December 18, 2010
Posted by on
I’m sitting in the living room watching the snow swirl and fall. We already have a fairly thick coating of the white stuff; winter arrived with a blustry vengeance this month.
Like many entomologists, I tend to lament this time of year a wee bit. As much as I adore the crisp, stark beauty of the winter months, the season does not exactly create ideal conditions for my primary passion: finding, collecting and photographing six-leggers. Granted, many of my summer/fall finds are waiting for me in the freezer. I have hours and hours of enjoyable pinning, labeling and cataloging to look forward to; however, these thrills just don’t compare with the joys of discovering insects in their natural habitats.
Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when a run-of-the-mill winter chore earlier this week resulted in a lovely beetle find AND a photo op!
This frozen face belongs to Upis ceramboides, the Roughened Darkling Beetle (Tenebrionidae). I was moving firewood from the shed to our alcove (we heat primarily with wood in the winter), when I saw the small black body of this beetle fall to the earth, where it lay in stark contrast to the snow. Darkling beetles are varied in their diets and habitats, but many can be found under bark or dead wood. Overwintering Upis adults have been extracted from decomposing spruce, birch and cottonwood; that I should find one amidst my wood pile is no surprise. This beetle has a fairly extensive northern range, so is well-adapted for cold weather survival.
I was particularly smitten with the beautiful rugose elytra…the intricate folds and depressions add incredible depth of texture, especially juxtaposed against the perfectly smooth head and thorax.
I hope this is a sign of more goodies to come this winter…
 Kaufmann, T. (1969) Life history of Upis ceramboides at Fairbanks, Alaska. Ann. Ent. Soc. Amer. 62(4): 922-923.