Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Click Beetle that Almost Broke Me

          Throughout my limited time studying and collecting beetles, I have encountered a number of species that would excite field entomologists. From Omus tiger beetles, to ant-eating scarabs, to giant Cerambycids and even rare families that are highly specific in their distributions and habitats. But I think the most memorial experience of all took place in the Mojave Desert of southwest Utah.

I was on a collecting trip around the southwest states with Dr. Shawn Clark, when we pulled over at a place Called "Leeds Creek" in Washington County. We pulled our beating sheets and nets out of the back of  the rental truck and started to wander around the area sampling every kind of plant we saw. I started examining Cacti for Moneilema gigas, but had no luck. As I was walking back to the truck with a vial full of Weevils and Leaf Beetles, I saw a large, black insect flying flying my direction in the corner of my eye. I quickly tried to turn my net around in my hand, (it was in a brush beating position), but swung short by a few inches. As I was running right behind the thing, I noticed it was a Beetle. Eventually it landed on the base of a tree branch, only problem was that this "branch" was fifteen feet off the ground. It was a Click Beetle. I can remember very vividly cranking my neck, looking up at it stunned by it's magnificence.

My mind was scrambling. Should I throw a stick at it and knock it to the ground? No, it would just fly away. Should I wait until it moves further down the tree, then collect it? No... It's going to take off soon if I don't come up with a master plan. "Shawn! I need your help!" He soon came over and was also in aw as I pointed to what my life currently revolved around. He got in the truck, and slowly drove underneath the branch where the monster was perched while I stood on the roof. I am a tall guy, over 6'5" but have an even longer wing span, about 6'6.5". I reached as high as I could with one arm toward the Clicker, slid the rim of the net underneath it's abdomen, pulled down and swung sideways. Pure extacy. It was mine.

Chalcolepidius apacheanus Casey
35 mm

As seen above, it's a pretty beetle. Catching it made for a great day and ultimately made the whole trip. I saw a couple others out, but they were so far that I couldn't chase them down. I've had a few Beetles at my finger tips before, that miraculously have escaped my forceps of doom. Nicrophorus nigrita comes readily to mind.

Utah has a great mixture of Beetles, let's be clear, but it's not exactly a paradise for collectors, typically speaking. Why? First of all there's not much moisture during the summer months. While Arizona is incredibly dry, it has a lower latitude and the monsoon season to really pull the life out of nook's and cranny's. Utah is just a little on the dry side, and when it's not, it has a layer of snow blanketing everything. I find it amazing how Beetle's can adapt.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cicindela nebraskana loves northern Utah

          One Tiger Beetle that you don't see very often is Cicindela nebraskana. This species is and has been considered rare for some time now. Sioux County in north west Nebraska is where the type locality is, and you probably wont find this species anywhere else in the state that is too far from this spot. According to the distribution listed for this species in "A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United Sates and Canada," -David L. Pearson, C. Barry Knisley & Charles J. Kazilek, it is found in the north west states and across the bottom's of the southern Canadian territories. It's distribution hardly cuts across the corner of Nebraska.

Northern Utah happens to be a gold mine for this "rare" species. At BYU's collection of Arthropods in Provo (Utah Co.), I recall seeing two or three large unit trays filled with this species, with well over an estimated 120 specimens. To put this significance in perspective, there are only eight (give or take one) drawers of Tigers in this collection. There were more specimens of C. nebraskana than almost every other Tiger species! At USU's insect collection in Cache County, I found this species in great abundance as well. This being a solitary Tiger, transfered over to unique locality lables for most specimens.

Cicindela nebraskana Casey

Last year during late August, I set up pitfall traps along Squaw Peak Road which runs behind the eastern slopes of Mount Cascade in Utah County. I had no clue as to what might fall in, but this little collecting strategy was extremely productive at this particular grassy field. It reared over a dozen Carabid species and most of which, in great numbers. C. nebraskana was not one of them, but I was still over joyed with my humble four specimens.

Habitat Shot courtesy of Sam Wells

On this afternoon collecting spurt attended Sam Wells, his son Michael Wells, Shawn Clark (Manager of BYU's Arthropod collection), Lewis (an employee at the collection) and of course, myself. My original habitat shots of the beautiful landscape were lost when my last computer succumbed to old age. Sam was gracious enough to lend me one of his.

Left to Right:
Jon, Michael, Sam, Lewis, Shawn

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The internet is currently unstable for my computer, apologies for late posting. I'll update with a REAL post when this problem is fixed. Thanks for your patience.

