“Highlights from Nearly 20 Years of Chasing Tiger Beetles in Missouri”

Last night, Chris Brown—my longtime field companion and fellow tiger beetle aficionado—and I gave a presentation to the Entomology Group of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society at Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, Missouri, giving highlights from our nearly 20 of “chasing” tiger beetles in Missouri. Our work not only revealed two new state records (Cicindelidia trifasciata ascendens and Cylindera celeripes), bringing to 24 the total number of tiger beetle species known from the state, but also featured intensive surveys for several species of conservation interest.

It was a fun, lighthearted presentation that emphasized the experiences we had while conducting these surveys and our growth as natural historians as a result of them. Of course, beautiful photographs of tiger beetles were used liberally throughout the presentation (for those who do not know, Chris was my early mentor in the area of insect macrophotography!). While we had a nice local turnout, I realize most of the readership of this blog could not have attended this event in person. Never fear, however, for I have saved the slide deck as a PDF document* that you can download and peruse at your convenience.

* All content copyrighted and may not be reproduced or distributed without written consent.

© Ted C. MacRae 2019


Posted in Cicindelidae, Coleoptera | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A plea for comments on ICZN Case 3769

The latest issue of the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature contains Case 3769 (Bílý et al. 2018), in which my coauthors and I ask the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to declare the privately published pamphlet “Procrustomachia” as an unavailable work for nomenclatural purposes. This pamphlet, first issued in 2016, is authored, edited, and produced (I hesitate to use the word “published”) by a single individual—Roman B. Hołyński, who has used the pamphlet as a vehicle for describing new taxa of jewel beetles (family Buprestidae, order Coleoptera). Each issue of the pamphlet is presented in the form of a PDF file under the guise of the “Occasional Papers of the Uncensored Scientists Group” and distributed electronically by Hołyński himself via e-mail and uploaded to his personal page on the social network site ResearchGate. By the time our case went to press, Hołyński had described one new genus, eight new subgenera, 17 new species, and one new subspecies of jewel beetle—three additional new subgenera and five new species have been proposed since.

We are asking the Commission to declare the pamphlet as an unavailable work because it does not satisfy the requirements for publication of scientific names in zoology according to provisions in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN 1999) and its amendments (ICZN 2012), thus making the names published within them unavailable for nomenclatural purposes. The pamphlets do not qualify as valid electronic publications because 1) they are not deposited in a recognized archive and 2) the new names within them are not registered at ZooBank prior to electronic distribution. Both of these conditions must be met in order to qualify as valid electronically-issued works. As a result, the validity of the works can only be based on printed copies. Here also the pamphlet does not satisfy the ICZN requirement of “numerous identical and durable copies” for works issued as printed copies. No information is given in any of the volumes regarding where printed copies may be obtained, and our online searches have revealed only three institutions where printed issues have been deposited—the Polish National Library being the only one of the three that lists a complete set of issues. This gives grounds to assume that the initial print run is far too small to be considered a valid printed work for nomenclatural purposes.

There is a larger issue at stake than just the validity of “Procrustomachia” and the availability of the names proposed within it. Privately-produced pamphlets that ignore safeguards against modification and ensuring long-term availability to the scientific community represent a threat to the stability of taxonomic nomenclature. Such safeguards and the commonly accepted rules for publishing new names in zoology are likely to be ignored by irresponsible, very often commercial collectors, ambitious individuals, or poorly qualified amateurs. The ICZN needs a tougher approach regarding publication criteria for new names, for example, to be bound to peer-reviewed professional journals (both printed and electronic, but printed preferably) with international editorial boards including highly qualified taxonomists. If such approach is not implemented soon, we could be facing an avalanche of PC-printed “home-made” new names. A more detailed background and discussion of this issue was presented by Bílý & Volkovitsh (2017).

Comments on this case are invited for publication (subject to editing) in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. Send comments to the Secretariat, ICZN, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, 2 Conservatory Drive, Singapore 117377, Republic of Singapore (e-mail: iczn@nus.edu.sg).


Bílý, S. & M. G. Volkovitsh. 2017. New unavailable names in Buprestidae (Coleoptera) and a short comment on the electronic publication of new names. Zootaxa 4243(2):371–372 [abstract].

