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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer of 2013 Beetle of the Season: Omus laevis

      This was a notable year for collecting. I went from a six drawer collection to a ten drawer collection and improved upon my collecting and identifying skills along with my general understanding of North American beetles. I have had some time to practice blogging (including writing, spelling and grammar) and photography, with this I have adopted another routine idea and task; "Beetle of the Season". This will be a quarterly post containing the chosen bug of honor at each season's end. For simplicity's sake, I have distinguished the four seasons as follows:

Spring     = March-May
Summer  = June-August
Fall         = September-November
Winter    = December-February

I have seen and admired similar practices (weekly to yearly) on several other blogs and thought it would be fun to start a trademark of my own. It just so happens to be the end of the Summer section of the year, and after sifting through the respective summer photographs, I have decided that Omus laevis is a worthy title holder for Summer Beetle of 2013.

Omus laevis LeConte, 1866
Summer of 2013 Beetle of the Season.

This beastly tiger beetles is indigenous to the Sierra Nevada and I have been fortunate to collect it on two different occasions in handsome numbers. The first time was at Courtright Reservoir; I, at the moment, thought is to be the variable O. californicus so I didn't bother going through the effort of getting a good photograph. Once I found out it was what a new revision of the genus would recognize as O. laevis, I became much more interested in the "O. californicus" species clump. Luckily, I later encountered a high-elevation population several miles off from the first locality that was active at what would be considered the end of its activity period. I was then able to get a few photographs and make some observations concerning their nocturnal habits.

Because of my favoritism within the Class of Insecta, I will also be starting a "The Non-Beetle Bug of the Year" at the first of 2014. This will also hopefully be compatible with my resolution to learn of, photograph, collect and write about other insects.

2.) Mt. Hutton

      After a night of good collecting and a decent slumber, we began to hike further up the mountain. Unknowingly, we were embarking on the mutually agreed upon most difficult stretch of the hike for us and our thirty-five pound packs.

Left to Right:
Larry Schwendiman, McClane Christensen, Michael Wells, Chad Christensen (McClane's Uncle), Sam Wells (Michael's Father and my Uncle)

Only a few minutes into the hike had passed when I noticed a beetle on a granite boulder. After closer inspection, I noticed it was none other than Neospondylis upiformis. A friend of mine collected this same species for me a few years back. It has mentionable size variation, which Dennis Haines illustrates very well with a photo posted to Bugguide. The individual in the below photograph measures fifteen mm in length. The fella was a bit tattered but I hope to see others in the future while collecting in some of our northwestern forests.

Neospondylis upiformis (Mannerheim)

After a few miles of uphill hiking, we were passing through a meadow in a forested ravine when I noticed a second, yet much different, bycid on to the side of the trail.

Lepturobosca chrysocoma (Kirby, 1837)

 The disadvantage to photography and collecting in a group is that people generally wont wait!

X miles later we began to drop in elevation (around 500 ft. drop). We knew that we had started at 8,000 ft. that morning and with our destination being at 10,000 ft., we were a little disappointed with the extra effort that it would require to make it. After we were able to climb back to the altitude we were at before the drop, we were very much delighted with the scenery of Long Meadows which ran right along our trail .

 (Once again I had the opportunity to exercise by catching up with the group).

The only thing that could have made this place better would be a lack of mosquitoes and an ice cold beverage.

We were on the last stretch of the hike to Disappointment Lake on Hell For Sure Trail (both official names) and I had rotated through several Pink Floyd, Yes, The Beatles, Okkervil River and Bob Dylan albums since that morning. I normally don't bring tunes with me hiking unless I know they will be useful in providing mental energy. This was indeed the case during this particular day and I took the above picture while listening to "Close To The Edge" by Yes as a reminder of the beautiful combination that was present.

After hiking a distance of twelve miles and climbing a total of about 2,600 ft. through the coarse of the day, we made it to the lake a couple hours before dark. The fish were biting and we caught our limit of brown trout for supper! We had brought MREs as well to ensure we had something to eat every night, though I ended up eating both for the extra energy, loss of weight to carry and to plainly enjoy the moment.

A sizzling pan of bread crumbed brown trout fillets, tomatoes, onions cooked in veggie oil and later juiced with lemons.

You might wonder who brought all of this wonderful stuff which made such a meal. Well, it was Chad who ironically had the lightest pack! He told me that his pack without equipment is several pounds lighter than most. I am now considering investing in a new pack.

Me and my mosquito bitten face looking forward to the restful evening.