Category Archives: Insects

Rothschild Silkmoth (Rothschildia hesperus)

Dr Adrian Spalding, president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society in company of Devon’s Marsland reserve director Gary Pilkington visited REGUA in search of insects and birds last October.    The weather was not helpful being hot and dry, so together with Jorge, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist, we headed for a night’s “moth trapping” at Bel Miller’s house in nearby Macae de Cima.

Rothschildia hesperus (© Nicholas Locke)

The weather at that point changed and a light drizzle started.   Bel had mentioned that the weather had also been dry so the rain was most welcome.   Before dinner, Gary set up the light and whilst we had our meal, we could see the moths homing in.   Dr Adrian was up and down and taking photographs of species that converged by the light.    Jorge patiently placed examples of Hawkmoths for identification and send mouth-watering photos to Alan Martin, co-writer of REGUA’s publication “A Guide to the Hawkmoth of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil”.

A multitude of Silkmoths, Tiger moths, Hawkmoths and other micro moths as well as other insects attracted by the light and humid weather came in droves and Adrian said that this must be “the best night EVER I have mothed!”    Gary was similarly delighted, his head covered in moths busy taking photos.

A superb Giant Silkmoth visited, Rothschildia hesperus (Linnaeus, 1758).   Occurring from Argentina to South USA, this is a canopy rainforest species found from sea level to 1400m. It has a wingspan of 10-12 cm and the male is larger bearing transparent triangular windows in each wing.   Females have more rounded wings than males. The adults do not feed, for after mating and laying eggs, and their life’s function is fulfilled.

Dr. Adrian and Gary were in their element. Who wouldn’t be, covered in moths !!

Spider-hunting Wasp

Michael Patrikeev has been working on the identification of species he found at REGUA during his stay and has more news for us.

Pepsis-inclyta (© Michael Patrikeev)

“I have identified another species for the reserve this time it is a giant black-blue spider-hunting wasp, which has very likely been seen when it was busily looking for its prey in the forest understorey. The size is impressive, 50-55 mm, and its sting is very painful, apparently scoring 4.0 on the Schmidt sting pain index, next to the bullet-ant (4.0+).

The species is Pepsis inclyta Lepeletier, 1845. It is  “commonest in southern Brazil to central Argentina, but ranges over most of South America” (Vardy 2005).

More images and details on identification can be seen here (http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Hymenoptera/Pompilidae/Pepsis-inclyta.html).”

Michael Patrikeev

Professor Proudfoot’s Work!

Walking the 50km of trails at REGUA is fascinating for birders and naturalists alike. Altitudinal range spans 30 – 2000m and there is a richness of invertebrates and plants to match the diversity of birds that draws the majority of visitors to REGUA.    All classes of arthropod are present in abundance and there are many interesting patterns of distribution waiting to be identified and investigated.

Dobsonfly Corydalidae (©Andrew Proudfoot)

REGUA’s lodge garden has a roofed, whitewashed wall complete with mercury vapour lamp generating many new records of moths for the Reserve and for Rio State.    The wall often reveals a wealth of other interesting invertebrates such as this Dobsonfly (Corydalidae).   Many of these creatures are difficult to see in the forest probably because they are residents of the tree canopy.

In the forest there are chance encounters with exciting species such as the White Witch Moth (Thysania agripina)  Noctuidae with a huge wingspan.

December to Febuary is the Brazilian summer and usually a hot rainy season and time of maximum plant growth.   This is, of course, an excellent time for all insects and amphibians.   Whilst August to November is the Brazilian Spring and busy for birdwatching, it is also good for insects.    Only March to July are a little quieter.

Witch moth Thysania agripina (© Andrew Proudfoot)

There is a profusion of wonderful butterflies.  Some, like the 88, (Diaethria clymena) are very common.   The most famous neotropical butterflies belong to the Genus Heliconia, with their distinctive strap-shaped wings and bright colours.   These insects were shown to have co-evolved with their food plant, the different species of passion-vine (Passiflora). The vines put out new shoots irregularly and the butterflies must live a long time to be able to search out new growth and lay a full complement of eggs.

Another spectacular group of insect are the various species of huge Morpho butterflies which flit through the forest under-storey.

Diptera are interesting and diverse. There are three common sources of food that can provide for a profusion of flies: dung, carrion and some species of freshly emerged fungus. Parasitoid ichneumonids and tachinids search out the larvae of butterflies and moths whose living tissues they will feed on until they finally cause their death.

