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Hypothyce Hunt in GA

 A male Hypothyce burnei (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae).

A male Hypothyce burnei (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae).

Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and WCVE producer Steve Clark discuss Art’s recent trip to Georgia in search of seldom-seen scarab beetles.

SC: I'm Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You. A song comes to mind this morning.

AE: Yes.

SC: Charlie Daniels and The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

AE: (laughing) Yes, and I just returned from Georgia, sort of kicked off my summer with a very long drive looking for two rare beetles, June beetles that come to lights, very similar to the plain brown or black ones that you see around porch lights here. But these are different. They are only known from the Sandhill areas in Georgia. We went after one and found a short series of specimens, all males, as far as we know. The females don't fly, and we were hoping to find the males buzzing around so we could follow them to the females. But no such luck.

SC: You say we, who was with you?

AE: Longtime friend of mine that lives in Decatur joined me on this trip, and I met two colleagues that came all the way up from Gainesville, Florida to join in this little foray.
SC: So, all looking for the same beetle.

AE: All looking for the same beetle.

SC: That’s fun.

AE: In fact, it was my colleague in Florida who had collected one of the beetles two years ago, so we had a spot where we'd find one of them. That's the very first spot that we visited, and that's where we found them, and we just peppered the Sandhill habitat with ultraviolet lights, and I think between the four of us we collected eight specimens. I don't believe they're rare-rare; I just believe that we weren't there at the right time. We packed up the next day and drove two hours further south to the vicinity of Albany, Georgia, to look for a beetle that had not been seen since the original series was collected in 1965 and 1966. To this day it remains unseen. (laughing) We didn't find any.

SC: But you knew what you were looking for?

AE: We knew what we're looking for, and I was amazed at how the technology has changed in planning for trips. You know in the old days you would just scribble down notes from the label data, what was on the specimen, and it would say “x” number of miles southeast of whatever town. The only information we had for the Albany beetle was that it was four and three quarter miles southeast of Albany. That's it. And it was from a black light in a nut orchard.

SC: That was perfect.

AE: Perfect. And I went onto Google Earth, you know, “Where's the center of town?” But you could sort of eyeball it, and I drew it with a little mapping tool. You draw an arc that's four and three quarter miles away from that center, and it swept it right along the edge of a pecan orchard and some woods. And two of us independently found the same spot. So that's where we went. And we set up over 20 lights. I used these LED party lights, just put them on an old shower curtain and laid them out. And if they were going to be out, we'd find them. These beetles are active just as it's getting dark. They fly for just a few minutes after dark, and that's it. They're done. So it's real hit or miss. You'll know if you get them or you don't.

SC: Did we talk about what the beetle is, the name?

AE: The beetles do not have a common name. They are commonly called chafers. They're related to what people call May beetles or June bugs.

SC: Okay.

AE: And it's Hypothyce, and Hypothyce osburni is the one that hasn't been seen in over half a century, and the one we did manage to find was Hypothyce burnei, and I'll be sure there's a nice picture of a male Hypothyce burnei on the website.

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 ideastations.org/radio/bugs.


Dr. Arthur V. Evans teams up with WCVE Public 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 88.9 WCVE, Richmond’s Public Radio station.