Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Aspen Grove July 2014

Earlier this month, several of my friends and I decided to go to on a day hike in some of our closer Aspen tree forests. Aspen Grove, a family camp owned by BYU seemed like the best starting point because of its several trails leading into adjacent forested habitats. There are a couple particular beetle species known from Aspen Grove that were on my mind as we walked through the aspen, maple and conifer trees; a rare snail-eating beetle (Cychrus hemphilii) and the longhorn beetle Rosalia funebris, the more common of the two species. I like to refer to this longhorn beetle an convict beetles, because of their attention grabing black and near white banded bodies. A quick google search for this longhorn will yield some nice photographs. Though I didn't collect either of these beetles on this hike, there were plenty other nice finds.

We started our day journey on the trail to Stewart Falls, located two miles west of Aspen Grove family camp on the east-facing slopes of Mt. Timpanogos.

I was lucky to have even noticed this mostly hidden longhorn; Pseudogaurotina cressoni Since I know very little of botany, I didnt bother attempting an identification for the plant it's on. Perhaps the two species aren't necessarily assosiated with eachother, I dont know. I searched for more beetles on others of the same shrub, but I had no success.

Aside from the longhorn, these bumble bee like scarabs were out flying from flower to flower.

Trichiotinus assimilis
Left side

Monday, February 24, 2014

Long time, no posts.

      It has been a long, long time since my last post here on Shield-winged. It has been over four months, in fact. Weekly posts have certainly been hard to keep up with this winter, as I find myself with less of the 'post food' this blog tends to run on. Despite the lack of writing, my insect collection has received very special attention over the winter months. I, for the first time in three years (most of my time spent collecting), have managed to mount or packet preserve all specimens in my possession. This task requiring dozens of hours of mentally exhausting work has indefinitely been out of the lack of field time, but was carried out to completion in preparation for a trip to western Panama. Sam Wells, his friend Steve, and I are taking a week-long trip to this southernmost Central American country the second week in March, and I presumably will be posting more frequently on this blog with a new array of photographs and entomostories to share from this trip. As it currently stands, the week I return I will also be moving from Fresno, California to Orem, Utah to attend Utah Valley University. Besides education, I will be within driving distance of my eldest sister and brother-in-law's newborn, Haily, making me an uncle-to-be.

Along with my lack of fresh writing inspiration, here are some of the few highlights from this very dry season's field work (Sadly, the computer has been trouble lately and I haven't been able to access the original photo-editing program I have used to crop most bug photos previous to this post):

A very hairy Dune beetle, (Coelus sp.) at Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes, Monterey County, Coastal California.
September 2013

 Another, very camera-shy dune beetle. Bad hair day maybe?

The coastal Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes just before sundown.

 A lucky find was this bombardier beetle (Brachinus sp.) at Bluff Creek, Humboldt County, northwestern California

 Habitat along Bluff Creek where this Brachinus, and a surprising number of
other winter-active ground beetles were found.

 These Oregon Alligator Lizards (Elgaria multicarinata scincicauda) I had inadvertently disturbed overwintering underneath a log while I was looking for ground beetles. Despite feeling bad for interrupting these critters, finding these wary lizards in January played an important factor in photographing them at such close range. I had no success attempting photographing this species last June when I hiked through a population in the coastal mountain range.

Similar habitat near where the Alligator Lizards were found at Bluff Creek in January, 2014

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to Make a Coleopterist's Week

      A little over one week ago, I received a email from a friend and blog viewer of mine, Delbert La Rue. He told me he had sent a parasol of tiger and longhorn beetles in the mail to me. I soon checked the mail and was just delighted to find the cared for package waiting there for me. I was about to head to Subway for dinner at the time, but put that on hold to see what was inside. Dinner was definitely worth waiting for.

Left to Right, Top to Bottom:
Cicindelidia hornii (blue/green and black morph), Cicindela pulchra dorothea, Cicindela theatina, Cicindela (Cicindelidia) obsoleta santaclarae, Cylindera debilis, Habroscelimorpha erronea, Cicindelidia willistoni sulfontis, Megacyllene antennata, Megacyllene robusta.

