exposures with crustose lichens.

Highly dimensional foreground objects add depth and perspective to low-angle shots. Again, it is better to get a little more in the photo than desired and the crop slightly afterwards than to get too close and not be able to do anything about it. Taking the native shot a little further back also ensures that the entire foreground object is in focus.

Fruticose lichens and moss intermingle in particularly moist spots.

Fruticose lichens and moss intermingle in particularly moist spots.

Like the close-up photo of the lichen-encrusted rock above, this photo of intermingled moss and fruticose lichens benefits from a low perspective with a high color contrast immediate background (fallen leaves) and blurred deep background (forest/sky) to add perspective. While the latter is not completely blurred, but it’s enough that it doesn’t detract from the main subject. The latter has maximal focus by backing up slightly for the shot and then cropping off the bottom out-of-focus portion in Photoshop. Again, I increased saturation a little more than usual to emphasize the value contrast.

Friend and Ozark Trail co-conspirator Rich Thoma looks out over the Huzzah Creek Valley.

Friend and Ozark Trail co-conspirator Rich Thoma looks out over the Huzzah Creek Valley.

The main challenge with this photo was the shadow cast over Rich by the trees behind him. Setting the exposure on him resulted in a washed out sky, which I really wanted to preserve because of the textured clouds. I also wanted to include a good portion of the sky to give the sense of looking out over a far-below valley, so I set the exposure for the sky. The resulting photo had a good sky, but Rich was hidden in a darkly shadowed area. I used lighten shadows in Photoshop to brighten Rich and the shadowed area where he is standing, and I used aggressively increased saturation to make the many different shades of brown in the rest of the photo pop out.

An ancient red-cedar snag hugs the bluff tops overlooking the Huzzah Creek Valley.

An ancient red-cedar snag hugs the bluff tops overlooking the Huzzah Creek Valley.

This photo had largely the same challenges and was dealt with in the same manner as the previous. The ancient red-cedar snag is an interesting and unusual subject, and I first tried a portrait orientation, but I decided I liked this landscape orientation better because of the ability to include living red-cedar to add a sense of time contrast.

Icicles form on an undercut below the bluff top.

Icicles form on an undercut below the bluff top.

Whenever I find icicles hanging from a rock overhang, I like to provide a more unusual perspective by getting behind the icicles and looking out onto the landscape. It can be hard to get the camera to focus on the icicles rather than the distant landscape—just keep touching them on the screen until it works. I used shadow lightening in Photoshop to brighten the dark rock surfaces in the foreground.

A cap of resistant dolomite lines the top of the Huzzah Creek Valley.

A cap of resistant dolomite lines the top of the Huzzah Creek Valley.

This was a difficult photograph—sun on the pines/cedars on the left overexposed them, while shadows on the naturally dark rock bluff surfaces left them underexposed. This photo was made fairly acceptable by using both “darken highlights” and “lighten shadows” (careful—too aggressive with these features results in unnatural-looking photos), followed by brightening and increasing the contrast, and finally by increasing the saturation. It’s still not a great photo, but sometimes you get what you get.

More icicles.

More icicles.

This larger set of icicles was nicely positioned in front of an interestingly sloped landscape with the sun coming from the left. Again, I got behind them, kept touching the screen on the icicles until the iPhone focused on them, and then adjusted the white point setting in Levels in Photoshop to really make them pop against the rich browns of the landscape behind.

Icicles were especially abundant in this section of the bluff tops.

Icicles were especially abundant in this section of the bluff tops.

A fairly easy shot due to the direction of the sun that required no more than the usual amount of post-processing. Note the perspective, which was to have the rock feature begin right at the bottom left corner of the photograph with some sky above it.

Despite subfreezing air temperatures, sunlight causes water to drip from overhanging icicles, causing ice stalagmites on the ground beneath.

Despite subfreezing air temperatures, sunlight causes water to drip from overhanging icicles, causing ice stalagmites on the ground beneath.

This photo had some dark areas in the foreground that were cropped out, and to emphasize the ice I was more aggressive post-processing with brightening and increasing the contrast. Again, as with most photos with a lot of white in the subject, I adjusted the white point in Photoshop Levels to reduce the “dinginess” that seems natural for ambient light iPhone photos.

Icicles glisten in the frigid sunlight.

Icicles glisten in the frigid sunlight.

In this case, the sun glistening on the icicles and a deep recess behind them provided a natural contrast that I further emphasized in post-processing, along with brightening and setting white point. The icicles suffer from distortion due to my low angle (I’m not that tall!), which I tried to fix with Photoshop’s distort feature but wasn’t satisfied with the result.

Close-up of ice stalagmites, revealing the twigs and petioles around which they have formed.

Close-up of ice stalagmites, revealing the twigs and petioles around which they have formed.

The approach with this photo was very much like that used for the close-ups of the lichen-encrusted rocks and intermingled lichens/moss photos—i.e., I backed up a bit to include more foreground than I wanted (which will be blurred at the bottom after setting the focus point on one of the stalagmites) and then cropped it out in post-processing. White subject = setting white point and using more aggressive brightening and contrast.

 Ted MacRae Yesterday ·  Rock, ice, and sunlight converge along the bluff tops


Rock, ice, and sunlight converge along the bluff tops

Again, the formation starts at the lower corner, and in this case the foreground (the right side) also contains an interesting clump of icicles. With the sun behind me, little was required to assure proper exposure, and only normal post-processing was required.

