Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and WCVE producer Steve Clark discuss the results of Art's Virginia Weevil Project working with Bob Anderson of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Among other discoveries, it appears at least one weevil species found is new to science.
SC: I'm Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You. Your Canadian friend, Bob Anderson, was in town working on your Virginia Weasel Project.
AE: That's weevil to you. (laughing) Bob has been accused of being a weasel biologist in the past.
SC: Well, what did you guys find when you're going through all those weevils?
AE: Well, we discovered a lot of things, but one thing that comes to mind is it appears that we found a species new to science, so that's kind of exciting.
SC: Not just to Virginia, but new to science?
AE: New to science. It was a specimen that was in my collection that I had acquired from another collector. It was found at Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve in the Zuni Pine Barrens.
SC: Oh, here in Virginia?
SC: Right down the road.
AE: Yes, so a few days after the discovery, we took off to the Zuni Pine Barrens, and Bob did his leaf litter sampling and found two more specimens. And upon his return to Ottawa, he checked his collection and found that he had additional specimens from Florida and some material that he had collected in South Carolina. So it appears to be a species that's widely distributed in Sandhill areas throughout the southeast. But up till now it has escaped detection, in part I think because it looks very similar to a well-known species.
SC: I was going to ask, does it jump out at you visually?
AE: Well I’ve got to be honest. It jumped out at Bob. He's, he's the weasel specialist. (laughing) Bob recognized that it had a different surface sculpturing on the thorax. It has deep punctures. It looks like it's heavily pitted, and it really stands out once he pointed it out to me. And he traveled up to the Smithsonian during his visit here and had a chance to look at type specimens. Type specimens are the name holders of new species. When a scientist describes a species, they pick one specimen to be the holotype, and that way other scientists have a specimen they can refer to when they're trying to ascertain the true identity of a particular species. And he checked the type collection there and didn't find any representatives of this particular species. So at the moment we're pretty confident that it's something new. So I set out to get some more specimens, and I went out just the other day to set up some traps at both Blackwater Ecological Preserve and the adjacent Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve to try and find some more of these weevils.
SC: How did you fare?
AE: Don't know. I'll be going out next week. I plan to go out once a week.
SC: Oh, you just set the traps?
AE: Right, I just set the traps.
SC: I gotcha.
AE: Just set the traps out, and these are malaise traps and so we check them once a week, and I also set out a flight intercept trap. It's just a couple of panels of plastic over some pans, and things will bumble into it and fall into the fluid that collects them. So I'm sort of anxious to go out next week and see what we find.
SC: Take me with you.
AE: You're anxious to be exsanguinated by mosquitoes?
SC: On second thought.
AE: It was, it was pretty grim out there. We also did some black lighting too, and it was a fantastic night.
SC: Dr. Art Evans is a Research Associate at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. You’ll find photos, audio, and links to the museum and Art’s Facebook page at our brand new website address, vpm.org/bugs. Again, that’s vpm.org/bugs.
Dr. Arthur V. Evans teams up with VPM Radio producer Steve Clark for a weekly feature, “What’s Bugging You?,” which airs during NPR’s Morning Edition. The program takes its name from another of Evans’ books “What’s Bugging You – A Fond Look at the Animals We Love to Hate.”
Tune in each Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. or at 5:44 p.m. on VPM News