The 7th Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip™ is officially over – Chris and I rolled back into town a little after midnight last night. It was an amazing trip – perfect weather, unparalleled scenery, and a record-breaking 16 species of tiger beetles seen in 13 localities across four states. Not only does this beat my previous trip record of 13 species, but we did it with only five days in the field. At the time of my previous update, we had visited several locations in the South Dakota Badlands and Nebraska Pine Ridge and found ten different tiger beetle species, including Cicindela pulchra (beautiful tiger beetle) – our top priority for the trip – C. nebraskana (prairie long-lipped tiger beetle), and C. lengi (blowout tiger beetle). Our plan for the next day was to visit the Badlands of Wyoming to look for C. decemnotata (Badlands tiger beetle – appropriately) and the Yampa River Valley of northwestern Colorado to look for C. scutellaris yampae and C. formosa gibsoni, all three of which we managed to find (though with caveats – stay tuned). Our originally planned final field day was to take us back into Wyoming to look for C. longilabris (boreal long-lipped tiger beetle) in the mountains east of Laramie and the Nebraska Sand Hills to look for the delicate little C. limbata before heading back home. However, we were finally paid a visit by “the skunk” and did not see any of these species (although our sighting of C. limbata (common claybank tiger beetle) in Wyoming did officially break the old trip record). Not wanting to end the trip on a disappointing day, we delayed our departure for home yesterday and visited two more sites at the eastern edge of the Nebraska Sand Hills (sites M and N in the above map) – a clay bank site where we saw a robust population of C. denverensis (to augment the single individual we had seen earlier in the trip) and several C. splendida (splendid tiger beetle), and another sand dune/blowout system where we at last succeeded in finding C. limbata.
The day after the end of the Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip™ is usually a somewhat depressing day for me. Not only is the trip over, but likely so is the entire insect collecting season. I know I need the down time to process the specimens and knowledge acquired during the season, but the field work itself remains my favorite aspect of this pursuit. Nevertheless, the experiences from this trip will fuel my memories for years to come, and in the next weeks I’ll share some of the stories that unfolded. Until then, I leave you with this portrait of C. pulchra – looking rather annoyed with me for my persistent efforts to take his photograph.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010