Upland Pine, Blackwater River State Forest. Photo by Gary Knight

Friday, February 12, 2016

Butterfly Conservation in North America

Dukes' Skipper                                                                                                                                                            Photo by Dean Jue

A recent book, Butterfly Conservation in North America: Efforts to help save our charismatic microfauna, edited by Dr. Jaret Daniels of the University of Florida, is unique in its geographic and species focus-- butterfly conservation in North America-- and  emphasis on efforts to protect all North American butterfly species rather than just a few bellwether species such as the monarch.  A recent review in the Journal of Insect Conservation states that the new book delivers practical advice on butterfly conservation while being informative and free of jargon.  One of its nine chapters highlights FNAI’s recent development of a rare butterfly database.  Written by Dean Jue, staff scientist with FNAI and the Florida Resources and Environmental Analysis Center (FREAC), the chapter includes a detailed discussion of the challenges and problems encountered in developing such a database and possible ways to resolve those issues.
Dean Jue and citizen scientists surveying for rare butterflies at Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.  Photo by Sally Jue 

In the mid-2000s, FNAI took action to expand its rare species database to include more comprehensive data on invertebrates, and hired a full-time invertebrate biologist to help accomplish this goal.  In addition, Dean Jue obtained six years of state wildlife grant (SWG) funding from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to survey Florida conservation lands specifically for rare butterflies.   With volunteer time providing the required SWG match, FNAI staff developed a state-wide, coordinated survey methodology utilizing citizen scientists to accomplish this task.  Over one hundred citizen scientists participated in this project.  As a result of their efforts, the number of FNAI database records for rare Florida butterflies increased from fewer than two dozen in 2006 to more than 400 records in 2015.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Young's Deepdigger Scarab Beetle

© DT Almquist 2016

This is Young's Deepdigger Scarab Beetle (Peltotrupes youngi), which is mostly active from November to April, and we are highlighting this species because it is very active now and because we have recently received distributional information about it. It only lives in a very small area in Florida in and near Ocala National Forest primarily in open, well-managed, scrub habitat. 

© Machele White 2016

The related Florida Deepdigger Scarab Beetle (Peltotrupes profundus), above, is known from surrounding areas in xeric (very dry) habitat in the northern Florida peninsula. 

Image courtesy of Henry Howden and the Scarabs newsletter

The above image is of Henry Howden, who was the world expert on the family of Earth-boring Scarabs, standing  in a hole that he dug to excavate a Deepdigger Scarab's burrow to learn more about its biology. These beetles dig burrows about 6 feet deep, and sometimes down to 10 feet, which is pretty impressive since it’s only about ¾ of an inch long! It provisions its burrow, where is lays its eggs, with pine needles, pine cones, and leaves.  Adult diet is unknown, but they have been recorded under a nibbled-on mushroom, under horse dung, captured in pitfall traps baited with dung, and will gobble down moistened dry cat food in captivity.

© DT Almquist 2016

Fresh burrow mounds of Deepdigger Scarabs have a "chunky" texture to them because the beetle loosens sand at the bottom and then pushes it all the way up the burrow and out the entrance.  

© DT Almquist 2016

Although they have somewhat impressive mandibles ("jaws"), I have never had a Deepdigger Scarab try to bite me and I think that this one just posed nicely for me because it wants me to put it back down so that it can get some more food.  

Many thanks to Paul Moler for sending me these interesting and beautiful beetles so that I could get pictures of them and write about them.

© DT Almquist 2016                                                                                The End