Moss with fruiting structures on a fallen log.

Moss with fruiting structures on a fallen log.

This moss on a fallen log was actually one of the more difficult photographs I took. I took the photo at an angle so that the background fruiting structures would form a solid, blurred red horizon to add depth, but in doing this the iPhone didn’t know where I wanted to focus and kept choosing the background. To force it to “choose” the foreground fruiting structures, I tilted the camera down so that only the foreground was in the frame, touched the screen on the fruiting structures in the back part of the screen to set focus where I wanted, then tilted the screen back again to include the background fruiting structures distant blurred background for perspective. One must shoot quickly when doing this or the iPhone will automatically readjust its focus to the background. I’ve tried shots such as this with the sky in the background, but in my experience the iPhone cannot focus on very thin foreground objects with the sky in the background, and the difference in brightness between the background and foreground is especially difficult to correct. Like the other semi- wide-angle macro shots above, I used the zoom feature (slightly), included a little more in the photo than I wanted, and then cropped out the overly blurred bottom portion of the photo.

Mushrooms on a fallen log.

Mushrooms on a fallen log.

Here is a typical photograph that someone might take of these large, saucer-sized mushrooms on a fallen log. In addition to being a pedestrian view of such a subject, it seems that iPhones sometimes have difficulty registering the correct color for photos taken straight down to the ground. This photo required quite a bit of color correction, and I’m still not overly satisfied with the result.

"Bug's eye" view of mushrooms on a fallen log.

“Bug’s eye” view of mushrooms on a fallen log.

As an alternative, I suggest getting low to photograph subjects such as this. The iPhone, with its lens against one edge and screen view, is well-adapted to take such low-angle photos, resulting in a much more interesting photo than the typical “looking down” perspective exemplified above. Inclusion of a little bit of sky in the background also provided some nice color contrast, made easier by shooting away from the sun, which was further emphasized in post-processing by increasing the saturation. As with the other semi- wide-angle macro photographs, a little bit of cropping along the bottom (but do keep the original aspect ratio) also benefited the photograph.

Moss covering the rock exposures in a delightful valley leading up from the Huzzah Creek Valley indicate an abundance of moisture.

Moss covering the rock exposures in a delightful valley leading up from the Huzzah Creek Valley indicate an abundance of moisture.

Last, but not least, this photograph of shaded, heavily moss-laden rock outcroppings bordering a small waterfall needed to be shot very dark in order to avoid “blowing” the sky in the background. Simply pointing and shooting into the shade will cause the iPhone to correctly expose the rocks, but the sky will be blown rather than retaining its blue color. Like the first two photos, I composed the image, then touched the screen on the sky to reduce the exposure. Again, this resulted in a photo that was very dark in the foreground, but this was easily corrected by aggressive brightening, adding contrast, and increasing the saturation post-processing to achieve a nice mix of browns and greens while preserving the blue sky background. In forest shots such as this with a lot of vertical objects, pay attention to distortion while composing the photo to avoid having trees at the edge of the photo “bowing” inwards at their tops. Sometimes this can be avoided by minor adjustments to the tilt of the iPhone while taking the shot, but if your position in the landscape is such that camera tilt alone is not enough to prevent this without losing the desired composition then go ahead and shoot the desired composition and use the “distortion” tool in Photoshop to correct the distortion this works best if bowing is minor).

I hope you have enjoyed this iPhone nature photography tutorial. If you have additional ideas or suggestions please let me know, and also I would be glad to hear of any related subjects you would like me to cover.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Ozark Landscapes – White River in northern Arkansas

White River near Calico Rock, Arkansas

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

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Two things I love about glades during fall…

…prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) in bloom…

Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) in bloom | Caney Mountain Cons. Area, Ozark Co., Missouri

…and prairie tiger beetles (Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina) on the prowl…

Prairie tiger beetle (Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina) | Caney Mountain Cons. Area, Ozark Co., Missouri

On the last weekend of August I made another trip to the White River Hills of north-central Arkansas in a last gasp effort to confirm the occurrence in the area of the swift tiger beetle (Cylindera celeripes).  Records of this species include a single individual collected in 1996 at a site near Calico Rock, but two trips to the area this past June had already failed to reveal its presence.  I didn’t really expect that I would find it this time either, and such was the case.  However, what I was expecting/hoping to see was the beginning of the fall emergence of the prairie tiger beetle.  The Missouri/Arkansas disjunct population of this handsome species is perhaps my favorite tiger beetle of all, not only because of its good looks but because of the many spectacular fall collecting trips I’ve taken through the White River Hills to look for it.  In this regard I had success, although only two individuals were seen all day long.  The area around Calico Rock seemed dry, apparently having been missed by the thunderstorms that rolled through the area a week earlier and that would have surely triggered full bore adult emergence. 

