IN SEARCH OF A HOLY GRAIL

Posted in Butterflies, Flies, Insects, Virginia on August 22, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

By Arthur V. Evans

Last week, on a drizzly Thursday morning, I drove out to Cherry Orchard Bog Natural Area Preserve with my friends and colleagues Anne Wright and Paul Bedell. Straddling a power line right-of-way near the Sussex-Prince George County line, this preserve features a coastal plain acidic seep that supports an amazing assemblage of rare plants, some of which bloom in late summer.  The Virginia Natural Heritage Program staff uses prescribed burns here to prevent trees, shrubs, and woody vines from choking this open wetland, and to restore and maintain this rare plant habitat. However, after yet another extended summer drought here in Virginia, surface water was nowhere in evidence.

My goal was to photograph and collected late summer beetles, while Anne and Paul focused their efforts on odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and robber flies (Asilidae). Few beetles were out and about, so I strapped on my camera gear and knee-pads and turned my attention to photographing other insects and spiders.

Several tall and luxurious patches of sweet-scented joe pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum, grew smack dab in the middle of the power line right-of-way. These nectar-rich flowers were magnets for all kinds of insects (other than beetles!), including several species of butterflies. A dozen or so each of large showy eastern tiger swallowtails and monarch butterflies flitted from blossom to blossom, occasionally unfurling their probosces to imbibe the flower’s sweet offerings.

I decided to head into the adjacent woods by following a fire line that snaked along the edge of a recent prescribed burn. I scanned the lush wall of vegetation that delimited the surrounding woods from the burn in hopes of finding multi-legged creatures. Nearly half an hour elapsed and all I had to show for my photographic efforts was a young Carolina mantid (Stagmomantis carolina) and a black-and-yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia).

I saw a flash of shiny black wings among the foliage. My first thought was that it might be a mourning scorpionfly, but then it became clear that it was a female robber fly (family Asilidae) dining on a small wasp. I am no robber fly expert, but this particular fly reminded me of the genus Laphria, some of which are bee or wasp mimics.

Just as I was about to take a photograph, she was gone. Fortunately, I saw her land on a nearby leaf and she was still very much in possession of her lifeless prey. I leaned in to take the shot and, with the burst of my flash, she took to the air again. I watched intently as the shiny black fly flitted along the wood’s edge and landed on another leaf. Again, I slowly inched my camera toward her and watched her black shiny body fill up the frame of my viewfinder. And again, the flash of my camera caused her to fly away and into the burn area. I tracked her through several more landings on the low growth before she landed on a log. I took my third and last shot and she was gone. During the pursuit, a slightly smaller individual of the same species, possibly a male, also crossed my path.

I slowly walked all the way around the edge of the burn and back to the car, but saw no more robber flies. I told Paul that I had photographed what I thought to be a Laphria, but he said that the dark wings didn’t really fit any Virginia species in that genus. Paul would certainly know since he had recently published the first annotated checklist of the 115 species robber flies known to occur in Virginia (Bedell, 2010). I promised to post my best photo of the fly in question on my Facebook page as soon as I returned home.

Eric Fisher

Once posted, Paul suggested that it might be the very rare Orthogonis stygia, a species not yet known to occur in Virginia. I sent Paul all three of my images and he forwarded them to Eric Fisher for confirmation. Eric, a dipterist and asilid expert (and fellow alumni of Cal State Long Beach) quickly confirmed Paul’s identification and another new state record for Virginia.

Stanley Bromley (1931) first described this pompilid wasp mimic from three specimens collected in June; two of the specimens were from North Carolina and Mississippi, while the origin of the third specimen was unknown to him.  Another specimen was later recorded from Florida (Bromley, 1950).  Since then, specimens of this exceptionally rare species have been found in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas (Taber & Fleenor, 2003; Barnes et al., 2007).

Paul and I returned to the site only two days after I snapped my photos and searched several hours for Orthogonis. Although our efforts were in vain, we have not given up! Stay tuned for further developments

References

Barnes, J. K., N. Lavers, and H. Raney. 2007. Robber flies (Diptera: Asilidae) of Arkansas, U.S.A.: Notes and a checklist. Entomological News 118: 241-258.

Bedell, P. 2010. A preliminary list of the robber flies (Diptera: Asilidae) of Virginia. Banisteria 36: 3-19.

