Nevada Carabids: PART 1: The Journey begins

Preface [by K.Will] : This is part 1 of a 5 part blog series that we will roll out over the next couple weeks. Hope you enjoy them. This trip, the work done on the project by Frank and Riva, and the paper we are going to publish are all supported by two undergraduate programs at UC, Berkeley- URAP and SPUR. Additionally the work is materially supported by the Essig Museum of Entomology. The original text was written by Frank and Riva, though I have done some editing.

      Carabidae is family of beetles that have a cosmopolitan distribution and are often very common in the United States. Surprisingly, the number of published records of carabid species from Nevada is staggeringly low. In fact, of all the US states, Nevada, with only 242 species, has the second smallest list of recorded species (Bousquet 2013). The smallest list for any US state is Delaware, with 206. However, Delaware covers only a little over 6,400 square kilometres, while Nevada includes more than 286,000 square kilometers. It seems clear that there is a deficiency in our knowledge of Nevada carabids.

Our mission: To create an updated checklist of the carabid fauna in Nevada that better reflects the diversity that exists there. Together with work on specimens from museum collections, we decided that we would collect beetles at Great Basin National Park in order to contribute to the Park’s efforts to document its biodiversity and to look for carabid beetles to add to the list of species that have been previously documented for Nevada.

PART 1: The Journey begins.

Ready to head to Nevada.

Ready to head to Nevada.

Day 1 – June 9, 2015 [by Frank Hsu]

Our plan on the first day was to reach Nevada and make an off-road campsite where we could collect beetles at night. On our way to Nevada, we drove through Sonora Pass and stopped to collect some Trachypachus beetles.  We were met by a massively heavy hail storm as we entered the pass, but it proved to be no hard task negotiate with Kip’s monster truck. Driving through the accumulated ice piled on the road was so loud it even woke Riva, who was sleeping in the backseat. Though Riva and I couldn’t find any Trachypachus, Kip found them (of course) and showed us where they live. After getting over the pass and making our way through some active training exercises near the military base, zooming past picturesque Mono Lake, we crossed into Nevada. This is dry country and it seemed that all the big green trees of California had shrunk and turned into green bushes.  When found our campsite for the night in the lower reach of Queen Canyon. We stepped out and got an immediate whiff of sage; we never smelled so much sage before.  

Our "primitive" campsite in Queen Canyon, NV

Our “primitive” campsite in Queen Canyon, NV

After we found a reasonably level and not too rocky place to set up our tents and collecting gear (we still managed to set up our tent on a rock somehow). We went in pairs to search for beetles by headlamp light while one person stayed behind to tend to the mercury vapor light sheet. We saw many moths, scarab beetles, and various types of wasps at the sheet. There was also a large, and docile sphingid moth (the size of my thumb) that I could hold and poke at since it was “mesmerized” by the mercury vapor lamp.


Big Sphingid moth that came to the mercury vapor light.

MV light in Queens Canyon, NV.

MV light in Queens Canyon, NV.

It was also very exciting to see adult ant lions (Myrmeleontidae) in flight for the first time in my life. Turns out these guys are pretty common where we live, but I’ve never gone night collecting at home and so I have never seen these nocturnal insects. Unfortunately we didn’t find many carabids in this area, just a lot of tenbrionids (darkling beetles) and scarabs. The few carabid beetles we did find were far up the canyon and near the little bit of existing surface water. The only common species were Bembidion that were along the small pools of water in the streambed and a Pterostichus (Hypherpes) species that were in the accumulated leaf litter in thickets along the canyon. Collecting was slow, but we passed a relatively comfortable and quiet night in camp.

The adventure will continue in the next blog post.

References cited:

Bousquet, Y. (2012) Catalogue of Geadephaga (Coleoptera, Adephaga) of America, north of Mexico. ZooKeys 1722, 1–1722. 10.3897/zookeys.245.3416


About Kip Will

I'm an insect systematist with expertise in carabid beetles, who is always happiest in the bush.
This entry was posted in Entomology, Nevada Carabidae. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Nevada Carabids: PART 1: The Journey begins

  1. Pingback: Nevada Carabids: Part 2: Great Basin National Park | pterostichini

  2. Pingback: Nevada carabids: Part 3: Trap Day | pterostichini

  3. Pingback: Nevada Carabids: Part 4: An approach to Wheeler Peak | pterostichini

  4. Pingback: Nevada Carabids: Part 5: Death March to Dead Lake and Heading West | pterostichini

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