Monday, July 21, 2014

The Inexplicable Mojo of Tiger Beetles.

Horn's Tiger Beetle, Cicindela (Cicindelidia) hornii Schaupp.
A Rebuttal.

mo-jo - noun.
1. A magic charm, talisman, or spell.
2. Magic power.

Based on a recent perusal of current literature and various internet sources, it appears that some information concerning the behavior, seasonality, alleged rarity, and color forms of Cicindela (Cicindelidia) hornii Schaupp warrant further discussion. Apparently, a great deal of this information and supposition is based upon brief incidental field collections - or lack of - and observations. For most collectors and students of tiger beetles, this species is a fortuitous hit-or-miss opportunity - a collateral species. As a result, it carries an exaggerated distinction as being a rare and highly coveted species.

Typical habitat of Cicindelidia hornii Schaupp
Upper Sonoran Mesquite-Grassland
Sulphur Springs Valley, Cochise County, Arizona
Alleged rarity. 
The term rare is so commonly used (= misused) in entomology, that in fact, it has lost its connotation. Remember, when dealing with things biological - anything is possible. Consider that beetles, and insects in general, emerge and become active when a certain combination of physiological and environmental stimuli are reached (for example, moisture, temperature, humidity) indicative of phenotypic plasticity: any change in an organism’s characteristics in response to an environmental signal (Schlichting and Smith 2002:190).

In southwestern North America, moisture, in the form of either winter rain or summer monsoons, is an essential factor in this equation. Without this necessary moisture insects may delay their emergence for several months or years. My point being, there are prevailing factors that influence, or deter, fecundity (abundance), of an organism - despite the exhortations of frustrated collectors.

Another habitat photo of Cicindelidia hornii Schaupp
Upper Sonoran Mesquite-Grassland
Sulphur Springs Valley, Cochise County, Arizona
Behavior & Seasonality. 
In southeast Arizona, C. hornii emerges during the summer monsoon that typical begins in late June or early July. It is best described as an ephemeral species because it is active while the soil remains damp after rainfall. Once this moisture evaporates, it disappears along with several other sympatric species, such as Cicindela pulchra dorothea Rumpp (below, left). Cicindelidia hornii typically occurs in grassy pastures and roadsides where it will hide in the shade beneath grass clumps or other vegetation during morning to mid-day hours or seen running in open areas in search of prey.

Cicindela pulchra dorothea Rumpp
Polymorphism: Color Variation.
Polymorphism is the occurrence of more than one color form, or morph, in the same population of a species. Of the various publications and websites that display images of C. hornii, usually only one or two color forms are illustrated. Based on specimens in my collection, iridescent metallic blue, blue-green head and pronota with purple elytra, blue-green to green, and black are represented. The latter melanistic form being the most commonly encountered. Although anecdotal, from my field observations, it appears that the more brilliantly colored individuals appear earlier in the season. Victor E. Shelford, in his treatise, Color and color-pattern mechanism of Tiger Beetles (1917), noted that tiger beetle coloration was influenced, in part, by climatic conditions.

Color variation of Cicindelidia hornii Schaupp:
blue, bluegreen head & pronota with purple elytra, bluegreen-green, black.
Sulphur Springs Valley, Cochise County, AZ

Literature Cited

Schlichting, C. D., and H. Smith. 2002. Phenotypic plasticity: linking molecular mechanisms with evolutionary outcomes. Evolutionary Ecology 16:189–211

Shelford, V. E. 1917. Color and color-pattern mechanism of tiger beetles, with twenty-nine black and three colored plates.Volume Illinois Biological Monographs Vol.3: No. 4

                                                          Other Suggested Reading

Schultz, T.D., and N. F. Hadley. 1987. Structural Colors of Tiger Beetles and Their Role in Heat Transfer through the Integument. Physiological Zoology. 60 (6):737-745

                                           © Delbert La Rue 2014. All Rights Reserved.       

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adventures in Acmaeoderini.
Déjà vu all over again:
Granite Gap, Peloncillo Mountains, Hidalgo Co., New Mexico

With its spectacular granite boulders, limestone outcrops and diversity of floristic types, the area is a classic example of the Chihuahuan Desert. It has a higher cactus diversity than any other area in New Mexico. Because of its biological and scenic beauty, Granite Gap is designated by the BLM as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Access is strictly limited to designated roads and trails.

Note burned Prosopis in foreground

From the literature and personal collection records, at least 9 species of Acmaeoderini have been recorded from the site and surrounding area:

    Adult host association(s) [in part].

