Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tougher than a Ford Truck

          If you have ever had the opportunity to pin an Ironclad beetle (Zopherinae), you know that they are the tanks of the insect world. They come equipped with an armor like exoskeleton and their legs can be folded in such a way that if they are under a lot of pressure, they'll be safely tucked against the side of the body with less chance of getting injured. I have ever read reports of larger species being ran over by trucks; leaving a crater in the road, then walking away seemingly unharmed.

 Phloeodes diabolicus (LeConte)

Phloeodes plicatus (LeConte)

I've had the pleasure of collecting both of the currently described species of Phloeodes from Mexico northward. P. diabolicus, I have found several times in the Central Valley. P. pilcatus, my friend spotted for me along a sea side trail when vacationing to southern California. Both of which only occure in Oregon(?) southward in the west desert regions. There are quite a few of these beetles that stand out; most notably in tropical countries.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A healthy way to end the week

          This weekend was a good one. I went camping in the Sierra Foothills Friday through Saturday and was able to refill my soul with joy and peacefulness. Not cheesy on purpose, that's just the best was to put it.

I went with my uncle (Sam Wells) and because it was mainly a trip for a boy scout pack, so we arrived at camp a couple hours later than planned. Sam is one of the leaders for the group but I got lucky and was able to just tag along and do my own thing, (with all due respect, of course).

 A sight that I love waking up to.

I didn't get to really see the area until morning, but it was the kind of place worth visiting for an entomologist. There were plenty of Oak with scattered Grey Pine and rolling hills in any direction. I grabbed my camera and took a little walk around as soon as I crawled out of bed.

I soon came to a moist ravine with some logs at the bottom and decided to flip them over in hopes of ground beetles, but instead two mice plopped out onto the ground from their winter nest in the hollow of the log. I felt bad for disturbing the little guys, but I was glad to get some pictures of them and a mushroom growing on the underside of the log.

Bewildered, these mice are gathering their wits after an
accidental awakening.

I looked through my Mammals of California book in hopes of getting a name for this post, but by just looking at the pictures I wasn't very successful... Maybe a reader will recognize this species. My best guess is some kind of Pocket Mice is the genus Perognathus or Chaetodipus, but this is hardly an educated guess. The locality is near Auberry in Fresno County; east of Fresno.

Shroom likely in the Agarics group. (I didn't collect this or any
other Fungi on this trip so identification is likely impossible).

By the time I got back to camp breakfast was ready (courtesy of the scouts) and the sun was well into the cloudless sky. I saw another log a stones throw away and headed over to it when I was finished eating. This ended up being the best micro-habitat I found.

Melanotus sp. (Click Beetle)

Tenebrionidae (Darkling Beetles)

Nyctoporis vandykei, (Blaisdell, 1931)
(Darkling Beetles)

Another nice bug that is pretty common around the Sierra is the True Bugs in the family Largidae. There were an overwhelming amount of these flying around on the sunny afternoon.

Largus sp.

I hope the relatively little taxonomy wasn't a let down to anyone. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and read anyway.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Sweet Smell of Funny

            One of the blogs that I enjoy visiting and feel a bond with the included writer is biologistsoup, by Kent Fothergill. One of his trademarks is the very witty comic strips he illustrates, pertaining to biology. Truth is, folks, there's not really much doe invested in biologist targeted comedy. So if you're a naturalist, scientist or even have a relationship with one in your life, you might want to check out his blog under my "Great Bug Blogs I Follow" tab on the lower right side of this page.

trapping dung beetles
Some of us can relate to this, I'm sure.

I have a lot of respect for any person not swayed by social norms in the process of following a "burning" passion of theirs. Scarab workers are just one of the many examples of "taking the plunge" and "submerging themselves" in what "fills their bowels" with the most joy.

Thank you, Kent, for a intricate kind of funny that appeals to an intricate audience, myself included. If there was a news paper for Entomologists, your comic strips would be the hit of the funnys section.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Buprestis lyrata...

          Well it's time to make a confession: my first post on this blog was about a pretty little Jewel beetle I collected at Shaver Lake; Buprestis lyrata. As it turns out, this was not the right ID at all. The very similar, (at least to my eyes) B. ornata seems to be a better fit. If Rick Wescott hadn't e-mailed me about my over confident ID, I may have never known about this other western species.

Buprestis ornata Walker, 1866

Ventral view

Out of focus view of head, I know. If you take a look at
specimens of B. lyrata, you'll see that these two species
share a very unique feature; the orange and yellow
markings on the it's face and front angles of it's pronotum.
This shared feature is what caused me to think B. lyrata.

 I have plenty of trust in Rick's judgment because he seems to have an assertive confidence that really stands out: "Buprestis lyrata just does not come with a metallic sheen; and the specimen you depicted is the wrong shape.  That one is more compact, the character of B. subornata.  Take a look in the museum next time you are there." As stated above, he has identified Buprestis species for the very museum I hung around in Utah. I remember browsing through the very drawers of specimens, some of which, has his name on the ID label. Thank you Rick for the correction!
During our brief conversation, we discovered that we are both friends of Shawn Clark and that he is the famous "Buprestis Hunter" that Shawn has told me a fair bit about. Small world... the entomological world, that is. I hope that I will have more luck finding awesome Jewels, like this one, this spring. It would be nice to collect with Rick, as I'm sure he could give me some useful collecting pointers.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sleeping with one eye open.

          A couple weeks ago I was doing some yard work with my Grandpa who was on vacation in California, spending some good time with his family. (Did I seriously say yard work?). It was a semi-sunny day and the wind was at a stand still when I noticed a little critter on some garden grasses in the corner of my eye.

Leptoglossus zonatus (Dallas)
 When I saw that it was a handsome leaf-footed bug (Family: Coreidae), I scurried inside to get my camera and get more practice in photographing live bugs. Myself, having little knowledge of Insect taxonomy outside of Beetles, had to submit this picture to Bugguide to get the little guy identified past family. As it turns out, it belongs to the genus Leptoglossus. Based off of several experienced commenters of the group, L. zonatus is almost definitely the species in the picture and presumably the species I've seen commonly around the city.

It's not uncommon to see things abuzz on warmer days in winter here. At night the temperature can flirt with freezing, but it quickly warms up as the day goes on. I've now seen this species in all seasons. Even during the winter it is good to be prepared for unexpected insects to cross your path; some bugs seam to be just waiting to come out into the open on a warm day!