Everything included was new in some way to my collection. The Megacyllene represent a new genus, with four specimens representing two southwestern species, a region where populations of bugs are difficult to predict. The Habroscelimorpha is not only a new genus too, but H. erronea (sometimes considered a subspecies of the geographically distant H. fulgoris), is a highly localized species to Sulphur Springs Valley in se Arizona. The C. willistoni sulfontis is also restricted to Sulphur Springs Valley, and it looks quite good in the collection with my C. w. pseudosenilis from Owens Lake in se California. The Cylindera debilis is an uncommonly spotted tiger in southern Arizona and western Texas, it is most common after rainfall. The Cicindela theatina is an endemic beast to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado, which makes it an invaluable addition. The C. pulchra dorothae, often called "Beautiful Tiger Beetle", is a unique subspecies for having wider maculations, slightly smaller members and a further distribution southward. C. obsoleta, our largest species of Cicindela in the United States, is a species I've longed to have in my collection ever since I identified a series of C. o. santaclarae for Sam Wells. Ironically, Delbert had sent an A1 specimen of just that in his gift. The Cicindelidia hornii ranges into the U.S. by inhabiting southern AZ, NM and western TX. I had one purple individual given to me through an exchange with the famous Bill Warner, so the fact that Delbert chose to include two different color morphs added to the value of the gift. Everything was well curated and labeled. I can't thank you enough, Delbert! May bugs ever emerge from the earth you travel, the forests you wander, and the water you dri... well, never mind that last part. Best regards!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Awesome Beetles From an Awesome Sister

      Over the past two or three years, as my passion and attention toward entomology has grown, my older Sister, Rebecca Quist, has been ever-so-kind to collect beetles for me on her own outdoor adventures. She studied field biology at Utah State, has spent a year in Randolph, Utah studying the nesting sights for Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), and is now working as a nanny in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. During her numerous expeditions into the field, she has collected hundreds of beetle specimens and new species for my own collection while still taking the time and care to write locality labels for each spot she samples from. Almost every single one of these locations are places I've never collected at, and many, such as the northeastern states, I might not collect in for many years.

As the collecting is slowing down this year, I'd like to do a post highlighting her truly thoughtful efforts by sharing a small handful of uncommon, out of my area, or interesting beetles I've mounted from the vials she's sent me.

Cychrus h.hemphillii
Horn, 1878

In the boundaries of least common and most geographically restricted, the specimen of C. hemphillii she collected at the beginning of this month takes first place.

When I was vacationing in Utah County from late August to early September, I made two failed attempts to find this rare snail-eater in the canyons near Orem and Provo, then once again in Logan Canyon. The locality near Mt. Timpanogos from where I knew it occurred is generally visited by enough people to make me stay away. It was quite disappointing when I came up empty handed, actually. It was already the end of its seasonal occurrence, and I will be moving out of the area for a couple years come early next summer-likely just before they become active again. But, to my great surprise, Becca had sent me a text on my train ride back to California telling me she collected a few beetles for me while on a family picnic. This picnic just happened to be at the more visited locality for C. hemphillii, so I responded by thanking her and asking for more details on the bugs she caught, and if any had slender heads and where found on the ground. She responded and told me that there was one matching that description, and that she found under a log. I knew it really couldn't be anything else, but she sent me a picture of it in the vial over text anyway. Thank you Becca!

Cicindela d. decemnotata
Say, 1817

This is another incredible species she's happened upon. This time, from Randolph, Utah in May of last year. This tiger beetle (Badlands Tiger Beetle) occurs in western NA from Utah and western Colorado north to western Alaska. Recently there have been four subspecies described(1), with three of the four occurring in Utah, one of which (Cicindela d. bonnevillensis), exclusively found in Tooele County. C.d.decimnotata is the widest ranging subspecies, but is still among the lesser collected tiger beetles.

Pseudogaurotina cressoni
(Bland, 1864)
Utah, Rich County
May 2012

Xyloryctes jamaicensis
(Drury, 1773)
New York, Fishers Island
August 2013, Female

Necrophilia americana
(Linnaeus, 1759)

An eastern entomologist or forensic biologist might recognize this carrion beetle immediately as the American Carrion Beetle, not to be confused with the American Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus americanus, as the latter is endangered. This handsome Silphid, being of a different genus, is indeed not an endangered species. In North America we only have one of the twenty or so species in the genus Nicrophilia. As an American collector who is pretty interested in carrion beetles, it is fitting that I should have this species in my collection.