Acmaeodera cazieri Knull,
    Cirsium sp., Argemone sp. (Knull 1960:7); on flowers Jatropha macrorhiza (MacRae & Nelson 2003:58).

Acmaeodera davidsoni Barr (Type Locality),
   Acacia constricta, A. greggii, Mimosa biuncifera (Barr 1972:180); Prosopis sp. (Bellamy 1982:359).

Acmaeodera delumbis Horn,
    Acacia constricta  (Westcott, et al. 1979:173).

Acmaeodera parkeri Cazier,
    Allionia incarnata (Westcott, et al. 1979:177); Haplopappus sp., Boerhaavia coccinea (Bellamy 1982:359).
Acmaeodera pinalorum Knull,
    Mimosa biuncifera (Walters & Bellamy 1990:113).

Acmaeodera quadrivittatoides Nelson & Westcott,
    Adults have been recorded on a wide variety of flowers (Nelson & Westcott 1995:81).
    At this locality, I have collected this species on Alliona incarnata flowers.

Acmaeodera yuccavora Knull,
    Alliona incarnata (Westcott, et al. 1979:180).
    Adults frequently alight on paths or other bare areas (Knull 1962:3).
    At this locality, I have collected this species on Alliona incarnata flowers.

Acmaeoderopsis hulli (Knull),
    Mimosa sp., Prosopis glandulosa (Nelson & Westcott 1976:274).
Acmaeoderopsis rockefelleri (Cazier),
    Acacia constricta, Prosopis juliflora (Nelson & Westcott 1976:274).  

The distribution of Acmaeodera gibbula LeConte overlaps this area suggesting it may also occur here.

The flight period of these species is typically during the months of June through August, in some years earlier (April, May) or later (September). Emergence probably depending upon mean temperature and monsoonal precipitation. The distribution of a few of these species continues south along NM 80 on associated hosts.

Field notes 15.VII.2014.
Subsequent to my visit on 17.VII.2010, the area appears to have been burned. Most of the Prosopis and Acacia are growing back. On this visit, monsoons had drenched the area within the last few days. Some of the Acacia and Larrea were just beginning to bloom but I was unable to locate any Alliona where they grew on my prior visit.

Alliona incarnata

Internet resources and literature cited.

A Synopsis of the Adult and Larval Plant Associations for New World Acmaeoderini (Coleoptera: Buprestidae)

Barr, W. F. 1972. New species of North American Acmaeodera (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Arquivos do Museo Boçage 2.a Série, 3(7):145-202. .pdf

Bellamy, C. L. 1982. Observations on the biology and distribution of several species of Buprestidae (Coleoptera) of North America. The Coleopterists' Bulletin 36(2):358-361. .pdf

Knull, J.N. 1960. A new subspecies of Acmaeodera quadrivittata Horn (Coleoptera:Buprestidae). The Ohio Journal of Science. 60(1): 6-7. .pdf

Knull, J.N. 1962. A new yucca-inhabiting Acmaeodera from Arizona (Coleoptera:Buprestidae). The Ohio Journal of Science. 62(1): 2-3. .pdf

MacRae, T. C., & G.H. Nelson. 2003. Distributional and biological notes on Buprestidae (Coleoptera) in North and Central America and the West Indies, with validation of one species. The Coleopterists' Bulletin, 57(1): 57–70. .pdf

Nelson G.H., & R.L. Westcott 1976. Notes on the distribution, synonymy, and biology of Buprestidae (Coleoptera) of North America. The Coleopterists' Bulletin. 30(3):273-284. .pdf

Nelson G.H., & R.L. Westcott 1995. Three new species of Acmaeodera Eschscholtz (Coleoptera:Buprestidae) from the United States and Mexico. The Coleopterists' Bulletin. 49(1):77-87. .pdf

Walters, G.C., & C.L. Bellamy 1990. Notes on the distribution and biology of certain Buprestidae (Coleoptera): Part IV. The Coleopterists' Bulletin. 44(1):113-115. .pdf

Westcott, R. L., W. F. Barr, G. H. Nelson, & D. S. Verity. 1979. Distributional and biological notes on North and Central American species of Acmaeodera (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). The Coleopterists' Bulletin 33(2):169-181. .pdf

Aerial photo courtesy of  The Sky Gypsies.

© Delbert La Rue 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cochise Stronghold, Dragoon Mountains, Cochise County, Arizona

 Trachyderes (Dendrobias) mandibularis Dupont on Baccharis ssp.

