On Saturday, I’ll be joining a number of other Missouri biologists as a Group Leader for a BioBlitz at Penn-Sylvania Prairie (“C” on the map above). Penn-Sylvania Prairie is a 160-acre tract of native tallgrass prairie in southwestern Missouri owned by the Missouri Prairie Foundation. I’ll be leading the “Beetles” group (of course), and as far as I can tell there has been little to no work done to survey beetles in this prairie. Late May is an awesome time to look for beetles in southwestern Missouri, and with the forecast calling for sunny skies with highs in the mid-80’s, what better opportunity to add an extra day to an already long holiday weekend and do a…
Long Weekend Bug Collecting Trip!
The BioBlitz is not until Saturday afternoon, so I’ve padded the itinerary with a few nearby southwestern Missouri spots that I’ve wanted to visit for some time now. The first stop will be Ha Ha Tonka State Park (“B”) and its mosaic of dolomite glades and post oak savanna. My interest in this area stems from two jewel beetle specimens collected there by a student at the University of Missouri, who gave them to me for identification. These two specimens caused a stir when I first saw them, as I could not definitely ID them – they resembled Agrilus impexus, a common inhabitant of the desert southwest and Mexico, but they were much larger and, of course, were found in Missouri. These specimens played a key role in clearing up a case of taxonomic confusion on the identity of Agrilus impexus when I sent them to U.S. Agrilus-guru Henry Hespenheide. Through comparison with type specimens, he determined that these were among a smattering of specimens collected across the Great Plains that represent the true A. impexus, while the common southwestern U.S. species to which the name had long been applied was actually an undescribed species. He described the latter as Agrilus paraimpexus (Hespenheide 2007), and the true A. impexus remains rare and little known. Obviously, my two specimens are the only ones known from Missouri, and indeed only one other specimen of this species has been collected in the past 60 years! I know that makes finding it a long shot, but the student who collected them told me he swept them from woody vegetation along the edge of a glade at Ha Ha Tonka Savanna Natural Area. I suspect they may be associated with honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), thus, I will have my beating sheet and will be beating lots of honey locust on Friday – wish me luck!
On Sunday, I’ll work my way slightly northeast to some of the sandstone glades that are found in St. Clair Co. where the Osage Plains to the west transition into the Ozark Highlands to the east. The two most interesting of these are Lichen Glade Natural Area (“D”) and Dave Rock Natural Area (“E”). Here, sandstone glades and bluffs are surrounded by dry and dry mesic sandstone woodlands dominated by post oak (Quercus stellata) and blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica). Many years ago, I beat a single specimen of Agrilus frosti off of post oak at Lichen Glade. I have not collected the species since, and I know of only one other Missouri specimen collected by state agriculture personnel in a malaise trap in central Missouri. I also hope to photograph the lichen grasshopper (Trimerotropis saxatilis), which I have seen commonly at both of these sites. This Great Plains species is at its eastern limit of distribution in Missouri, occurring exclusively on sandstone and igneous glades where its cryptic coloration makes it nearly invisible against the acidic, lichen-covered rocks that dominate these habitats.
Otherwise, I have no specific goals for the trip, but as late May is prime time in this area for jewel beetles, I’ll be doing lots of general beating on the oaks and hickories that many species in this family favor as hosts for larval development.
Hespenheide, H. A. 2007. The identity of Agrilus impexus Horn, a new species, and taxonomic notes and records for other Agrilus Curtis species (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Zootaxa 1617:57–66.