Long Bald Glade Natural Area, Caney Mountain Cons. Area, Ozark Co., Missouri

The following day I returned to Caney Mountain Conservation Area on the Missouri side, where last fall I had finally found prairie tiger beetles after years of searching what must be the extreme northeasternmost limit of its distribution.  Fresh evidence of recent rains was seen, and accordingly the beetles were out in fairly decent numbers in the same area where I found them last fall.  I took the opportunity to photograph a few individuals (which I had not done last year) and then turned my attention to looking for other insects.  I had my eye out for the spectacularly beautiful bumelia borer (Plinthocoelium suaveolens) and eventually found one.  I hoped also to see the marvelously monstrous Microstylum morosum (North America’s largest robber fly), which I found at this site in 2009 as a new state record and was rewarded with two individuals (these will serve as vouchers for the state record, since I didn’t collect it in 2009).  Temperatures were rather warm and both of these latter species are traditional “summer” species; however, the presence of prairie tiger beetles, the tawny tinge to the prairie grasses, and the noticeably longer shadows under a deep blue sky told me that fall was, indeed, on the way.

Prairie tiger beetle (Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina) | Caney Mountain Cons. Area, Ozark Co., Missouri

While prairie tiger beetles are (at least for me) the most iconic harbinger of fall in the White River Hills, another classic fall sight was the thick stands of prairie dock plants with their tall, bolting flower spikes.  In Missouri this plant serves as a larval host for the longhorned beetle Ataxia hubbardi.  In my early years of collecting in Missouri’s glades, I delighted in finding adults of these beetles clinging to the flower stalks during fall—presumably laying eggs from which larvae would hatch and bore down into the tap-root.  Although commonly regarded as a pest in sunflower in the southern Great Plains, individuals associated with prairie dock in Missouri’s glades seem different—smaller, narrower, and darker—than those found on sunflower and other more common hosts.  Additional material will be needed to make a final assessment on whether these individuals represent a distinct taxon; however, I have not been able to find this species on prairie dock in Missouri since I moved back to the state nearly 16 years ago.  The reason for this sudden disappearance remains a mystery, and perhaps it is purely coincidental that the Missouri Department of Conservation began managing all of their glades with prescribed burns during my previous 5-year absence from the state.  In the meantime, I will continue to examine prairie dock stems every fall in the hopes that once again I will find the beetles and be able to come to a decision about their taxonomic status.  Perhaps I should re-focus my efforts in “low quality” (i.e., never-burned) gladey roadsides rather than our state’s “high quality” (i.e., high floral diversity) natural areas.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Calm waters, frenzied beetles

North Fork River - Ozark Co., Missouri

The North Fork River in south-central Missouri, like most Ozark rivers and streams, flows clear and cold over gravelled bottoms. Sustained year-round by the numerous seeps and springs that result from the region’s unique Karst geology, it meanders through a mix of forest and woodland alongside massive bluffs of half-a-billion-year-old dolomite. While small rapids can be found where gravel bars approach the bluffs, for the most part the shallow waters course lazily and idyllically south toward the White River in northern Arkansas.

Dineutus sp. (poss. discolor, per Brady Richards)

Lazy waters are the domain of whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae).  We encountered this ‘raft’ of beetles in a sheltered pool near the shore of the North Fork River while hiking the Ozark Trail last October.  These frenzied little beetles live almost exclusively on the surface of the water, where they feed on organisms or scavenge debris in their famously and erratically conspicuous aggregations.  Such behavior might make them seem vulnerable to predation, but in actuality the reverse is true.  Beetles in rafts benefit from the increased number of eyes that can better scan the environment for potential threats than can individual beetles (Vulinec and Miller 1989), and the larger the raft the more efficiently this occurs.  There is also evidence that the appearance of the rafts themselves is a signal to warn potential predators (primarily fish) of the noxious chemicals produced in the beetles’ paired pygidial glands (Ivarsson et al. 1996), despite the decidedly non-aposematic coloration of the beetles themselves.

Photo Details: Canon 50D w/ 17-85mm zoom lens, natural light. Photo 1 – 17mm, ISO 100, 1/25 sec, f/5.6; photo 2 – 85mm, ISO 500, 1/160 sec, f/5.6. Typical post-processing (levels, minor cropping, unsharp mask).

REFERENCES:

Ivarsson, P., B.-I. Henrikson and J. A. E. Stenson.  1996.  Volatile substances in the pygidial secretion of gyrinid beetles (Coleoptera: Gyrinidae).  Chemoecology 7(4):191–193.

Vulinec, K. and M. C. Miller. 1989. Aggregation and Predator Avoidance in Whirligig Beetles (Coleoptera: Gyrinidae). Journal of the New York Entomological Society 97(4):438–447.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Rejoicing the end of summer

Russet browns of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and Indian grass (Sorgastrum nutans) blend with still-green foliage in early autumn at White River Balds Natural Area in southwestern Missouri.

Last week I awoke to refreshingly cool temperatures for the first time in a long time – a brutal heat wave that had gripped the Midwest for some time had finally (if only briefly) passed. Missouri typically experiences substantial heat and humidity during the height of summer, a result of warm, moisture-laden air sweeping up from the Gulf of Mexico and over our mid-continental position.  The first cool snap in mid-August, however, usually marks the beginning of the end of protracted heat. High temps may return (and usually do), but they are intermittent and the writing is on the wall – summer’s end is near, and fall is on its way! For most of my life, the coming of fall has always been something to which I looked forward eagerly – it really is my favorite time of year.  I don’t just love fall, I adooore it!!!  As a result, I sometimes forget that not everyone shares my feelings, so when I mentioned to a colleague last week how excited I was that fall was on the way, I was a little surprised by her less-than-pleased reaction. Kids I can understand –  fall means a return to school and the end of fun and sun and no responsibilities.  However, for most adults, fall does not entail as dramatic a paradigm shift – we get up and go to work everyday regardless of the season. Indeed, to my colleague, fall was not dreaded so much for what it is but what it portends – winter! I convinced myself that if she was as interested in natural history as I, surely she would appreciate fall as a time of transition in the natural world.  This logic proved faulty, however, when just a few days later one of my favorite entomologist/natural historian bloggers voiced a similar lamentation.

