Diario del proyecto The Preserve at Bull Run Mountains

21 de octubre de 2022

Observation Highlight of the Week: SPECIAL EDITION: 2022 Herpetological BioBlitz

Observational Highlight #17: SPECIAL EDITION: 2022 Herpetological BioBlitz
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Carphophis amoenus (Eastern Worm Snake): Several individuals were found together along the South Section of The Preserve.

© Janis Stone (@janisstone), all rights reserved


Hello everyone,

In keeping with my promise from our last observational highlight, this week's highlight will showcase the various herpetological observations made during this year's Preserve BioBlitz! Our visitors and staff did an amazing job in their search for reptiles and amphibians. The results are in and 14 species of reptiles and amphibians were uncovered by our team. Having tuned up so many species in a day is always a thrill for any naturalist. These sorts of events also allow for the camaraderie that isn't always abundant for nature lovers. The opportunity to share in the great biodiversity of our shared community's natural resources is something of a point of pride. Sharing information, discussing our outdoor experiences, and developing better narratives and identification skills are some of the great benefits derived from public programming. For those already engrossed in the natural world, their keen observations add to our growing digital biodiversity archive, and for those fairly new to the naturalist world - it hopefully serves as the jumping-off point into the networks and thrills of finding a novel organism hiding right under your nose.

For a more comprehensive list of the herpetological discoveries check out the VOF website blog. See the breakdown of individuals, species, and a discussion from VOF staff about the event. Keep your eye out for the many other public programming opportunities the preserve has available this fall!


A showcase of herpetological observations made during this year's BRMNAP BioBlitz! : Photo credits and classification can be found below.

Pseudotriton ruber (Red Salamander) © Janis Stone (@janisstone), all rights reserved [Top Right]; Anaxyrus americanus (American Toad) © Taryn Bk (@taryn20), all rights reserved [Top Left]; Plethodon cylindraceus (White-spotted Slimy Salamander)© Taryn Bk (@taryn20), all rights reserved[Center Left]; Desmognathus fuscus (Northern Dusky Salamander)© Deneith (@dendrologith), all rights reserved [Center]; Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper) © Taryn Bk (@taryn20), all rights reserved [Center Right]; Eurycea bislineata Northern (Two-lined Salamander) © Deneith (@dendrologith), all rights reserved [Bottom Left]; Notophthalmus viridescens (Eastern Newt) © pgwamsley (@pgwamsley), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Bottom Center]; Virginia valeriae (Smooth Earthsnake)© fieldwork427 (@fieldwork427), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Bottom Right]


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup: Public events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group
Meetup: Volunteer opportunities: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Volunteers

Ingresado el 21 de octubre de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

Biodiversity Highlight - Series #3: Scarabaeidae of the Bull Run Mountains - Part Three

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #3: Part Three): Pelidnota punctata (Grapevine Beetle)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Pelidnota punctata (Grapevine Beetle) - Adult specimens observed on the Northern Sections of The Preserve

© Jared Gorrell (@wildlandblogger), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Left]; © Michael J. W. Carr (@mjwcarr), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Right]


Hello everyone,

Welcome back the to our biodiversity highlight series on the Scarabaeidae of The Preserve at Bull Run Mountains. This week's entomological deep dive will be the third installment of our series investigating the Scarab beetles found within the richly diverse forests and hollows of the preserve. Through our previous articles, we’ve seen that the taxonomy of the scarabs can be useful (or confusing) in determining how we can differentiate and categorize the various species found within this large family group. We’ve also seen that the abundance of some scarabs has declined with the anthropization of habitats in the developing United States. This week’s highlight will continue in highlighting some of these topics and in broadening our understanding of the related natural systems by including a species from yet another scarab subfamily - the grapevine beetle, Pelidnota punctata. This remarkable “big beetle” of the preserve can be easily identified by its distinctive yellow-tan color and the adornment of six dark spots along the margins of its elytra (for which the species gets its namesake). Circling back to our inaugural scarab highlight, this species name is derived from greek and Latin roots attributed to its physical appearance, something any Latinophile or classicist can appreciate. The genus name Pelidonota comes from a greek root, Pelidn, which roughly translates to livid, black, and blue. While not very representative of our golden child, this name represents some of the brilliantly black and blue-colored members of the genus that can be found in South America. Taking another step into the etymology of the species, the specific epithet is derived from the Latin root, punctat, which translates to - you guessed it - punctures! These names fit remarkably well and has surprisingly not changed much since the original description of the species by Linneanus as Scarabaeus punctatus in 1775.

Taking a step up, taxonomically speaking, let's look at what this beetle represents in our exploration of subfamilies within Scarab beetles. This beautiful beetle is a member of the Rutelinae subfamily, better known as the shining flower chafers (there is that chafer name again)! In comparison to our last highlighted subfamily group, the Rutelinae is a small to moderate subfamily of scarabs including approximately 4,100 species worldwide. The shining flower chafers are represented by only about 6 species North of Mexico, but the diversity skyrockets as you continue south toward the tropics. This subfamily is also known for the brilliant colors and iridescent to occur in many of its species - which is somewhat visible on our local Pelidnota. The Genus Pelidnota contains some 100 species, being the most species in South America. The members of this subfamily closely resemble the members of our previously highlighted subfamily member, the rose chafer of the Melolothinae, and is debated by some to be the sister group to the Dynastinae. However it will eventually be classified, the complexity of taxonomic classification is on full display within the parent taxonomy of our grapevine beetle.


Pelidnota punctata (Grapevine Beetle) - The life cycle of the grapevine beetle - Larvae > Pupa > Adult

© cyansnowflakes, all rights reserved [Left & Center]; © Joel Haan, all rights reserved


Let’s ground ourselves a bit here. Higher-level taxonomic descriptions only go so far in bringing an individual species into the spotlight. Taking a closer look at the grapevine beetle is key to developing an appreciation of an organism within the context of its environment. Taking a step down our taxonomic ladder, let's look at what makes the grapevine beetle what it is. Coming at a whopping 17-33mm in length, the grapevine beetle won’t be sparing with the eastern Hercules beetle, but it is quite large compared to the many species of beetle found in our area. Like our previous species, the grapevine beetle is fairly ubiquitous across the eastern united states and southeastern Canada and ranges from Texas and Florida north to southern Ontario and Quebec. Its preferred habitats include deciduous forests, thickets, “woods”(whatever that means), vineyards, and gardens. The last two habitats are listed in association with their diet and namesake - grapevine. Adult beetles are voracious consumers of grapevine, both cultivated and wild varieties. Despite this, the species is not considered a pest, or to cause significant damage to grape crops. This appetite results in the skeletonization and defoliation of host plants, and even the consumption of fruiting bodies. The species has also been documented on Virginia creeper, consuming both foliage and fruit. The larvae of the grapevine beetle appear as scrabiaeform white grubs and have a much more diverse assemblage of host species including maple, oak, hackberry, apple, elm, sycamore, and walnut. An interesting divergence from the grape-centric behavior of the adult form of the species.

