Tomorrow I head back north, and I may be leaving the pinelands for a while. It’s been a terrific summer.
I’ve spent the last month or so filming frantically and not producing much, so this fall I will be continuing to post on this blog more than ever. I’m excited to take a breather from gathering footage, so I can review what I have, do some serious research, and start writing more. But for now, it’s time to say goodbye and go for a nice long drive.
A clerid attacks and subdues a Southern Pine Beetle. Zoomed-in screenshot.
It’s just as Boving and Champlain described (see the meet the beetles post below). Again (I like this quote):
“The Clerid remains motionless until a wandering Scolytoid or some other insect approaches close enough. Then running with a rapidity that resembles a leap, it seizes the prey. Grasping it with the front and middle pair of legs and holding on to the bark by the hind pair, sometimes balanced by the tip of the abdomen against the bark, it proceeds to feed. With its strong jaws it breaks the chitin or separates the segments and feeds upon the soft tissue and viscera within.”
I hoped to take a beetle gallery timelapse yesterday morning, but the beetles were being very uncooperative, so I left my camera pointed at this caterpillar (a lepidoptera larvae that we think may be a flannel moth – Megalopyge crispata). Here’s a short video of it cruising around and eating:
Here is a short timelapse (900x speed) of a Southern Pine Beetle chewing through some phloem and eventually burrowing into it and towards the outer bark.
This is actually not quite what I was hoping for. The idea was to put a beetle onto a piece of bark squeezed between two pieces of plexiglass (“phloem sandwich” – apparently a well established technique) and wait for the beetle to burrow through the bark to the phloem and make a gallery there for us to observe. Unfortunately, my phloem sandwich skills are currently poor, so this beetle found a way to get around my bark to the phloem. Fortunately, though, then it started chewing a bit and burrowing into the phloem so I could get a little bit of observational footage of the burrowing. Hopefully next time I can get the phloem sandwich set up well so we can see some more realistic gallery burrowing.
Today was the first time in a while I spent a whole day at a beetle spot filming. I had fun, went a little crazy, and got some decent shots of the whole cast. Here are a few moments from the day:
Temnochila virescens on the prowl. Freeze frame.
Thanasimus dubius courting? I don’t think they’re quite mating. Freeze frame.
Dendroctonus frontalis ready to fly. Freeze frame.
Homo sapiens in desperate need of a shower. Time-delayed photo.
Yesterday we were in the field emptying beetle traps when we saw a cool funnel web leading into the ground. We played around a bit and got the spider to come out and grab a cricket. Here’s the very short edit of that moment:
I think it’s a wolf spider / funnel-web spider, but I don’t really know to much about spiders, so take that with a grain of salt.
THE BARKBEETLE DESTROYER
In the red corner…
In an effort to continue the theme of the last “Meet the beetles,” let’s journey back in time once more, to 1899, when Dr. A. D. Hopkins wrote a short account describing the “barkbeetle destroyer.” He wrote that these “clerids” lay their eggs at the entrances to beetle galleries, and how these eggs hatch to form “minute-active worms” (larvae) that explore the galleries beneath the bark, feasting upon bark beetle eggs and larvae. There they eat until they are fully-grown, at which point they carve out a chamber for pupation in the outer bark. All stages spend the winter beneath the bark, and in the spring the adults emerge, following their prey to pine trees nearby, where they sit beneath flakes of outer bark, “awaiting an opportunity to pounce on any barkbeetle that comes near.”
Read more about how a clerid finds and attacks its prey…