Xeric calcareous prairie (''cedar glade'') in southwestern Missouri - habitat for Cicindela obsoleta vulturina.

That the charms of fall are not immediately apparent to everyone is beyond me.  Who in middle America doesn’t rejoice the end of long, sweltering days as they cede to the cool days of fall?  Who dreads the crisp, clean, autumn air and its pungent, earthy aromas?  Who doesn’t marvel as they watch the landscape morph from summer’s monotonous shades of green – its forests becoming a riot of red, orange, and yellow, its grasslands a shifting mosaic of tawny, amber, and gold, and in all places shadows cast long and sharp by a cool yellow sun riding low in a deep blue sky?  For the natural historian, fall offers even more than just these sensory gifts – it’s not the end of the season, but rather part of a repeating continuum that includes birth, growth, senescence and quiescence.  Plants that have not yet flowered begin to do so in earnest, while those that have shift energy reserves into developing seeds.  The spring wildflowers may be long gone, but only now do the delicate blooms of Great Plains Ladies’-tresses orchids rise up on their tiny spires.  Grasses also, anonymous during the summer, now reach their zenith – some with seed heads as exquisite as any summer flower.  Insects and other animals step up activity, hastily harvesting fall’s bounty to provision nests or fatten their stores in preparation for the long, winter months ahead.

Gypsum Hills in south-central Kansas. Habitat for Cicindela pulchra.

For myself, it is tiger beetles that are fall’s main attraction.  Yes, tiger beetles are out during spring and summer as well, but there is something special about the fall tiger beetle fauna.  Glittering green, wine red, and vivid white, a number of tiger beetles make a brief appearance in the fall after having spent the summer as larvae, hidden in the ground while feeding on hapless insects that chanced too close to their burrows, until late summer rains triggered pupation and transformation to adulthood.  As the rest of the nature prepares for sleep, these gorgeous beetles take their first, tentative steps into the autumn world for a brief session of feeding and play before winter chases them back underground for the winter.  Every fall for the past several years now, I have looked forward to the annual fall tiger beetle trip to see some of the different species and the unique landscapes which harbor them.  From the “cedar glades” of Missouri’s Ozark Highlands and Gypsum Hills of south-central Kansas, to the Sandhills of central Nebraska and Black Hills of South Dakota, I’ve acquired an even greater passion for a season that I already loved.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw Cicindela pulchra (beautiful tiger beetle) flashing iridescently across the barren red clay.  I still remember the excitement of seeing my first C. obsoleta vulturina launching itself powerfully from amongst the clumps of big bluestem. I recall my amazement at my first encounter with C. limbata (sandy tiger beetle) as it danced across deep sand blows, undaunted by scouring 30 mph winds.  No doubt I have many equally vivid memories awaiting me in the future, as I intend to keep the annual fall tiger beetle trip a long-standing tradition.  For this year, I’m hoping that C. pulchra and a few other species will reward a late-September drive to the Nebraska and South Dakota Badlands.  Whether they do is almost irrelevant – I love fall, and the chance to see new localities during my favorite time of year will be reward enough.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

Taum Sauk Mountain – Missouri’s High Point

Although spring is now well underway in the middlin’ latitudes of Missouri, it was only a few short weeks ago that winter was still with us.  For my last winter hike of the season, I returned to perhaps my favorite stretch of my favorite trail in all of Missouri – the Mina Sauk portion of the Taum Sauk Trail on Taum Sauk Mountain.  Located in the rugged St. Francois Mountains (the “epicenter” of the Ozark Highlands), Taum Sauk Mountain is Missouri’s highest peak.  I say “peak” with a bit of reservation – at 1,772 feet it hardly compares with the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains or even the much mellower Appalachians (and certainly not with those of my beloved Sierra Nevada).  Nevertheless, unlike the remainder of the Ozark Highlands, the St. Francois Mountains are true mountains initially formed through a series of volcanic events occurring well over a billion years ago.  They, and the rest of the Ozark Highlands, have been shaped to their current form by repeated cycles of uplift and subsequent erosion.  

During their Precambrian prime, the St. Francois Mountains reached heights of 15,000 feet (the “ancient” Appalachians, in the meantime, were still just a twinkle in Mother Earth’s eye).  Rain and wind and the vastness of time have reduced them to nubs, leaving only the most ancient of volcanic rocks as testament to their former glory.  Although most of what is now the Ozark Highlands was inundated repeatedly later in the Palaeozoic (laying down the sediments that were then uplifted and “carved” to their current shape), the highest peaks of the St. Francois Mountains may be among the few areas in the United States never to have been completely submerged under those ancient seas.  Standing atop Taum Sauk Mountain, it is tempting to visualize today’s craggy terrain as a fossil of that ancient landscape – the peaks representing the former islands of rhyolite, their slopes barren and lifeless in stark contrast with the exploding diversity of bizarre life forms appearing in the tropical waters that surrounded them.