While on the subject of natural history let’s take a look at the life cycle of the Grapevine beetle! This species has about a two-year developmental duration with the eggs being deposited in the summer, the larvae overwintering and pupating, and then eclosing from their underground chambers as an adult beetle in the following year. The flight season for adult grapevine beetles is between May and august. During this flight and dispersal period, the species is very attracted to lights, especially UV/metal halide lights. Using insect surveying equipment, including a Mercury vapor lamp, is how the two initial photographic examples were found at the preserve! Another interesting note on the species and how they may be encountered here on the Preserve is that the species exhibits physical variation depending on their distribution. Split into two groups, the southern examples of the species are known to have completely pale/tan legs which resemble the color of the rest of the body. The more northern phenotype has dark, nearly black legs and darker patches along the margins of the head capsule. While only southern variations of these phenotypes have been found on beetles found at the preserve, both phenotypes occur in our area.

Keep an eye out and record the first example of the northern phenotype at the Preserve!


Pelidnota punctata (Grapevine Beetle) - Examples of phenotypic variation among northern and southern populations: The pale-legged southern form [Left] and the dark-legged northern form [Right].

© Royal Tyler (@royaltyler), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-SA)[Left]; © Stephanie Eakin (@papilio-nikonis), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)[Right]


To close out this week's highlight I would like to take a brief look at the host species of choice for grapevine beetle - grapes, or Vitis! To the chagrin of the author, the varieties of grapes found on the preserve have not been well documented here on iNaturalist, despite being plentiful. Only two observations represent documentation of the species, and those were only at genus-level identification at the time of this article. Vitis is a widespread genus occurring across North, Central, and South America, the west indies, and Eurasia. The species has also been prolifically introduced around the world. Including some 70 species across the globe, the Vitis are also locally diverse with some six species occurring in Virginia. Several species have been noted in the literature to occur within the Preserve, including Vitis aestivalis var. bicolor (Silverleaf grape), Vitis labrusca (fox grape), Vitis cinerea var. floridana (Florida pigeon grape), and Vitis vulpina (fox grape, again). Some of these species also have several varieties that may or may not have been introduced by the inhabitants within the confines of the richly storied and settled Bull Run Mountains.

While these species have been recorded within the rich botanical literature of the Bull Run Mountains, they are not discussed as commonly as one would think given their ubiquitousness in the northern spaces of the preserve. This may be due to the relatively young nature of the forests of the Bull Run Mountains. Having been mostly cleared in the centuries prior, the Bull Run Mountains now stand as a champion of preservation in a now mostly developed Northern Virginia. With that implication comes some interesting questions as to what can be expected as the forest continues to age - how will the species assemblage change? what role will recently introduced invasive species will play? and whether there are still novel species waiting to be discovered in its mountain refuges? This week’s highlighted species was probably not a common sight in the century prior, preferring the more forested habitats that may have been known further north and west. By recording our observations now we can provide a small piece of evidence in noting the natural history of the Bull Run Mountains for generations to come - when the Bull Run Mountains are something different from what they are now. For this reason, I thank everyone who has involved themselves in recording the flora and fauna of the preserve. Keep up the good work!


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF-owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles, and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals, or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community's natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup: Public events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group
Meetup: Volunteer opportunities: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Volunteers

Ingresado el 21 de octubre de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de septiembre de 2022

Observation Highlight of the Week: Monotropa hypopitys (Pinesap)

Observational Highlight #16: Monotropa hypopitys (Pinesap)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Monotropa hypopitys (Pinesap): A recent observation of pinesap along the southern section of The Preserve.

© @forestbathing, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Hello everyone,

Welcome back to another installment of our weekly observational highlight series for the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve. Last weekend the preserve held a successful herpetological-focused BioBlitz, resulting in the observation of some amazing amphibian and reptile species. While we wait for all resulting photos and notes to be uploaded to the project by the participants we will be taking a look at an amazing, but scales-less species found in our mountain sanctuary. Don't worry herp enthusiast, there are much more reptiles and amphibian content to come - especially in future #biodiversityhightlights. While herps abounded, another botanical species is abounding across the Bull Run forests - Pinesap! Monotropa hypopitys, an achlorophyllous and mycoheterotrophic plant widely distributed across the United States are currently in bloom here in Northern Virginia. At a quick glance, this species of the non-photosynthesizing plant could be misidentified as some sort of fungus, however, upon closer inspection, these species boast conspicuous flowers with a fragment, pungent smell. We're in the second flowering season of the year, so if you happen to miss these while out visiting the preserve, keep your eyes out in the spring!

Like many native species, Pinesap is known by a variety of colloquial names, including Dutchman's pipe, false beech-drops, pinesap, or yellow bird's-nest. Some of these seem more understandable than others, but the appearance of this plant can vary dramatically as it ages and the surface growth dies. The similarities between the dead above-ground growth of this species are incredibly reminiscent of beech drops, Epifagus virginiana (another parasitic native plant), which is reflected in the common name false beech drop (see below). It also has a very similar appearance to another species of Monotropa found on The Preserve, ghost pipe, Monotropa uniflora. A quick and dirty method of identification for these species can be done by the stark difference in color between species, though rare variances can create overlap. We'll save a more intricate series of identification methods in a future review of the Genus.

The roles in which this species plays in the greater ecosystem are incredibly interesting and deserve a more in-depth discussion in a future #biodiversityhighlight. Until then, keep your eyes primed for more amazing Autumnal natural phenomena!



