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.

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