The sterile, volcanic rocks of the St. Francois Mountains support an abundance of open, rocky glades – especially on their peaks and southern and western slopes – that are home to a number of plants and animals more typically found in the tallgrass prairies further west.  Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) thrive in clumps between the large, pink boulders that are strewn across the landscape and which provide shelter and sunning spots for animals ranging from the charismatic eastern collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) to the smaller but no less beautiful splendid tiger beetle (Cicindela splendida).  The surrounding forest is historically an open woodland with a rich, herbaceous understory and widely-spaced, drought-tolerant trees such as shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), post oak (Quercus stellata), and blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica).  These woodlands and glades are a fire-mediated landscape dependent upon periodic burns to maintain their vegetative character.

A trail begins at “High Point”, marking the summit of Taum Sauk Mountain and the highest point in Missouri.  A granite slab next to the summit rock documents the elevation at 1,772.68 feet MSL (Mean Sea Level).  The Mina Sauk Falls Trail, a rugged three-mile loop that joins the Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail, leads to the tallest wet-weather waterfall in Missouri, Mina Sauk Falls.  During periods of high water flow, water gushes over the edge and drops 132 feet over a series of rocky ledges.  Water was flowing lightly during my late winter visit; nevertheless, looking out from above the falls (see photo above) offers one of the most spectacular vistas available in Missouri.  A rather difficult hike down the side of the mountain to the bottom of the falls is also well worth the effort, although clear views of the entire falls are difficult to find in the dense, moist forest below (it was here that I photographed the spectacular Ozark Witch Hazel).

A second unique geological feature lies about a mile farther down the Ozark Trail – Devil’s Toll Gate.  The rocks stand 30 feet high on either side of this eight-foot-wide, 50-foot-long fissure.  The gap probably began as a vertical fracture in the rock that has been enlarged by subsequent weathering. Over time the fissure will continue to widen, as the rocks on either side lose height.

Returning to High Point at the end of the hike, I noticed that the summit was a little higher than when I started my hike – whether this was through additional uplift of the underlying mountain or a depositional event I cannot say.  Nevertheless, I estimated Missouri’s new highest elevation to be approximately 1,773.01 feet MSL!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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Hawn State Park – Winter Hiking at its Finest

Two weekends ago we received another wave in what has been an unusually frequent series of snow events. I’m sure my northern (and Patagonian) friends are not impressed, but at our middlin’ latitudes snow falls rather infrequently and rarely sticks around for long when it does. This winter has been different, with snowfall almost every week, it seems like, and temperatures that have remained cold enough to keep it around for awhile. While this latest snowfall measured only a modest 1-2 inches here in the St. Louis area, a 7-inch blanket (as measured by my hiking stick) fell in the Ozark Highlands just south of here. Coming as it did at the start of the weekend, I welcomed the opportunity to go for a hike — among my favorite wintertime activities — in a landscape that is rarely seen covered in deep, newly-fallen snow. My daughter Madison loves hiking as much as I do (even in deep snow), so the two of us headed off to perhaps my favorite of Missouri’s public areas, Hawn State Park.  I have long adored Hawn for its premier hiking, facinating geology, and unusual flora, and everytime I visit Hawn I find something new to love about it.  

Lamotte sandstone outcrops on the White Oaks Trail


Such was the case on this visit, when Madison and I decided to explore the White Oaks Trail, a newer trail that I had not yet hiked.  I was a little concered whether we would even be able to get to the park, as the road leading into it had only been partially plowed (and we had already seen one car off the road, causing me to reach down and switch on the 4-wheel drive).  Most of the park was snowed in, but we were able to reach the uppermost parking area, leaving our snow-covered trail-finding abilities as the last obstacle to overcome.  After studying the trail map and looking at different route options, I asked Madison if she wanted to hike 2 miles, 4 miles, or 6 miles.  She immediately blurted out “6 miles!”, so off we went.  I was disappointed to see that we were not the first persons to have the idea, as we entered the trail only to find two sets of footprints (one human, one canid) leading off in front of us.  It did, however, make following the trail easier, and in fact I’ve had enough experience finding trails through the Ozark Highlands that I never felt like I needed the footprints in front of us to point the direction.  

Madison next to the root wad of an 83-yr old wind-thrown oak tree.


The White Oaks Trail followed nicely up-and-down terrain through mature white oak (Querucs alba) (appropriately) upland forest dissected by small riparian valleys before settling into relatively mild terrain through monotonous black oak forest.  Just when I thought the trail wouldn’t match the splendor of Hawn’s Whispering Pines and Pickle Creek Trails, it wrapped around to the south at the far end and passed by a beautiful hoo-doo complex of Lamotte sandstone outcroppingss supporting majestic, widely-spaced, mature shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata).  The rock outcrops provided a perfect spot to break for lunch while looking out on the deep, snow-covered valley in front of us.  

More Lamotte sandstone exposures along Pickle Creek, Whispering Pines Trail.


After counting a cut, wind-thrown black oak (Quercus velutinus) and determining a lifespan of 83 years, we took a connector trail down to the Whispering Pines Trail where it ran alonside the incomparably beautiful Pickle Creek.  Our hope was to hike down to the igneous shut-ins, where hard, pink rhyolites channeled the creek’s clear, spring-fed waters through narrow chutes and miniature gorges.  Upstream from the shut-ins, Pickle Creek runs lazily through the softer Lamotte sandstones that overlay those ancient rhyolites, combining with the snow cover to create a scene as peaceful and serene as any I’ve ever witnessed.

