Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My first southeastern beetle (in many years)

Following over 12 years as a curator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where I specialized in the beetle fauna of California, an opportunity to move back to the southeastern United States presented itself, in the form of an endowed professorship at Clemson University. This move offered so many benefits to me and my family, both academic and personal that, despite Santa Barbara's unquestionable charms, I could not turn it down.

My years in a community-focused museum taught me the value of knowing and sharing information about the biota of one's immediate surroundings, and that belief has accompanied me to Clemson. So as I begin to learn more about my new local beetle fauna, I wanted to share this voyage of discovery with others who wish to learn a little more about the remarkable diversity of beetles of the southeastern U.S. No doubt I will encounter many species that long-time southeastern naturalists will consider dirt common and relatively uninteresting, but as my knowledge deepens I hope to repay readers' perseverance.

For my first post, it seemed to make sense to record the first beetle I encountered during my new residence. On our third or fourth day in town, following two weeks of a thoroughly enjoyable (smirk) cross-country move, we needed a break and some fresh air. We managed to find the box our disc golf frisbees were in, and headed out to the nearby University Beach course, just across Lake Hartwell from the Clemson campus. On the sixth hole a flash of red flew before my eyes. My hand flew out by reflex to snag our first official South Carolina beetle(*). This is a lycid, or 'net-winged' beetle, Dictyoptera aurora, welcoming us to the Palmetto State. I knew a similar and related species in California (D. simplicipes), so this was an ideal combination of old and new.

In the week or so since, I have already encountered more of our elegantly-elytraed friends, and look forward to sharing further photos and stories. Enjoy.

* Ok, I'm lying about this being the first beetle we encountered. But I refuse to count the multicolored Asian ladybird beetles (an invasive and hyperabundant species, maybe to be covered in a future post) found in our new crawlspace.


  1. I recently collected the same species at my backyard light in Athens, GA. I'm also glad to hear you are making the local disc golf courses a priority :) Welcome back to the Southeast Mike!

    - Tommy McElrath

  2. Pleased as punch to see a new beetle blog pop up!

  3. Dictyoptera seems to be common around here along wooded areas (especially on warm, sunny days) in late winter/early spring, though I collected one specimen in January using a malaise trap. I think all others I've collected have also been hand captured in flight. They can death feign for quite a while after being handled. I'm glad to see you made it here safely and have already started exploring the fauna!

    Kevin Hinson