Ants are predators, roaming leaf and shoot for opportunities or different species will farm leaves with the help of fungus.

Volunteer Researchers (Lee & Peter) in the forest (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Spiders must guard against predatory wasps and some of these are very large indeed.

Beneath the placid exterior of the forest, termites work to undo the conversion of CO2 to sugar; every now and then a crash is heard acr

oss the forest as another giant tree succumbs to their tiny jaws.

There is much work to do to find out how many species of arthropod exist in these rich habitats.   We are only in the earliest of stages investigating how all these myriad species interact in Mata Atlântica.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer

Insect life Research

REGUA received a visit by the eminent biologists Dr. David Redei and his colleague, Dr. Qiang Xie from Nankai University last December.    Working in partnership with Brazil’s Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) and invited by Dr. Felipe and Dr.Elcio, they spent a day looking at REGUA’s insect life.

Dr David Redei inspecting the Conservation Centre Moth Trap (© N Locke)

David and Qiang are working on phylogeny using morphological and molecular characters used in establishing taxonomic differences.   David is classifying insects according to tribe, family and genus.   Their interest in South America is evident once one knows that the continent has its own endemic and specialized insects.   David’s specialty is Hemiptera or Stink bugs, but he became very excited to learn that REGUA has its fair share of Phloeidae, a family existing only in the Neotropics of the Atlantic rainforest.   These are barnacle like insects that can be found mainly lurking on tree trunks in quality forest.

Now we will keep our eyes peeled to photograph and send images to these fascinating visitors. Thank you both for visiting and sharing your interests with us!

Longhorn Beetle identified

In September 2011, I photographed a long-horned beetle, which has been recently identified by Everardo Grossi, a friend of Isabel Miller.

Hypsioma inornata (© Michael Patrikeev)

According to Everardo the species is Hypsioma inornata (Hypselomus inornata).
There is a specimen in the Paris National Museum, labelled simply “Brazil”.

I have little familiarity with Neotropical Cerambycidae. Perhaps there are more recent records in recent entomological literature.

Michael Patrikeev

 

Tiger Beetle

Tiger beetles are always exciting to watch as they prowl about searching for food before flying off like a jet fighter to disappear out of view.

Tiger Beetle [possibly Cicindelidia politula] (© N Locke)
They have characteristically large bulging eyes and large mandibles for crunching up their food.

Tiger Beetles come from the Cicindelinae family, originating from the Latin word of Glow worm since most are brightly coloured.    Whilst this example looks similar to a Limestone Tiger Beetle, it is one of many different Cicindela sp.

“Guava” stick insect

Guava stick insect
Guava stick insect (© Nichols Locke)

Stick insects are enigmatic creatures, blending into the forest which often makes them hard to see but then surprisingly obliging in the hand. Their Portuguese name is bicho pau or branch bug, from its mimicry of brown twigs. They often waver from side to side, again mimicking the movement of the twigs around them.

The 3,000 species, found mainly in the tropics, are from the Phasmatodea order (they do look a little phantasmagoric) and the Phylliidae family (leaf insects) feeding mainly on leaves. They play an important role in the breakdown of organic matter.

They are not easily noticeable, but our nurseryman, Jailson, has a keen eye for something out of the ordinary and brought this example, which he found in the nursery, into the REGUA Conservation Centre. This particular species is referred to locally as ‘guava stick insect’, named after it’s preference for these fruit. As you can imagine this one foot long insect caused quite a stir with the students present on a course, and after climbing on a few human hands and being subjected to a number of photos, we returned it to a safe place, tucked away back in the nursery.

Ant mimic bugs

I’ve been inspired to write about a sighting just seven metres away from the REGUA office. What seemed to be a huge ant, never spotted here before, was photographed on a leaf. We currently have an inventory of ants being carried out by Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ) researchers. To my surprise, close examination of the antennae and feeding apparatus from the photograph revealed this ‘odd’ ant to actually be hemipteran bug – an incredible ant mimic!

Nymph of Neotropical Soybean Bug <em>Neomegalotomus parvus</em> (© Jorge Bizarro)
Nymph of Neotropical Soybean Bug Neomegalotomus parvus (© Jorge Bizarro)

It has been identified as the nymph (juvenile stage) of the Neotropical Soybean Bug Neomegalotomus parvus (Westwood, 1842) (HEMIPTERA: Alydidae), or Percevejo Formigão in Portuguese.