© Delbert La Rue 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cyphochilus insulanus Moser:
An amazing example of evolutionary crypsis.

Cyphochilus is a genus of Melolonthinae that occurs in Southeast Asia. It is suggested that the beetle’s white dorsal coloration has evolved to mimic local white fungi as a form of crypsis or camouflage while it feeds on sugar cane.

Photo courtesy of itchydogimages

© Delbert La Rue 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pleocoma dolichophylla Nikolajev & Ren 2012.
A fossil species of Pleocoma LeConte and its biogeographic implications.

Pleocoma dolichophylla
 Nikolajev & Ren 2012
Age range: 130.0 to 125.45 MA

 The recent discovery of a fossil species of Pleocoma LeConte from Yixian Formation, Late Mesozoic, Liaoning Province, People's Republic of China, suggests that the genus was once more widely distributed and has only recently (in geological terms) become restricted to the extreme Pacific Coast of  North America (i.e., Washington south to Baja California).

What is now China was last connected to the Laurasia land mass (North America + Eurasia) approximately 150 MYBP.

Interestingly, this is not the only family group that lived in the Mesozoic of the Eastern Hemisphere and remains extant in the recent fauna of the Western Hemisphere. Over the last few years, several species of the family Hybosoridae (representing the subfamily Anaidinae Nikolajev, tribe Ivieolini Howden & Gill, of the subfamily Ceratocanthinae Martínez), the recent members of which currently live exclusively in South America, have been described from the Mesozoic of Siberia and China.

Literature Cited
 G. V. Nikolajev and D. Ren. 2012. The earliest known species of the genus Pleocoma LeConte (Coleoptera, Scarabaeoidea, Pleocomidae) from the Mesozoic of China. Paleontological Journal 46:495-498

© Delbert La Rue 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Granite Gap, Peloncillo Mountains, New Mexico

The view looking south this morning while collecting Acmaeodera at 1330m elevation. The valley and mountains below are the eastside of the cloud-covered Chiricahuas. Monsoon season here.

Click on the image for a larger view (collage made with Picasa3 software).

Two species of Acmaeodera - yuccavora Knull, and a species undetermined at present - were collected on the flowers of Allionia incarnata L., Trailing Four O'clock, that grew along the rocky roadside.

Despite efforts beating Mimosa and Acacia, two additional species, Ac. davidsoni Barr, this being its type locality, and Ac. parkeri Cazier, were not encountered.

ORIGINAL POST: 10 August 2010. UPDATED: Thursday, December 26, 2013

While my efforts produced  only a few specimens of two species that day, I have identified them as Acmaeodera yuccavora Knull (2), and Acmaeodera  quadrivittatoides Nelson and Wescott (1).

© Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Comments on curation:
Field Notes & Specimen Labels

Until technology makes it practical to "lo-jack" our specimens (... gasp ... a nano-chip on an insect pin???), paper labels are still the most reliable and economical standard for attaching collecting data to pinned specimens.

Shoddy data: mad scientist or just bad science?
While recently curating several hundred southwestern Acmaeoderini (see Dec 05 post below), I unfortunately was reminded of some of the, shall I say, laughable labeling efforts I have bore witness to or received in exchanges: ambiguous data scribbled on a scrap of brown grocery bag or a torn fragment from a cereal box. True story. As a result, it occurred to me that I might humbly offer a few brief comments concerning specimen labeling. The reader is reminded that there are numerous, probably easier, methods than what I suggest here, but the ultimate objective is the same: clear, concise, legible labels. Consider the big picture ... the legacy of your specimens and data to future researchers and your enduring contribution to the science.

Since it was while curating Acmaeoderini this post suggested itself, I am concerned here with day collecting - very few Acmaeodera come to black lights. 

Needless to say, well documented specimen data begins right in the field. Depending upon your quarry, in addition to a net and/or beating sheet, the adept collector is equipped, at minimum, with a small notebook and pencil for recording data and field observations. Now days, basic GPS units are affordable. One of these is essential in at least logging your latitude and longitude and altitude (elevation). In addition, with a GPS unit, one is able to set a track line to check a series of traps in a maze of dense California chaparral or southeastern Arizona forest canopy. A small P&S digital camera is also a useful tool to have on hand.

