Cold and wet

Photo details: Canon 65mm 1-5X macro lens on Canon EOS 50D, manual mode, ISO-100, 1/250 sec, f/14, MT-24EX flash 1/8 power through diffuser caps.

Photo details: Canon 65mm 1-5X macro lens on Canon EOS 50D, manual mode, ISO-100, 1/250 sec, f/14, MT-24EX flash 1/8 power w/ diffuser caps

The annual fall tiger beetle collecting trip is over, and nothing could be more emblematic of the trip than this cold, wet Cicindela splendida (literally translating to its well-deserved common name “Splendid Tiger Beetle”), found in the waning light of the last day of the trip secreted under a rock in the dolomite glades at White River Balds Natural Area in southwestern Missouri.  Overcast skies and a cold, stiff breeze had already dashed my hopes of finding Cicindela pulchra (also translating to its equally well-deserved common name “Beautiful Tiger Beetle”) in the Red Hills of northwestern Oklahoma two days earlier, and these same unrelenting conditions thwarted my backup plans to find this species the next day in the Gypsym Hills of nearby Barber County, Kansas.  With one last day to spend in the field, I had worked my way back to the White River Hills in hopes of photographing Missouri’s disjunct population of the enormous Cicindela obsoleta vulturina (Prairie Tiger Beetle).  That would also not come to pass, as the sun’s efforts to burn through the thick cloud cover just weren’t quite enough.  By the end of the day, I had resorted to flipping rocks (and replacing them exactly, of course) in hopes of finding an individual or two still in their nighttime/cool weather roosts.  I had seen C. obsoleta on previous occasions at this very locality along this very trail, but this time none were found – my finds instead limited to the “smiling” scorpion that I featured a few days ago and this lone C. splendida – wet with condensation and torpid against the cold ground.  I hatched a last gasp plan to look for C. obsoleta again the following day before heading back to St. Louis, but I awoke the next morning to steady rain and knew the 2009 entomology field season was officially over.

Don’t let me leave you with the impression, however, that the trip was a failure.  While I didn’t find either of the two species that I had set as my top goals for the trip, I still saw enough new things to make the trip worthwhile (including one very significant find that I’ll discuss in an upcoming post).  In addition, I’ve barely made mention of my August trip to Florida – my Assasin ate post of a couple weeks ago was just one of many interesting finds encountered during that trip that remain to be shared.  The cold and rain that has settled over the middle of the country during the past week have brought an unwelcome end to my field work for the year, but that just leaves me with more time now to process and share photographs from the past season and reflect on the stories behind them.  It will be welcome diversion, as I also begin the arduous and seemingly endless task of mounting and labeling the specimens collected during the past season – success’ bitter reward!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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12 Responses to Cold and wet

  1. jason says:

    I noticed the whole time you were supposed to be traveling that our weather had taken a decidedly quick turn toward wet, cloudy and cool, and that the conditions stretched from Texas right up through your path. Mind you, we didn’t mind so much since it’s helped break the back of our historic drought, yet I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to help you one bit. Sorry it wasn’t a complete success based on your goals; however, I’m glad it did offer you the chance for new discoveries. I’m looking forward to hearing about what you did see and getting a glimpse of the photos and stories you haven’t shared yet.

    And your C. splendida is splendid indeed. Maybe cold and wet and trying to sleep, but it’s still a handsome critter.

    • You know what they say – “A bad day of bug collecting is better than a good day of… just about anything!”

      I can’t really complain – I had an amazing year with many significant finds (including three new state records). Life is good.

  2. Cory Cross says:

    Was in Lonoke, AR all weekend and the only thing I saw was 1 dragonfly, and a few mole crickets. Several Sp. of Mushrooms were about though.

  3. Gareth says:

    Same thing has happened to me in Washington: big plans (Cicindela pugetana, C. parowana wallisi), big clouds and lots of rain. Spring-fall species are always a crapshoot.

    • Hi Gareth. I guess in your area that’s really the case with all the rain you get.

      Fall is even more of a crapshoot than spring, since a certain portion of the populations of species with that life cycle don’t even emerge in the fall, but just sit in their burrows until the following spring. There’s just something about fall collecting, however, that really sends me compared to spring – the smells, the colors, and the welcome relief from sweltering summer heat (I guess you don’t have that problem). Spring is great – more productive, but there’s also too much happening all at once. Fall collecting feels more like a vacation.

  4. Hi Ted

    A glorious species!

    Now the winter is there now you can now look forward to writing up some serious scientific papers around the log fire during those long winter nights! he he!

    Best regards, Trevor

    • Thank you, Trevor. It is a “splendid” species, isn’t it?

      Yes, I’ve got at least three manuscripts that I want to complete, and I’m hoping to make some serious progress on revising the U.S. species of Taphrocerus (which I refer to affectionately as “sedgie wedgies”).

  5. Beau says:

    That is a gorgeous photo. I’m fascinated by the ivory colored mandibles (or whatever they are called!). The cold and rain early this year has been unrelenting. But next week promises a return to warmth!

    • Thanks, Beau. Yes, mandibles is the term, and their bright-whiteness is one of the beautiful features of this and several closely related species.

      Two weeks of dreary weather has my spirits down – bug collecting is over, and I’ve only gotten in 4 bike rides. A return to sunshine next week will probably be too late to spur a last gasp of beetle activity, but it’ll cheer me back up nonetheless!

  6. Hi Ted – I am learning about the wonderful world of tiger beetles from you! Wow! The high resolution version of this beetle is GORGEOUS. I’m a sucker for color – and such clear detail. Enjoyed the post.

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