© Izabella Farr (@izafarr), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Left]; © @lisam, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup: Public events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group
Meetup: Volunteer opportunities: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Volunteers

Ingresado el 29 de septiembre de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de septiembre de 2022

Biodiversity Highlight - Series #3: Scarabaeidae of the Bull Run Mountains - Part Two

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #3: Part Two): Macrodactylus subspinosus (American Rose Chafer)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


American Rose Chafer (Macrodactylus subspinosus) - Adult specimens observed on the Northern Sections of The Preserve

© Joe Villari (@jvillari), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Left]; © Jacob Saucier (@saucierj), some rights reserved (CC-BY) [Right]


Hello again everyone,

Welcome back the to our biodiversity highlight series on the Scarabaeidae of The Preserve at Bull Run Mountains. This week's entomological deep dive will be our second entry into the series investigating the Scarab beetles in our area. This large family illustrates some of the most diverse examples of diversity in color and appearance witnessed among Coleoptera. While somewhat mundane to the average gardener, this week's highlight is a remarkable example of the wonder found right under our noses. The rose chafer, or Macrodactylus subspinosus, is a small yellow/gold scarab beetle that may be the bane of any of our traditional English gardeners - but we'll circle back around to that shortly. This small, yellow/gold species of scarab measures about 7-11mm (or around a quarter inch) in length. It is more characterized by its appetite for roses but is physically distinct by sporting long, red legs lined with visible spines and long tarsal claws. The yellowish color of the elytra, thorax, and head are due to the integration of dense, broad setae (or hairs/scales) along the exoskeleton, which may wear off as the beetle ages. Like many other scarabs, this beetle sports a pair of short lamellate antennae terminating in a club of flat plates. In the traditional sense of insect sexual dimorphism, the females of this species are typically more robust than their male counterparts (the opposite of last week's highlight!). The rose chafer is ubiquitous across the Eastern United States and ranges from Quebec to Florida, east to Minnesota, and Texas.

The term chafer is one with a long history and is used colloquially for a variety of beetle species here in the United States and Europe. In the United Kingdom, the term Chafer can be used to describe several beetle species, including the European chafer and Cockchafer. While our rose chafer looks similar to these European examples of chafers, the colloquial descriptor falls short of the scientific classification as the three species are all in separate genera. When the species was first described in 1775, this wasn't the case, as our Macrodacytlyus subspinous was originally placed in the same genus as the Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) and listed as Melolontha subspinus. Generally, a chafer can mean any beetle found to be devouring the foliage of your garden or farm plants. Even more generally, chafer can loosely describe the entire subfamily to which our highlight species belongs, the Melolothinae. This subfamily includes the May beetles, June beetles, and ...well… chafers! It is one of the most diverse subfamilies in Scarabaeidae, consisting of about 750 genera and approximately 11000 species worldwide. Taking a closer look at the etymology of our subject's scientific name, Macrodactylus subspinosus. Both our genus and specific epithet take a literal approach to the description of the species. Macrodactylus means "big fingers", which fits well given the species' extended tarsi and claws. These exaggerated appendages make the species seem incredibly awkward while walking across your palm or on flower clusters. While our genus is a humorously blunt interpretation of the species, the specific epithet is a less interesting, but literal description of the organism - subspinous. This specific epithet is vaguely easy to interpret relating to the tarsal spines of the species, but this author would have liked to find the original description for more etymological history - the author did not find what he was looking for.


American Rose Chafer (Macrodactylus subspinosus) - A great visual example of the extended tarsi and tarsal claws of the rose chafer.

© Katja Schulz (@treegrow), some rights reserved (CC-BY)


The rose chafer is a common species that can be encountered across a variety of habitats, however, they are typically observed in old fields habitats, gardens, and forest edges (with specific regard given to their occurrence near vining plant species). They are most active as adults in the summer season between May and July. As mentioned above the rose chafer may rank up there with Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) as far as garden nuisances go if you're a gardener. The species is notorious for targeting the foliage and flowers of roses, but can be found feeding on a great variety of native and ornamental plants - this list is by no means exhaustive, but demonstrates the adaptability of a hungry native species. Host plants include rose, peonies, grape, apple, birch, blackberry, cherry, dahlia, elder, elm, foxglove, geranium, hollyhock, hydrangea, pear, poppy, raspberry, Virginia creeper, and wisteria (Rosa spp., Paeonia spp., Vitis spp., Malus spp., Betula spp., Rubus spp., Prunus spp., Dahlia spp., Sambucus spp., Ulmus spp., Digitalis spp., Geranium spp., Alcea spp., Hydrangea spp., Pyrus spp., Papaver spp., Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Wisteria spp.). Damage can include the partial or total consumption of flower petals, and buds, and the skeletonization of foliage. Although not an invasive species, large quantities of beetles can descend on gardens and agricultural areas causing enough damage to warrant their classification as a pest species. Instances of dozens of beetles on one plant can be observed in extreme cases. This applied role as a pest species is assigned in varying degrees depending on your reference resource. Some classify the species as only a minor pest species, while others treat the species in a similar vein to more destructive species like the Japanese beetle. This harsher application of pests seems to have more roots in a time when the species was a greater nuisance and abundance.

As we have delved into in our other scarabaeoid species highlights, this species also includes a "white grub" form as a larva. Diverging from our previous trend, this species does not feed on decaying woody materials like the Dynastinae and Lucanidae but feeds on the living roots of grass species and non-crop plants. There are mixed references to the species damaging horticultural resources like turf. Unlike our previous entries, the rose chafer is a rather quick-lived species, hatching from its egg and completing its life cycle in about a year. Following the ingestion of all your garden plants (or more likely and commonly the flowers and foliage of the native plant species in our area), mating in sometimes large masses on plants, the female will lay her eggs in the soil near the host plant's base. The species prefers more sandy soils, which may account for them becoming horticultural pests as many gardeners mix sand into soils for better drainage. rose chafer grubs hatch after a few weeks and feed until the late fall when they pupate and overwinter. After emerging as adults in the following summer, adult beetles only live for about 4-6 weeks while searching for food and mates.


American Rose Chafer (Macrodactylus subspinosus) - Mating individuals; note the wore appearance of the female underneath [left]. Defoliation of host plant by individuals [Right]

© Shiva Shenoy (@shivashenoy), some rights reserved (CC-BY) [Left]; © Chad Wohlers (@chadwohl), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC) [Right]


In a final note about the species, we are going to explore one of the most interesting adaptations this species has for self-defense. In regards to our previous beetle highlights, our subjects did not have much beyond their size and maybe their mandible/horns to protect them from larger predators - evolutionary tools which may provide little defense when faced with a large bird or snake. In regards to the rose chafer, this beetle is armed with a chemical defense that may not provide much in preventing its demise but demonstrates to the predator that this species is not one to target for a quick snack. This chemical defense is cantharidin, a chemical more associated with the Coleopteran family Meloidae, or blister beetles. While the species has no external mechanism to discourage predation, ingestion of the beetle is toxic to predators like birds. In the Meloidae, the chemical is excreted from the joints via "reflex bleeding" and can cause blisters to appear on the skin of a person handling them. The rose chafer is harmless to handle because the chemical is an internal deterrent, similar to the poisons carried by other brightly colored insect species, which warn would-be predators of their toxicity.