According to Costa Lima’s Insetos do Brasil, only the immature stages are ant mimics. Alydidae bugs, or other primitive coreoids, are closely related to Leguminosae. They are not species-specific to any Leguminosae and feed on different leguminous plants (Schaefer 1980, Schaefer & Mitchell 1983), including soy beans, with potential to reach pest status.

In the field, adults were found on carrion and faeces of animals. In a soybean field in Bela Vista do Paraíso, PR, N. Parvus were found aggregating (30 to 40 individuals) in dog faeces at the time of soybean harvest. Alydidae may feed on faeces or carrion under extreme conditions when their primary food source (legumes) is not available.

The ecological reason for why the nymphs are perfect mimics of ants is still unknown. So here is an interesting theme for research.

References

LIMA, COSTA. 1940. Insetos do Brasil. 2 Tomo, Hemípteros, ESCOLA NACIONAL DE AGRONOMIA, SÉRIE DIDÁTICA N.º 3, figs. + 351 pp.

VENTURA, MAURÍCIO U., JOVENIL J. SILVA & ANTÔNIO R. PANIZZI. 2000. Scientific Note: Phytophagous Neomegalotomus parvus (Westwood) (Hemiptera: Alydidae) Feeding on Carrion and Feces. An. Soc. Entomol. Brasil 29: 839-841.

New damselfly for REGUA

<em>Lestes pictus</em>, new for REGUA, 24 October 2013 (© Dennis Paulson)
Lestes pictus, new for REGUA, 24 October 2013 (© Dennis Paulson)

Netta Smith and I visited REGUA for almost two weeks in late October to enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of the lodge and the wildlife of the area, but our special purpose was to look for dragonflies and damselflies. Tom Kompier has done a superb job of surveying the area, but you just about have to look at every wetland of every kind to find all the members of the order Odonata, so new species are always possible.

On October 24, we visited a tiny, densely vegetated pond by the abandoned house on the Waldenoor Trail and found Lestes pictus, a new species for REGUA. This beautiful spreadwing damselfly is known from relatively few records from Peru, Argentina and southern Brazil (Mato Grosso, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo).

Male Lestes have a pale blue or grey abdomen tip, but in almost all species the colour comes from a powdery bloom called pruinosity. In Lestes pictus, the colour is instead a reflected blue like that of many other damselfly species.

We encountered 78 species of Odonata during our visit, not even half of the species known from the area, but still a very impressive list for a short visit at the end of the dry season.

A Ghost moth at REGUA

Though there are some 587 species worldwide distributed in 60 genera of Ghost moths (Hepialidae), most are found in tropical regions. The Ghost moth Trichophassus giganteus (Herrich-Schaffer, [1853]), or mariposa fantasma as it is known locally, is endemic to Brazil, and this is the third time that this very large and primitive moth has arrived at REGUA’s moth traps. It is very well camouflaged but is attracted to light, and can be found having flown at night during the austral winter season. It can be distinguished by its long woolly legs that, though the rest looks very similar to an ordinary moth.

The Ghost moth gets this strange name from the way it flies in courting the female – hovering up and down attracting its mate. After the fertilization occurs a single female can lay up to 30,000 eggs – each the size of miniature sand grains which are spread from mid-air. Unlike normal caterpillars feeding on leaves, the larvae feed on roots and buried detritus.

Curiously Trichophassus giganteus is also a monotypic genus and is the only species living in the Atlantic Forest. Its primitiveness is represented by having identical veins in the front and rear wings, homoneura, and no longer present in other similar moths. Another distinguishing feature are its legs that resemble those of a tarantula, that has also earned it the name of Tarantula Moth!

Ghost moth <em>Trichophassus giganteus</em> (left), REGUA, 8 September 2013. The difference in the legs compared with the hawkmoth on the right is astonishing. (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Ghost moth Trichophassus giganteus (left), REGUA, 8 September 2013. The difference in the legs compared with the hawkmoth on the right is astonishing. (© Nicholas Locke)
Ghost moth <em>Trichophassus giganteus</em>, REGUA, 8 September 2013. At over 10 cm in length, this is a large moth. (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Ghost moth Trichophassus giganteus, REGUA, 8 September 2013. At over 10 cm in length, this is a large moth. (© Nicholas Locke)
Ghost moth <em>Trichophassus giganteus</em>, REGUA, 8 September 2013. The unfurled wings reveal a lower pair of wings which enables it to complete is hovering flight. (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Ghost moth Trichophassus giganteus, REGUA, 8 September 2013. The unfurled wings reveal a lower pair of wings which enables it to complete is hovering flight. (© Nicholas Locke)

You can read more about this amazing moth here.

