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Spring 2015 Collecting

Asbolus

In the desert, there doesn’t seem to ever be a bad time to collect. This spring has been no exception for the taxonbytes lab members!

Most entomological collecting in the southwest seems to be planned in accordance with the amazing monsoon activity that the area is known for. Even though there is still much to be discovered in the fauna that emerges after our summer rains, there is also a large fauna which is not associated with rains; in fact there are many species which exhibit late spring-early summer emergences which seems to be oddly uncommon in collections.

One such beetle is Anorus parvicollis Horn, 1894. Described from a single specimen, as of the last treatment of the genus (Blaisdell, 1934) only one more specimen was known. Last Saturday, April 25th, we collected approximately 70 specimens at light from a very underwhelming desert location just south of Florence, AZ. This habitat is very well known to anyone who lives in, or travels between, Phoenix and Tucson – but is the type of habitat to be driven past at 70 mph to get down to the sky islands.

We returned on Friday, May 1st, to search for the (thus-far) undescribed females. We collected another 50 males, and despite crawling around on hands and knees through the desert (until we found half-burried Cholla remnants!) we were unsuccessful in finding any signs of the females. Even though we did not find what we were really hoping for, we did collect an incredible amount of beetles. I personally took over 400 beetle specimens distributed across ~20 familes in less than 3 hours.

Below are several images from a few of our collecting trips:

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For me, it all started with a week in the Mojave desert traveling to various sand dune systems (Kadiz dunes pictures above).

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After navigating our way down some roads which were not entirely clear on our maps, we were able to arrive at the dunes with tenebrionidae expert Rolf Aalbu.

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Being highly trained scientists, we realize that instead of standing around the desert talking – we can recline in the shade.

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Many plants flower very early in the season to beat the heat, and we found a large variety of beetles on the creosote wherever we went.

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 Even though the bushes were productive, what I really came for were the sand dwellers.

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There are a variety of techniques to collect insects from dune habitats, but most of them boil down to skills honed from childhood vacations to the beach.

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After showing all those beetles who was boss, it was time to head back towards home by way of historic route 66.

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The higher elevation afforded new vegetation and new insects.  The several hundred mycterids we collected off of Yucca inflorescences took perhaps 15 minutes to capture, but much longer to mount!

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Our botanist also collected many herbarium specimens, while she wasn’t behind the camera.

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Our new litter sifters were put to work for the first time on this trip, but we had to be creative with finding space to hang our winkler funnels to collect the insects out of the litter samples.

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Much of our Arizona collecting has been in conjunction with ASU’s wonderful Sonoran Desert Field Botany class, which took us to the Pinal mountains for our last excursion of the semester.

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The bulk of what amounted to over 400 specimens of beetles from near Florence, AZ in upper Sonoran Desert habitat (Mesquite-Palo Verde-Creosote-Saguaro community).

 Some of the more memorable taxa added to our collection this spring:

  • Anorus parvicollis Horn, 1894
  • Lecontia discicollis (LeConte, 1850)
  • Akalyptoischion sp.
  • Fuchsina sp.
  • Mycterus quadricollis Horn, 1874
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