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF-owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles, and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals, or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community's natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup: Public events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group
Meetup: Volunteer opportunities: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Volunteers

Ingresado el 23 de septiembre de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de septiembre de 2022

Observation Highlight of the Week: Empidonax flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher)

Observational Highlight #15: Empidonax flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



© Jacob Saucier (@saucierj), some rights reserved (CC-BY)


Hello everyone,

Welcome back to another installment of our weekly observational highlight series for the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve. This week's entry will dip back into the diverse avian biodiversity which occurs within the isolated eastern front of the Blue Ridge. We are lucky to have a small group of dedicated birders who have added to our understanding of the sky-bound fauna here at Bull Run. Observers uploading to the ebird hotspot located on our southern trail system has recorded over 110 species! This is nearly double the number of species recorded in this iNaturalist project, reinforcing the strengths, weaknesses, and values the variety of available citizen science resources bring to our goals of better understanding and recording natural observations. However, this week's highlight brings a species that has not yet been recorded in the south section of The Preserve, instead has been encountered at the restricted northern research outpost. Smithsonian ornithologist and friend of the preserve, @saucierj, captured this amazing shot during a recent visit - resulting in the addition of a valuable observation for an infrequently observed species in our area.

The yellow-bellied flycatcher is a seasonal migrant in the Tyrant flycatcher family, Tyrannidae, which includes approximately 400 species across their New World distribution. The Avian family is one of the largest in the world and observes some of the greatest diversity of any other family in the America's. Like many migrants, the species overwinters in the more equatorial latitudes of Southern Mexico and Central America. During the migration season, the species makes its way through our area en route to its breeding grounds around the Great Lakes and beyond into Canada. The species is insectivorous and prefers habitats consisting of wet forests. The species is also known for constructing a nest with sphagnum moss - hopefully, the low, wet temperate forest of Bull Runs Northern section is somewhat of an encouraging stop-off of what is come in the species' movement northward.

This species is not totally unknown in the area, and has been frequently recorded across both iNaturalist and eBird. The observation featured below is of another individual Yellow-bellied flycatcher observed at the Clifton Institute, another great natural sanctuary in Fauquier County. Based on these two pictures below you can see the subtle differences in coloration which were noted in the discussion of our Bull Run subject.

This feature also highlights one of the greatest aspects of iNaturalist - community collaboration! Empids, as the genus is known by the birding community, are notoriously difficult for the non-experts to identify. There is also a degree of subtle variation with the group which can make even seasoned veterans question their own identifications. This can prove both frustrating (as per this authors experience is identifying members of this genus) and as exciting challenge for those versed in both phenotypic and acoustic id. The individual highlighted this week is the later, as can be viewed in the discussion section of the observation. In addition to knowing field marks for an otherwise silent individual bird, the preserved specimen collection at the Smithsonian Institution served in reassuring that the seasonal variation in plumage corresponded correctly for that species. It's these sorts of back-and-forth conversations between skilled naturalist that provide those less adept to learn and develop in the realm of wildlife identification - especially for those tricky and uncommon species. This author definitely took something away from this observation and will be a better equipped naturalist for it.

We'll continue to take look into more of #BullRunMountains native avian species in a future #biodiversityhighlight.



© Bert Harris (@bertharris), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup: Public events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group
Meetup: Volunteer opportunities: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Volunteers

Ingresado el 09 de septiembre de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de septiembre de 2022

Biodiversity Highlight - Series #3: Scarabaeidae of the Bull Run Mountains - Part One

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #3: Part One): Dynastes tityus (Eastern Hercules Beetle)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus) ♂ - An adult specimen observed in the Northern Section of The Preserve

© Jacob Saucier (@saucierj), all rights reserved (used with permission)


Hello again everyone,

Welcome to the third installment of our biodiversity highlight series, in which we review some of the amazing biodiversity held within the natural sanctuary of the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve. This week we will be diving into one of the largest Coleopteran families - the Scarabaeidae, or scarab beetles. It's likely everyone has heard of and had interactions with this varied family of beetles, which includes the likes of dung beetles (Scarabaeinae), flower chafers (Cetoniinae), and Rhinoceros beetles (Dynastinae). The family itself is massive in comparison to our last highlighted families, with the Scarabs including some 30,000 species worldwide and approximately 1,400 species north of Mexico. In an attempt to keep this series manageable, it will highlight some of the more commonly observed and particularly interesting species of scarabs that have been observed on The Preserve.

With this in mind, let's jump in with one of the most notable members of the family in our area, the Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus,. The Eastern Hercules Beetle is especially charismatic and is even featured on the seal of the American Entomological Society. In a similar fashion to our previous highlighted species, this species is another great example of a gateway insect - having been an insect of inspiration for many aspiring entomologists, young and old, amateur and professional. With its large size, beautifully black-mottled greenish-tannish elytra, and impressive male horn - its noted charisma is self-explanatory. This species is one the largest species of beetle found in the United States, reaching lengths of between 40–60mm (1.6–2.4 inches) as an adult. It can be found throughout the Southeastern and Central United States inhabiting hardwood, and deciduous forests. Its formal range stretches from Maryland to Missouri, south to Texas and Florida. Per the course in this review of the "big beetles" of The Preserve, it is a saproxylic species, developing in and reliant on the abundant decaying woody materials across Bull Run. Despite white grubs being the bane of many gardeners, the species is harmless, both commercially and to handle.

The Eastern Hercules beetle goes by a handful of colloquial names including the rhinoceros beetle, elephant beetle, and even ox beetle. While descriptive of the species' likeness to large tusked, or horned animals, these are also the names of other Dynastine beetles. These include beetles like the Eastern rhinoceros beetle, Xyloryctes jamaicensis, which will be highlighted in an upcoming post. The scientific name Dynastes tityus is a great example of just how classically educated authors like Linneaus were when first describing the species in the 18th century. Linneaus, who assigned the name Scarabaeus tityus in 1763 in his work Centuria Insectorum, chose the specific epithet "tityus". The name doesn't directly translate from a classical Greek or Latin root word. Instead, the name "tityus" comes from the name of the mythological giant Tityos. A roundabout, but fitting name for our local giant.


Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus) ♀ - An adult female specimen observed in West Virginia

© Stephen ( @stephen_wv ), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-ND)


In our last highlights, finer taxonomic classifications like subfamilies and tribes weren't very important due to the relatively small number of species in each family present on The Preserve. For this series' feature family, we will need to discuss those finer taxonomic subunits to better classify and differentiate our highlight subjects as the series develops. Our champion of the Scarabaeidae this week, the eastern Hercules beetle, belongs to the subfamily Dynastinae, or rhinoceros beetles (easy to remember). Altogether, the Scarabaeidae includes about 8 subfamilies (depending on your taxonomic reference) in North America. These subfamilies include the Aphodiinae (small dung beetles), Scarabaeinae, Melolonthinae (June beetles), Oncerinae (a new subfamily on the block), Podolasiinae (new subfamily #2), Rutelinae (shining leaf chafers), Cetoniinae, and our Dynastinae. Not all of these subfamilies have been observed in the Bull Run Mountains (so we won't be covering all of them), but how we classify species is important - even if it is just to help us stay organized. We won't be arguing species theories here, but suffice it to say, taxonomy and our understanding of the diversity and classification of species is a very fluid system.

Knowing how to classify a species is important, but it's even more important to know how that species interacts with its environment. The ecology of the Eastern Hercules beetle is very similar to our previously reviewed Lucanidae and Passalidae highlights. The life cycle of this large species takes several years to complete, with most of its development being spent underground and feeding on decaying wood. Upon emerging, our forest giants only spend, at most, a couple of months taking in the sun and stars in search of a mate or suitable locations in which to oviposit the next generation. During this time, the males of this species may be found in serendipitous pitched combat among the branches of trees. Although Hercules beetles can be found among mix-hardwood forests across the Eastern United States, the species seems to have an intimate relationship with both Quercus spp. (our familiar oak - for reproduction and larvae development) and Fraxinus spp (ash trees - for courtship). While the species is now a rare sight, historically, observations of the Eastern Hercules beetles could be considered a nuisance due to the odor they omit during their breeding season (This author encountered it first hand this year due to some captive breeding trials). The following text is quoted from an 1888 Entomological Society of Washington commentary regarding an article discussing their occurrence:

"Mr. Smith read a paper on the peculiar odor emitted by Dynastes tityus. This is well known to entomologists, but during the present season, the species has developed into a pest. In two States -- Virginia and Tennessee -- they have been locally so abundant as to saturate the air with the penetrating stench. The local boards of health, especially that of Memphis, Tenn., disinfected all sorts of foul and suspected localities without success, and only by accident was the true source of the smell discovered. It must have required many thousands of specimens to have produced such an effect, and it is an interesting instance of a new way in which insects can render life burdensome to man. In discussing this communication Mr. Lugger said that the favorite food -plant of the Dynastes is the Water Ash (Fraxinus sambucifolia), which is quite common in the vicinity of Memphis."

*See the Article, "Beetles as a nuisance," by J. B. Smith, in Popular Science Monthly, xxx, pp. 409-410.*

This remarkable literature note is pretty humorous given the thought of the many contemporary dandies languishing in what may have been this author's ideal atmosphere - so many beetles! However, the note also serves to exemplify how much our local environments have changed over the last century. As many readers may remember, Ash trees were once a ubiquitous feature among our native forests. Since the introduction of the Emerald Ash Beetle, that has taken a 180° turn. Ash trees have been devastated across the country, and the determent is still yet to be fully understood.


Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus) - Larval specimen observed in Culpepper, Virginia

@leealloway, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


On the topic of trees and changing environments, there is another interesting factor to consider when discussing the ecology of the Eastern Hercules beetle. Age is an important factor when discussing forest health. An ecoregion needs to include a wide variety of successional habitat types to support the preferences for our local biodiversity. As the centuries have proceeded since European colonization the extent of old-growth forests has drastically declined. Gone are the days of old hemlock painting the Blueridge Mountains, and our beloved ancient oaks are now a rarity, usually standing as a reminder of an old cattle field. Old trees (and old-growth forests) provide immensely important habitat and ecological service that is often overlooked. In regards to our Hercules beetle, the species has a preference for trees bearing the marks of advanced age - the cavities, or hollows that develop after a long life of enduring natural abrasiveness. As rot and decay set into these hollows, it produces an ideal kind of substrate composed of decayed and fermented bark and heartwood, with which the female Hercules beetle lays her eggs. This substrate provides nourishment for the developing larvae but can be uncommon in the secondary and early successional forests since young trees drop very little woody materials as they develop.

Much like large mammal species, our large coleopteran species, like the Hercules beetle, can be good indicators of general forest health. Although the forests of the Bull Run Mountains are far from ancient - being mostly cleared in the last century - they are serving as an oasis for many species which are finding themselves more and more surrounded by the development and urbanization of the D. C. Metropolitan Area. Abundant hardwood species are and will continue to be able to develop into a primary forest in the future to come and by doing so provide an ever more important sanctuary of biodiversity in our region.

Note from the editor: ~They also really like oranges~ R.I.P. Hairy the Hercules beetle


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup: Public events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group
Meetup: Volunteer opportunities: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Volunteers

Ingresado el 05 de septiembre de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

31 de agosto de 2022

Observation Highlight of the Week: Heterodon platirhinos (Eastern Hognose Snake)

Observational Highlight #14: Heterodon platirhinos (Eastern Hognose Snake)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



© Deneith Reif (@dendrologith), all rights reserved (used with permission)


Hello everyone,

Welcome back to our observational highlight series for The Preserve! This marks our first entry for this series in 2022. Hopefully, this will be the first of many more based on the great observations being made all across the Bull Run Mountains. This year alone, our community has accumulated over 1,800 observations! To keep this section differentiated from the ongoing #biodiversityhighlights, this series will focus on recent notable observations uploaded into the BRMNAP collection project. As our biodiversity series continues we will likely discuss in more detail the biology, morphology, and ecology surrounding some of the observations highlighted here - so stay tuned for weekly content!

