Friday, November 23, 2012

Mission: Impossible – the Ground Beetles

Originally published on Audubon Guides on September 4th, 2012
My mother, a park ranger, once held out a cone from an unknown tree and asked a state forester if he knew which tree it came from. “Some kinda conifer”, he answered, as if that was sufficient. He wasn’t wrong. The cone did come from a coniferous tree, but the answer was as helpful as saying “food” when someone asks “what’s for dinner?”
My mother was hoping for the specific tree. Did the forester know the answer or not?  I hardly know anything and nature proves that to me daily with new mysteries. For example, why one morning was there a Ground Beetle hanging from a web-like snare from the bumper of my car? These are large, hefty beetles. Who caught it? And what type of beetle is it? I’ll give you a hint. You’re not going to find out because I don’t know.
Pasimachus Ground Beetle © Pete Corradino
I asked an insect nerd, I mean entomologist, which species it might be and considering there are over 425 different species of ground beetles, I was content to have it narrowed down to the Pasimachus, a genera with at least five indigenous species in Florida. From there he said it was impossible to tell with the photograph provided.
Most of the 40,000+ beetles in the world have hardened elytra that cover over and protect the wings. The Pasimachus ground beetles are flightless and the elytra are fused into a firm shell. They spend their time on the ground, in and under logs and leaf litter foraging for caterpillars, other larvae and other ground insects.
a mysterious situation © Pete Corradino
How this beetle came to be ensnared, flailing its limbs in the breeze like Ethan Hunt on a mission is beyond me. If it was trapped in a spider’s web, I wasn’t curious enough to look up under my car to find out which kind.
It would have been nice to offer you a genus and species name, but the beetle biologist took me as far as I could go. “Some kinda Pasimachus” would have to do. Sometimes identifying insects is a mission: impossible.

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