From one extreme to the other - our second outing as South Carolinians took us away from the coast and up into the mountains. We spent a friday hiking and beetling along the Chattooga River, which forms the northwestern border between Georgia and South Carolina. Most of what we walked was part of the Foothills Trail system, an extensive set of trails that demands further exploration.
The season was still very early, with almost no trees leafing out, but there were signs all around of impending spring. The area was dense with fat-budded Rhododendrons getting ready to flower. It will be spectacular up there very soon. About the only wildflowers we saw were these small violets on warmer slopes.
Beetlewise, the activity was mainly larval, and most of what we found was under bark and in rotten wood. We found numerous larval tenebrionids, elaterids, cerambycids, and buprestids (which I am collecting, below, to help supplement a future 'immature insects' course I hope to teach).
Still a fair number of adult beetles turned up, mostly tiny things, especially cerylonids, weevils, both silvanid and cucujid flat bark beetles, a couple endomychids and erotylids, and a tenebrionid that may have been Uloma. There was even a small histerid, probably Paromalus. Unfortunately most of this stuff will remain in vials and unidentified until I have a decent lab to begin working in. Only a few posed for the camera, a cucujid and nitidulid, above, and weevil, below.
As the day warmed up we also saw an increasing number of these flea beetles perching on vegetation, enjoying the sun on their backs.
Perhaps the most striking find of the day was a colony of Cryptocercus wood roaches. These humble and secretive roaches are extremely interesting, both because they are subsocial, and because in recent years have been realized to form an evolutionary link between cockroaches and termites.
As a side note, last night there was an informal gathering of what we might call the SCC - the South Carolina Coleopterists - at the home of John and Suzanne Morse. At a welcome dinner for me and Katie, we got to talk beetles with the reigning members, Jan Ciegler and Phil Harpootlian. I look forward to learning more from them about the local fauna and environments.