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Doyle's Delight Expedition 2007

Expedition to the Belize's Highest Point - Insects excluding Lepidoptera

Peter W. Kovarik, PhD

Peter Kovarik        

Preliminary Report on Insects Collected at Doyle’s Delight in 2007 excluding Lepidoptera

Introduction

In 1995 I was invited by John Shuey of The Nature Conservancy to participate in a focused ecological study at Rio Bravo Conservation Area. The goal was to test the efficacy of butterflies and certain beetles for the purpose of rapid assessment. At the time, neither John nor I had anticipated that this initial study would turn into a full-fledged countrywide survey of butterflies and histerid beetles, but that is exactly what has happened. For the past twelve years, we have methodically worked our way- mainly southward- sampling many relatively undisturbed areas along the way. In 2006, on what was to be our final trip to Belize, we hiked from the Village of San Jose in the Toledo District to Edwards Central and Union Camp. The trip had been a wonderful success and would have been a positive note on which to end our field studies. However, we were acutely aware of one undisturbed area we had yet to sample. It was a remote cloud forest called Doyle’s Delight that years earlier Jan Meerman had visited and took photographs of some bizarre butterflies. We were aware that there were no trails to this high spot in Belize, and that it took about five days to hike there. Even though we were tempted to travel to this site, getting there seemed too difficult. Then in February, I got a phone call from John, asking me if I would be interested in participating in a scientific expedition to Doyle’s Delight that was being planned by Sharon Matola of the Belize Zoo. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, that remote cloud forest had become accessible.

Insect Sampling

Insect sampling in and around Doyle’s Delight went remarkably well. It was my intent to collect bulk samples of insects using passive traps and to actively search for insects that could be relatively easily identified. I had been partnered with Celso Cawich, a Belizean undergraduate student interested in passalid beetles. Early in the expedition, I showed Celso methods for finding and collecting passalid beetles. I also assisted John Shuey in capturing butterflies, and he and others in our group collected a variety of insects for me. A total of four arrays of passive traps were established. Each array consisted of a flight intercept trap and three baited pitfall traps. Flight intercept traps are composed of a taut mosquito netting barrier, a rain roof, and collecting pans. They tend to selectively collect active insects that use forest trails and riparian corridors as flyways. The three pitfall traps were baited with dung, carrion, and rotting mushrooms. The baits were chosen specifically to attract scarab and hister beetles. Ethylene glycol was used as a preservative in all of the pitfall traps and the pans of the single flight intercept trap that was established away from our camp near the “Dry Creek” area. Soapy water was substituted for the glycol in the three flight intercept traps pans established near the campground. This required that the traps be emptied every other day in order to ensure that the insects captured in the pans did not rot. Remarkably, none of the pitfall traps were disturbed by mammals. Another passive trapping method used involved yellow pans. The color yellow has been shown to attract a variety of insects. Plastic yellow bowls filled with soapy water were placed at varying intervals along several of the trails and riparian areas. Fortunately, the light collecting apparatus brought by Jan Meerman for attracting moths also attracted other insects. This apparatus included both a black-light and a mercury vapor light. A fair number of mainly beetles and true bugs were collected at the light. Active collecting included sifting leaf litter, searching for insects at night with a headlamp, netting aquatic insects, and searching for insects in rotting logs and under loose bark.

Inca clathrata sommersi
Chrysina purulhensis
Dineutus truncatus
Oxelytrum discicolle

Preliminary results

Some of the insects collected at Doyle’s Delight were expected to be there. One of these was Chrysina purulhensis (Monzon & Warner). Bill Warner, one of the authors of this species predicted that if we were ever able to visit Doyle’s Delight w e would probably find this species. A single specimen of this species was taken at night at the light sheet set up by Jan early in the trip. This showy ruteline scarab is known to inhabit the Mountain Pine ridge in Cayo District as well as Guatemala. A green variant of this species is known from Mountain Pine Ridge. While not restricted to cloud forest habitats, members of the genus Chrysina tend to favor these situations in Mexico and Central America.

