Monday, September 21, 2009

Beetle Bioblitz

Last weekend Great Basin National Park hosted a Beetle Bioblitz. During a 24-hour period, more than forty people traipsed throughout the park collecting beetles, searching a variety of habitats from 5,300 feet to 10,800 feet.
The event started with a beetle workshop, where participants learned some beetle basics. 

Beetles belong to the Order Coleoptera, and there are over 12,000 described types of beetles in the U.S. and over 300,000 worldwide. Wow! This amounts to about 25% of all living organisms. Even more amazing--there could possibly be 5 to 8 million beetle species--many of them remain undescribed.

Beetles include some commonly seen insects like "ladybugs" and lightning bugs.

Although beetles have hardened forewings (elytra), they have a second set of wings that allow (most of) them to fly.

There are many other cool facts about beetles at Wikipedia.

Southern Utah University from Cedar City, Utah, brought a display case of beetles, some found in the area, but the more dramatic ones as examples of how different beetles can be.

Other participants came from Dixie State College in St. George, Utah, University of Nevada-Reno, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Participants had to keep track of where they collected beetles on data sheets and label their vials so that the park could keep a record of them.

Different collecting techniques were used, from turning over logs and rocks to installing pitfall traps, where unsuspecting beetles would fall into a cup and be trapped. Light traps were quite successful, as were sweep nets that were brushed through grasses, shrubs, and trees.

Following collection came the really hard part: identification. Fortunately there were some very talented entomologists (insect specialists) who were able to get the beetles sorted down to family in relatively short time. One of the entomologists, Jeff Knight from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, took the beetles back with him to identify them down to a further level.

The preliminary results were 716 beetles collected in at least 30 families. Over 600 hours of volunteer time made it all possible. 

The national park now has a much better idea of the beetles that live in it. Typically, insects aren't high on anyone's priority list, so this beetle bioblitz made it possible to learn a lot in a relatively short period of time.

Bioblitzes are becoming more popular throughout the country. It might not be long until one comes to a place close to you! And if not, Great Basin National park plans to have another one next year and you can come out and participate!


Carol said...

Sounds like a fun day..and for a good cause.

Sarah said...

Wow! A bioblitz for just beetles! Bioblitzes are popular here in Indiana, too, but tend not to get so specific.

Gayle A. Robison, DVM said...

How exciting and fun!

jendoop said...

I had no idea such a thing existed. Sounds fun. Although I may be more likely to participate if they call it a ladybug bioblitz :)

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