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