Bílý, S., M. G. Volkovitsh & T. C. MacRae. 2018. Case 3769 – Proposed use of the plenary power to declare the pamphlet “Procrustomachia” as an unavailable work. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 75(31 December 2018):220–224. ISSN 2057-0570 (online) [pdf].

ICZN (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature). 1999. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 4th Edition. International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, London, xxix + 306 pp. [online version].

ICZN (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature). 2012. Amendment of Articles 8, 9, 10, 21 and 78 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to expand and refine methods of publication. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 69:161–169 [full text].

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

Posted in Buprestidae, Coleoptera | Tagged , | 2 Comments

New Publications on Buprestidae and Cerambycidae

Crossidius hirtipes allgewahri

Crossidius hirtipes allgewahri LeConte, 1878

I’ve been busy processing photos and a preparing a write-up of an insect collecting trip to New Mexico this past June—look for a series of posts about the trip in the near future!

In the meantime, I’ve had a couple more publications come out since the end of last year—both as part of joint efforts to document beetle diversity at the state level. The first of these came out in vol. 71, no. 4 of The Coleopterists Bulletin (published 18 Dec 2018) and presents a checklist of the Cerambycidae of Idaho with notes on selected species. The citation is:

Rice, M. E., F. Merickel & T. C. MacRae. 2017. The longhorned beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) of Idaho. The Coleopterists Bulletin 71(4):667–678 [pdf].

The photo of Crossidius hirtipes allgewahri LeConte, 1878 (see above—which was actually photographed in Moffatt Co., Colorado and is, I think, the very first species of the genus that I photographed) also appeared in that article.

The second paper was just published a couple of weeks ago (20 June 2018) in vol. 72, no. 2 of The Coleopterists Bulletin (I am still waiting for my hard copy in the mail!). It presents an annotated checklist of the Buprestidae of Louisiana.

Carlton, C. E., T. C. MacRae, A. Tishechkin, V. L. Bayless & W. Johnson. 2018. Annotated checklist of the Buprestidae (Coleoptera) from Louisiana. The Coleopterists Bulletin 72(2):351–367 [pdf].

As always, a complete list of my publications with links to abstracts or pdfs can be found under “My Publications“.

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

Posted in Coleoptera | 4 Comments

A “superb” southwestern Missouri cicada

Back in the summer of 2015, I made an early August trip to the White River Hills region of extreme southwestern Missouri. I was actually looking for one of Missouri’s more uncommon cerambycid beetles – Prionus pocularis, associated with shortleaf pine in the mixed hardwood/pine forests across the southern part of the state. I did not encounter the beetle in either my prionic acid-baited pitfall traps or at the ultraviolet lights I had set up the evening before, but while I was in the area I thought I would visit one of my favorite places in the region – Drury-Mincy Conservation Area in Taney Co. Sitting right on the border with Arkansas, the rolling hills of this area feature high-quality dolomite glades and post oak savannas. I’ve had some excellent collecting here in the past and hoped I would find something of interest this time as well. I didn’t arrive until after midnight, and since there are no hotels in the area I just slept in the car.

Neotibicen superbus

Neotibicen superbus

The next morning temperatures began to rise quickly, and with it so did the cacophony of cicadas getting into high gear with their droning buzz calls. As I passed underneath one particular tree I noticed the song was coming from a branch very near my head. I like cicadas, but had it been the song of a “normal” cicada like Neotibicen lyricen (lyric cicada) or N. pruinosus (scissor grinder cicada) I would have paid it no mind. It was, instead, unfamiliar and distinctive, and when I searched the branches above me I recognized the beautiful insect responsible for the call as Neotibicen superbus (superb cicada), a southwest Missouri specialty—sumptuous lime-green above and bright white pruinose beneath. I had not seen this spectacular species since the mid 1980s (most of my visits to the area have been in the spring or the fall rather than high summer), and I managed to catch it and take a quick iPhone photograph for documentation. A species this beautiful, however, deserves ‘real’ photos, so I spent the next couple of hours attempting to photograph an individual in situ with the big camera. Of course, this is much, much easier said than done, especially with this species—their bulging eyes give them exceptional vision, and they are very skittish and quick to take flight. Most of the individuals that I located were too high up in the canopy to allow a shot, and each individual that was low enough for me to approach ended up fluttering off with a screech before I could even compose a shot, much less press the shutter. Persistence paid, however, and I eventually managed to approach and photograph an unusually calm female resting – quite conveniently – at chest height on the trunk of a persimmon tree.