Though, here's some eye candy until then...

Cotinis mutabilis (Gory and Percheron)
Western Fig Eater

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Scaphinotus (Brennus) subtilis

          One of the first Beetles I collected that sparked my interest in Ground Beetles was a snail eater. I found two of them under a log by a high elevation stream in central California. At a staggering 2 cm, this species is definitely one of the larger species from it's genus.

                                                        Scaphinotus (Brennus) subtilis

The species from this subgenus can often be distinguished by just it's elytra, but to be safe I wouldn't recommend this strategy unless you're highly familiar with this group and it's included species.  To be clear, I am no expert which is why I ran it through the key despite my previous belief that this was S.b. striatopunctatus. The differences are very minor, yet, vital.

Right elytron of S.b.subtilis
Note: Incomplete striations of eletra,
with rows of punctures.

Right elytron of S.b.striatopunctatus
Note: Striations complete,
with intercepting punctures.
Thank you to Gidaspow, Tatiana's "A revision of the ground beetles belonging to Scaphinotus, subgenus Brennus (Coleoptera, Carabidae)."

The subgenus Brennus, includes 15 species. 14 of which can be found in California, nine of which only found in California, and all but one only found along the west coast. This particular species is California endemic. When I read this, I reconsidered how privileged I am to be a Californian Coleopterist. While the state isn't teaming with insect life at first glance, it still contains 115 of North America's 127 counted Beetle families. While a part of this must be due to it's size, an even larger contributing factor is it's highly unique, geological physique. With this said, this state is home to a variety of endemic species and much larger taxa.

In the near future, I plan on moving to Arizona in hopes of increasing representation of Ground Beetles, Tiger Beetles, Jewel Beetles and Leaf Beetles in the J.W.Quist Collection. All of which the state exhibits suburb diversity in. An insect enthusiast/photographer/watercolor painter who portrays Arizona's beauty incredibly well is Margarethe Brummermann. You can find the link to her blog under my Bug Blogs list. All in all, wildlife can be found everywhere people are found. I've discover that the more I know about wildlife, the more I find out about people. The two coexist and thereby must interfere and/or effect one another. (Not to say people aren't animals!) I have nothing but enthusiasm toward my future (hopefully long and prosperous) life as a Naturalist.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Caught in a Web

          This last weekend I have been out of town on a family trip to the Mammoth Lakes area in North East California. Because of that, this 'weekly post' is a few days late. My apologies to any early followers of this blog. As far as beautiful mountains went, this last weekend was spectacular. The lakes up at 1000 ft. evel. couldn't have been more refreshing, and the water up there doesn't get better than straight out of the tap.

This post isn't about the very few bugs I found at Mammoth though, it's about a Bycid I found in a different part of California, on the other side of the Sierra's, in a much different spot than you may expect (unless of course you read the title :p), a Spider Web! This was a much cooler Beetle than the Cyclocephala (Masked Chafers) than get caught in Black Widow webs on my porch, it was Arhopalus asperatus, belonging to the relatively small subfamily, Spondylidinae.

Arhapalus asperatus (LeConte, 1859)

It was found is decent condition for a dead specimen, (only the tibia on the front two left legs missing, easily represented by the right leg segments, (don't let the picture fool you, the front right tibia is there!)). This and Buprestis viridisuturalis are the only dead specimens I remember collecting. Sometimes, even dead specimens would just look too darn good in a collection to pass up. While I don't see anything wrong with this, it is equally as vital to include that the specimen was found dead, along with the rest of the information on the label. This one has a third label that has written: "Found dead in Spider Web." After finding this individual tangled in a web in the crevice of a building near Shaver Lake, I've started inspecting other webs I find in the outdoors (none note worthy yet, though feel free to tell me about any bugs you readers may have found in webs).

This species is easily distinguished from the other 4 U.S. species by the comparatively rough pronotum, however if you don't have other species to compare with, the ninth antenna segment is only about 2/5 the length of the eighth, thereby, being abruptly abbreviated rather than gradually, as seen here. I've been fortunate enough to collect it's lesser common close relative; Arhapolus productus, only, A. productus was alive when I collected it.

I look forward to photographing this species alive and in nature next year, but until then, this pinned specimen will have to do. Unfortunately, the bugs are going into hiding right now so there won't be too many pictures of live recent finds until next Spring (Pleocoma and some sand dune finds might be some of the few). Just like most insects, I stay tucked away during the colder months, spending my time pinning, labeling, identifying and organizing bugs.