This week's highlight with feature two recent observations for the South Section of The Preserve and involve one of the most interesting snakes in Virginia - the Eastern Hognose, Heterodon platirhinos. The most recent observation was uploaded by VOF-BRMNAP Conservation Assistant Deneith Raif (@dendrologith), who managed to capture the characteristic "throat-flaring" behavior that the species demonstrates when threatened. The second observation was uploaded by iNaturalist user @ldf131, whose amazing observation marks only their second contribution here on iNaturalist (keep it up!).

Our native snake species receive a disproportionate amount of negative press, especially in regards to species like the hognose, which are commonly misidentified as the venomous timber rattlesnake, copperhead, and cottonmouth (which do not occur this far North in Virginia). The species also provide a valuable ecological service This is done, in part, by checking native frog and toad populations, which the species almost exclusively predates. The Hognose snake sometimes referred to colloquially as a puff adder, can be found in pine-hardwood-dominated forests, edge habitats, and woodland adjacent fields with associated sandy soil types. Such habitats can be found along the Eastern portion of the green trail. With primary habitat and the high Anuran populations (especially Anaxyrus spp.), the Preserve would seem to be the perfect place for a Hognose to set up residence. However, this being said, this author has yet to observe the species across any area of the Preserve and is more than a bit jealous of the observers.

To determine whether you have spotted a hognose snake at Bull Run, look for the diagnostic upturned rostral scales (up-turned nose), for which the species gets its namesake. The defensive neck flaring behavior can also be a helpful behavior to note, although other species are also capable of this. Colorations and patterns can prove confusing with this species in particular due to the high degree of variation. More detailed information regarding identification and behavior can be found on the Virginia Herpetological Societies website. An example of this variability has been observed here at The Preserve. This individual was spotted last year sporting a more red coloration than our highlighted individuals.

We'll take a further at this species and other Bull Run native snakes in a future #biodiversityhighlight.



© ldf131, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us.

If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Ingresado el 31 de agosto de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de agosto de 2022

Biodiversity Highlight - Series #2: Passalidae of the Bull Run Mountains

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #2): Horned Passalus Beetle (Odontotaenius disjunctus)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Odontotaenius disjunctus (Horned Passalus Beetle) - A full life history of the species spotted within a rotting log on the Northern Section of The Preserve
© Michael J. W. Carr, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC); (Larvae [Left], Pupa [Center], Adult [Right])


Hello again everyone,

Last week we completed our first biodiversity highlight series investigating the Lucanidae, or stag beetles found within the Bull Run Mountain Natural Area Preserve. This week we will be starting and completing our second highlight series while focusing on the Passalidae family! Luckily for this author, the Passalidae of our Mountain haven includes only one species - Odontotaenius disjunctus, or the bess beetle. This family deserves an early mention in our biodiversity series as it is one of the most charismatic and ubiquitous "big" beetles present within the Bull Run Mountains and the greater Northern Virginia Area. Odontotaenius disjunctus has many colloquial names including the horned passalus beetle, the patent leather beetle, the Betsy beetles, bess beetle, and even the Jerusalem beetle. Whatever you might call this curious insect, Odontotaenius disjunctus may be the best gateway beetle for the young and old. This can be chalked up to the species' overall docileness, slow movement, reluctance to fly, and charming stridulation. The species can be found throughout our area, including urban areas where decaying wood is available - yup, this week's mention is another saproxylic species (this may be a trend)!

My personal favorite colloquial name for this species is the bess beetle, which I will use for the rest of this article. It's also a ritual of mine to whisper "bess beetles are the best beetles" whenever I turn them up along a nature walk - whether they appreciate the recognition or not, no one will ever know, but I like to think it brings me luck in finding other interesting species while bugging.

The bess beetle is a remarkable model for some uncommon and interesting behavioral traits that are uncommon among Coleoptera. Most notably their colonial habits, their use of bioacoustic communication, and atypical display of brood care. These behaviors are somewhat disputed, but the species demonstrates pseudo-eusocial characteristics which are extraordinary among insects outside of Hymenoptera (think of our local Polistes [paper wasps] species), and Isoptera (termites). This ‘almost’ eusocial behavior can be viewed relatively easily when encountering a colony in the wild. Sprinkled across a thoroughly excavated fallen log you may find tens of beetles clumsily making their way into conspicuous cavities that branch and spread invisibly below the surface. This matrix of tunnels branches and terminates throughout the log supporting the entire lifecycle of the beetles. From egg to adult, the complete metamorphosis of the beetle takes place within the ever more broken down bosom of heartwood until the adults must disperse to find new host wood.


Odontotaenius disjunctus (Horned Passalus Beetle) - A mature and freshly molted adult pair observed in Richmond, Virginia

© Ashley McFad (@ashleymcfad), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


The highlighting of this species so soon in our deep dive into Bull Run Mountains insect biodiversity isn’t without proper planning. As you may have recognized, this species of Coleoptera looks incredibly similar to some of our previously mentioned Lucanidae highlights. With the typical beetle-ish appearance, similar-looking clubbed antenna, and a pair of moderately large mandibles you would not be docked points for confusing the two. The families of Passalidae and Lucanidae are close relatives within the greater taxonomic classification. However, the nuance of coleopteran identification is on full display with our bess beetle. Let’s work through my description above: the typical beetle-ish appearance is actually distinguished by the bess beetles in their elongated form, deeply striated elytra, and shiny, raven-black coloration. This sets it apart from the somewhat similar looking Drocus sp. of Lucanidae. The clubbed antenna can prove to deceive when you aren’t familiar with the great variety of antenatal forms found in Coleoptera. The feature to note is that the bess beetle does not have a geniculate antenna, it doesn’t have an “elbow” and only curves with the intent of the beetle. Finally, those large mandibles, while mildly intimidating, are more robust and toothed in comparison with our local Lucanidae species.

Altogether, the bess beetle is a rather unique-looking beetle when you look more closely. The species does not display notable sexual dimorphism and only varies slightly in size among individuals.


Odontotaenius disjunctus (Horned Passalus Beetle) - Larval specimen observed in Maryland

© Dave (@djgphotographics), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Does the image above look familiar? If you saw our last post covering the “white grub” form of the Lucanidae it probably does! The bess beetle also has scarabaeiform larvae, but with a twist. In their larval form, the grubs of Lucanidae and Scarabiadae beetles can be difficult to tell apart, however, the larvae of the bess beetle have a unique morphology that can make a quick ID easy. At first glance, you might be able to tell the differences between the two types of larvae. The bess beetle larvae are a bit more elongated in appearance; more extended instead of coiled into themselves. The head of the bess beetle larvae also projects further away from the body than other white grubs. The biggest difference and the one which will help you get a positive ID within The Preserve is the lack of a third pair of developed legs. With only four legs the bess beetle larvae stand apart from its scarabaeiform larvae brethren. Interestingly, that final pair of legs is not absent in the larvae but has reduced into a peg-like form that acts as a sound-making apparatus. It is suspected that the stridulations of the larvae are used in signaling adult bess beetles to indicate hunger. Stridulation is not uncommon in larvae beetles, but its use of it in communication within a colonial setting is.