Bromley, S.W. 1931. New asilidae with a revised key to the genus Stenopogon Loew: (Diptera). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 24: 427-435.

Bromley, S.W. 1950. Florida Asilidae (Diptera) with description of one new species. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 43: 227-239.

Taber, S.W., and S.B. Fleenor. 2003. Range extension, habitat, and review of the rare robber fly Orthogonis stygia (Bromley). Southwestern Entomologist 29: 85-87.

For more information on robber flies visit:

Asilidae (Robber Flies) Page. A Page by Roy Beckemeyer <http://www.windsofkansas.com/Basilidae/asilid.html

Family Asilidae – Robber Flies <http://bugguide.net/node/view/151/bgpage>

Giff Beaton’s Robber Flies (Asilidae) of Georgia and the Southeast http://www.giffbeaton.com/Robber%20Flies.htm>

Robber Flies <http://hr-rna.com/RNA/Robber%20main%20page.htm>

Robber Flies (Asilidae) <http://www.geller-grimm.de/asilidae.htm>

The Robber Flies of Crowley’s Ridge, Arkansas. An Illustrated Guide by Norman Lavers http://normanlavers.net/>

ANOTHER RARE BEETLE ADDED TO THE VIRGINIA FAUNA

Posted in Beetles, Insects, Virginia on August 11, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

By Arthur V. Evans

While sorting through some spring Malaise trap samples from the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, I came across a single specimen of a soldier beetle-like insect five millimeters in length that was unfamiliar to me. It resembled a drawing that I had seen in Blatchley (1910) of Blanchardia gracilis (now Blatchleya gracilis: Omethidae).

I ran the specimen through the omethid key American Beetles (2002) and determined it to be Omethes marginatus LeConte. The specimen compares perfectly to LeConte’s type in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and represents a new species AND family record for Virginia. Omethes marginatus was previously known from Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; additional new state records include Arkansas and Indiana. Omethids of any stripe are rare in collections and little is known about their natural history.

References

Arnett, R.H., Jr., M.C. Thomas, P.E. Skelley, J.H. Frank, editors. 2002. Volume 2. American Beetles. Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea. CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL.

Blatchley, W. 1910. An illustrated descriptive catalogue of the Coleoptera or beetles (exclusive of the Rhynchophora) known to occur in Indiana. With bibliography and descriptions of new species. Indianapolis, IN.

 

ONE SMALL STEP FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO

Posted in Beetles, Butterflies, California, Insects, Moths, Musings on July 20, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

By Arthur V. Evans

I grew up on the southwestern fringes of the Mojave Desert in Southern California, just a stone’s throw from the land of The Right Stuff. My summers were punctuated by weeklong family camping trips to the mountains and the coast. Dad preferred the rugged lushness of the Sierra Nevada, especially along the waterways that spilled off its eastern slopes down to the desert environs of the Owens Valley below. Mom loved the beach, so we would spend another week camped out at Morro Bay or Pismo Beach, both located along California’s Central Coast.

In July of 1969, we spent a week in the Oceano Campground at Pismo Beach State Park, which just happens to be a well-known overwintering site for monarch butterflies. I can still smell the heavy canvas of our baby blue and olive-drab tents heated by the sun as it burned through the last bits of morning fog. I spent every possible moment exploring the freshwater lagoon, coastal dunes, and beach in search of insects and other invertebrates. California ctenucha moths, Ctenucha rubroscapus flitted about the flowers and grasses sprouting up on the dunes. Several diurnal and non-bioluminescent fireflies, Ellychnia californicarested on the flowers growing among the stinging nettles that lined the shore of  the lagoon. Red admirals, western tiger swallowtails, and a dizzying array of dragonflies flew hither and yon, all seemingly daring me to capture them. And I did just that with my recently acquired homemade insect net fashioned from a broom handle, a heavy wire coat hanger, and a net bag made of cheesecloth.

In those days I kept my insect collection in sturdy cardboard cigar boxes. King Edward Imperials housed my butterflies and moths, while the dragonflies were stored in a White Owl box. A Roi-Tan Panatelas box protected my true bugs, cicadas, grasshoppers, and katydids. All of my beetles were neatly arranged in a box that once held Swisher Sweets and the Dutch Masters box served as a catchall for everything else. I can still smell that pungent aroma of tobacco mingled with mothballs!

