Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sometimes we all make mistakes!

Last summer was the first time I experienced a true Southern Arizona monsoon. The rains brought out all sorts of Tenebs I've never seen alive. The plants were green, flowers were blooming, and love was in the air. All sorts of bugs that I had never seen alive were out including bunches of Asidines (the non smelly desert tanks). Below is a photo of a normal mating pair of Philolithus morbillosus.

This pair was one of hundreds of this species that had aggregated in a grassy parking lot. Apparently the males are quite depraved as the next photo illustrates.
The male (on top), in a hurry to copulate, did not realize that the female (who was frantically trying to run away) was of a completely different species. The bottom species is Parasida lirata. This male was not alone, a number of other odd couplings like this were observed, and some were succeeding in copulating. Would have been quite interesting to see if any viable young were produced but alas I didn't keep any... Perhaps this coming monsoon I'll grab some.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Local Bugs

As I was walking to the lab today, I saw a small beetle running around on the concrete. I remember in Ithaca, that all the beetles I found running around on campus tended to be Carabids (mostly Amara or Pterostichus). Not in Tucson though. The small beetle was a Tenebrionid in the genus, Blapstinus. These beetles are fairly common in the SW and are characterized by having their eyes completely divided by extensions of the side of their face.

This particular beast is the third species I've encountered in the lawns around my lab.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mystery P-toid

A couple days ago I noticed that one of the beetles I had brought back from the Imperial dunes wasn't looking too healthy. Thinking that it was just reaching the end of its life due to natural causes, I stuck him in a kill jar. When I took him out to pin today, this is what I saw.

Unfortunately the larvae, which I think is a Tachnid, was already dead. This beetle, Eusattus dilitatus, spends almost its entire life underground. In fact, the only specimens I've seen above ground were those that had already perished. They live among the roots of various plants in the Imperial dunes. Check out some cool action shots of this beetle here.
This raises some interesting questions. Do the adult flies just wait for one of the beetles to sporadically surface? Do the adults lay eggs at the base of plants and early instar larvae then somehow search out suitable hosts?
The larvae itself is big, relative to its host size. Imagine living with something that big wriggling around in you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


This weekend I went out to the Algodones dunes with some friends to poke around. Located just West of Yuma, the Algodones dunes is the largest and dune system in the United States. Unfortunately most of it has been destroyed by OHVs, but the BLM was smart enough to set some of it aside for wildlife.

On the left is the area used by OHVs and on the right is the preserved area... Can you spot the difference?
There apparently is quite a difference in Tenebrionid fauna between spring and fall so I was excited to see what was out. I brought my strainer to sift the sand and sure enough, found some psammophilous Tenebs. Unfortunately they were all too small to shoot with my camera so photos will come later. One notable species I found was Araeoschizus. I have been searching for this odd looking Teneb since I first traveled to AZ 4 years ago. I sifted the first couple out of a K-rat burrow but once the sun fell, these guys were crawling around at the base of plants. I also encountered one specimen of the psammophilous Teneb, Batulius setosa. These mighty beasts are known from the debris that accumulates at the base of dunes, but the one I saw was found about a foot under the sand in the middle of the dunes away from vegetation. Makes one wonder what kind of diversity exists below the shifting sands of the dunes.
Here are some other cool bugs encountered on our trip.

The critter on the left is Ophrysates and is probably the largest weevil I've seen in the US. It was just chomping away on a plant so I left it there. The one on the right is a burrowing roach. This litter fella was quite persistent in its attempt to burrow and even tried burrowing into our hands as we held her.

On the way back we stopped by an interesting taco stand selling interesting tacos?

mmm Polar Bear tacos... delicious.