Source: Sanborn & Phillips (2013).

According to Sanborn & Phillips (2013, Figure 16 – reproduced above), Neotibicen superbus, is found in trees within grassland environments primarily in eastern Texas and Oklahoma, although records of it exist from each of the surrounding states – especially southern Missouri and northern Arkansas (Figure 16 below, Sanborn & Phillips 2013). Later the same day I would see the species abundantly again in another of the region’s dolomite glades – this one in Roaring River State Park further west in Barry Co., suggesting that dolomite glades are the preferred habitat in this part of its range. Interestingly, I think the Missouri records at least must be relatively recent, as Froeschner (1952) did not include the species in his synopsis of Missouri cicadas. This was all the information I had back in the 1980s when I first encountered the species in southwestern Missouri, its apparent unrecorded status in the state making it an even more exciting find at the time.

Neotibicen superbus

Neotibicen superbus


Froeschner, R. C.  1952. A synopsis of the Cicadidae of Missouri. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 60:1–14 [pdf].

Sanborn, A. F. & P. K. Phillips. 2013. Biogeography of the cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, north of Mexico. Diversity 5(2):166–239 [abstractpdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

Posted in Cicadidae, Hemiptera | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

When is an ant not an ant? When it’s a jumping spider, of course!

Peckhamia sp.

This past weekend my good friend and long-time collecting partner Rich and I visited one of our favorite insect collecting spots in all of Missouri – Victoria Glades Conservation Area. Together with an adjacent parcel owned by The Nature Conservancy, these represent one of the finest remaining examples of the glades – more properly called xeric limestone prairies – that once extended in an arc through Jefferson Co. south of St. Louis on south and west facing exposures of dolomitic limestone1.

For a more detailed description of the geology and natural history of these glades, see my post The Glades of Jefferson County.

Spring was late this season, with cool and wet conditions persisting into the early part of May. During the past two weeks, however, it has warmed and dried considerably (too much, almost), and thus the cacophony of life has begun in earnest. Still, despite the heat, we found the abundance of insects rather sparing, which in combination with the suite of wildflowers that were seen in bloom gave a feel of early spring (I mentioned to Rich that it “seemed like May 10th”). There were a few good species to be found though, the first being a single Agrilus fuscipennis, beaten off of its host persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). Continued beating of persimmon turned up little else, at which point I turned my attention to the post oak (Quercus stellata) trees lining the margins of the glades. The first couple of branches that I whacked turned up little of interest, but an “ant” that fell on my sheet from the third branch gave me pause – it was a little “too big”, and the manner it which it scampered across the sheet was a little “too urgent” and “too halting”. When I looked at it more closely, I realized that it was, of course, not an ant at all, but a jumping spider (family Salticidae), and more specifically a species in one of several genera within the family that are known for their striking mimicry of ants.

I have long wanted to photograph one of these gems, having seen them once or twice before but thus far not successful in photographing them. In this particular case, I had the advantage of somebody to help me, so I coaxed the spider onto a stick and had Rich hold it while I got my camera ready. Unfortunately, the ant… er, spider just kept running up and down the stick from one end to the other, forcing me to repeatedly grab the stick on alternating ends with one hand after the other (and quickly or it would run onto my hands!) and never really having an opportunity to attempt some shots. After a time of this, I decided to coax it onto a leaf instead to see if the larger, flatter surface might be of some help. It really didn’t, though, as the ant JUST. WOULD. NOT. STOP. RUNNING! Eventually, I resorted to simply trying to track the spider through the lens – holding the camera with my right hand and the leaf with my left, and firing shots whenever I thought the spider might be even close to in focus. I can be patient when photographing insects (and their kin), but this spider certainly tested my limits, and I eventually ended the session not at all confident that I had any usable photos. To my surprise, I managed to get one image (above) that wasn’t half bad and another that was at least serviceable (below – focus a bit too much in “front”).

Peckhamia sp.