Earlier that week, on the morning of 16 July, Apollo 11 had set off on its historic flight to put men on the moon and return them safely to Earth. The astronaut’s first steps on the lunar surface, interspersed with simulations, would be televised early on the evening of Sunday, 20 July. Fortunately, I would have access to a television by then because that was the day we would return home.

The promise of seeing and collecting still more insects AND watching men on the moon on television was pretty heady stuff for a 12 year-old! The night was shaping up to be hot and uncharacteristically humid and promised an excellent night for insect activity. I turned on the mercury vapor street light mounted on the garage wall. Dad had installed the bright blue light partly to illuminate the front of the house, and partly to attract insects for me. I quickly discovered that it was a beacon for nocturnal insects!

My plan for the evening was to dash from the light to the television and back to watch both spectacles unfold. It wasn’t even dark yet when Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Lunar Module and slowly descended down the ladder to utter those now-famous words, all captured on fuzzy black and white, yet still quite memorable video. Throughout the evening, between bouts of nighttime bugs, I watched in awe as Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin bounced across the lunar surface to collect samples and conduct experiments. Just a few years later, I had the opportunity to meet Buzz Aldrin and get his autograph after he gave a lecture on his lunar experience at the annual Kern-Antelope Historical Society banquet held in Rosamond, California.

As night descended, thousands of insects of all sorts swarmed to the bright bluish light, zooming around it as if they, too, were satellites orbiting a heavenly body. My eyes, ears, and nose were simultaneously assaulted by the flappings and scratchings of chitinous wings and appendages. Undeterred, I dove into the swarm from time-to-time to scoop up select specimens off the rough stucco wall. Some of the more notable insects that I saw that night included many white-line sphinx moths, several California prionus, and a raft of 10-lined June beetles.

For those who did not experience the Apollo 11 mission as it took place, it is difficult to imagine the nearly global excitement generated by the landing of men on the moon. I was lucky enough see this epic event on television. I still get a little verklempt when I watch the video some 42 years later and will forever remember that warm summer night all those many years ago and its promise and deliverance of new and exciting things here on Earth and beyond.

References on California insects

Evans, A.V. and J.N. Hogue, 2004. Introduction to California Beetles. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Evans, A.V. and J.N. Hogue, 2006. Field Guide to Beetles of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Hogue, C.L. 1993. Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA.

Powell, J.A. and P.A. Opler, 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Powell, J.A. and C.L. Hogue, 1979. California Insects. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

For more information on Apollo 11 and its mission see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_11

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/history/apollo/apollo11/index.html

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/apollo_11/

http://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/kippsphotos/apollo.html

LUST IN THE DUST AT THE 25TH ANNUAL BUG FAIR

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 6, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

Join me at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for “Lust in the Dust,” a colorful and intimate look at the natural history of insect and spider sex. This program is a no-holds barred look at the often bizarre and always fascinating sex lives of the world’s largest and most diverse group of animals. This richly illustrated lecture is scientifically sound, yet humorous and engaging for all adult audiences and peppered with sexual double entendres. Topics include insect orgies, flashers and dancers, foreplay, pickup spots, food and sex, chastity belts, dangerous liaisons, immaculate conceptions, rough sex, toxic semen, and more. Fruit flies, bed bugs, honey bees, black widows, and praying mantids are just a few of the characters that appear in these saucy and revealing tales of sex and death!

The lecture is followed by a book signing. Several of my books will be available for sale at the event. Tickets ($35 museum members, $45 non-members) available at 213.763.3399.

EUPHORIA! I HAVE FOUND YOU!

Posted in Arizona, Beetles, Scarabs on March 20, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

By Arthur V. Evans

Euphoria inda (Linnaeus). © 2011, Arthur V. Evans

One of the first scarab beetles to cross my path here in Virginia every spring is the bumble scarab or bumblebee flower beetle, Euphoria inda (Linnaeus). I have also found these beetles burrowing into thistle flowers in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona and flying in a field next to a parking lot at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado. These beetles feed on various flowers, ripe fruits, and plant sap. They are sometimes found clustering on sap flows on the trunks of trees, or on the stalks of sunflowers, corn, and okra. Bumble scarabs are distributed from Ontario and Quebec south to Florida, west to the Rocky Mountains and southeastern Arizona, and south to Mexico.