Pickle Creek meanders lazily through Whispering Pines Wild Area.

  
Just above the shut-ins, Pickle Creek bends to the west, carving deeply into the soft sandstone.  The porous nature of the rock allows moisture to trickle through and between the strata from the hillside above, creating seep zones that weaken underlying layers and lead to their collapse.  The abundant moisture this winter and continuous cycles of daytime thawing and nighttime freezes have resulted in extraordinary ice formations along the bluff face and underneath the overhanging layers, the likes of which are rarely seen in our normally more open winters.  Compare the scene in the first photo below with that in the second, taken at almost exactly the same spot one year ago in February 2009.  

Icicle formations along Pickle Creek, Whispering Pines Trail.


Same place as above in February 2009.


Ice rarely forms over the small ponds and lakes that dot the Ozark Highlands, much less its creeks and other moving waters.   The scene below of Pickle Creek as it exits the sandstone gorge is a testament to the slowness of its movements and the unusually consistent cold temperatures experienced during the past several weeks.  Only a short distance downstream, however, these lazy waters reach the bottommost layers of the erodable sandstones and encounter the hard rhyolites below.  These half-a-billion year old layers of igneous rock are much more resistant to the wearing action of water, which rushes noisily through narrowly-carved chutes before fanning out in broad sheets over smooth, steep slopes below.  

Pickle Creek along Whispering Pines Trail.


Sadly, there would not be time to visit the shut-ins.  The short February day conspired with our snow-slowed pace to leave us with a too-low-sun by the time we reached the fork in the trail that led to the shut-ins, a mile in one direction, and our car, a mile in the other.  Although we (both) had thought to carry flashlights (just in case), the last thing I really wanted to do was find myself stumbling over snow-covered trails through the dark with my 10-yr old daughter. Even had we survived the nighttime winter woods, I might not have survived the inevitable maternal reaction to such an escapade.

Arriving back at White Oaks Trailhead with a few minutes to spare.


Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010  

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North America’s most beautiful longhorned beetle

I’ve written a few posts in recent weeks highlighting some of the more interesting finds encountered during two visits this past July to the White River Hills region of extreme southwestern Missouri. It’s a land of extremes, with deeply dissected layers of limestone/dolomite bedrock supporting xeric glades, dry woodlands and riparian watercourses. The hilltop glades (“balds”), in particular, feature prominently in the region’s natural and cultural history and are the most extensive system of such habitat in Missouri. They support a number of plants and animals more characteristic of the grasslands of the south-central U.S., such as the recently featured Megaphasma denticrus and Microstylus morosum, North America’s longest insect and largest robber fly, respectively. Sadly, the glades in this region are much reduced in size and quality compared to their pre-settlement occurrence, primarily due to overgrazing and suppression of fire. These anthropogenic forces have combined to reduce overall vegetational diversity and accelerate encroachment by woody species (chiefly eastern red-cedar, Juniperus virginiana). Nevertheless, there still remain several high quality glade remnants in the area, and the public agencies charged with their conservation are increasingly utilizing mechanical removal of woody growth, controlled burns, and managed grazing in an effort to simulate the natural forces that mediated this landscape for thousands of years.

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Chute Ridge Glade, Roaring River State Park, Barry Co., Missouri

My reason for returning to the White River Hills this year was simple—find and photograph the magnificent longhorned beetle, Plinthocoelium suaveolens (family Cerambycidae). This species, occurring across the southern U.S. from Florida and Georgia west to New Mexico and Arizona, is truly one of North America’s most beautiful longhorned beetles due to its large size, brilliant iridescent green coloration, and super-elongate wildly-contrasting orange and black legs.  Until recently, this species was known in Missouri only from sporadic records across the southern part of the state (MacRae 1994). I knew of its association with gum bumelia (Sideroxylon lanuginosum [= Bumelia lanuginosa], also called gum bully and woolly buckthorn), which was first noted by Missouri’s first State Entomologist, C. V. Riley (1880) and later discussed in detail by Linsley and Hurd (1959) and Turnbow and Hovore (1979); however, my repeated searches over the years whenever I encoutered this plant came up empty.  A few years ago, Chris Brown and I were conducting a survey of tiger beetles in the White River Hills and noted the relatively common occurrence of bumelia on these glades.  Bumelia, like P. suaveolens, is one of only a few North American representatives of a largely tropical group, and it is one of the few woody species naturally adapted to the xeric conditions found on these glades.  Recalling the association of P. suaveolens with this plant, and also recalling that adults could be attracted to fermenting baits of the type described by Champlain and Knull (1932), we placed fermenting bait traps on several glades in the area and succeeded in trapping a number of individuals during the month of July.  When I began searching the bumelia trees at these glades, I found adults perching on the lower trunks of several trees. It was the first time I’d seen live individuals of this species in Missouri.  At the time I was not a photographer, and that experience became one of the many moments that I would later look back upon and think, “If only I’d taken a picture of that!”  Thus, at the end of June this year, having successfully found Cylindera celeripes in Missouri on the first day of a planned 3-week search, my attention immediately turned to the new goal of finding P. suaveolens and photographing it on its host plant.

