Monday, February 6, 2012

Ellychnia megista

There is a subdued grandeur in a redwood forest. Animal sounds are often muffled and seemingly distant. The forest floor is covered with deep green ferns and other shade-loving plants. One doesn’t expect to see large numbers of insects, especially in the winter months. Of course, the California coast is not completely dormant this time of year and a patient observer will still discover a few creatures finding their way around. So it was that we came across this attractive firefly in the Forest of Nicene Marks State Park (in Santa Cruz County) a couple of weeks ago.

The Forest of Nicene Marks State Park is primarily a second-growth redwood forest. It was logged extensively last century but the owners decided to protect the area in subsequent years and gave the park to the State of California. It is a fairly large area (as state parks go) and there are a number of nice trails. During our visit, we discovered a side trail with few hikers along Aptos Creek where there were remains of old growth redwoods. It was cool but not cold and a few stoneflies could be seen flying above the water as they moved into illuminating pockets of sunbeams. I took a short detour to an area of old redwood stumps and was trying to get my mind around the age of the erstwhile giants, when this firelfly landed on one of the dead logs.

It is a species of Ellychnia (E. megista to be precise) that does not have lumenescent organs – a light-less firefly if you will. There are several species in the the US. The more commonly seen E. californica occurs throughout California. It has been known for over a hundred years. On the other hand, E. megista is restricted to the coastal area and was described fairly recently (in 1970) by Ken Fender. The Type locality is Santa Cruz County. Who knows, it may have lived in the same forest. It is most easily recognized by the parallel-sided black band running down the center of the pronotum.


Jonathan said...

Looks like a good time!! Miss you guys. p.s. over the last several months I've tried to post comments but haven't been able to for some reason... anyway, hope to see you soon!

Sam Wells said...

Hi Jon. Glad to hear. California is waking up.