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Beetle blog

December 2011
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Merry Christmas Beetlers and buggers!

 

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It comes as an obvious choice for a Christmas blog to write about Mistletoe (Viscum album L.)!
Christmas – that wonderful time of year where we are fortunate to have the opportunity to gather with our loved ones, cook the goose and burn the plum pudding, have a fight with our loved ones, and then leave! However, what of those all alone? Surely a sprig of Mistletoe engenders a ray of hope for a chaste kiss over Christmas? Or, for those already attached… a ‘kiss me slow’?

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Mistletoe infested tree            This year's Coleoptera Christmas party; about to get busy under the mistletoe...

Cambridgeshire

Image courtesy of Orangedog 2009

 

Ixapion variegatum lives on Mistletoe and is affectionately called the ’kiss me slow’ weevil. This (currently) rare little beetle was first discovered in Herefordshire in 2001, ref: Foster, A.P., Morris, M.G., & Whitehead, P.F., (2001). Ixapion variegatum (Wencker, 1864) (Col. Apionidae) new to the British Isles with observations on its European and conservation status. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 137: 95 – 105.  Though it appears as a recent discovery, with no previous British records, Foster et al suggest that it is probably long - established, just simply overlooked by collecting efforts.

 

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Ixapion variegatum collected by Mike Morris from Herefordshire in 2000

Image courtesy of Tristan Bantock 2011

 

Mistletoe is generally found in old orchards, themselves a rare and threatened habitat and this magnificently historic and parasitic plant supports a range of other insects in addition to I. variegatum. These include several true bugs (Hemiptera) of which the striking green and red Pinalitus viscicola is usually the commonest.  Since all these species are entirely dependent on mistletoe, it is therefore essential that this plant be conserved, along with the habitats that support it.

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A festive red and green Pinalitus viscicola

Image courtesy of Tristan Bantock 2011

 

I. variegatum has since been found in many other localities such as Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, and isn’t too hard to identify once you know what you are looking for!
It has a Western European range and is constantly found in very low population densities. It appears to thrive on mistletoe that is under stress on old trees reaching the end of their life. The adults are usually to be found in summer through to autumn, and possibly they can overwinter as adults (it would be a shame to miss out on all that kissing!).
The eggs hatch in April and the larvae can be found in the stems of the mistletoe until they mature in the summer, when the adults mate.

 


A note on Mistletoe
Most of the mistletoe harvested for the Christmas season comes from the orchards of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Somerset and Herefordshire, in effect Cider country! However these orchards, especially ancient orchards which support a diverse and fragile fauna are seriously under threat. The National Trust has an ongoing campaign to conserve our mistletoe and encourage people to buy sustainable sourced mistletoe for that special ‘kiss me slow’! So this year, if you are hoping for a Christmas kiss, make sure it’s a sustainable one!
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-global/w-news/w-latest_news/w-news-campaign-launched-to-give-mistletoe-the-kiss-of-life.htm

Thanks to Tristan Bantock for images and info on the bugs; and to Lucia for the hat!

3

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright...

Posted by Blaps Dec 2, 2011

When I think of Tiger beetles, (subfamily Cicindelinae) I think of William Blake’s most wondrous poem The Tyger (as was spelled by him in 1794). He was writing of that famous mammalian predator the tiger (Panthera tigris). Here is the first stanza:

 

Tiger Tiger burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

 

Could he have been writing also of those most accomplished and fearful predators the tiger beetles? I bet Blake scholars have never thought of that!
When viewed close up, their mandibles (jaws) are truly fearsome! These beetles are as close to perfect symmetry as any other creature found in nature.

This species of Pseudoxycheila lateguttata Chaudoir ssp. peruviana Cassola, 1997
(new to the Museum’s collection and found on a collecting trip to Peru in 1984 by Martin Cooper) is a prime example of the tiger beetles’ ability to devour its prey – just look at those mandibles!