Another anticipated find was the carrion beetle Oxelytrum discicolle (Brulle). A single specimen of this species was taken at Jan’s light sheet and I noticed several more when I emptied the carrion baited pitfall traps. The species was fairly recently reported from the vicinity of Belmopan, Belize and it’s occurrence in the county appears to be rather localized. I had been sampling with carrion virtually country-wide, and the only other place that I have collected this species was Las Cuevas in the Cayo District. Recent studies suggest the species is temperature sensitive, and it is reported to occur in Nicaragua at elevations between 900 and 1200 meters.

A single specimen of Inca clathrata sommersi Westwood, missing its abdomen but still alive, was collected by John Shuey. This large trichiine scarab is reported from Beilze but it is not very common. The only other specimen we have collected was taken in the Stann Creek District at Coxcomb Basin.

One interesting find that was not anticipated was a species of whirligig beetle, Dineutus truncatus Sharp. Several specimens of this rather large surface inhabiting water beetle were netted at the Waterfall Area. This is the first country record for this species. In Costa Rica, this species occurs in still and running water at elevations from 600 to 1700 meters.

Many other insects were actively gathered by myself and others and temporarily stored in alcohol or Tupperware containers have been mounted, labeled and have been or are being sent to various experts for identification. Celso, working largely on his own, managed to collect over a 100 passalid beetles representing at least five species. These will be sent out for identification as well. With regard to the bulk samples from the passive traps, I have sorted through the flight intercept trap sample from the Dry Creek Area only and have identified most of the histerid beetles from that sample. Most were an undescribed species of Phelister that I had picked up in large numbers at Rio Bravo. In addition there were two specimens of an Operclipygus only known thus far from Edwards Central. Also in the trap was the second specimen known of a minute and undescribed species of Idolia. The other specimen was collected in a flight intercept trap at Las Cuevas. Also represented were three specimens of a fairly rare species of Hister, H. montivagus Lewis that was described from Guatemala and a single specimen of Hister sallei Marseul which I have taken in undisturbed forest situations in many places in Belize. Five specimens of a distinctive new species of Acritus were also trapped. I have taken this species at Edwards Central and Rio Bravo. Another histered that both Celso and I collected beneath oak bark was Plagiogramma frontale (Kirsch). This species is partial to higher elevations as the only other places I have found it are Edwards Central and Las Cuevas.

Large numbers of scarabs and a fair number of histerids as well as rove beetles (Staphylinidae) and carrion beetles (Silphidae) were collected in the pitfall traps, but I have yet to sort through any of these samples. I have not yet touched the yellow pan trap samples, and I left the sifted leaf litter with Celso to process with a Berlese funnel. Much work remains to be done but I expect that among the insects that have been gathered there will be many more new country records and probably some new species as well.


Refereces

Ferreira, P. S. F., Pires, E. M., Guides, R. N. C., Mendes, M. and Coelho, L. A. (2006) Seasonal abundance and sexual variation in morphometric traits of Oxelytrum discicolle (Brulle, 1840) (Coleoptera: Silphidae) in a Brazilian Atlantic Forest Biota Neotropica 6:1-7.

Lewis, G. (1888): Histeridae. Pp.182-244 in Biologia Centrali-Americana. Volume II part 1. Francis and Taylor, London.

Maes, J-M. and Navarrete-Heredia, J. L. (2002) Silphidae (Coleoptera) de Nicaragua Dugesiana 9:1-4.

Ochs, G. (1949): A revision of the Gyrinoidea of Central America. (Col.). Revue de Entomologia 20:253-300.

Peck, S. B. and Anderson, R. S. (1985): Taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography of the carrion beetles of Latin America (Coleoptera: Silphidae) Quaestiones Entomologicae 21:247-317.

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