The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

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An Inordinate Fondness #3: Discovery Zone

Beetles are, quite simply, hecka-cool.  Although all insects are generally fascinating I have a tendency to get very excited about beetles in particular because…well…OMGSHINY!!!  That being the case, I am just a tad all-a-flutter about hosting An Inordinate Fondness this month (so much SHININESS in one post I can hardly stand it!).  

One of the things I like best about beetles (good grief, where do I start?), which represent about 1/4 of all living species on earth, is that there is never a shortage of new critters to discover.   This week I came across a new and incredibly interesting species of beetle.  When I first spotted it, I mistook it for a very small jumping spider: everything about its behaviour was akin to that of a Salticid, from the way it peered up at me on extended forelegs with head raised, to its odd manner of darting from place to place  with sharp bursts of movement.  I leaned in close (it was only about 2mm long) and decided it was NOT a spider, so picked it up to have a better look.  I thought I saw a tiny beak running between its legs…a beak?  Was this a true bug?  It was so small my unaided eyes could not even discern whether it had hard beetley elytra or the half-membranous wings of a hemipteran.  I snapped a bunch of photographs in hopes that my camera could pick up details my eye could not.   

And it did:

A little out-of-focus, but clearly a beetle; a small stout snout beetle (Curculionidae), with long legs and simply enormous eyes!  I scoured my field guides and then turned to the web for some assistance, and soon enough it had a name:   Lechriops oculata.  Along with its species name, I found out that the Korean word for its subfamily (Conoderinae) translates to “spider weevil”.  Cool beans!!!  Who knew that such a tiny little beetle would end up being a source of hours of reading, learning and discovery. 

Without further ado, I am super-pleased to present the 3rd installment of An Inordinate Fondness: Discovery Zone.    In this collection of Coleopteran coolness we get a good dose of the geekly glee shared by enthusiasts when a beetle is found. Sometimes accidental, sometimes carefully orchestrated, each beetle discovery is thrilling in its own right.  With 13 entries spanning three continents and nine beetle Families, hopefully it will whet your Coleappetite™ (ha!) for another month.

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Eureka!  (Or, sometimes good discoveries happen by accident)

 

Great discoveries can be made even when we’re not looking for them. Hugh at Rock Paper Lizard finds a gorgeous Ground Beetle in a not-so-gorgeous pile of compost.  I say, keep digging, Hugh!  OMGSHINY! 

Seabrooke at the the Marvelous in nature encounters an unexpected beetle-ey guest during her nighttime moth-hunting activities (this is great fun: you get three BONUS BIG BUGS along with the beetle, who has Funky Feet. Sweet.

A different kind of winged creature is the unlikely guide that leads Jason to the discovery of a very large (and very tenacious) rove beetle.   He shares his highly blusterous experience at xenogere.

 

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First-time discoveries

The thrill of encountering a new beetle species – whether new to you or new to science – well, either way it’s gosh-darn exciting!   Shelly, our guide at MObugs, is astonished to discover her first Red Flat Bark Beetle  in a most unusual place (no, it was not under a piece of bark).

 Myrmecos blog reminds us that discoveries can be steeped in controversy, and that science is a two-way street.  A new species of fossil insect is found in amber…the authours claim it’s an ant.   “No way!” , cries the blogosphere, “It is most certainly a beetle!” Then the authours chime in with their 2¢, and the gloves come off!

Matthew Wills at Backyard and Beyond nearly trod upon these mystery beetles (I’m glad he didn’t, because they are OMGBLUESHINY!). His post describes the rewarding challenge of identifying unfamiliar beetles. (Wouldn’t we all love one giant field guide with EVERYTHING in it???)   

 

Aaron Brees is busy Exploring the Remnants and enjoying a bevy of Tiger Beetles (his first batch of the year) in sandy spaces, when he finds this lovely creature: the Oblique-Lined Tiger Beetle.  It is the first time he’s encountered the species and his excitement over the find is evident!