 Enoclerus rosmarus
(Say, 1823) 

Because I uncommonly collect/obtain checkered beetles (other than Trichodes ornatus), the ones I do have usually appeal to me and I try to get a name on them. Such was the case with this handsome species from Fishers Island, NY. I am not sure where she found it, but according to online pictures of this species, it is found on vegetation of various plant species.

My family 2013. Left to Right:
Jason DeVaney, Sharon Quist DeVaney, Jonathan Quist, Kathryn Quist, Rebecca Quist, Elsa Quist (My wonderful Mother), Maike Ostermann (attending high school while staying with my mother and younger sister in Orem, from Fröndenberg, Germany), Annika Quist, Serra HardyQuist, William HardyQuist.

It won't be uncommon to find posts here containing content on the beetles Becca has collected for me, as there are many. I am in the process of pinning and pointing hundreds of specimens from her still, but am making great headway with a couple hundred of them mounted within a few collaborating sessions. There are many other post-worth species yet to be blogged. I hope to have all of mine and her vials cleared out by March in preparation for an upcoming collecting trip to western Panama.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

3.) Mt. Hutton

      The morning after we reached Disappointment Lake, we geared up with little more than enough water and collecting gear for insects (leaving the rest at base camp), then began our final stretch to the peak of Mt. Hutton. I have divided this post into two categories: One, reviewing an anomalous encounter with a beetle. Two, a collection of the best photographs depicting our adventure of almost reaching the top of the mountain from day three.

I mention that we "almost reached the top of the mountain" because as it turns out, there is no safe passage to the peak of Mt. Hutton from the north side without climbing gear (which non of us had). At least, there was no passage we were going to risk. So with a bit of reluctance we started back toward base camp. It was hard to be upset though, with the amazing scenery. We had seen just about as much as we would another few hundred feet higher. We were already close to 12,000.

As we were hiking down the slopes of the mountain, I noticed a tiger beetle, which didn't seem like it belonged on that particularly steep mountain slope. I immediately stopped walking toward it, as I was only a few feet away at that time, and got on all fours and cupped it with my hands before it took flight. The thought of risking a photograph was out of the question with an instance like this one. This tiger definitely wasn't one of the Cicindela oregona that I had seen at Long Meadows, it looked too different. And the difference in habitat was even more stark. After is was mounted I ran it through a key and reached the conclusion that it was the Sierra Nevadan subspecies of C. longilabris; Cicindela longilabrus perviridis.

Cicindela longilabrus perviridis Schaupp

 The individual was found exactly between the grass clumps and
the granite ridge just below the center of the photograph.
Also note that the lake  in the upper left is several hundred feet below
where I took the photograph and is well over one mile wide.

General area of where the individual was found on our decent.

Just as I was considering the chances of it being swept up there by a wind current, I noticed a larval burrow several more steps down the mountain side. While the individual I collected is in fact the Boreal Long-Lipped Tiger Beetle, the occurrence of the Dispirited Tiger Beetle (C. depressula) in this area isn't out of the question. Both are among highest occurring tiger beetles elevation wise and can be found in the month of July. The Dispirited Tiger Beetle is usually found at elevations of 12,000 m and up, and adults have also been collected from areas formed by melting snow(1), which could be any given ridge on this mountain side. The larval burrow was found in that form of habitat, so weather or not it belongs to C. depressula remains unknown to me.

 Larva burrow for either C. longilabrus perviridis or C. depressula

A habitat and apparently sufficient landscape for C. longilabrus perviridis and possibly Cicindela depressula.

Here are most of the remaining photographs of the trip. I don't plan on doing a post for our fourth day, since is was only a full day of hiking out of the wilderness to our truck. But I will probably post other creatures we found once I gather more information on them.

Larry and Sam braving the hike ahead of them

A few lakes including Hell For Sure Lake

Mt. Hutton's summit to the right.

Sam and Chad taking a breather along with myself and my camera.

