26 June 2006
AKA: Night of the living tityus
AKA: Strategus plasticus
As on numerous other occasions, Travis H and I left Sunset for Lecompte with the thrill of the hunt in our veins and beetles on the brain. We had attempted to form a trio for this expedition, but a certain individual, a seasoned veteran who has asked that his name not be published, declined.
We reached the first major gas station, that now has a catchy name: "Pseudo-Sammy's" (thank you Travis), but did not even think to stop. Nor did we stop at the authentic Sammy's. We were in single-minded pursuit of coleopteral riches.
As we ascended the ramp at the Lecompte exit, we decided to first search the new station on the West side of 49. At the very least we figured that any food or drink purchased there would be fresh. There we found a C. scruator, female S. aloeus and a female D. tityus (our first of the night) right off, before even entering the store. We purchased sugar and caffeine in different forms, then headed to the Chevron.
Once there, we found many more Ox beetles, only one male in the whole bunch. Travis found another male reddish-brown stag beetle in about the same spot as the dead male from 6/19. We also found two dead stag females (capreolus and elephas) at the same northeast corner of the building that we had found the dead elephas male a few weeks ago. There were also two, dead female D. tityus, one in the corral. There were some really interesting moths but I can't tell you much about them.
From there we drove to the other station in Lecompte proper, but did not find a single thing there, even with all the lights on. We drove up to the Woodworth station (next exit north of Lecompte) where we found three female D.t. and one male. Also found a female L. capeolus there too. We drove to the other station up the road, but the lights were off. We decided to drive on through to Forest Hill and make a huge square. We stopped and slowed but a few spots there but didn't find anything.
Arriving back at the station we started at for a second look, we found another Ox female then a sight I will remember forever. Out of the car window I spotted a beetle I could not identify. Short and stubby with two-toned elytra. Travis and I had just discovered a new species right there in the parking lot (see photos below). For right now it is being called: Strategus plasticus and we are still working on describing it, but I though you might like a sneek peek. It seems to have perished in the midday sun and was quite stiff (seriously, we did find this in the parking lot).
This was one of, if not the most, successful excursions I have been on. I have never seen as many D.t. in one place (in the container after we collected them, not at one spot).
*Update* I spoke to James this afternoon (6/26/06) who stopped at Lecompte on his way north. He found another D.t. female and S.a. female in the corral. Hope the rest of his trip is successful.
*An Update to Your Update* I did indeed collect (my first live) D. tityus as well as a minor male S. aloeus at the Chevron on our way north to Tallulah. I also found a few other cool things. I'll make a post later, but *hint**hint* the tail doth rattle....
State of a Fun Night:
I just got back from the gas station in Des Allemends that has no name so far as I am aware but does have a whole lotta bugs! This was a fun trip. My 7-year old, Max, was with me. Our first goal was to meet at Happy Garden II (there is no HG I) with a former co-worker of mine who was in Design and Exhibitry. The word was that she'd collected 5 large velvet ants (Dasymutilla occidentalis) as of Th. or Fri. In the parking lot I received TEN of them plus two other species of vlevet ants, both smaller but still quite attractive. She'd brought both her parents, both brothers, her husband, and all three of her girls (ages 12, 7, and nearly 3). So the eleven of us ate at the Chinese buffet that included every Chinese dish known to man plus boiled crawfish, shrimp, and blue crabs AND Alaskan king crab legs. In addition to doing the "Cajun/Chinese" thing they also have soft serve ice cream - NOT your typical Chinese restaurant.
So then ALL of us went to the gas station and met Gordon Matherne there (he's the guy who put me on to this spot in the first place). From the moment we were out of the car (9:00p.m.) I was bombarded with requests for jars, "Zack, come see this," etc. The four little kids were awesome and spent most of their time on moths, crickets, and medium-sized black scarab beetles. The large water scavenger and predaceous diving beetles took about 15-20 minutes to get hot and heavy, but with roughly 5 adults doing active searching, we collected 35 of the latter and 55 of the former in just under and hour! Since the purpose of this outing was to pick up velvet ants and get aquatic beetles for a colleague at the Brookfield Zoo, I'd call it an unqualified success. We had to drag the kids back into the vehicles.
Also of note:
1 female S. aloeus
2 S. dasytomus (hardwood stump borer)
1 Calosoma callidum (and at another gas station on the way home 1 C. scrutator)
1 un-IDed longhorn (attractive)
Several nice, large katydids of at least 3 species
1 Lethocerus americanus
1 conenose bug (Triatoma sp.)
1 un-IDed large sphinx moth (bark-like forewings)
Some nice tiger moths
25 June 2006
Paper wasps are quite common, and thus are great photo subjects when one is bored and looking for some good shots.