  

  

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Discovery through research

 
It is no secret that Ted MacRae from Beetles in the Bush likes Jewel Beetles (a lot).  Understandably, he jumps at the opportunity to spend a day with visiting Buprestid experts in Sacramento.  Ted has another motive, however: the burning question of the identity of a six-year-old Buprestid mystery larva.   The stars seem to align: a fallen willow fallen tree, some poop (*ahem* frass), a pocket knife, a big ol’ larva and a Buprestid Larva Dissecting Guru of the Universe = one very exciting discovery: a sneaky larva poorly known to science…until now! While the larva is not SHINY (sorry, Ted), it makes up for it by having a Big Giant Head With a Nifty-Shaped Furcus.

 

Beetley discoveries don’t always happen in the field; sometimes delving into the scientific literature can be almost as exciting….you never know what you might find!  Soon-to-be-entomology-grad-student Heath Blackmon at the Coleopterists Corner  has been uncovering literary gems as he prepares for his future studies.  In his post, A History of Coleopterology, he provides an excellent summary of a fascinating article on “Charles Darwin, beetles and phylogenetics”.   The accompanying tree of life is a beautiful touch.

 

 

 

 *POOF* (That’s my brain exploding from how fracking GORGEOUS this beetle is.  I am quite certain that I need to move to the Philippines.).   There is not one but two HECKASHINY snout beetles to be found on Estan’s  Salagubang blog.   The two incredibly-coloured critters provide an astonishing example of cross-tribal mimicry.

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Re-discovery

It’s interesting to see how certain natural phenomena are re-discovered and enjoyed  generation after generation, even in two places an ocean apart.  Dave Stone from Things Biological shares some beautiful shots of a familiar summertime friend: the Firefly.  Meanwhile, Javi Gállego reminisces about his childhood experiences with “lights in the grass”  in Spain on his blog macroinstates.  He also expresses concern about the seemingly declining populations…will there be fireflies for future generations to admire on warm summer nights?  (Click on the translation widget to read other posts in English).

Lastly, Alex  says what we have come to realize: there are “so many beetles”!  Nonetheless, even amid the mind-bogglingly diverse order of beetles, some may eventually become familiar faces.   A search in an old log leads to the discovery of an old friend, and a great photoshoot.

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Xenogere is the home of May’s edition of IAF…be sure to get your SHININESS to Jason by May 15!

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House of Herps #5: Slime Poetry

Slam Poetry is a fairly recent artistic phenomemon, where composers (“slammers”) recite passionate and emotionally-charged poetry in a competitive arena; it’s usually a raucous and stirring event.   I propose that, given the range of intense emotion our scaley and slippery friends can invoke, it is high time the Slime Poetry movement took centre stage.  For centuries writers have captured those fleeting moments of fear, awe, sadness and, of course, beauty we herp-happy folk appreciate so much.  In this installment of House of Herps #5: Slime Poetry, we explore the passion of herpers through the posts of our contributors and the kindred hearts of poets.  

I suggest you stand to recite the verses, and be sure to speak loudly.  

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We start with Kay’s encounter with a “narrow fellow in the grass” at Arroyo Colorado River Blog

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
 

From A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, Emily Dickinson (1965) 

Kay is a lover of poetry, especially the works of Emily Dickinson.  That said, she does NOT share the authour’s evident fear of snakes.  Instead she shares her joyful encounter with one of nature’s people,  a “narrow fellow in the grass”: a beautiful Texas Indigo Snake

Lucky Amber Coakley at The Birder’s Lounge has encountered an absolute bonanza of springtime herps, one of which was a tiny skink, first seen as a speedy flash of panicked blue:    

Porter of  readiness, miller of  the
steady shudder, peripatetic
rectitude, run by the power
of   the sunlit rock, it fortifies
Darwin and the idea of   being late
and the missed appointment.
With its blue tail, it reminds us:
it will go on. It will not stop.

From Skink, Rodney Jones (2008) 

Her little discovery calms enough to permit photographs…and displays an interesting colour change!  

