Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring arrives in upstate SC

Following what was by all accounts a long and cold winter in the South, it's possible that Spring has finally arrived. Although there was frost on the windows early this morning, it warmed up well into the 70s by early afternoon. And the bugs responded! Suddenly there were ladybirds flying all over campus, butterflies flitting through the roadside shrubs, and a strong sense that winter might really be over.

The warmth triggered my collecting urge as well, and it only took slight prodding from my friend Anthony Cognato, who hoped I might find him some records of a newly invasive species of ambrosia beetle in our area, to get me out in the field. I got permission to set up Lindgren funnel traps at a couple University locations, one at the 'Cherry Farm', an off-campus agricultural experiment lab, and at the Clemson Botanical Garden, on the southern edge of campus. 

Lindgren funnels (above) supposedly mimic the profile of tree trunks, and attract all kinds of wood-boring beetles, as well as an impressive array of other beetles associated with various tree-based niches, including many predators of wood-boring beetles (read: Histeridae).

After setting a couple of these, it was our intention to take an afternoon walk through the Botanic Garden. Our walk proceeded about 15 feet until we found a nice downed log riddled with signs of beetle activity, as well as actual beetle activity. This is where we spent the rest of the day.

Perhaps it was the welcome spring conditions, priming the beetles for gregarious behavior, but many of our finds were multiples. Here's a duo of a click beetle (Lacon) and a tenebrionid (possibly Idiobates - some day I'll go back after confirming these id's and edit for certainty), and a trio of a trogossitid (Airora), something too small to identify yet (but collected), and what appears to be a bothriderid (probably Bothrideres). Where I come from bothriderids are pretty darn rare, so this was a fun find. We were too eager to get it in a vial to bother getting a really decent photo!

Finally, after the log was more or less barkless, we stood up and dusted ourselves off. And then I discovered our last find of the day, a diurnal and lightless firefly, Ellychnia corrusca, watching us collect from the relative safety of my t-shirt. I guess these are very common. But they sure are pretty, with their faintly golden pubescence. 

Knowing all this activity is going on not far from my office, it's going to be increasingly difficult to stay focused. On the other hand, good habitat is so accessible, a few evening hours here and there just might  satisfy my needs until I can organize a proper field trip.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, come summer I hope you will visit one of my favorite places, the highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi: Highlands, N.C. I had several wonderful summers there as a teenager. Stuart