Here's a ladybird beetle (sp.?).
The next few pictures are of a 1) stag beetle, Lucanus capreolus and 2) a yet-to-be identified metallic green ground (?) beetle that Steven collected from the "farm" in Washington, St. Landry Parish.
21 June 2006
4 June 2006, Ellen and I drove up to Travis's house in Sunset. Travis had set
out a crawfish trap in his pond in hopes of capturing either a western lesser
siren, Siren intermedia nuttingi or a three-toed amphiuma, Amphiuma
tridactyla. He has seen them both in there before, and on Friday night, we
(myself, Travis & Steven) had seen an amphiuma, so I was optimistic. I called
Travis Sunday morning, and he reported that he indeed had an amphiuma in the trap.
So, Ellen and I were on our way. After taking several shots of and with the amphiuma,
we turned it free back in the pond.
We walked around his property for a little while, and Ellen got to visit with
the miniature horses that are boarding at the Huval residence. We saw many cool
bees and wasps, and I stood patiently over a concrete bird bath and got some pictures
of European honey bees and some cricket hunter (?) wasps. Travis's Mother has
a beautiful butterfly garden, and I took advantage of the variety of
blooming flowers to sneak up on a fiery skipper for a picture. Oh...let me back
up a bit. While photographing the bees and wasps in the bird bath, Travis dug
up a couple of nice large patent leather beetles.
After a brief stroll on the side of the house (and a very impressive showing of some of Travis's wood work), we turned up, but could not photograph, a cuckoo wasp and a very small velvet ant sp.
A huge thanks goes out to Travis's Mother for the delicious freshly hand-picked blueberries and the banana bread!
There were some leaf hoppers (?) that were hanging out on some of the tall grass stalks that kept dodging around to the other side when I tried to snap a picture, so between that and the breeze blowing the grass, I gave up. I came across a female velvet and (Pseudomethoca?), and without a portable refrigertor, I didn't bother to try and photograph it. Also fast-moving through the grass/dirt patches was a Casteaneria sp.
FINALLY, after telling myself several times "ok, one last attempt and I'm giving up", I was able to crawl right up to a tiger beetle and fire off 5 or 6 pictures that came out good.
20 June 2006
I left Broussard at about 9:15 after being egged on by Travis who said that we had "set an appointment" and that we should keep it. Not far down the road from my house the sky opened up. I almost turned back a few times but continued on. After a little while I drove back out of it and just had sprinkles the rest of the way to Travis's (not cupcake/muffin sprinkles, I know what your thinking). I did see lots of frogs in the road and did my best to avoid them.
We left Travis's and headed out of Sunset through more sprinkles (rain kind). Along the way up I49 we needed petrol and stopped at what we thought was "Sammy's". We found a single, female Ox beetle in the parking lot but that was all we caught, not counting the looks from the other gas pumpers and that one guy with the dog that was standing against the wall of the building. After acquiring the gas, we wanted to check the place for other specimens. We broke all the rules and went through to the "trucks only" area (drove right passed the sign), but were not rewarded for our bravery.
Further up the road we passed by the real "Sammy's", and although we did not stop, we cursed the first station as being a complete "Sammy's impostor". We finally made it to Lecompte with only about 15min before "lights out" (11:00 on week nights). We both found many female Ox beetles and almost simultaneously surprised each other by finding both a live, female tityus and a dead, male L. capreolus at almost the same time. Nothing at all in "the corral".
We drove around to BK where we found another female near the dumpsters and two others around back. We had finished with the Cheveron/BK area, so we decided to check out the new spot across 49 that had all it's lights on now (still under construction). On the way there the big lights turned off. I think one of the only things we saw when we got there was a grapevine beetle, which I turned over (tarsi down) and left, and a brown wood-boring beetle (who's taxonomy I really don't care to look up right now because I'm tired). Looks like it will be a nice spot though.
After that we drove through Lecompte to the other station, but the lights were not waiting to greet us. We did find another female Strategus in the darkness.
We pressed on to the next exit north of Lecompte (insert catchy name here) but I think we only found another female Strategus there. We then drove to the "whatever gas station"/dollar general spot where we had found some Strategus the time before. Didn't see anything except some "tabakki" (chewing tobacco that unfortunately resembles various species of coleoptera at times) and I think a black bottle cap (A1 specimen!).
That was about it. On the way back we hit "Sammy's" (the real one) but didn't find anything. I at that point declared it "a night" and we started the drive back south. We did get 12 female aloeus, one female tityus and one new phrase: "bug zombie".