As far as I can tell, this individual is a species of the genus Peckhamia, which Cutler (1988) distinguishes from the related genus Synageles by the carapace being more convex in the cephalic area and sharply declivous (downward sloping) behind the third row of eyes. The individual in these photos seems to agree with these characters, if I am interpreting them correctly. He also mentions the habit of species in these two genera to hold their second pair of legs aloft to give the illusion of them being antennae, which we noted for this individual and can attest to its effectiveness!

For more about ant mimics that I have found in Missouri, see my previous posts Flower ants? Check again! and North America’s itsiest bitsiest longhorned beetle.


Cutler, B. 1988. A revision of the American species of the antlike jumping spider genus Synageles (Araneae, Salticidae). Journal of Arachnology 15(3) [1987]:321–348 [pdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

Posted in Arachnida, Araneae | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Cover Photo—The Coleopterists Bulletin 71(4)

The December 2017 issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin (vol. 71, no. 4) is hitting mailboxes now, and once again I have the honor of providing the cover photo. This one features an adult of the cactus beetle, Moneilema armata (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) on its host, cholla (Opuntia imbricata). I photographed this beetle in June 2014 near Vogel Canyon in Otero Co., Colorado. Cactus beetles are notorious for hiding deep within the mass of spiny stems and branches of their hosts, making long forceps an absolute necessity for collecting them. Occasionally, however, they venture out onto more exposed parts of the plant—in this case, up near the tip of a stem and onto a nearly open flower bud, and the value contrast between the black beetle, green stem, pink flower, gold spines, and blue sky made for a truly lovely composition. If I have only one regret about the photo, it was the stiff southerly wind that kept blowing the beetle’s left antenna and preventing it from matching the perfectly symmetrical arc of the right antenna—a small complaint.

This is another example of the flash-illuminated subject with natural blue sky background technique that I have become so fond of, at least for diurnal insects resting on flowers and foliage. I learned this technique from John Abbott a few years earlier at the inaugural BugShot Workshop in Gray Summit, Missouri (just 15 miles from my home), and it has since become my default background and part of my signature style.

This is the fourth issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin to feature one of my photographs on the cover. The first was the June 2013 (vol. 67, no. 2) issue, featuring the stunning green weevil Eurhinus cf. adonis, and the very next issue (September 2013, vol. 67, no. 3) featured the jewel beetle Chrysobothris octocola. Two years later I had a photo on the cover of the March 2015 (vol. 69, no. 1) issue, a striking red and black longhorned beetle Crossidius coralinus fulgidus.

If you’re not one already, consider becoming a member of The Coleopterists Society (I’ve been one for 36 years now!). Their flagship journal, The Coleopterists Bulletin, is your one-stop shop for all things beetley—a quarterly fix of pure elytral ecstacy! Membership also includes online access to archives of past issues via JSTOR and BioOne.

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

Posted in Cerambycidae, Coleoptera | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Ellipsoptera lepida – ghost tiger beetle

In the early 2000s, Chris Brown and I were beginning our general survey of Missouri tiger beetles. Our goal was to characterize the occurrence and distribution of all species within the state. At the time, 22 species were known to occur in Missouri, and our work would uncover the presence of two more—one being a vagrant occurrence of the widespread Cicindelidia trifasciata ascendens (ascendent tiger beetle) (Brown & MacRae 2005); the other being the rare Cylindera celeripes (swift tiger beetle) (MacRae & Brown 2011). Of the species already known from the state, however, some were known from only a few records and hadn’t been seen in the field by either Chris or myself. One such species was Ellipsoptera lepida (ghost tiger beetle), an almost pure white species known to occur in deep, dry sand habitats over most of central North America (Pearson et al. 2015). At that time, I had still seen only the more common species in Missouri, and the combination of its name and unusual, mostly-white color put this species high on my “must see” list.

Ellipsoptera lepida (ghost tiger beetle)

My first experience would come quickly. In June 2001, Chris and I visited a recent addition to Weldon Spring Conservation Area on the north side of the Missouri River in St. Charles Co. called Darst Bottoms. The area at one time was productive farmland, but the “Great Floods” of 1993 and 1995 left deep deposits of sand over the area. While no longer suitable for agriculture, the process of succession allowed valuable wildlife habitat to develop, and the area was purchased and added to the Conservation Area. By the time of our visit in 2001, early succession had resulted in young forests of mostly eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) surrounding a vast central plain of white sand. Chris and I didn’t know what to expect on that first visit, both of us being in the early stages of our survey of Missouri tiger beetles, but we figured we would find something interesting.

