Friday, June 28, 2013

Exploring a Glade


While most of the people at the Missouri Native Plant Society trips are looking for rare plants, sedges and grasses, some of us on the fringe are exploring for other species.  I joined Brian Edmond and his young assistant Julian in a search for herps and insects.

We found this creature under a rock while looking for scorpions.  Looking at its jaws, I was reluctant to make it mad.  I sent the picture to Chris Barnhart who got right back with the suggestion that it was a ground beetle larva, probably of the Carabidae family.  I sent the picture to Bugguide.net and received a quick response the next morning that it was indeed in this family, and a member of the Calosoma genus.

Calosoma beetles are large ground beetles, also known as searchers or caterpillar hunters.  You may recall a past blog on the beautiful Fiery Searcher that was also a guest at our last MN chapter meeting.  Both the beetle and their larvae (grubs) climb trees in search of caterpillars, and one species was even imported in 1905 to hopefully attack Gypsy Moth larvae.  While I can't be sure, this looks just like the Fiery Searcher grub pictured eating a caterpillar on this beetleforum.net site.  There is more about it in the 2011 blog.

Fiery Searcher beetle- Click to enlarge
Its fiery name comes from the dramatic colors.  At first glance it is just another green beetle, but on close inspection it shows its true colors.  I find it hard to capture all the iridescent colors of this beetle with a camera, especially the glowing red hues around the edge of its wing covers.  This dead beetle gives you some idea of the blue-green and orange highlights.

We did find some scorpions but no snakes or collared lizards.  Unlike the movies, these scorpions were very laid back, just wanting to be left alone.  Life on the glade is hard and they need their undisturbed rest.  We were careful to put the rocks back down where we found them, as hiding places on a glade are at a premium.

The highlight of the hike for Julian was the tarantula.  It again was found under a rock. What creature wants to be exposed to a human on a glade around high noon?  The spider, relatively small for its species, was docile and not bothered by gentle handling.  They don't look at humans as food and won't waste their precious venom on us unless they are threatened,


Tarantulas get a bad rap in the movies, but they won't kill you unless you find the ones that James Bond or Indiana Jones encountered.  When threatened, a tarantula gives a warning like other animals, in this case by rearing up on its back legs and baring its fangs.


Its bite can give you a nasty swelling like a bee sting and it can release urticating hairs which can sting and cause a rash.  I wouldn't advise handling one unless you are experienced, very calm, and keep the spider mellow.  If you yield to the temptation, some pointers are here.  For me, observation or a gentle pet on the back is enough.

Brian and his assistant Julian demonstrate safe handling in this video.

Most spider bites aren't spiders anyway.  See this site.

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