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I Get Bugged Easily...

Sunday, November 15, 2009 9:26 AM | Anonymous
DSC08864_sm.jpg     Regardless of the outdoor task at hand or the purported focus of a given field trip, any jazzy insect will quickly catch my eye.  Near the end of a long hike up Post Oak Creek in the backcountry of the Refuge on Friday afternoon (Nov. 13), I was bedazzled by a couple of very large longhorn beetles which were hanging out on the flowers of shrubby boneset.  I had stopped to admire the numerous butterflies on the flowers when this jeweled critter caught my attention.  It was new to me.

     This turns out to be the "Texas Stenaspis" or, as Mike Quinn terms it, the "Red-headed Beauty", an apt common name.  Mike's webpage for this species indicates that Travis County is at the northern limit of the known range of this species of south Texas and Mexico.  The scientific name is Stenaspis verticalis ssp. insignis.  It is a member of the longhorn beetle family, known as the Cerambycidae, which includes some of the larger beetles of North America.  This Red-headed Beauty is about 1.5" long with antennae that are even longer than the body.  I plucked one of the critters off the flowers--more on that later--and transported it to the office to take better pictures and get a solid identification.  (I released it on some of the shrubby boneset flowers at the office; the beetle was happily feeding a few minutes later.)

     If you are having some trouble identifying an insect, the BugGuide Bugguide logo.gifwebsite has become a major online resource.  This is at the top of everyone's list for useful insect identification sites.  It was created in 2003 by Troy Bartlett and is presently hosted by Iowa State University's Department of Entomology.  Innumerable professional entomologists (bug people*) and insect enthusiasts have posted thousands of useful photos and are there to offer ID help.  You have to register and sign-in to post images but you don't get bombarded by pop-ups or solicitations on this site.  As an example, here is a link to BugGuide's page on the Texas Stenaspis.

Further Information
     The proliferation of information on the Internet puts any compilation of insect links beyond the scope of what I might offer here.  A Google search for "insect identification websites" yielded 112,000 hits.  Below are some links to a few useful insect identification resources on the internet.  In future blogs, I'll include my favorite sites to specific groups such as butterflies, moths, etc.

Texas Entomology:
     An absolute "must" for anyone searching for information on Texas "bugs".  Mike's web pages are well researched, well organized, and very informative.  He has links to many other useful sites related to Texas invertebrates.  Mike has roots in the Lower Rio Grande Valley but is presently based out of the Austin area.  He did his graduate research on the invertebrate foods available to the Golden-cheeked Warbler.  He is co-owner of the TX-Butterfly and TX-Ento discussion lists.  Mike is also a premier insect photographer, as you'll see when you visit his pages.

Texas A&M University's portal to Insect Identification Methods:
Insect Identification on Backyard Nature:
     This site has a good list of further links at the bottom of the page.

     A lot of good basic info and quite a few pics, but I found their "Bug Finder" identification section to be of very little help.

What's That Bug?
     A collection of blogs and user-submitted ID requests with responses and comments; world-wide in scope.

* * * * *
"Below The Line"

  * I realize that the ambiguity of the phrase "bug people" might...well, bug some people.  I meant it as an adjective-noun phrase, not as a verb-object....although professional entomologists may be annoying to some of us at times.  And by "insect enthusiasts", I don't mean to imply that insects have hobbies...well, maybe they do, I don't know.

     English has become my second language.  I have no first.


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