Duskhawker, secrecy is thy middle name!

Male <em>Gynacantha mexicana</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Gynacantha mexicana (© Tom Kompier)

There is a group of darners that fills a special niche in the dragonfly world. These are the duskhawkers, a group of medium to large dragonflies with habits that set them apart from most other species. Although there are other dragonflies with somewhat similar habits, I speak of the members of the genera Gynacantha and Triacanthagyna.

They avoid the hot and sunny hours of the day, but fly for relative short periods in the evening, most commonly in, but not restricted to, the autumn and winter months. Some species occur when it is still relatively light, others when it is almost dark. During those restricted hours they hunt for small insect prey, mostly mosquitoes. During the day they hang inside the forest amongst tangles and vines, or clinging to tree stems, waiting for the feeding frenzy to start when the sun sets.

On cloudy days some species may fly about inside the forest, or even appear at the forest edge, but only at the appointed time do they venture into open areas. Some species patrol small areas just above the ground, flying in straight lines, like G. mexicana, or above small waters, like G. bifida. Others, like G. nervosa, fly in more irregular patterns.

<em>Gynacantha bifida</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Gynacantha bifida (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Gynacantha nervosa</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Gynacantha nervosa (© Tom Kompier)

 

These three species are the representatives of Gynacantha have so far been found in the lower foothills at REGUA and all three are appearing relatively late, with G. mexicana flying so late that it appears often as no more than a ghost, an ephemeral shape flitting in and out of reality. Meaning that you see it for an instant, but when you register seeing it, it has already disappeared into shade, only to reappear and disappear again and again while you try to follow its flight pattern. A wisp of smoke, a spirit, moving in complete silence a feet or so above the ground. High up, around 1000 masl, there is a fourth species, G. adela, that appears to fly earlier, or even in the middle of the day when there is cloud cover.

Male <em>Triacanthagyna caribbea</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Triacanthagyna caribbea (© Tom Kompier)

These large duskhawking darners are preceded by the members of the genus Triacanthagyna. These are somewhat smaller and occur in higher numbers, regularly swarming with a hundred or more over open spaces. One moment they are not flying and the next they cascade out of the forest into the open in the hour before darkness, to dance around, sometimes high in the sky, sometimes low over the fields, and to retreat suddenly at twilight, to be replaced by the members of Gynacantha.

Three species have been identified until now at REGUA. The larger T. caribbea is the first to appear, when it is still very light, soon joined by T. nympha, a species somewhat smaller, but very similar in general appearance, and later again by the often abundant T. septima. There may be other species in the area. The trouble is that duskhawkers are difficult to catch or observe, irrespective of their abundance, due to their crepuscular habits and often very erratic flight patterns. That is of course exactly why they are such an exciting group.

Male <em>Triacanthagyna nympha</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Triacanthagyna nympha (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Triacanthagyna septima</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Triacanthagyna septima (© Tom Kompier)

Tree hopper vs. Leafhopper

<em>Membracis dorsata</em> (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Membracis dorsata (© Nicholas Locke)
Leafhopper nymph (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Leafhopper nymph (© Nicholas Locke)

Tree hoppers and thorn bugs are quite the most amazing looking insects of the Membracae family, of which 3200 species are known in 600 genera. They are particularly amazing looking and are characterized by having an overgrown pronortum, the dorsal part of the their prothorrax, that makes up their exoskeleton head armour. They take on curious shapes and sizes for small insects and though they only live for a short few weeks, sucking sap from plants they have been around for 40 million years.

REGUA has its fair share and our entomologists are always on the look-out for them. These are small black and white tree hoppers, Membracis dorsata and were seen in the reforestation area.

They are not to be confused with Leafhoppers or Cicadellidae, minute plant leaf sap suckers and able to jump huge distances. There are over 40 sub families so one expects more leafhoppers than their cousin tree hoppers. This bright red one is a nymph stage and we shall wait to see which mature hopper he will develop into. It was found on the low leaves of the dense vegetation on our green trail to the waterfall.

The web has been brilliant for insects not for catching them, but involving a huge number of enthusiasts around the world sharing images and data to help identify them, monitor them, talk about them and increase our knowledge of these extraordinary animals.

Telebasis, a genus of flying pieces of blood coral

There are the Argia damsels, the most speciose genus of New World Coenagrionids, and then there is Telebasis, with almost 60 described species the second most speciose genus. Telebasis species come basically in two flavours, red and blue.

