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.
During the early night hours of Friday, September 19, we had our third collecting trip for this Fall period to the always interesting and productive Coon Bluff Campground, located along the Salt River of the Tonto National Forest. In addition to abundant and diverse moths, we collected a number of antlion species (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) and large to minute beetles flying to the mercury and ultraviolet lights. Recent rains (10 days prior) must have flooded the usually loose and powdery soil which this year appeared solid and compacted. Not many darkling beetles were present, and scarabs were also less frequent than in previous years.
The proper way to record the locality information is “USA: AZ: Maricopa Co.; Tonto NF, Coon Bluff; 33.547349, -111.644989; general coll. & at Hg/UV lights; leg. N. Franz [replace with your name], IX-19-2014″. Photos of the trip are posted here.
On Saturday, September 06, the Entomology 2014 group had its second (morning) collecting trip to the picturesque First Water Trailhead, Superstition Mountains. In spite of a generally wet summer in Central Arizona, First Water appeared dry and insect abundance was comparatively low. It was hot and sunny, with nowhere to escape from the conditions. Nevertheless we collected a range of aquatic and terrestrial insects, including Belostomatidae (giant water bugs) and Nepidae (water scorpions). See more photos here.
The proper way to record the locality information is: USA: AZ: Pinal Co.; First Water Trailhead (FR 78) at Hwy 88; 33.487098, -111.441984; general coll. & aquatic net; leg. N. Franz [replace with your name], IX-06-2014.
The Entomology 2014 collecting season has officially started with a first field trip during the night of Friday, August 29, to Mesquite Wash. We have had a wet summer and this was seemingly reflected in the high abundance of insect collecting on the ground, on plants, and at Hg & UV lights. There was no shortage of beetles, flies, moths, and many other insects. See more photos here.
The proper way to record the locality information is: USA: AZ: Maricopa Co.; Bee Line Highway (Rte. 87), Mesquite Wash; 33.731031, -111.514748; general coll. & Hg/UV lights; leg. N. Franz [replace with your name], VIII-29-2014.
What occurs to you when you hear the name Guatemala? Thirty-odd years of ‘civil war‘? The land of the Maya civilization? The famous Spanish colonial city Antigua? Or perhaps the 37 volcanoes for those who are geology-oriented? For we entomologists, it is beetles and bugs! But we have seen more than that during our recent field trip to the beautiful land of Guatemala. We drove across the country and collected in nine departmentos (states) in about 15 days (Fig. 1). This is a brief account of the trip.
Figure 1. Collecting localities in Guatemala. Click to open in Google Map.
The unique and complex geological history and biogeographic constituents of Guatemala have attracted us to make it our destination. We wanted to collect specimens of weevils in the Exophthalmus genus complex. We were hoping to find species that may have an affinity to Caribbean lineages. Because it was possibly historically connect to part of the land masses in the Caribbean, Guatemala seems the right place for finding our weevils.
The trip was joined by ASU Franz Lab Postdoc Guanyang Zhang, Graduate Student Andrew Jansen, and Manuel Barrios, a guatemalteco (Guatemalan), who is a student of molytine leaf litter weevils and currently pursuing a PhD degree at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
My second semester as a graduate student has been spent conducting research with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Since February, I have been dividing my time between working in STRI’s Insect Collection in Panama City and traveling around Panama collecting insects. In the Collection I’ve been making an interactive identification key to the 29 currently described Panamanian genera of weevils in the subfamily Conoderinae, available shortly in SCAN. This has been possible thanks to the collecting of Henry Stockwell in the 1970s and 1980s, whose large collection of conoderines contains numerous undescribed species.
Yesterday was a day of firsts.
Dumont Sand Dunes, California.
It it was the first time I got a truck stuck in a sand drift. It was also the first time I dug a truck out of a sand drift.
But it was all worth it, yesterday yielded our first specimens of Trogloderus! We were camping behind the Dumont Dunes north of Baker, CA. They appear to be a different morphotype than any of the four known from Mono Lake located a few car hours north.
The next stops are northern Nevada and southwestern Idaho.
Drawer of Trogloderus specimens in the Aalbu Collection.
Franz lab members Andrew Johnston and Andrew Jansen took off on the summer’s first collecting trip last Wednesday, May 7th. And the first two days were a bust!
The goal of this trip was to collect the somewhat rare and enigmatic genus Trogloderus LeConte. Trogloderus is a sand-dune-dwelling tenebrionid endemic to the Western United States. The plan was great – spend a night at each type locality and hit dune systems in between; collect specimens from as many places as possible for sequencing in hopes that a molecular phylogeny would help to sort out the complicated morphology of the group.
So far we are 0/3 at type localities. Not only are Trogloderus elusive, it seems there is no insect activity at all right now, our Mercury Vapor light traps have only netted a single insect specimen (Hyles lineata) each night. There seems to be a low pressure system we are following North through California, suppressing insect activity. The good news is that there is high pressure system pushing its way North now, so we are calling an audible and straying from our scheduled road map and getting in place to follow the high pressure system to the rest of the type localities. Hopefully things will turn around!
While the field has been entirely disappointing, we just borrowed what is almost surely the world’s largest representation of Trogloderus from the collection of Dr. Rolf Aalbu (partially pictured above). Fresh specimens are incredibly important and worth the effort, but the amount of specimens and data contained in Natural History collections cannot be overvalued.
When collecting in the field doesn’t work out, collecting from other collections might save the day!