Overwintering adults emerge from their hiding places on the first warm days of late winter and early spring and buzz noisily as they fly low over dry leaves, edges of haystacks, compost piles, manure, and other plant debris. These accumulations of plant materials, along with rotten wood and the thatched nests of Formica ants, serve as their breeding grounds. The larvae pupate in earthen pupal cases in summer. Adults emerge briefly in late summer to feed and before settling in for the winter.

Louis A. Péringuey. Iziko South African Museum.

Years ago, while I was a doctoral student at the University of Pretoria, I traveled to Cape Town to spend a week at the South African Museum. There I had the opportunity to study the type specimens of scarab beetles described in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by a former director of the museum, Louis A. Péringuey (1855-1924). Although I was primarily interested in studying melolonthine scarabs, I took the opportunity to look at the types of many scarab species in several subfamilies, especially several monotypic African scarab genera, that is genera that each include only one species.

Péringuey discovered a single specimen of a cetoniine scarab with a label indicating that it was collected in the town of Ladysmith in the Cape Province. He considered this unique specimen to represent an undescribed genus and species from the African continent. In 1907, he named this new species Goraqua smithsana. Curiously, this species was never again collected in South Africa and it remained known only from the type specimen for more than 80 years.

I examined Péringuey’s type specimen of G. smithsana and immediately recognized it as Euphoria inda, which was first described as Scarabaeus indus by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. The single female specimen that Peringuey used as a name holder for his new genus and species had been mislabeled. Because our system of zoological nomenclature is based on the concept of priority, the older name proposed for this species by Linnaeus takes precedence over subsequent names given to the same species. In the jargon of taxonomy, the name Goraqua smithsana Péringuey is a junior synonym of what is now known as Euphoria inda (Linnaeus). Such changes are not instantaneous and must be published in the scientific literature before they are recognized by the greater taxonomic community.

Erik Holm. Scarab Worker World Directory.

I shared my discovery with Erik Holm at the University of Pretoria. Holm was involved in a series of projects to document the cetoniine scarabs of Subsaharan Africa, of which Goraqua smithsana was a part. He published the synonymy in 1989.

References

Holm, E. 1989. Synonymic notes on the African Cetoniinae III: Goraqua smithsana Péringuey = Euphoria inda (L.) (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae). Cimbebasia 10: 148.

Iziko South African Museum. http://www.iziko.org.za/sam/ (accessed 20 March 2011)

Péringuey, L.A. 1907. Descriptive catalogue of the Coleoptera of South Africa (Lucanidae and Scarabaeidae). Tribe Cetonini. Transactions South African Philosophical Society 13; 1-546.

Ratcliffe, B.C. and M.J. Paulsen. 2008. The scarabaeoid beetles of Nebraska. Bulletin of the University of Nebraska State Museum 22: 568 pp.

Scarab workers world directory.  http://www.unl.edu/museum/research/entomology/workers/EHolm.htm (accessed 20 March 2011)

© 2011, Arthur V. Evans

CALLING ALL CEPHALOON

Posted in Beetles, Virginia on March 10, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

By Arthur V. Evans

In the early 1970′s I went on several family camping trips to Plumas County in California’s Sierra Nevada. My parents had purchased several acres of land bordered by a babbling stream that flowed out of Round Valley Reservoir located just outside the sleepy mountain town of Greenville. Here I spent many spring and summer days wandering along the trails and logging roads in search of all kinds of insects, especially beetles.

Meadow wildflowers bristled with species of lampyrids (Ellychnia) and lepturine cerambycids unlike any I had seen before. Freshly cut pine slash teemed with shiny metallic buprestids (Buprestis, Chalcophora, Dicerca) and cerambycids (Monochamus) sporting incredibly long antennae. Mating and feeding scarab beetles (Hoplia dispar) with their beefy back legs splayed out and sporting various colors and patterns clambered over one another among the blooms of buckbrush. The sunny shore along the reservoir and its associated paths and roads were bejeweled with emerald-green tiger  beetles (Cicindela tranquebarica sierra) that, more often than not, remained just out of reach. What a paradise for a budding young coleopterist!

