Sunday, April 28, 2013

Let there be light!

      Over the past couple weeks I have been creating a digital collection by using a new mechanism for photographing pinned specimens. This new technique includes putting a specimen in a empty unit tray, turning auto flash to the "on" setting, then cuffing my hands an inch over the tray and around my camera while snapping a shot. This allows just enough light in for my camera to focus on the object, while it also lets enough light from the flash escape from the sides to prevent flooding the specimen with too much lighting. (This is only based off of my observations and nothing further proven).

First we'll take a look at one of the first iconic photographs of this blog:

Yes, this gives you a more than sufficient visual of an ento-story's subject, but for a photographic collection, this would not do well when compared to other similar looking species.

 Carabus (Tomocarabus)
taedatus agasii

Now that's what I'm invested in; good lighting.

Sure, I'll probably end up getting another camera in the future which takes higher quality pictures, but this is a significant advancement for the time being. Here are some other good ones:

   Tricondyla sp.
  (Tiger beetle)

  Auxicerus sp.
  (Stag beetle)

   Callidium antennatum

I'll be going through this blog and replacing some old pictures with some better ones later on.

Lastly, it's amazing what technology has come to!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tenebroides crassicornis

Toward the end of last month while collecting  up north by Mariposa, I came by this cool beetle belonging to the family Trogossitidae wandering along a log:

Tenebroides crassicornis (Horn, 1862)

Bark-gnawing beetles have been one of my favorite families ever since I collected the larger and more iridescent genus Temnoscheila at the Coastal Range.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Little Bear Beetles having a Blast. ...for a brief moment

      They're back!

Paracotalpa ursina (Horn, 1867)
Little Bear Beetles

Last month I did a California Toad post explaining my trip to Woodward Park looking for a couple specific bugs. Returning to the park yesterday yielded many of one of them; Paracotalpa ursina.

Michael (my cousin) and I saw literally dozens in the 30 minutes we were at their habitat. I'd imagine it is tons of fun to fly through a meadow then suddenly drop with outstretched  legs, then by mere chance hook onto the grass blades to be softly suspended above the ground.

One of my favorite pics of one of my favorite Scarabs.

Habitat for this species which occurs only in the far west.

This early May when I take a trip to Utah, I plan on collecting and photographing Paracotalpa granicollis too. Hopefully you'll see that post soon!

Only in this circular walking trail area of the park did they occur;
the rest of the park is well kept for the common citizens.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Brochymena sulcata

Driving through Mariposa County two weeks ago, we stopped along the side of the highway for a quick picnic. I made the effort to get out my net and beating sheet only to find this handsome bug:

Brochymena sulcata

Scenic rout along Highway 140, Mariposa County, California

Monday, April 1, 2013

Beetles and Amphibians at Merced River

      Last week, my family and I were spending some time up in the mountains. (Well, half MOUNTAINS and half B 'n' B in the high foothills. Both turned out great for bugs, so I'm not complaining). On Friday, we spent 2-3 hours relaxing at McCabe Flate along the Merced River (Mariposa County) to eat, watch the river, and for those of us who wanted: bug collect. That's just what we did.
Merced River near McCabe Flat Campground

Sam was having quite some success with bees, but I had only been able to find a few species of beetles: Cantharidae and Lytta. The former I didn't personally care to pin up later, but the latter, belonging to the family of Blister Beetles, usually catch my interest and with Lytta, you can never go wrong.

Lytta refulgens Horn

Sam has the works on most of Lytta, but instead of being patient, I searched through some field guides and websites; but I found no remote matches. I then cropped two of my best shots and put them on Bugguide. Later I received a response stating that John D. Pinto (A Meloidae expert) had reviewed the pictures and put a confident ID on the unique bug: Lytta refulgens Horn. I was informed that these are "uncommonly" collected and was excited when I later learned that this species is restricted to the Foothills of central/southern California.

Well, she ate that fast!

It was also pretty cool to find these flying around:

Bittacus chlorostigma MacLachlan, 1881
Order: Mecoptera (Hangingflies and Scorpionflies)

This was far from the end our our findings. 30 minutes down the trail (or 3 if you're not collecting/photographing) we discovered some nice little ponds which opened up a new realm of biodiversity.

Sierra Newt (Taricha torosa sierrae)

This next photograph is what looks to be the introduced Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeiana) but it is far out of that species size range for an adult. My next thought would be the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylei) which, for a variable species, fits the most. It is also the only species of that genus which occurs in that area, other than the California Red-legged Frog, which does not look nearly as similar. The Foothill Yellow-legged Frog is federally endangered, and quite sadly, they may not be around for much longer. Here is a link that could help you decide an ID for the fella if you so choose. If you have a confident ID, I'd love to here it.

Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylei)(?)
Federally Endangered

Lastly, I found some Turkey Tail fungi. This came at a good time because I was getting tiered of trying to get decent photographs of moving targets!

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)