MacClane walking along the LeConte Divide

Mountain Man Michael enjoying the view.

Mt. Hutton's peak just out of reach by a dangerous drop on the mountain's saddle.

Top to Bottom: Chad, McClane and Michael

Left to Right: Larry, Michael, Chad and McClane

A geek listening to a The Lord of the Rings soundtrack looking at our destination.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hunting Thought to be Lost Blister Beetles at Lost Lake

      Hello, all. Yesterday it was my pleasure to spend a couple hours at a local nature park named Lost Lake, located just north of Fresno in the foothills. As Fresno has a very high crime rate and this semi-remote park is within just a thirty minute drive from anywhere in the city, it too has it's share of crimes. Most of them are harmless and petty, but sadly, more horrible crimes are committed comparatively commonly there such as murders and rapings. I personally have witnessed some sort of crime there while on a date with an ex girlfriend of mine. We were enjoying dinner by the stream when we saw a police truck with a shotgun and riffle in the passenger seat race by us to the other end of the park. Soon after, we heard him or another officer yell "Put it down! Let (it of her?) go! Yes, right there on the ground! We will shoot!" Or something to that same effect. Over the next several minutes, seven more police vehicles passed  us by on the way to the scene, including an ambulance, firetruck and the K-9 Unit. Even a police helicopter circled the park maybe one hundred feet in the air. While the dispute continued, I remained between my girlfriend and the scene a few hundred feet away while we both kept watch for any potential danger. Several more minutes had passed before they loaded a gurney onto the helicopter and the vehicles cleared. It is unclear weather or not a fatality had occurred; there were no gun shots fired and I couldn't find anything that the news had reported on the situation. But it wasn't long at all before children were playing in the stream again and you could hear the various types of music playing from peoples parked cars.

 Photograph taken earlier in the year near where our dinner and the crime scene took place. It is also the original image for the new header on SWI. I was inspired to take the picture of this habitat when I came across the carrion beetle Nicrophorus nigrita and two unidentified dung beetles at some scat along the stream earlier that year in April.

Aside from the crimes that are fairly abundant there, there are many paranormal accounts and sightings of strange creatures from people who have gone there to fish, camp or simply enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this post on the blog "Weird Fresno" and the stories left in the commentary by readers concerning this park and all of it's strange aspects. However true, false or altered they might be.

Now, back to the bug stuff. It was 100 degrees that day, so Sam and I did have a good cause for coming. We started down the Nature Trail away from the main camping area for two reasons; 1: to find places to set up several pitfall traps, of which two were baited with dead mice in hopes of trapping carrion, dung and ground beetles. Of course, any other insects are welcome to 'drop in' for a visit too. 2: to collect the blister beetle Lytta funerea which we discovered a population of in 2010, back when we were both unfamiliar with the area. Sam even recorded that memorable day in his blog "The Sam Wells Bug Page". As it turns out, they are currently sculpting the land adjacent to the park for what appears to be the mold for a new lake. This was especially disappointing considering they left a massive pile of dirt on what was once the micro habitat for a very healthy population of this beautiful meloid. After seeing this, we decided to start distributing our traps at the several places we saw on the hike in as we made our way back to the truck. I will go into more detail on these traps if they prove worthwhile when we check them this Saturday.

Once we reached the trail head, I noticed some tarweed (L. funerea's host plant) in bloom just east of the trail head. We decided to check it out as a last hope and sure enough they beetles were there! I had realized earlier in the hike that I accidentally left my camera battery on the charger at home, so Sam was generous enough to take some pictures of the black beauties and their habitat for me.

 Lytta funerea (Fall, 1901)
Feeding on tarweed. September 7, 2013
Photographer: Sam Wells

There is quite some size variation in this species (as with many blister beetles). The largest female I collected measured 20 mm and the smallest male measured 9 mm. While we were there, a female took flight and made an audible drone; something that you might expect from medium to large sized scarabs or bycids. The population we encountered in 2010 about a mile away from this one had at least a couple dozen specimens in plane sight, of which Sam collected about eight. I only collected dragonflies at that time so I haven't had this species in my collection until now. I collected seven of the eight specimens we saw at this sight, although we probably could have found more with extensive searching.