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Sideroxylon lanuginosum (gum bumelia) at Blackjack Knob, Taney Co., Missouri

I knew this wouldn’t be easy—the beetles were not abundant when I had last observed them, and those that I did find were quite wary to my approach.  Getting within striking distance with a net was one thing; doing so with a camera and macro lens would be another thing entirely.  In my first trip to the area (early July), I went to Chute Ridge Glade, a magnificently restored glade in Roaring River State Park where I had seen the greatest number of individuals before.  I was full of optimism on that first day as I zigzagged across the rough terrain from one bumelia tree to the next, but my optimism began to wane as I cautiously approached each tree and saw nothing.  Within an hour, I’d looked at every bumelia tree I could find on the glade and not even seen a beetle, much less attempted a photograph.  It would take a 2-hour drive along twisting back roads to reach the other sizeable glade complex where I had seen beetles before (Blackjack Knob in Taney County), and another hour of searching on several dozen trees would again yield nothing.  By now I was feeling rather frustrated—the day’s oppressive heat and humidity had taken its toll, and my 4.5-hour drive from St. Louis was looling like it would be for naught.  I had noted that the bumelia flowers were almost but not quite open yet—perhaps it was too early in the season still?  

Plinthocoelium suaveolens larval frass pile at the base of living Sideroxylon lanuginosa

Plinthocoelium suaveolens larval frass pile at trunk base of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

The remnant glades at Blackjack Knob are more extensive than those at Chute Ridge, so many more trees still awaited examination—if I could only muster the energy!  I trudged back to the truck, guzzled a nice, cold Powerade, and started off in another direction.  I looked at a number of trees and still had seen no sign of the beetle, but on one particular tree I noticed an enormous pile of sawdust on the ground at the base of the tree.  I looked at it more closely and saw that it had the rough, granular texture so characteristic of longhorned beetle larvae that like to keep their galleries clean, and its bright, moist  color suggested that it was being ejected by a larva tunneling through living wood.  I looked up into the tree above the pile to find where it was coming from but could find no ejection hole.  I checked the base of the trunk itself and still couldn’t find anything.  Then I started poking into the pile and felt a root.  Further poking revealed a soft spot on the root, and I immediately knew that I had found a P. suaveolens larval gallery—no other cerambycid species is known to bore in roots of living Sideroxylon, especially one as large as this based on the size of the frass pile.  I hurried back to the truck and grabbed my hatchet, returned to the tree, and scraped away the soil above the root to find an obvious ejection hole a few inches away from the base of the trunk.  I started chipped into the root at the ejection hole and found a large, clean gallery extending down the center of the root away from the trunk.  About 18” away from the trunk I found it—a large, creamy-white cerambycid larva.

Plinthocoelium suavelones larva in root of living Sideroxylon lanuginosa

Plinthocoelium suaveolens larva in root of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Plinthocoelium suavelones larva in root of living Sideroxylon lanuginosa

Plinthocoelium suaveolens larva in root of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Finding a P. suaveolens larva was gratifying, but it wasn’t what I had come here to do, which was photograph the adult. After placing the larva live in a vial for preservation later on (dropping into scalding water to “fix” the proteins and prevent discoloration when stored in 70% ethanol), I continued searching the trees for adults.  I found one tree on which the flowers were just barely beginning to open and collected a few of the pedestrian species of scarabs that are attracted to bumelia flowers in droves when fully open (e.g. Cotinis nitidus and Trigonopeltastes delta)—for the record.  There was still no sign of adult Plinthocoelium, and I was on the verge of calling it a day when I approached another tree and saw it!  I froze, then slowly geared up with the camera and started stalking slowly towards it.  It was not in a very convenient location, down low on the trunk and partially screened by foreground vegetation.  I got close enough to start attempting some shots—not ideally composed, but just to ensure that I had something before I tried to get any closer.  After the third shot, however, it became alarmed and started to flee, and I had no choice but to capture it for a “studio backup.”  That taste of success gave me the motivation to resume my search, but no additional beetles were seen before a dropping sun put an end to the day.

Plinthocoelium suaveolens on lower trunk of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Plinthocoelium suaveolens on lower trunk of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Not entirely satisfied with the shots that I’d gotten, I returned to Blackjack Knob the following day and also searched some of the extensive habitat at nearby Hercules Glades Wilderness.  I wouldn’t see another beetle the entire day, although encountering a nice series of Cicindela rufiventris (red-bellied tiger beetle) was some consolation for suffering the day’s oppressive heat and humidity.  I still had the live beetle, so I placed my hopes on getting better photographs of the beetle in confinement after returning home.  That would not come to pass—the beetle refused to sit obligingly on the stick I placed in the large screen cage, and instead clung to the cage itself.  For days I watched it, giving it honey-water for sustenance and waiting for an opportunity to photograph it on the stick on which it refused to sit.  It became clear to me that studio photographs, at least in the manner I was attempting, would not be possible.  Not entirely satisfied with having seen only a single beetle on my trip, and thinking that I may have been too early based on the flowering phenology of the bumelia host trees, I did what any dedicated entomologist would do—I made a second trip to the area two weeks later!