Wolf lichen, Letharia sp. © 2002, Arthur V. Evans

On one of these trips, I was particularly fascinated by the various forms of lichen that festooned the granite boulders and conifer branches. I collected a small chunk of decaying wood clothed with the flourescent green wolf lichen (Letharia). The toxic yellow pigment of this fruticose lichen was used by ranchers to poison wolves and foxes and by Native Americans in dyes and paints.

Upon returning home, I placed that chunk of wood in a terrarium that consisted of a gallon jar supplied with a thick layer of moist, rich soil. After a few weeks, I noticed that a long, slender, leggy beetle had apparently emerged from the rotten wood and taken up residence in my terrarium. It resembled a somewhat homelier version of some of the beetles that I had collected on the meadow flowers. I didn’t know what to feed it and after a day or two it died. I carefully removed the beetle, mounted and labeled it, and placed the specimen among the other longhorn beetles in my collection. At that time my entire insect collection was housed in five cigar boxes. Even at this early stage of my entomological development, two-fifths of my collection (the King Edward and Swisher Sweets boxes) consisted entirely of beetles.

Several years later, I discovered that my terrarium beetle was not a longhorn at all. It was a false longhorn beetle in the genus Cephaloon. Cephaloon is currently placed in the family now known as the Stenotrachelidae, a small group of tenebrionoid beetles with 19 species distributed throughout the Holarctic region. Of the 10 species and four genera of stenotrachelids known in North America, five species occur east of the Mississippi River. The monotypic genera Anelpistus, Nematoplus, and Stenotrachelus all have northern, or boreal distributions, but the fifth genus, Cephaloon, ranges a bit more south in the forested mountain chains of the Sierra Nevada in the west and the Appalachian Mountains of the east. There are six North American species of Cephaloon,  two of which occur in eastern North America; two additional species are found in eastern Siberia and Japan.

Thomas L. Casey, Jr.  (1857-1925) divided the North American species of Cephaloon into three more genera. Edwin Van Dyke (1869-1952) considered Casey’s taxa as subgenera of Cephaloon. The North American species were later “revised” by the brothers Hopping (Ralph and George) and they relegated Casey’s taxa to synonymy. Ross Arnett, Jr. (1919-1999) reviewed the Nearctic and Palearctic species of Cephaloon. All of the species in this genus are slender, leggy, and somewhat broad-shouldered beetles that resemble lepturine cerambycids, resulting in the common name “false longhorn beetles.”

Stentotrachelids are relatively rare in collections. The short-lived adults are seldom collected in numbers and thought to feed on pollen. Species of Cephaloon are typically found during the late spring resting on flowers or vegetation during the day in montane deciduous and coniferous forests. They are collected by hand, or by sweeping and beating vegetation. Individuals are also attracted to lights at night or captured in Malaise and flight intercept traps. Based on the known biology of C. ungulare LeConte in eastern North America, the larvae of all species of Cephaloon are likely to develop in decaying logs infected with fungal rot.

Cephaloon lepturides Newman. ©2009, Arthur V. Evans

British entomologist Edward Newman (1801-1876) described the first species of Cephaloon, C. lepturides, in 1838 from a single specimen collected by Edward Doubleday (1811-1849) at Trenton Falls, New York. Doubleday was a well-known British lepidopterist and had undertaken a two-year insect collecting trip to the United States in 1835.

Newman originally placed Cephaloon among other genera for which he did not assign to a “natural order,” or family, but later placed it in the Oedemeridae. Russian entomologist Victor Motschulsky (1810-1871) placed it in the Melandryidae. John LeConte (1825-1883) initially thought that they were meloids, but later selected Cepahloon as the sole representative of his new family, the Cephaloidae. Over the years more genera were added to the Cephaloidae, the name of which was replaced by Stenotrachelidae in 1990 on the basis of priority by Finnish coleopterist Hans Silfverberg.

Little is known about the biology of Cephaloon. Their montane distributions and the saproxylic preferences of the larvae suggest their possible use as biological indicator species. Populations of saproxylic beetles are significantly related to parameters of forest structure and health. The impacts of current forest management practices on these and other saproxylic beetles, especially those that reduce coarse woody debris and fragment old growth forests, are poorly understood and need further study.