Bug zombie \buhg*zohmbee
1. The state of complete exhaustion due to lack of sleep, reached at after a late night spent collecting insects.
2. By standard definition: any reanimated insect.
Not too bad for a terribly rainy week night with a half-moon.
19 June 2006
"For Father's Day weekend, my 7-year old and I joined about 8 other families for an overnight canoe trip along the Bogue Chitto. Bug summary (virtually all of this was on the large sand bars/beaches:- my battery powered portable 15W UV pooped out on me, so no great shakes at night.- terrific robber flies (3 species)- great tiger beetles (3 species)- very nice odonates, especially the damselflies- 2 species of whirligig beetles, and the smaller of the two were, in one instance, in a cluster of several hundred; they were gathered in a way that reminded me of wnat fire ants do when trapped by high water - not a true ball with any height to it, but quite a large, tight group- good numbers of well-camouflaged acridid grasshoppers and wolf spiders- a couple of small spider wasps here and there as well as some toad bugs.".
Zack, looks like you were up to your knees in whirligigs...
P.S. Fixed the code on the two pics on the right side, they should all open up now.
18 June 2006
Ok, so it wasn't quite a bonanza, but I wanted to see how many B's I could fit into the title......
Ellen and I are bordered on two sides by fields (hay & sugar cane), and the hay field leads down to a coulee and some containment ponds. There's usually something down there to keep my interest for a while; mostly wasps, but other things as well. There's some sandy patches where I've seen dark gray day-flying tiger beetles and velvet ants like this one:
There are also quite a few thread-waisted and digger wasps down there. Now, a true test in excercising patience is kneeling down in grass with stinging ants, waiting for a digger wasp to build up enough courage to enter her dugout in the ground with a large grimacing human holding some sort of contraption over her home. You'll notice there are no digger wasp pictures here. Not yet....I haven't given up yet. Just yesterday....
The cool thing about hay fields is that they have plenty of grasshoppers. All kinds. Don't ask me to name them, I can only identify lubbers, but they sure are attractive!
Also, some of the taller grasses host long-jawed orb-weavers. They hide on the stalks of the plants and blend in quite well. If the wind is blowing, it's really a challenge to get a decent shot, but I was able to grab these two:
While on the subject of spiders, I'll go ahead now and boast about the widow that took up residence under an old plow blade I have in one of my gardens. She showed up one day with another female (which quickly vanished), both as 2nd instars. I watched her everyday, until she matured into an ultimate instar. Yesterday (6/17/06) was the first time she wasn't there when I checked.
There are plenty of jumping spiders around as well, and this male Plexipus allowed me to get this stunning shot:
I'd like to go down there with someone else who can also identify true bugs. I found this guy, who is some sort of leaf-footed bug.
Well, I guess that's all for now. We have to run to Lafayette for some Sunday errands. I do have some more pictures and another write-up from Sunset, so I guess I'll post that later this afternoon. See ya!
16 June 2006
12 June 2006
I spent a week working up in the Tensas River Basin in northeast Louisiana, and in the Cache River Basin in east-central Arkansas. It was intense field work, with little time for looking for critters. The habitat varied quite a bit, from agricultural fields (corn & soybean) to hardwood bottomland forests...bear country! I came away with only a few specimens, all from AR. The first was a freshly deceased Dynastes (at right) I found in the parking lot of the AmeriHost Hotel in Brinkley. For those who don't already know, Brinkley is the home of the famous "rediscovery" of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Anyway, I also collected a giant dung beetle (Dichotomius carolinus ?, left) in some woods bordering the Cache River. The mystery bug I collected from an ag field seems to be some sort of longhorn beetle (another one for you to I.D. Zack). It has a beautiful velvety-red back, and black legs and undersides. (see image at bottom) I collected one velvet ant from a site on the Cache River NWR. I didn't take digital images, so you'll just have to wait until I develop the pictures and scan them. More later.......James
Great catches and great shots. The third one looks like the "flower longhorn" we talked about, possibly Leptura emarginata
I'd like to see the dung beetle in "real life" too.
11 June 2006
10 June 2006
8- S. aloeus (6m/2f)
1 - P. punctata (m)
1 - L. elephas (m) dead
The Stag was large and quite dead but was almost perfect except for one antennae. This is the first male I have found in the wild and am now pretty sure that the two previous females were L. elephas instead of L. capreolus. This marks my second "first" at this same spot, the previous one being my first adult, male, wild D. tityus that Zack found there last year.
Travis's mom also found what I would call an "electric-blue ground beetle". I have yet to find out what it is but will post pics and info here when I get it. It's not calosoma for sure, but almost as big.
Addendum! Here's an image of the longhorn beetle (awaiting specific identification...) and............
a picture of the largest Strategus we collected. -James