I didn’t mess with Chute Ridge Glade this time, instead making a beeline for Blackjack Knob right away.  Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperatively drizzley (I would have preferred hot and humid to rain!).  Nevertheless, daughter Madison and I made our way to the glades and began inspecting the trees that I had just examined two weeks earlier.  I noted immediately that the bumelias were now in full flower, and it wasn’t long before I saw the first adult flying into these flowers.  Exciting for sure, and this was a good sign to see an active adult despite the drizzly weather, but the situation of the beetle on a high branch left no possibility for photographs (and only with a rather acrobatic swing of my fully extended net handle amidst a jumble of dead branches was I able to capture it).  This same scenario would replay several times over the next two hours before rain finally drove us back to the car.  In total, we saw half a dozen active adults, but in each case they were seen flying to flowers on high branches and could not be photographed.  Despite that disappointment, I’ll never forget the spectacularity of seeing these beetles in flight—shimmering green and bold orange, with legs and antennae spread wide in all directions.  I was also fortunate to find another tree with a fresh frass pile at its base indicating an active larva.  This time, I cut the tree some inches above the ground and extracted the trunk base and root intact for transplanting into a large soil box upon my return home.  The appearance of new frass on the soil surface afterwards confirmed that I had gotten the root containing the larva and that it had survived the extraction and transplanting.  Hopefully I will be able to successfully rear this individual to adulthood.

Despite the rain, we then went back to Hercules Glades Wilderness to see if luck would follow suite there as it had at Blackjack Knob.  It didn’t, as rain continued to doggedly pursue us, but the day was not a total loss as daughter and I got in a nice 7-mile hike through some of Missouri’s most ruggedly scenic terrain and were rewarded with the sighting of a western pygmy rattlesnake.  The next day was sunny, much to our delight, and I considered going back to Blackjack Knob where we had seen a good number of adults the previous day.  In the end, I decided I’d played that card and rather than continue trying for photographs I’d rather see if the beetle could be found at another glade complex further to the east at Long Bald Glade Natural Area in Caney Mountain Conservation Area.  Things didn’t look promising, as I found bumelia trees occurring only sporadically across the main glade complex—with no sign of the beetles.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the day and spent a bit of time chasing after some enormous robber flies that later proved to be Microstylum morosum, a new record for Missouri and a significant northeastern range extension.  I thought that would be the highlight of the day, but as we were heading back to the car I spotted a small glade relict on the other side of the road.  It was overgrown and encroached, apparently not receiving the same management attention as the glades in the main complex. Regardless, I went over to check it out and immediately spotted several bumelia trees amongst the red-cedars, and within minutes I saw a beetle—low on the trunk of a very small bumelia tree!  Once again I froze, then slowly geared up with the camera and began my ultra-cautious approach (remember, this was only my second photo chance after a combined four days in the field).  Like last time, I took one shot while still some distance away, then moved in for closer attempts.  Unlike last time, there was no bothersome vegetation cluttering the view, and when I moved in for closeups the beetle turned around, crawled up the trunk a short distance, and then paused.  I snapped off a small series of shots while it sat there, and then suddenly it became alarmed and flew away.  Though still not perfect, these photographs were better than the previous ones I had obtained (check out the pronotal armature in the last photo!), and the finding of this species at Long Bald Glades also represented a new county record.

Plinthocoelium suaveolens on trunk of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Plinthocoelium suaveolens on trunk of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Plinthocoelium suaveolens on trunk of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Plinthocoelium suaveolens on trunk of living Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Missouri populations are assignable to the nominotypical subspecies (southeastern U.S.), which is distinguished from subspecies plicatum (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico) by the bronze or cupreous tints and weak transverse rugae on the pronotum (Linsley 1964).  The distributional ranges of the two subspecies intermingle in northeastern Texas.

Photo details:
All photos: Canon 100mm macro lens on Canon EOS 50D
Photo 1 (Chute Ridge Glade): normal mode, ISO-400, 1/250 sec, f/16, natural light.
Photo 2 (Sideroxylon lanuginosum): landscape mode, ISO-100, 1/160 sec, f/6.3, natural light.
Photos 3 (P. suaveolens larval frass pile), 6—8 (P. suaveolens adult): manual mode, ISO-100, 1/250 sec, f/9-11, MT-24EX flash 1/2 power through diffuser caps (photo 7 slightly cropped).
Photos 4—5 (P. suaveolens larva): manual mode, ISO-100, 1/60 sec, f/14 (closeup f/25), MT-24EX flash 1/2 power through diffuser caps.

REFERENCES:

Champlain, A. B. and J. N. Knull.  1932.  Fermenting bait traps for trapping Elateridae and Cerambycidae (Coleop.).  Entomological News 43(10):253–257.

Linsley, E. G. 1964.  The Cerambycidae of North America. Part V. Taxonomy and classification of the subfamily Cerambycinae, tribes Callichromini through Ancylocerini.  University of California Publicatons in Entomology, 22:1—197, 60 figs., 1 pl.

Linsley, E. G. and P. D. Hurd, Jr.  1959.  The larval habits of Plinthocoelium suaveolens plicatum (LeConte).  Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 58(1):27–33.

MacRae, T. C. 1994. Annotated checklist of the longhorned beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae and Disteniidae) known to occur in Missouri. Insecta Mundi 7(4) (1993):223–252.

MacRae, T. C. and M. E. Rice. 2007. Distributional and biological observations on North American Cerambycidae (Coleoptera). The Coleopterists Bulletin 61(2): 227–263.

Riley, C. V.  1880.  Food habits of the longicorn beetles or wood borers.  The American Entomologist 3(10):237–239.

Turnbow, R. H. Jr. and F. T. Hovore.  1979.  Notes on Cerambycidae from the southeastern U. S.  Entomological News 90(5):219–229.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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