Coastal Prairie Summary — 2007
Despite some seriously uncooperative weather, and a non-centralized southeastern Texas location, those of us who participated in EntoBlitz Texas 2007 call it a great success. As in most past years –the real hardcore field-oriented collectors braved adverse elements to contribute to a better understanding of Texas insects.
16 people attended – almost all from Texas A&M University (see list of attendees). Those arriving Friday afternoon were pleasantly surprised to find that this corner of Texas was just about the only place in the state where it was not raining that day. Some of us visited Nash Prairie (enjoying it while it was actually dry) and others visited the Brazoria Palm Unit of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR). The original Friday night UV lighting plans were altered: UV lighting at the Dance Bayou Unit of SBNWR– an anticipated highlight of the trip – was moved from its originally planned date of Saturday night up to Friday night in anticipation of what was sure to be rainy weather the next day. UV-lighting at Dance Bayou was great. The membracid season was in full swing, and a broad spectrum of moths, heterops, and beetles were taken.
Camping Friday night at Quintana Beach County Park was quite pleasant with no rain and a nice ocean breeze. About 9-ish the next morning we finished our group breakfast (lead chief – Brian Raber) and packed up our tents. With threatening skies to the north we managed to get in about 30+ minutes of collecting in the strand vegetation on the rear dunes of the park. A sudden drop in air temperature, a shift in wind direction, and a few lighting bolts signaled the end of the “dry collecting.” After a rapid and wet retreat to main park ranger building, the story telling began and lasted at least an hour or two. Intermittent heavy and light rain persisted, and the ranger’s weather radar showed that things weren’t scheduled to get much better along the coast (flash flooding –all that kind of stuff). We abandoned the park for a seafood restaurant about 20 miles north.
Our restaurant provided not only good food and camaraderie, but it came with a bonus – a swarm of damselflies on the front window (why are damsel flies attracted to seafood restaurants?). Then, with belly’s full, we took off for Nash Prairie where we spent the remainder of the afternoon.
Nash Prairie had received plenty of rain and standing water was present almost everywhere, but other than a few sprinkles now and then, further rain held off through the afternoon and evening. Wet sweeping isn’t fun, but we toughed it out. Insects that had climbed up on plants to avoid the standing water were easily plucked. The real highlight of our Nash Prairie visit was our quest for “topos” (actually Geomys breviceps, Baird’s pocket gopher). Having previously received permission to dig, we excavated a few gopher tunnel systems atop “mima mounds” – that’s the term for those strange little elevated bumps found on many Texas prairies. In areas with a normally high water table, these subterranean mammals tend to concentrate their nest chambers close to the soil surface on top of these mounds. With little effort we found four nest chambers complete with a myriad of unique gopher-associated insects (scarabs, histers, staphylinids, flies, and camel crickets). One pair of well-grown “baby topos” was unearthed but quickly returned to the tunnel system after keen-eyed Richardo spotted “mama topo” sticking her head out of a tunnel opening.
Two mercury vapor light systems were operated on the prairie from dusk until about ten PM. The sheets were covered with insects, and our student collectors harvested a bunch of goodies for their collections. No one was bitten by the giant water bugs. After a brief conference on options for the night, which included such possibilities as sleeping in rain-soaked tents or the local Best Western, we decide to call it “an event,” and we caravanned home to College Station.
Please visit our photo gallery and species list.
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to TAMU graduate student Katrina Menard for spearheading the organization of EntoBlitz Texas 2007 and taking on some of the more unpleasant tasks. All participants wish to express their sincere thanks to our cooperators: Rev. Peter Conaty (access to Nash Prairie), David Rosen (contact for the general region and scouting locations), and Jennifer Sanchez (access to units of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge).
http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/search.htm = mammals of Texas link
http://www.wintersteel.com/Mima_Mounds.html = a mima mounds link
Catch of the trip: Hyboptera dilutior Oberthür (Coleoptera: Carabidae)
One specimen, beating fronds of “Brazoria palm” at the Brazoria Palm Unit, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.