Ento-What? Well, let me explain. Last weekend I had the pleasure to participate in a large, insect-based biological survey and specimen collection. Hosted jointly by the Texas A&M University Entomology Graduate Student Organization and the University of Oklahoma Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the long-standing Red River rivalry was put aside for 45 entomology specialists to gather at the OU Biology Station on Lake Texoma in southern Oklahoma.
The purpose of the activity is to provide a rapid assessment of the insects found in the selected habitats over the three day weekend. Insects are collected by a wide variety of techniques during the day and at night. After collection, they are properly identified, labeled and curated for continuing study and research. And to a lesser degree, to compare with populations during previous periods.
These entomology specialists collected specimens from pin-head sized mites to much larger wasps, butterflies and moths. Because the weather in the region has been warm with ample rain throughout this year the insects were very abundant. While the collection data is still undergoing processing, the group collected some very unique species records that will be of value for future research.
During the event, many interesting collection techniques were utilized like light-trapping at night.
Here an entomologist uses a mercury-vapor light and a white fabric background to attract insects after dark. Naturally attracted to the light’s wave length, the insects land on the white fabric where they may be visualized and collected.
An entomologist uses a pair of fine-tipped forceps to collect tiny beetles for further identification, examination and study.
An adult antlion lands among a myriad variety of beetles, flies, moths and other insects on the light trap. Most widely seen as larvae in funnels in sandy soils, the adults are weak fliers and often resemble damselflies.
An unusual ichneumon wasp is also attracted by the light. These wasps are in a family with well over 3,000 known species north of Mexico. These wasps are parasites of the pupae of moths and butterflies.
A senior entomologist and student discuss insects that have landed on a beat-sheet. Insects fall to these fabric devices after being dislodged from trees, limbs, and bushes by beating the foliage with a stick or shaking branches and leaves.
Blister beetles are often common and generally consume nectar, pollen or flowers of plants. Some eat the leaves and may damage crops. Their common name comes from the fact that when threatened they exude a harmful skin-blistering irritant.
Field biologists often endure hardships like rain, heat or other environmental discomforts. However this weekend in southern Oklahoma most participants had to watch for poison ivy. In some areas as above, the plants were dense and often head-high.
An entomologist specializing in butterflies and moths, puts on the finishing touches of spreading the wings of freshly collected specimens for his mounted collection.
Insect images: Nikon D2Xs, 200mm F 4.0 Micro Nikkor lens, SB-800 flash. Others: 60mm F 2.8 Micro Nikkor, SB-800 Flash.
Copyright © 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights protected.