References

Arnett Jr., R.H. 1953. A review of the beetle family Cephaloidae. Proceedings of the United State National Museum 103 (3321): 155-161.

Casey, T.L. 1898. Studies in Cephaloidae. Entomological News 9: 193-195.

Evans, A.V. and J.N. Hogue. 2006. Field Guide to Beetles of California. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. 334 pp.

Hopping, R. and G.R. Hopping. 1934. A revision of the genus Cephaloon Newm. Pan-Pacific Entomologist. 10: 64-70.

Lawrence, J.F. 1991. Cephaloidae (Tenebrionidae) (including Nematoplidae, Stenotrachelidae. p. 529. In Stehr, F.W. Immature insects. Volume 2. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. Dubuque, IA. 975 pp.

LeConte, J.L. 1862. Classification of the Coleoptera of North America. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 3: 209-286.

Lawrence, J.F. and A. Slipinski. 2010. 11.17. Stenotrachelidae C.G. Thomson, 1859. p. 687. In Leschen, R.A.B., R.G. Beutel, J.F. Lawrence (editors). Handbook of Zoology. Arthropoda: Insecta. Coleoptera, Beetles. Volume 2: Morphology and Systematics (Elateroidea, Bostrichiformia, Cucujiformia partim).  De Gruyter, Berlin, Germany. 786 pp.

Majka, C.G. 2011. The Stenotrachelidae (Coleoptera) of Atlantic Canada. Journal of the Acadian Entomological Society 7: 7-13.

Majka, C.G. and D.A. Pollock. 2006. Understanding saproxylic beetles: new records of Tetratomidae, Melandryidae, Synchroidae, and Scraptiidae from the Maritime Provinces of Canada (Coleoptera: Tenebrionoidea). Zootaxa 1248: 45-68.

Newman, E. 1838. Entomological notes. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 5: 377-402.

Salmon, M.A. 2000. The Aurelian legacy. British butterflies and their collectors. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. 432 pp.

Silfverberg, H. 1990. The nomenclaturally correct names of some family-groups in Coleoptera. Entomologica Fennica 1: 119-121.

Storer, T.I., R.L. Usinger, and D. Lukas. 2004. Sierra Nevada Natural History. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. 438 pp.

Van Dyke, E.C. New species of heteromerous Coleoptera. Bulletin of the Brooklyn Entomological Society 23: 252-262.

Young, D.K. 2002. 110. Stenotrachelidae. pp. 520-521. In Arnett Jr., R.H., M.C. Thomas, P.E. Skelley, and J.H. Frank (editors). American Beetles. Volume 2. Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.  861 pp.

© 2011, Arthur V. Evans

A RARE BEETLE NEW TO VIRGINIA

Posted in Beetles, Environment, VCU Rice Center, Virginia on January 22, 2011 by Dr. Art Evans

By Arthur V. Evans

Xylophilus crassicornis Muona. © 2011, A.V. Evans

My insect survey at the VCU Rice Center continues to reveal species that are rarely collected and/or newly recorded for the Commonwealth of Virginia. While sorting through dozens of trap samples containing thousands of insects, I recently discovered three specimens of a rarely collected false click beetle (Eucnemidae), Xylophilus crassicornis. This collection represents the first records for the genus and species in Virginia.

Xylophilus crassicornis was first described by Finnish entomologist Jyriki Muona in 2000 from a single female specimen collected from Maryland in 1902. The specimen was located in the collection of the Entomology Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. A second specimen from Alambama was identified last year. The VCU Rice Center specimens, the sex of which are yet unknown, measure 2.8-4.0 mm and were collected from Malaise traps in May that were placed just northwest of the administrative building and among the vernal pools off Kimages Road.

Malaise trap. © 2010, A.V. Evans

Although relatively little is known of their habits and distribution, false click beetles probably play an important role in the interactions between trees, fungi, and forest regeneration. Further study of their biology may suggest their use as important indicators of forest diversity.

References

Hoffman, R.L., R.L. Otto, and R. Vigneault. 2009. An annotated list of the false click beetles of Virginia (Coleoptera: Eucnemidae). Banisteria 34: 25-32.

Muona, J. 2000. A revision of the Nearctic Eucnemidae. Acta Zoologica Fennica 212: 1-106.

© 2011, A.V. Evans

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