 

Seabrooke Leckie and Dan Derbyshire tag-team to share photos and info of the threatened Blanding’s Turtle at the Marvelous in nature.  Dan’s photos inspire Seabrooke to recall last summer’s encounter with a Blanding’s Turtle, which was performing the common but perilous act of crossing the road.

He went right through a Stop-sign on the wrong side of the road.
He didn’t see the great big truck with overburdened load…
. . . . .    . . . . . . . . .    . . . . . .
These dotted lines are kinder than some vivid words to show
What happened to the trailer, compact and neat . . . but slow.
Some mangled flesh, some bits of shell were wreckage to explain
Why this dusty little turtle will not cross a road again.

From Tragedy of the Road, Don Blanding (1946)

Happily, Seabrooke’s Blanding’s Turtle did not share the same fate as Blanding’s turtle; her simple act of kindness – moving the critter from harms’ way – spared it an untimely demise. 

Joan from Anybody Seen My Focus? found a small Musk Turtle  in a place far more sensible than on a road: a shallow lake.  After a proper photoshoot, she replaced the reptile back in its watery residence.

A helmet worn by no one has taken power.
The mother-turtle flees flying under the water.
 
From National Insecurity, Tomas Tranströmer (1997)

The speed at which the little turtle darts for cover is impressive, as are the resulting photographs!

Speaking of musk, Bernard Brown at Philly Herping had a hankering for just that: “the sweet smell of success”…a successful snake hunt, that is! 

 

A back road pungent with musk and mint.
So beautiful, that snake. . .

From The Flower Snake, Midang So Chong-ju (1941)

He shares with us TWO beauties, and provides some excellent notes on the natural history of both species.

Snakey goodness seems to come in twos…Ted MacRae at Beetles in the Bush was fortunate enough to encounter North America’s smallest rattlesnake not once, but twice!  

I found him asleep in the heat
…coiled in loose folds of silence
…I saw the wedged bulge
Of a head hard as a fist…
…(I) heard the loud seethe of life
In the dead beads of the tail 

From Rattlesnake, Brewster Ghiselin (1939) 

Even though this snake is small, Ted respectfully keeps his distance after the snake kindly informs him he’s too close for comfort.  

Buckeyeherper (from the aptly named “Buckeye Herps” blog) is on a mission: to find the beautiful Spotted Turtle that has eluded his searches in Michigan.  Spring is in the air, which means that amourous turtles should be out and about.

The silver mist engulfed.
The golden sun does heat,
The dainty spotted turtle,
In smooth pursuit of his mate,
The quiet world returns with sounds,
With blue vibrations does life continue.

Clemmys guttata, Lou Reeves (date unknown)

I think it’s fair to say his mission was accomplished, with gusto.  Other reptilian beauties abound as he takes us with him on a tour of the feys.

Michelle at Rambling Woods finds herself asking, What Kind of Frogs are These?  (That post title sounds like a poem itself, doesn’t it?)  Frogs never fail to fascinate, and their presence in watery places seem completely integral, as noted in a classic Japanese poem: 

Furu ike ya/The old pond;              
kawazu tobikomu/a frog jumps in —
mizu no oto /The sound of the water. 

Frog Haiku, Matsuo Bashô (1686) 

Her readers help her solve the mystery of these frogs’ identity, and meanwhile, we get to enjoy some lovely photos of these beautiful pond-dwellers. 

And lastly, for a touch of comedic poetry, we get to enjoy Jason’s encounter with a rather…er…furry Red-eared Slider over at xenogere.

A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) with algae on its shell (2009_06_21_024620)

She asks me why…I’m just a hairy guy
I’m hairy noon and night; Hair that’s a fright.
I’m hairy high and low,
Don’t ask me why; don’t know!
It’s not for lack of bread
Like the Grateful Dead; darling!

From Hair, James Rado & Gerome Ragni (1967)

 

As for this Geek, spring has finally been ushered in with the Anuran arias I associate with the new season.  The songs of Spring Peepers sound like poetry to these ears, even if they are unseasonably early!

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May’s edition of HoH will be hosted by Bernard Brown at Philly Herping … submit your herpy contributions by May 15!

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