The Power of Impulse

Glass Mountains, Oklahoma

Since figuring out a couple weeks that I had the larva of North America’s largest tiger beetle (Amblycheila cylindriformis, or Great Plains giant tiger beetle) in a rearing tub in the lab, I haven’t been able to think about anything except how cool it would be to go back out to the Glass Mountains in northwest Oklahoma (where I collected the larva last June) and look for the adults.  I have every reason not to do this trip – I just spent a long weekend up in northwest Missouri on follow up surveys for our newly discovered population of Cylindera celeripes (swift tiger beetle) (my second such trip in the past three weeks¹), and in a mere week and a half I leave for a 2-week trip to France.  Bills need to be paid, the grass needs cutting, and (as of today) a broken spoke needs to be repaired.  My collecting trips are normally planned far in advance – their timing and frequency part of a delicate balance between the goals I set for the season and the responsibilities that go along with having a job and a family.

¹ More on this in an upcoming post.

But for Amblycheila, it’s now or never – at least for this season, and the thought of waiting until next year before I can take my first valid shot at finding this species in the wild (and perhaps a previously unrecorded population, at that²) is just too unbearable.  So here I am, halfway to the Glass Mountains on as impulsive a trip as I’ve taken in a long time, hoping that my hunch pays off and I’ll find the strikingly large adults of A. cylindriformis lumbering below the flat-topped mesas in the mixed grass prairie where a little more than a year ago I was collecting its enormous larva. It’s a drive-collect-drive trip, and if successful I won’t be the first person to photograph them, even well, but it will nevertheless fulfill my longtime desire to locate this species in the wild and see it with my own eyes – a far more gratifying experience than looking at the lone dead specimen acquired long ago through trade that sits in my cabinet. Wish me luck!

² Drew and Van Cleave (1962) saw only a single specimen from the state in neighboring Woodward Co., although this is now a rather old reference.

REFERENCES:

Drew, W. A. and H. W. Van Cleave.  1962. The tiger beetles of Oklahoma (Cicindelidae).  Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 42:101–122.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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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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14 Responses to The Power of Impulse

  1. Go forth and photograph. May the Beetley Gods be with you…

  2. I hope you have a successful search. I’m looking forward to your shots of this enormous beetle.

    If you had not embarked upon this trip, the knowledge of a missed opportunity would have plagued you for the next year, possibly resulting depression and declining health. I’m sure that if you had consulted your family doctor, he would have insisted that you take this trip in order to avoid future health complications. Your Health Insurance might even cover the cost of the trip.

  3. Alex W. says:

    Amblycheila is a striking beetle indeed- I can see why you’d take a trip just to find one. Best of luck!

  4. James C. Trager says:

    I haven’t taken a trip on a lark like yours in a long time. Good luck in your quest!

  5. Margarethe says:

    Finding Ablycheila (piccolominii in my case) got me back into entomology in 2007. After 20 years of being a physiologist and responsibly working artist. Now I’m embarking on spontaneous trips all the time – just bought a truck for all those bumpy dirt roads.

    • Well, I would dearly love to see A. piccolominii some day – I hope you’ll clue me in to the particulars the next time I get out that way.

      • Margarethe says:

        Sure, I was lucky three times at the same location – always one specimen after my 4th of July art show. This year I didn’t go…but, yes I’ll give you the directions

        • Margarethe says:

          BTW, a friend also showed me a A. baroni location, but now we are still waiting for rain. They may not be as tightly dependent on it as Scarabs, but it helps.

  6. Snail says:

    This is so cool!

    * regains composure *

    Best of luck, Ted.

  7. Had I responded to these comments earlier today, I would have said that things were not starting off well – that I was sitting in a Starbucks in Enid, OK, just 30 miles from my destination, with rain pounding down outside and radar giving little hope for salvaging the trip. I would have said that I had decided to just drive west as far as I needed to get out of the rain and hope for the best, and if worse came to worse I knew of another spot 6 hours north in Kansas where Amblycheila had been taken (my lone specimen for trade) that I could try.

    Amazingly, I got out of the rain right as I approached the Glass Mountains and had a spectacular day. As for finding Amblycheila once the sun went down (it’s nocturnal), see the next post!

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