To take another side track off of the species itself, let’s quickly cover the process in all beetle utilizes to reach their best selves - complete metamorphosis or Holometabolous. Within the insect world, there are several forms of metamorphosis. These include little to no metamorphosis, or Ametabolous, where the insect develops without significant changes in its morphology. In this process of development, the adult form of the insect resembles a larger form of its juvenile shape (most prevalent in primitive insects like springtails and silverfish. Another metamorphic process is partial metamorphosis, or Hemimetabolous, where the life cycle of the insects consists of three developmental stages: egg, nymph, and adult. This process is like that of the cicada or grasshopper, where nymphs look similar to adults but lack wings and fully developed morphology. Finally, the final process of metamorphosis is what the sour bess beetle utilizes as a developmental life strategy - complete metamorphosis. This process is also utilized by Diptera (flies) and Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) where the life cycle includes four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. In our banner image for this post, you can see the three life stages beyond the egg which the bess beetle passes through in its life cycle. A remarkable thing to see all at once when observing nature!


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us.

If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Ingresado el 17 de agosto de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

11 de agosto de 2022

Biodiversity Highlight - Series #1: Lucanidae of the Bull Run Mountains - Part Four

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #1: Part Four): Lucanus capreolus (Reddish-brown Stag Beetle)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Lucanus capreolus (Reddish-brown Stag Beetle) - ♂ spotted at Bull Run Mountain Estates (adjacent to The Preserve's Northern Property)

© Mark D Swartz (@markdswartz), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Hello again everyone!

Welcome to our fourth and final installment highlighting the Lucanidae of the Bull Run Mountains. I hope you all have enjoyed these articles as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This week's article will highlight the largest and most impressive species of stag beetle in our area. In addition, we will be covering some of the life histories, specifically their larval form. While the family Lucanidae is a personal favorite of mine, we have many more exciting Coleopteran species to explore in upcoming highlights. So let's get started!

Our subject for this week is the reddish-brown stag beetle, Lucanus capreolus. This species of stag beetle is among the largest of the stag beetles in the United States, only falling short of the larger giant stag beetles found in central and southern Virginia. These remarkable stags can be identified easily by their starkly bi-colored femora, chestnut elytra, and the large, sickled-shaped mandibles sported by the males. The species can reach sizes of up to 42mm (or just over 1 1/2 inches) depending on habitat quality. The species is more tolerant of upland, rocky habitats than the closely related giant stag beetle, supporting the probability of the species' presence within the mountainous terrain of The Preserve. This habitat adaptability is apparent when viewing the distribution of the species in the western portions of the state. Here, the species can be seen well within the mountainous habitats of the Blue Ridge and Central Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. Despite some effort from this author, the only observation of the species around the preserve has been on the Eastern slope of the Bull Run Mountain, outside of The Preserve - hopefully, this can be remedied soon by our visitors!

The scientific name of the species, Lucanus capreolus, echos the brain space of its European author - the Swedish Taxonmist Carl Linneaus, who formalized the system of binomial nomenclature. The specific epithet "capreolus" translates directly to "little goat", but derives its meaning from the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). This was due to the resemblance of the male stag beetles' mandibles to the antlers of the deer, which are common across the European continent. This likening to Cervid antlers is common in this Genus of Lucanidae. The Giant stag beetle (Lucanus elpahus), mentioned several times in this series, is named in relation to the European elk, Cervus elaphus. An interesting caveat is that both of these species are named in relation to European species which do not occur within the native range of either American species.


Lucanus capreolus (Reddish-brown Stag Beetle) ♀ - female specimen observed in Virginia

© Michael J. W. Carr (@mjwcarr), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Although males get much of the attention for this family of beetles, due to their well-endowed mandibular assets, the females possess an underappreciated charm. With an incredibly stereotypical beetle-ish form, female stag beetles can be difficult to identify without some nuance know-how. This becomes incredibly useful in the Southern portion of the state where several genera of Lucanuidae become more common and diverse. For this species, there are several main morphological features to pay attention to - size, color, a shape of specific morphological features.

Firstly, when finding a particularly beetle-ly looking beetle, identify it to family level Identification by looking at the antenna: geniculate (elbowed) with a distal club (several slightly flattened antennomeres) are a typical shape for local Lucanidae. Moving closer to identifying your beetle, get to the genus level by using several notes: size - L. capreolus species are between 22-42mm (42mm is the maximum male size),. The difference in size can be tenuous based on the health of the individual beetle during its larval stage. This is best used to rule out the diminutive species of Lucanidae like Platycerus and Ceruchus. Texture can help as well as the genus Lucanus generally has a smooth, almost glossy elytron which distinguishes them from a similar genus Dorcus (which has striated elytra). Regarding color, many of the Licanidae in our area are black in color (Dorcus, Platycerus, Ceruchus), but the rich, mahogany-chestnut color of the reddish-brown stag beetle will certainly set it apart in aesthetic depth. Finally, there is a fine morphological feature to pay attention to if you want to get your identification down to species level, especially for females. A feature known as the labrum, which sits between the mandibles, is notably triangular with a rounded tip. This point of reference is absolutely necessary to look at when determining female Lucanus species apart.

Okay. Now that I've frontloaded all of that information there is an easy, quick identifying feature for identifying the species - their bi-colored femora (as seen in both the male and female specimens pictured in this article). These bright orange femora are distinctive among all North America Lucanidae, so make sure to take ventral pictures of this family if you're still not confident in your identification.


Lucanus capreolus (Reddish-brown Stag Beetle) - Larval specimen observed in Massachusetts

© mistaharris (@mistaharris), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-ND)


If you're a gardener the specimen above may look vaguely familiar. The white grub, technically described as scarabaeiform larvae, is a catch-all for the diverse and convoluted category of larval beetles which can be incredibly difficult to identify without a scope or a keen eye. The Lucanidae larvae fall under this category and can easily be mistaken as garden pests (like the Asian garden beetle, Maladera castanea). This misidentification can be somewhat avoided based on the context in which a white grub is found - among the living roots and soil of a garden a good habitat for stags it is not. As stated throughout this series this family of beetles is saproxylic or requires dead woody materials for their development. As such, this family is typically found within decaying stumps, rotting logs, and scattered soil-submerged branches.