Left to right: GPS Unit, pocket plant press, Post-It cards, glassine envelopes
 When collecting Acmaeoderini and any other collateral Buprestids and Cerambycids, I carry a small plant press (75 X 125 mm) for taking samples of unidentifiable host plants. A pad of blank Post-it® cards (also 75 X 125 mm) conveniently fit in the plant press where collecting notes, associated beetles and other significant information can be scrawled quickly and saved with the sample. Don’t rely on memory. Any larger, but manageable, samples showing signs of larvae I store in a large zip-loc bag. Because of their fragile antennae and legs, glassine envelopes are used to store and isolate cerambycids or other interesting Coleoptera and insects.

Plant sample with field notes.
I use Arial 4 point for locality labels and 6 point for separate collector and/or host label. The latter usually small labels consisting of only two to four words of text. In addition to the host genus and species, a word or two about what part of the plant the beetle was collected on (taken from your field notes) is helpful: flowers, dead stems, flying to, etc.

To format the data into printable labels, I limit the number of characters (including spaces) to 18-24/line with four or five lines completing a label. My concern is to include the necessary information in a simple, easily read format in a practical font size. Some collectors use a 3 point font creating as many as six lines per label. Trial and error is the best approach in organizing the text to fit into a rectangular profile which will expedite cutting into individual labels later.

When not in use, everything is stored in a plastic,
water/dust-proof container with lid
At minimum, labels should contain:
  • Country (including U.S. specimens)
  • State and County (Parish, Province, Department, Zone)
  • Geographic locality
  • Date(s) of collection (use roman numerals for month of collection)
  • Collector(s).
I will also include some of the following on the same or subsequent label:

GPS coordinates
Method of collection (sweeping, beating)
Host (genus and species if possible but genus or family is acceptable. In the least, “roadside yellow composites” is more significant than nothing at all)
Ecological association (sand dunes, chaparral, desert transition, etc.)

A hypothetical example of a label set:
First (Top):  USA,CALIF:Riverside Co.
                    Santa Rosa Mtns.,St.Hwy.
                    74, 8.5 km S.Palm Desert
                    1057m      15-18.VII.2013

Second:       N31°15’10”  W110°15’10”
                    D.A. La Rue,  Eriogonum
T.& F. flwrs.
                    Chaparral/Oak transition

Always print labels on 100% rag, acid-free, archival quality paper.

Use a pinning block to set the labels at the same uniform height(s) for each specimen.
© Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

~ The Well-Groomed Schmitt Box ~
Spoils of the Season(s): Acmaeodera Eschscholtz, 1829

I'm getting caught up curating several vials and pinned Acmaeoderini (mostly genus Acmaeodera) from California, Arizona, and New Mexico. The specimens had been determined by eminent Buprestid guru George Walters but lacked data labels. As a homage, I am following his style of det. labeling ...
UPDATED: Friday, December 20,2013

Updated progress photos

Schmitt Box 1 nearly completed

Continuing into Box 2

 © Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Collecting notes on Cotalpa ashleyae La Rue

This species is rarely represented in collections and significant bionomic information remains unknown. The type locality (AZ., La Paz County, Junction of Interstate 10 at Vicksburg Road, Exit 45, diesel facilities) is located in an vast area of Larrea (Creosote Bush) and has undergone several alterations including grading, demolition, partial abandonment and public closure. In recent years, a large industrial complex has been built on the north side of the freeway at this exit. It is uncertain how these changes may have impacted the dynamics of the C. ashleyae population there.

Based on available specimen data, adults emerge in late August after the area has received, or is receiving, monsoonal precipitation. There were standing pools and puddles, and the soil was damp throughout the area when the type series was collected (personal observation). Many of the mercury vapor lights that attracted specimens are no longer in service or have been removed. However, there are several dirt roads adjacent to the site that provide access to ecologically similar pristine habitat. Possibly, one or more of these areas may prove to be productive for this species.

Cotalpa ashleyae La Rue, Paratype
Data from a single example of Cotalpa ashleyae, culled from a unit tray of Cotalpa consobrina Horn, provides a slight eastward distribution:

"AZ., Yuma County, 31 miles SW of Tonopah, 29 August l969, J.A. Gruwell collector, at blacklight"

Closer examination of C. consobrina from northerly localities, for example, in La Paz, Yuma and Maricopa Counties, may yield additional examples of this uncommon Cotalpa species.

La Rue, D.A. (1986) A new species of Cotalpa from western Arizona (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Rutelinae). Coleopterists Bulletin 40: 145-147.

Truck stop photos courtesy of Paul Kaufman.

© Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.