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Image courtesy of Tristan Bantock 2011

 

Tiger beetles run very fast (approx 5 mph!) and select a varied invertebrate prey. Most species are found during the day and are prevalent in hot dry countries such as South Africa. They are heliophilic which means they love the sun – being cold blooded creatures; it gives them the required velocity to out-run their prey, or indeed their predators. Their enlarged compound eyes are extremely powerful – if you have ever encountered one, you will know that they move very quickly at the slightest detection of movement! Their exceptionally long legs not only aid speed but also help to keep them cool as they are elevated from the heat of the earth. They are found in dry sandy habitats, usually in the vicinity of water and are generally cosmopolitan. In Britain there are just five species.

 

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Some Megacephala from Tanzania (nocturnal predators)

 

 

I have been working on some collection expansion (we have a few new species to the collection) which could not be possible without the identification skills of the world’s expert in the Cicindelinae, Fabio Cassola from Italy. For more on Fabio and the cicindelinae in general follow this link:

http://www.cicindelaonline.com/FabioCassola.htm

Each year on our sojourns to Prague Insect Fair we meet up with Fabio and give him a few hundred specimens from all over the world to identify! This March we went out to Prague with 327 unidentified specimens from various collections that have either been donated to the Museum or result from the Museum’s own collecting trips. By the time we return to Prague in October, Fabio will have identified the lot!

 

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Neocollyris apteroides from NE India (Assam) approx 25mm length (new to the Museum's collection)

Image courtesty of Tristan Bantock 2011

 

 

In March 2010 we sent to Fabio Cassola 327 specimens of 71 taxa– as a result the following are new to the Museum’s collection:

 

Neocollyris (Pachycollyris) apteroides (W. Horn, 1901) (7) 
NE INDIA, Assam: Bhalukpong, 27°02N-92°35E, 150 m, 28.V-3.VI.2006, P. Pacholá tko; L. Dembicky & P. Pacholátko, BMNH(E) 2006-48, 4m 3f (=male / female)

 

Pseudoxycheila lateguttata Chaudoir ssp. peruviana Cassola, 1997 (1)
PERU, Amazonas: Rodriguez de Mendoza, 1400 m, 29.XI.1984, M. Cooper,
1m

Ronhuberia fernandezi (Cassola, 2000) (2)
COLOMBIA, Nariño: Barbacoas, 1000 m, 23.III.1974, M.C. Cooper, 2m

 

Elliptica kolbeana (W. Horn, 1915) (2)
TANZANIA: Tulawaka, Biharamula, 1250 m, XI.2002, Bucket pitfall, riverine forest, University of DSM; BMNH (E) 2010-91,1m
TANZANIA: Tulawaka, XI.2002, Bucket pitfall, riverine forest, University of DSM; BMNH (E) 2010-91,1m

 

Cylindera (Ifasina) discreta (Schaum) ssp. subfasciata (W. Horn, 1892) (10) 
INDONESIA, Borneo, Kalimantan Tengah: Busang/Rekut confl.,0°03S-113°59E; August 2001, MV light, Brendell/Mendel; Baritu Ulu 2001, BMNH(E) 2001-191, 4m 6f

 

Brasiella (Gaymara) balzani (W. Horn, 1899) (5)
ECUADOR, Morona-Santiago:  Macas (Rio Upano), 1000 m, 7.V.1981, M.C. Cooper, 3f
BOLIVIA, Cochabamba:  Villa Tunari, 800 m, 14.X.1981, M.C. Cooper, 2f


And this is just one story. We have a long history of this type of partnership with experts in many Coleoptera groups from all over Europe and indeed the world who work tirelessly and devotedly (some might say obsessionally (I know that’s not a word okay!) to contribute to the world’s knowledge of its amazing diversity.
Here is me, working tirelessly and devotedly (and always with a smile?!) on this beautiful group of beetles.

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Post Script from Max Barclay from 2009/10:


We have just received a list of tiger beetles returned from identification by the world expert Fabio Cassola, including many species that we had no recent material of, and an amazing 10 species new to the collection (not bad for a well known and well collected group!); almost all of these were relatively recently acquired from field work expeditions (the details of which can be read from the list of species new to the collection below) or recovered from old unprocessed material in the last few years; some dating back to 1974!
I would like to thank all of you who have contributed to this great piece of collections development, and particular congratulations to those people who scored a 'new to NHM' species, Martin Brendell, Richard Smith, Hitoshi Takano, Donald Quicke, Jon Martin, Daegan Inward, Colin Vardy and P Hanson.
(Max Barclay, Collections Manager).

