Saturday, March 13, 2010
What if and What is it? Mystery Beetles of the Moose Pasture
But Spring isn’t here and An Inordinate Fondness is all set for its second issue. Alas, I seem to have plundered most of our digital beetle collection for previous postings, leaving little new to add. But, when the facts are inconvenient, it is time to turn to theory, and the theory of the Home Bug Garden (HBG) is that I can create an oasis of biological diversity in urban Edmonton. As a test of how well I have succeeded to date, lets compare the HBG diversity to – well, the Moose Pasture. This seems appropriate since the Moose Pasture is our theoretical escape in the country, a quarter section of bush land near Elk Island National Park where we take our bugpersons’ holidays, putter around appreciating the biological diversity of central Alberta, and daydream that some day we will do more than putter. Sometimes we can even put a name on a beetle, like this wasp-mimicking long-horned beetle Clytus ruricola (Olivier) that probably uses some of our aspen or birch logs as a larva (thanks to Eric Eaton and Kenn Kaufman in the Kaufman Field Guide for the information that they breed in decaying deciduous trees).
You may recall from the When Alien meets Alien: De gustibus ... posting, the HBG claimed 339 species of animals identified from its environs including 28 beetles. Not bad for a quarter acre urban lot, but not really a strong showing for the beetles. I am happy to say this total has risen in the last month to 362 species of animals – but, alas, the beetles have failed to budge. In fact, almost all the increase has been due to moths, thanks to Feralia – the annual celebration of Lepidoptera identification, music, and the usual shenanigans hosted by John Acorn in February. In comparison, our Moose Pasture ‘boasts’ 492 identified animal species including – what, only 31 beetle species! Well, our Inordinate Fondness obviously needs some work and we don’t have a beetle equivalent to Feralia. But, we do have a beetle carnival to appeal to and perhaps its readers can shed some light on a few Moose Pasture mystery beetles.
Strickland Entomological Museum says “Dicerca tenebrosa is easily confused with other Dicerca species” (e.g. Dicerca crassicollis LeConte (Kirby)) and that one character for this species is “a short second segment on the antennae”. Characters like this always make me ask - How short and in comparison to what? Since both of the bupers above bore in conifers, I wonder if we aren’t on the wrong track? The Moose Pasture is full of aspen but has only a handful of spruce (I think most burned up in the early 1900s when the last large fire swept through the Beaver Hills Region), so I wonder if this may not be the Bronze Aspen Borer Dicerca callosa Casey? In case this flat headed borer is too easy, here is a mystery weevil that has no guess at all.
We would be especially pleased with an id on the weevil, but we know there are lots of them and they tend to look alike. So, how about a few of the more colourful Chrysomelidae. Below are a few guesses and one we just don’t know.
Carrying on with the colourful – a few gay beetles on a gray winter day – here’s one Scarabaeidae we think we know and one we don’t.
Well, the sun seems to be trying to peep through the clouds, the temperature is above zero, and if I don’t get outside, then I won’t have any chance to see my first Mourning Cloak, Ring-billed Gull, or other hopeful sign of Spring. One thing that I have noticed in pouring over our Moose Pasture insects is that from the few we have identified, there isn’t much overlap with the Home Bug Garden fauna, and the two sites are a mere 53 km (33 miles) apart. I think this has implications for what I am trying to achieve, but that is something I will need to think about. In the meantime, it seems most appropriate to end, not with a beetle, but with an eponymous Moose Pasture beastie. When the thaw does come, there will be lots of reminders of this animal dotting the landscape - and ones that some scarabs will no doubt find attractive.