Ellipsoptera lepida (ghost tiger beetle)

I still remember the moment I first saw E. lepida and realized what it was. We had already found Cicindela formosa generosa (eastern big sand tiger beetle)—the first time I had seen that species in Missouri outside the southeastern lowlands (we would eventually find it at many sites along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and a few smaller interior rivers)—and were searching for additional specimens. We were in a small opening adjacent to the larger central plain when I thought I saw something move near my feet. I stopped to look down but didn’t see anything, so I began walking again while scanning the ground ahead of me. Again, I thought I saw movement nearby and stopped to look, this time pausing a little longer and doing so a little more carefully. That’s when I saw it, and even though I had seen only photographs of the species and museum specimens I recognized it instantly for what it was and yelled out “lepida!” Chris came over to see for himself, and we marveled at the effectiveness of their camouflage—they seemingly were able to disappear right before our eyes even though we were looking right at them.

Sand plain habitat for Ellipsoptera lepida (ghost tiger beetle).

Over the next few years, Chris and I found the species at several sites along or not too distant from the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers—always on sand deposits deep enough to become dry. We never found them in great numbers, sometimes just single individuals while other sand residents were abundant, and not at all sites where we did find more reliable species such as C. f. generosa and C. tranquebarica (oblique-lined tiger beetle). Pearson et al. (2015) mention that despite the broad distribution of this species across central North America that its actual occurrence is rather spotty and localized and that it has disappeared from many sites where it was previously known to occur. This was our experience in Missouri as well, as many of the museum records we had gleaned for the species no longer appeared to support populations of the beetle. This is likely due, at least in part, to the ephemeral nature of the habitats on which the species depends, at least those along the big rivers that are vulnerable to revegetation and succession back to bottomland forest.

Ellipsoptera lepida (ghost tiger beetle)

Of course, all of this occurred long before I took up insect macrophotography in 2009, and while I had managed to photograph most of the tiger beetle species in Missouri in the years that followed, E. lepida was one that I continued to lack. In the summer of 2015 I decided to rectify that situation and, when the time was right, returned to Darst Bottoms in hopes of finding and photographing this species. Imagine my surprise when I hiked into the area and, instead of young cottonwood stands surrounding a vast, barren sand plain, I found mature cottonwood forests surrounding a thickly vegetated sand prairie with only isolated patches of barren sand. Needless to say, with such little suitable habitat for the beetles they were neither abundant nor even common. In fact, the only evidence I found that told me they were still there at all was coyote scat containing unmistakable remains of the adult beetles. Skunked on my first effort, I decided to try another spot where we had seen good populations of the beetle—Overton Bottoms Conservation Area along the Missouri River in Cooper and Monteau Counties in central Missouri, now Overton Bottoms South Unit and part of the Big Muddy National Wildlife Area. Like Darst Bottoms, this area had experienced revegetation and succession in the decade+ since my previous visit; however, unlike the former there still remained a vast central plain that, while vegetated, was sparsely vegetated enough to continue providing suitable habitat for the beetle. It took some work, but I eventually found the beetles localized in one part of the sand plain (see photograph #3), and there were enough of them out at the time of my visit that I succeeded in getting the series of photographs shown in this post.

Ellipsoptera lepida (ghost tiger beetle)

I have fond memories of all 24 tiger beetle species in Missouri—each one presenting a unique collection of experiences that will fuel my love affair with the group for years to come. With E. lepida, the jubilance and excitement of that first, unexpected encounter remains near the top of the list for me.


Brown, C. R. & T. C. MacRae. 2005. Occurrence of Cicindela (Cicindelidia) trifasciata ascendens (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae) in Missouri. Cicindela 37(1–2):17–19 [pdf].

MacRae, T. C. & C. R. Brown. 2011. Historical and contemporary occurrence of Cylindera (s. str.) celeripes (LeConte) (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Cicindelinae) and implications for its conservation. The Coleopterists Bulletin 65(3):230–241 [pdf].

Pearson, D. L., C. B. Knisley, D. P. Duran & C. J. Kazilek. 2015. A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, New York, 264 pp. [Oxford description].

© Ted C. MacRae 2017

Posted in Cicindelidae, Coleoptera | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments