Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I hope we can all have a wonderful time enjoying nature, friends, family and whatever else you find worthwhile in 2013. I know I had some great experiences during 2012!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Natural History in my Genes

          Earlier this month my Grandma passed away leaving behind alot (ALOT) of nik-naks and du-dads scattered around her and her Husbands house. After the family took possession of the larger, more obvious keep sakes, it was my job to photograph a section of her little belongings to be sent out in family letters encase anyone wants to keep anything else before it goes to a thrift store of the garbage. I did the best I could because I wanted as little thrown away as possible.

A small section of misc ornaments.

A ways into the project, I noticed an insect in a little bowl. On closer inspection, I saw it was a True Bug in the family Pentatomidae (Stink or Shield Bugs). For the sake of time, I submitted it to Bugguide and the genus Chlorochroa came up as a good match, likely the species C. sayi.

Chlorochroa sayi Stål

It was quite a surprise, especially when I heard the rumor that bees and other bugs were found in various areas, preserved for visual enjoyment. Well, this explains her Son's fascination with natural history and her Grandson's as well. This common species is nothing special of course, but it is alot more special to me now.

Preserved Butterfly with artificial body

There were also a series of Lepidoptera laminated with a paper over it's main body sections. I photographed the best two. I didn't figure out the species on these, however. They may not even be American species. Any suggestions on the Lep's taxonomy beyond the order would be nice.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Odd Odonata Ordeals in Orem

          As I was walking home from the grocer store, I came by some broken dragonfly(?) body parts on a white fence. I stopped to take a picture, then noticed how many total broken carcases there were; about eight to a dozen over the length of the fence.

Various body parts of Odonata on fence posts. Orem, Utah.

I didn't see any parts on the ground, only on the fence. Some parts were in snow and some in what looked like bird scat. See here for more pictures.

It's quite chilly here in Orem, and quite beautiful all at once. I had my camera on me with this walk because it had recently snowed, clearing out the air, which is ideal for photographing our local mountains.

Cascade Mountain
Eastern boarder of Provo, east of Orem

There are two highly recognizable mountains in view from just about anywhere in Orem; Mt. Cascade to the east and Timpanogos to the north east.

Timpanogos Mountain
North east of Orem

I have a view of Timp from my bedroom window. This adds to a mountainous feel when I'm in town, especially when the air has been cleaned out from a snow storm. It's also nice to have hikes within a 15 minute drive from home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Better Shots on C. taedatus

          After reading the comment on the last post, I went back to the (unofficial) photography desk and tried again. I learned a few things this time around:

  1) It is vital to snap a picture the moment it drifts into focus.
  2) Even though this camera has a "shake reducing" tool, it is important to have my arms in a rested
      position when I shoot.
  3) Simply have a wide plane of the target's surface parallel to the camera's lens, or accept that
      getting a clear shot of a steep surface will require more effort and/or time.

As always, this is only a reflection of my own understanding and skills. It worked, though!

Carabus taedatus

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Gift that Keeps on Giving

          Something that I've been looking forward to for a long time is owning a camera to learn photography. With a little help from my Uncle (Sam), this wish finally came true. The first thing I did was charge it (given), but this was the first thing I did even before reading the manual, I refused to wait any longer than I had to to start photographing!

I pinned up one of my Carabus taedatus specimens (which I have dozens too many of), but this individual I pinned specifically to look alive and active, something I've watched other bugologists do. A post by the blogger and macro photographer Ted C. MacRae comes readily to mind. Still though, I have hardly any skills with a camera, and I've not yet used one to photograph anything smaller than a cat. I knew this wouldn't exactly be a 'point, shoot and you have a good picture' experience, but I also didn't exactly know how to get that desired shot. So, I used what skills I had over the coarse of a few minutes and this is what the outcome was:

Carabus taedatus
Pic's without pigment matching backgound

Nothing award winning, I know. Frankly, I knew they wouldn't be from the start. I did have an idea though: to surround the bug with a paper similar to it's own body's pigment. This tricks the camera into focusing on the applied color because it fills most of the screen, and thereby also focusing on the target.

Better focused pics with a pigment matching background

These new shots were a little more focused, and that made me happy. To me, shots as focused as these are more than satisfying. At this point in my blogging, I'm more interested in giving a visual on whatever I am blogging about than to get thee highest resolution photographs. But with this new technique comes a new problem: The background! Oh well, I'm sure there will be plenty of time in the future to perfect photos, after all, this was simply to get acquainted with my camera. If any of you readers out there have any tips or advise on bettering staged photos, I'd love to hear what it may be.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Holidays!

          This morning I hit the road to the great state of Utah! I won't be returning to Fresno until early January, so there may not be any posts until then. However, for the sake of this blog's development, I'd like to share a photo of a rather attractive Jewel beetle my dear friend, Johnny, captured and saved for me during one of his retreats to Shaver Lake. Shaver Lake also happens to be one of my favorite places to hunt for bugs, here in the Central Valley.

Chalcophora angulicollis

This is obviously a larger Bup than not, but what makes this bug even more special is that it is the only species of it's genus (Chalcophora) that is well established in the western U.S. C. liberta is one to consider, but only makes it to Texas from the east coast, while C. angulicollis ranges from British Columbia south to California, west to South Dakota and Texas. It's safe to say it generally hangs out west of the Rocky Mountains.

The fellow must have been present on that fatal summer day because the Shaver Lake area (and much of the Sierra's, respectably) contain one of it's larval host plants: Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa). In fact, it was apparently rescued (or rather, stolen) from a pile of wood blocks with a bystanding group of boys deciding how they were going to kill it. Many thanks to Johnny for standing tall, and killing it first, purposefully.

A similar spot as where the specimen above was found.

Branch pile that was successful in attracting Buprestis lyrata,
and is also capable of producing Chalcophora angusticollis.
The two Jewel beetles share the same host: Ponderosa Pine.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Omus Hot Spot

          There are numerous countries I dream of visiting to witness the fauna of, most notably countries of Africa. One attraction is that Manticora and Mantica Tiger beetles occur there, representing the last tribe of Tiger beetles I'm missing from my collection (after Cicindelini, Magacephalini, Amblycheilini and Collyridini.) -wait a minute, though. Something is missing here. I live in one of the 3 states and single provenance that has a Tiger genus all to itself; Omus. Also, North America is the only continent containing the tribe Amblycheilini with the genera Omus and Amblycheila. In reminding myself of this, I don't feel as unsatisfied.

Omus californicus
intermedius Leng.

Look at the beast! If I lived in another country, I'm sure I'd be dying to visit the Pacific Northwest.

I've encountered this species on several occasions during my times in California, not this year, however. Next spring I plan on setting up a pitfall trap at a hidden hilltop in the Sierra National Forest where I found a condensed population of about dozen specimens, (excluding specimens I didn't find in those few minutes.) The reason for a single trap is to simply not have another occasion where I collect dozens of unneeded specimens, when this native and unique species could be repopulating at this spot at a  healthy rate.

Another gem at this spot happens to be another ground dweller, Metrius contractus (Family: Carabidae, Subfamily: Paussinae). This is another species I'm desperate to collect a few more of. I only found one specimen on that day, and it some how lost it's right antenna. I recently cleaned this specimen up (as not seen in this photo, (apologies for the laziness)) and relaxed it with boiling water, then braced the left antenna close to it's body to prevent some of the risk of it's disappearance in it's years to come. I also went through the collection and relabeled this, and many other specimens with larger labels from my earliest collecting, saving space in the collection and thereby money.

Metrius contractus

The bombardier beetle Metrius contractus discharges its defensive secretion
 as a froth that clings to its body. When attacked from the rear, it allows the
 froth to build up over the gland openings near the abdominal tip; when attacked
 from the front, it conveys the secretion forwards along special elytral tracks.
 M. contractus has two-chambered defensive glands typical of bombardier beetles, 
and its secretion, like that of other bombardiers, is quinonoid and hot. Its frothing 
mechanism, however, is unique for bombardiers and possibly illustrative of the 
ancestral glandular discharge mechanism of these beetles. M. contractus, thus, 
could be the least derived of extant bombardiers. (1)

...just another example of how awesome Ground beetles are. Omus also has it's own secretion, a black liquid released from it's mouth organs, streaming onto it's mandibles when attempting to bite some unlucky creature, including myself on a particular occasion.

Sierra National Forest:
Habitat for Omus californicus
and Metrius contractus

I have three of the six or seven Omus species in my collection: O. californicus, O. audouini and O. dejeanii. The next species I have targeted is Omus submetallicus, the most geographically restricted of the species only being found on the north-facing slopes of Warthan Canyon in Fresno and Monterey Counties, California. I shall post updates on the two different Omus collecting plans next spring.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Pacific Pleasantry

          Here's a neat Bycid I collected last August in decent numbers at lights at Shaver Lake:

Ortholeptura valida (LeConte)

One of the reasons I find this species interesting is because it's nocturnal, which is uncommon for the subfamily it belongs to (Lepturinae). This genus is also almost completely restricted to the Pacific Coast of North America; O. obscura is the northern most occuring of the three species, from Washington and Oregon over to Idaho. O. insignis occures from central California down to north Baja California and O. valida, being the commonest, also has the widest distribution: stretching from British Colombia to northern Baja. The largest specimen I found was about an inch long, the smallest, about half that legnth. Needless to say, finding this species made that campout an enjoyable one. The unit tray of this species also looks pretty nice in my collection, if I might add. (Not to boast ...of course).

Shaver Lake

Fresno is in central/southern California, so I'm hoping to see O. insignis at a light some warm summer night in the future. What would be even more exciting, would be to find O. obscura in northern Utah, which is where I don't think it has been reported. This may be a strech, but the state's fauna has surprised me before.