Saturday, June 27, 2009

Golofa pizarro

On the same trip that we found the Megasoma (q.v.) we decided to check out Cusuco National Park (Parque Nacional Cusuco). It is just west of San Pedro Sula on the north coast of Honduras near the Guatemala border. The road to the park goes north from the town of Cofradia. National Parks in Honduras are not always well marked and the road through Cofradia is often rutted and not always intuitive. Once you get through town, you will gain elevation and eventually make it into pine forest. The occasional clearings reveal an extensive montane forest - often shrouded in mist.

We eventually came to the town of Buenos Aires (which doesn't show up on the map) and drove right through it - missing the road to the park. After backtracking, we asked for directions and were directed to an inconspicuous dirt side road that wound through a few rural houses and wound up again to the forest. It was getting dark by this time so we pulled off to the side of the road and set up our light. Since there were only a few things flying at the time, we pitched our tents and went to bed.

A couple of hours later, I stumbled out of the tent to check the light and was startled by the low buzzing sound of insects flying over the light and around the overhanging pine boughs. Then a large beetle hit my head and I instinctively reached out to grab it. It turned out to be one of the remarkable scarabs of Middle America Golofa pizarro. There were several at the light and around the car - among other things. I took this picture of a giant silkmoth (genus Rothschildia) that was resting on the forest floor near the light. You can get an idea of the size by the pine needles it is resting on. They are over six inches long.

The next day we made it to the park and found several students, including a visiting scientist from Great Britain, working on faunal studies. There is a lot of interest in birds, mammals and other vertebrates there and an increasing interest in insects. One student was looking at dung beetles. The director of the park took us to a forested area where they had seen a quetzal the day before. We weren't so lucky. Cusuco is certainly one of the gems of Honduras.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Megasoma elaphas

Here's a picture of a large male elephant beetle, Megasoma elaphas, that I collected a couple of years ago in Honduras. It was quite the memorable experience. We were below Pico Bonito just a few miles north of La Ceiba (in August) collecting at night with a small blacklight hooked up to our rental car. We had parked in an area where the forest comes up to the road and had been seeing a few scarabs and moths attracted to the light. Maybe an hour after it was dark, we heard a droning buzz not far away and made a few light remarks about how we wished it might be Megasoma. Then the sound went away and a giant tropical cockroach (Blaberus giganteus) flew onto the sheet. We were impressed by the size of the creature and attempted several times to throw it back ino the forest. Each time we did, it just flew back to the light. The picture is of the impressive roach on our rental vehicle's tire.

Then some minutes later my friend happened to shine his flashlight on the ground between the feet of my son. Amid his excitement he managed to persuade us not to move an inch. There in the dirt was a magnificant male elephant beetle. The picture is of the beetle in my friends hand minutes later. One doesn't always get so lucky. It's a thrill when it happens. It is one magnificant creature.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mealy Plum Aphid

The mealy plum aphid (Hyalopterus pruni) is out in numbers in Central Valley right now. I don't mean that it is necessarily a problem all across the valley, but where it tends to hang out, it's that time of the year when it is covering various trees of the genus Prunus (such as apricots, plums, etc.) by the tens of thousands - and that is just for a single (albeit heavily infested) tree. We can thank Europe for the insect.
The picture on the right is a cluster of the aphids on French prunes. The picture below is of the whitened leaf margins that are the diagnostic sign of the pests. The aphids tend to hang out on the bottom side of leaves and are less visible. The whitened leaves and the vast amounts of honeydew on the bottom leaves are easier to see.
If you have a problem with these aphids you shouldn't panic. They're pretty easy to kill with any aphicide that's labelled for fruit trees. Or you can just let them alone for a bit (they hardly ever carry diseases) and let their natural enemies clean them up.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Blue Dasher

Last Saturday I was lucky to get this picture of a blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) feeding on a planthopper. We had a couple of thunderstorms during the previous week - which is quite unusual in the Central Valley this late in the year. The dragonflies, however (along with the rest of us) were quite happy for the rain.

I had been beating a few willows in a backwater area near Lost Lake (just below Millerton Reservoir in Fresno County) looking for beetles and had scared up several planthoppers from their resting place (you can see one of them in the second picture). They're apparently quite tasty to the blue dashers, which are known to feed on small insects. You can see a few uneaten parts of one in the mouth of the pictured dasher. It was so intent on finishing its meal that it let me get close enough for the candid shot.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A New Blog About Bugs

Welcome to The Sam Wells Entomology Page. This picture is of me collecting insects just below Long's Peak in the Colorado Rockies. In the posts to come I hope to provide useful, perhaps entertaining, and, if possible, meaningful posts about insects. I am not a professional photographer or essayist but hopefully some of the insects you'll see and learn about here will be worth your visit. I also hope that they'll motivate you to get out and discover them for yourself. I have been enjoying these small creatures all of my life. They have taken me to many places around the world. They have a remarkable ability to enrich any life that takes the time to look at them in any detail. Enjoy.