This preference for woody materials can lead to some overlap of natural and artificial environments. The species has remarkably been found to be somewhat flexible in the medium in which they can develop. Railroad ties, landscaping mulch, and compost have all been found to support larval stag beetles. This adaptability to more urban woody resources provides an interesting dichotomy within the literature, which, until recently, has always associated the family with more old-growth landscapes. This is made even more impressive when you consider that the development of larval stag beetles into adults can be as much as three years.

If you do come across a white grub and are curious to tell whether it is a Lucanidae larva, there is a way. Stag beetle grubs have several morphological features that distinguish them from their closely related scarab cousins. This comes in the form of 'C' shaped spiracles, or the darkly colored dots running laterally along the body of the grub. In other scarabaeiform larvae, these are typically complete circles. The head capsule is also considerably larger than other scarab larvae, and armed with darkly colored mandibles that extend somewhat outwardly - what out, they can nibble! Finally, if you are comfortable handling the grab and acting outside of human norms, take a look at its rear-end. The anal aperture of the grub will be 'y'-shaped or longitudinal.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us.

If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
iNaturalist: VOF-BRMNAP Preserve Manager Joe Villari (@jvillari)
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Ingresado el 11 de agosto de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de agosto de 2022

Biodiversity Highlight - Series #1: Lucanidae of the Bull Run Mountains - Part Three

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #1: Part Three): Ceruchus piceus (Red-rot Decay Stag Beetle)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve


Ceruchus piceus (Red-rot Decay Stag Beetle) - minor ♂ spotted on The Preserve's north section

© Michael Carr (@mjwcarr), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Hello again everyone!

Welcome back to yet another installment exploring the biodiversity of the Bul Run Mountains. This week's mention mark's the final stretch of our deep dive into the Lucanidae of the Bull Run Mountains. Armed with much more intimidating mandibles, a slick, yet stocky build, and an entirely different habitat preference than our previous highlights let's jump into our subject - Ceruchus piceus, or the red-rot decay stag beetle. Like our other Lucanidae, this particular species has the same voracious appetite for decaying wood (at least as a larva). However, this species requires another type of rotting wood from which it gets its common namesake - red rot More on that later though). The red-rot decay stag beetle is another diminutive species of Lucanidae (perhaps tied with Platycerus quercus), only reaching a maximum size of ~18mm (or about the size of a thumbnail). The species occurs relatively commonly across both undisturbed and even urban habitats where suitable deadwood occurs - just check out the locations it has been spotted around NOVA.

Typical of its family, the red-rot decay stag beetles have a geniculate antenna culminating in a multi-antennomere club at the distal end. The elytra of the species are striated, meaning they are marked with long, thin, parallel lines. The specific epithet of the species piceus translates directly to "pitch black" - a pleasantly literal representation of the species. One of three species of Ceruchus, this is the only species of the genus to occur within The Preserve and Virginia as a whole. However, should you come across a similar-looking species in the north or west, the males of this species can be identified by a large "tooth" present along the center of the mandible. Beyond identification and biological notes, this species has been the subject of some interesting scientific studies. Some of which involve the larval form of the organism's capacity to tolerate sub-freezing conditions without extensive use of anti-freeze alcohol, a technique typical of many freeze-tolerate insects. This may be a great topic to explore in a future winter-specific post on insects.


Ceruchus piceus (Red-rot Decay Stag Beetle) ♂ - male specimen observed in Massachusetts

© Tom Murray (@tmurray74), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)


Wow, look at those chompers! The major males (males that show exceptional development of mandibles and which approach or have reached maximum size) of this species are likely armed with the second largest mandibles relative to the body size of any other Lucanidae in the United States. Interestingly, unlike other species of stag beetles with such large mandibles, the red-rot decay stag beetle does not use its well-endowed appendages to secure the female during the mating process. In good taste, this stag beetle prefers to woo a receptive female by massaging her elytra with his midleg during mounting and mating. This behavior is interesting in that it excludes the function of the mandibles in courtship behavior. With the resource allocation needed for developing such weapons, they are restricted to male-on-male mate competition.

As promised earlier, let's have a brief look at some stag beetle ecology involving deadwood. It is just as important to understand the organism as it is to understand its habitat. In the family Lucanidae the habitat of choice is typically rotting, deadwood materials in forest environments. Many of us are familiar with rotting wood, whether in our own homes or having encountered it in a natural state. However, there are several types of rotting wood that have to provide very different resources to the surrounding habitat. The two main types are brown (or red)rot and white rot. These types of wood rot are determined by a panoply of fungal species associated with each type. Common species include Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail), considered a "white rot" fungus, and Laetiporus sulphureu (Chicken-of-the-woods), considered a "red rot" fungus. These fungi consume different polymers found in dead wood leaving behind materials for which the rot types get their names.

In white rotted wood, the fungal species colonizing the deadwood break down the lignin of the wood, in turn releasing carbon dioxide and water. Once completed this process leaves an abundance of fiber-rich, white-colored cellulose remaining. This process is switched in red-rot-associated fungal species, which breaks down the cellulose of the deadwood and leaves behind the brown-red colored lignin. The brown lignin is also consumed in white rot fungi, but the polymer is "bleached" leaving the materials much lighter in color. The textures of these rot types are also distinct from one another. White rot is typically stringy or soft, highly fibrous, and very easy to pull apart. Red rotted wood tends to produce blocky, harder pieces of processed wood which can be very fractured in appearance.


Ceruchus piceus (Red-rot Decay Stag Beetle) ♀ - female specimen observed in Massachusetts

© Jason M Crockwell (@berkshirenaturalist), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-ND)


The preference of rot types between Lucanidae species has been recorded around the world. There have even been correlations between the size of rotted woody materials and the state of decay playing a role in habitat selection by females for oviposition. Some of this is understood, and much of it isn't specifically known. There are many mysteries and nuances left to be discovered in stag beetles!

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us.

If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
iNaturalist: VOF-BRMNAP Preserve Manager Joe Villari (@jvillari)
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Ingresado el 05 de agosto de 2022 por mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario