Thursday, July 8, 2010

Clean Up Crew

There are some times when I like exploring by myself. Mainly, because I will stop and look at things that might bore or gross out most people. Saturday, after the butterfly count, I decided to venture out after a Climbing Fern, Lygodium palmatum . I did not find the plant, but I did get some other, what I thought were, pretty cool beetles and a Canada Lily as a consolation prize.

The Canada Lily, Lilium canadense, blossom dangles from its stem.

A tilt of the blossom reveals the truly gorgeous pattern hidden below.

At another stop, I had hopped out of the car because I saw a group of butterflies puddling. Butterflies, many times, will gather on mud, feces or carcasses to extract salts and minerals. I walked over to the puddle party and got a whiff of something pretty rank. I noticed a gathering of butterflies in the ditch. Then I saw the dead rotting fish...

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly enjoying a fish dinner.

By now, most of my friends would have probably been back in the car, grossed out by the whole encounter. I, on the other hand, was curious, so I got a stick. A stick can be a very useful tool for an inquisitive naturalist. I poked the carcass and out tumbled some pretty cool beetles! I love beetles. I have loved them since I was a small child. I would flip over rocks, wherever I ventured, in order to find them.

Below, we have American Carrion Beetles, Silpha americana. These a large black beetles with a yellow thorax. Kind of pretty, actually. (Yes, I know they are on a dead fish...) Many people fail to see the beauty in things because they are so fixated on the "ugly". I try to go the opposite way and focus on the good. Usually I can find the beauty in almost all things.

These Sexton Beetles, Nicrophorus sp. caught my eye as they scurried away under the nearby leaf litter. I took my handy stick and pushed the debris away. There were two red and black gems trying to desperately disappear into the mud. Sexton Beetles will work diligently to completely bury a small carcass. The common name comes from a sexton, who was a church employee that took care of the church property. One of the many tasks included digging graves.

Then I spotted this guy. What the heck?!?! I couldn't even get a picture of it, it scurried so quickly. I was, again, glad I was alone because I looked like a crazy lunatic chasing this bug around. I was pretty sure it was a beetle, but it acted weird, curling its abdomen up in the air. The underside was yellow, like a firefly. And then it scrunched up its stubby wings. I was wanting to pick it up, but honestly, I was a little apprehensive. I wasn't entirely sure what it was.

Golden Rover photo from BugGuide by Susan Ellis

I returned home and searched on BugGuide and, after a good while, I finally found the critter. A Golden Rover, Platydracus maculosus, a type of Rove Beetle. And, its food choice was carrion. Bingo! Rove Beetles have shortened elytra, that give them a strange appearance. They are usually predatory or eat carrion. There are always fascinating things to find when you poke around a bit. Just remember your stick! :)



Steve Willson said...

It's amazing how fast a bunch of beetles can consume a carcass. I guess they have to get what they can before larger carrion eaters show up to claim the prize.

Janet Creamer said...

I agree, Steve. I would think a larger animal would have loved to have found those stinky fish!