 

Of the 271 specimens sent out on this loan in 2009/10, 10 were new to the Museum’s collection:

 

Neocollyris (Brachycollyris) purpureomaculata (W. Horn, 1922) (1)
W. MALAYSIA, Cameron Highlands: Tanarata, 8-26.IV.2002, Malaise trap, 10°55N-83°30E, BMNH (E) 2005-151, D L JQuicke, 1m  

Collyris robusta Dohrn, 1891 (1)
BRUNEI: Bandar Seri Begam, mangrove/forest interface, 20.VI.1983, P.J. De Vries,1m

 

Tetracha (Tetracha) s. spixii (Brullé, 1837) (1)
PERU, Amazon: Iquitos, Rio Napo-Rio Sucusari, 3°96'46S-73°15'49W, XII.1997, lowland forest,M.V.L.Barclay, BMNH(E) 2003-49, 1f

 

Odontocheila cinctula (Bates, 1881) (8)
COSTARICA: Guanacaste: Golfo Dulce, 10 km N Piedrasblancas, II-III.1989, P. Hanson; BMNH (E) 1997-188, P. Hanson, 1m 1f
COSTARICA: Puntar.: Golfo Dulce, 24 km W Piedrasblancas, 200m, III-V.1989, P. Hanson; BMNH (E) 1997-188, P. Hanson, 1m
COSTARICA: Guanacaste: Estac. Pitilla, 9 km S Santa Cecilia, 700m, VI.1989, I. Gauld; BMNH (E) 1997-188, P. Hanson, 5m [2 ]

 

Therates apiceflavus Sawada & Wiesner, 1999 (2)
W. THAILAND: Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, 15°26 (an 28) N-98°48E, 300m; Tak Province, Umphang District, Song Bae Stream, 18-27.IV.1988; evergreen rain forest, M.J.D. Brendell, B.M. 1988-183, 1m 1f [1 ] 

 

Hipparidium pseudosoa (W. Horn, 1900) (3)
TANZANIA, Nija Panda, Mwanihana, Udzungwa Mountains NP, 07°47’27.7S-36°49’11.7E, 27-30.XI.2010, Smith R. & Takano H., general collection; BMNH (E), 2010-91, 1m 2f [1 ]

 

Cylindera (Plectographa) ritsemae (W. Horn, 1895) (1)
ARGENTINA, S. del Estero:  Thermes de Rio Hondo, 27-28.XI.1979, C. & M. Vardy, B.M. 1980-67, 1f 

 

Naviauxella davisoni (Gestro, 1889) (1)
W. THAILAND: Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, 15°25N-98°48E, 300m; Kanchanaburi Province, Sangkhla Buri District, Mae Kasa Stream, IV-V.1988; decidous dipterocarp forest, M.J.D. Brendell, B.M. 1988-183, 1f  

 

Naviauxella ramai Naviaux, 1991 (1)
W. THAILAND: Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, 15°25N-98°48E, 300m; Kanchanaburi Province, Sangkhla Buri District, Mae Kasa Stream, IV-V.1988; decidous dipterocarp forest, M.J.D. Brendell, B.M. 1988-183, 1m  

 

Brasiella (Brasiella) mendicula Rivalier, 1955 (3)
BELIZE: Chiquibul Forest Res., Las Cuevas Field Station, 16°44N-88°99W, 300-700m, 1.VII.1997, D. Inward, BMNH (E) 2005-78, 1m 1f [1 ]
BELIZE, Cayo, Chiquibul FR, my light sheet; Las Cuevas Research Stn., clearing, VI.2002, J.H. Martin coll.; BMNH (E) 2005-43 J.H.Martin, 1f


Tiger Tiger burning bright…

 

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Blaps

Blaps

Member since: Sep 15, 2009

I'm Beulah Garner, one of the curators of Coleoptera in the Entomology department. The Museum's collection of beetles is housed in 22,000 drawers, holding approximately 9,000,000 specimens. This little collection keeps us quite busy!

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