Saturday, December 28, 2013

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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Postman Cometh ...

I am elated to receive a parcel of assorted U.S. tiger and long horned beetles from friend and colleague, Ted MacRae of  Beetles in the Bush. All meticulously curated and an inspiration to anyone that ever pinned an insect.

Nulli secundus, gratias ago vos, Ted!

                                                  © Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Follow up to Polyphylla alleni Cazier ...

Friend and colleague Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush apprised me of the AMNH Invertebrate Zoology Type Database which contained a dorsal habitus photo of the Type of Polyphylla alleni Cazier. See my prior post of November 15, 2010.

Here, both taxa are displayed side by side for comparison: Polyphylla alleni Cazier on the left (photo courtesy of the AMNH), and a probable undescribed species related to P. diffracta on the right. The morphological differences are fairly apparent.

For Polyphylla identification, a combination of diagnostic characters are used with distribution and ecological association sometimes being helpful. In other words, a sand dune obligate will not occur in a montane environment and vice-versa. Sand dune species have evolved a suite of morphological, behavioral, and physiological characters that adapt and restrict them to these environments. To further complicate matters, the dorsal vestiture of psammophilous Polyphylla, that is composed of fine squamae and setae, often in subtle patterns, is subject to abrasion and alteration from sand grains because of the beetle's inherent fossorial behavior. In addition, some populations may exhibit considerable phenotypic variation. Hence, a series of specimens is necessary to adequately assess the possible spectrum of variation.

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
One of my priorities for this summer is to locate a population of the Polyphylla, sp. aff. diffracta, above right. As stated in a prior post, salient morphological characters of the specimen strongly suggest it is associated with a sand dune environment.

A Google search found photos of a sand dune area east of the specimen's label locality in Navajo County, northcentral Arizona ...

The photo above appears a likely place to begin my search.

                                                 © Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Photo and additional field data courtesy of Greg HupĂ©, Nature's Vault.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Holy Relic of the Entomological Kind:
Darwin's Beetle Collection.

                                             © Delbert La Rue 2013. All Rights Reserved.