Sunday, May 4, 2014

A day near Lake Wattacoo

The arrival of spring took a little u-turn partway there, and upstate SC has been unseasonably cool and moist for the past few weeks. This week, however, warming has resumed. And with that, the beetling..

This saturday I met Phil Harpootlian and Kevin Hinson at a site near Lake Wattacoo, in Northern Greenville County. Being out with other avid Coleopterists will always make for a great day. But this one was particularly good, perfectly clear, warm but not hot, and the beetles were waiting for us. Our first destination was Lake Wattacoo itself, a small reservoir with a pitcher-plant bog at its inflow.
The first beetles of the day were small elaterids perching in profusion on leaves along the side of the trail. No beat was complete without a click or two.
Nothing against click beetles, but things did get more exciting quickly, because the Cicindela sexguttata were out in good numbers too. It's hard to believe how common these stunning beetles are. (This was further underscored the next day by seeing one on the side of the driveway in our suburban neighborhood.)
A good bit of the day was spent hunting for good logs for debarking and dismantling. We did find several great logs in various stages of decay, and collected numerous 'typical' under bark things: silvanids, cerylonids (what Kevin calls 'the ubiquitous Philothermus'), colydiine zopherids, tenebrionids (Polypleurus, Uloma, Meracantha, and NOT Alobates), a few Pselaphines and Scydmaenines, a whole lot of cerambycid and buprestid larvae, and, of course, acceptable numbers of histerids (Epierus, Paromalus, a few Acritines). I was hoping for Baconia (two species of which should certainly be around), but I may have to get some flight interception traps (FITs) out to get those. Oh, and did I mention the abundant passalids? I know these are common too, but they are still very fun to see.
Toward the end of the afternoon, we headed up a little higher, and I wandered out to an exposed granitic outcrop. Here we made what may prove to be the day's most interesting discoveries.
A few little seeps trickling over these rocks supported moss and algal mat. Disturbing this a little we found dytiscids.
I can't say for sure what these are yet, but not too long ago Jan Ciegler described Hydrocolus heggiensis, from similar habitats from near the South Carolina/Georgia border, and I'm guessing that's what we've got, or a close relative. Dissection will be necessary to be sure.

Phil and I stayed a while into the evening and set up blacklights. It was a cool, but fairly active night, with about three species each of Phyllophaga and Serica coming in, a beautiful Nicrophorus carrion beetle, several Odontaeus ('earth-boring scarabs'), and a few lepturine cerambycids.

One of the more exciting sightings, however, was not at the black light. We crossed a bustling troop of what have to be army ants (Neivamyrmex) running across the trail (below).
I watched for a while, and did not detect any freeloaders, but these are known to host a number of very interesting staphylinids and histerids. It's extremely rare to find these with hosts, but in the right areas, the myrmecophiles should be flying. Yet another great reason to get some FITs out in this area. 

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