In REGUA up to four species have now been identified, all belonging to the reddish species. And with their bright red abdomens these tiny damsels are reminiscent of the precious blood coral from the oceans. Although they can all be recognized in hand by the shape of their appendages, it is in fact possible to separate them in the field. To work out the field characteristics of Odonata to aid their identification is one of the main purposes of our work at REGUA.

When visiting the wetlands at REGUA the most common of these four species, T. corallina, is hard to miss when you know where to look. As all Telebasis species, it is relatively inconspicuous, mostly staying low in the grasses along the verge of the wetland and amongst the emergent vegetation in the wetlands. But when you take the time to peruse such places you realise it is in fact all over the place.

The third species is T. griffinii. It is very similar to T. corallina, although somewhat smaller. Apart from the dorsal side of the thorax, which is marked by a more diffuse dark cloud along the dorsal ridge instead of the two clear-cut straight lines of T. corallina, it differs in having a red snout, not lime-green. It seems to inhabit even better quality ponds, with lush emergent and floating vegetation and forested edges. At REGUA it has been found at two locations. These records are of note, as the species had not been recorded at Rio de Janeiro state before.

Male <em>Telebasis corallina</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Telebasis corallina (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Telebasis filiola</em> (&copy; Tom Kompier)
Telebasis filiola (© Tom Kompier)

 

The last species to mention has been recorded at only one location and is probably rare in Rio de Janeiro state. This is T. carmesina, another species very similar to T. corallina, but with broader clear-cut stripes along the dorsal ridge of the thorax. Like T. corallina, its snout is greenish, but the ventral side of the thorax is whiter and the appendages are differently shaped. That is difficult to establish in the field unless it is caught and because it is so similar to T. corallina it may be under recorded. Like its brothers and sisters it keeps to the emergent vegetation along the edge of ponds.

Male <em>Telebasis griffinii</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Telebasis griffinii (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Telebasis carmesina</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Telebasis carmesina (© Tom Kompier)

 

If we take a quick look at the relationships in the genus, T. corallina was recorded together with all three other species, T. griffinii was seen with both T. corallina and T. filiola, but T. carmesina only with T. corallina. There were no bushes and trees along the verge of the pond where it was found, which may explain the absence of the other two. Now, the million dollar question is: which congeners did T. filiola occur with?

Bee hive relocated

A swarm of bees has been growing close to the start of the yellow trail here at REGUA. These were identified as most likely being European Honey Bees Apis mellifera. As this is one of our main trails, to lessen the chances of the bees being disturbed and staff and visitors attacked, the decision was made to attempt to relocate the hive. Local beekeeper, Odinho Cunha, was called in to help. Odinho inherited his passion for wildlife from his father who was one of the first ecologists in the Guapiaçu area.

Once the smoker is lit and producing sufficient smoke, the equipment, including the new hive are moved closer to the bees. Odinho then suits up and prepares for action. The long grass in the area around where the swarm has been seen is then cleared with a brushcutter in order to find the hive itself. The hive is found inside an old tree stump. Odinho reaches into the hive and removes some of the honeycomb. This is then placed in the new hive in order to encourage the bees to relocate their home there.

If we are successful, within the next few weeks, the bees should have moved completely. Once settled into the new hive, we are then free to relocate them to a safer location that will hopefully be mutually beneficial for both parties.

Probable European Honey Bee <em>Apis mellifera</em> (&copy; Stuart Tabner)
Probable European Honey Bee Apis mellifera (© Stuart Tabner)
Local beekeeper, Odinho Cunha (&copy; Stuart Tabner)
Local beekeeper, Odinho Cunha (© Stuart Tabner)
Local beekeeper, Odinho Cunha (&copy; Stuart Tabner)
Local beekeeper, Odinho Cunha (© Stuart Tabner)

December-January survey of Odonata at REGUA turns up 160 species

Male <em>Navicordulia kiautai</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Navicordulia kiautai (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Phyllocycla viridipleuris</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Phyllocycla viridipleuris (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Leptagrion elongatum</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Leptagrion elongatum (© Tom Kompier)
Female <em>Coryphaeschna viriditas</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Female Coryphaeschna viriditas (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Minagrion waltheri</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Minagrion waltheri (© Tom Kompier)

After the very productive survey in September-October it seemed unlikely to top its result of 115 identified species, but just the first week of our December-January survey we already topped 130. Of all 173 species recorded during our research to date, a cool 160 were found during our recent three week research period. To put that number in perspective, this is well over the number of Odonate species recorded in the whole of Europe.

With the advent of summer, not just the temperatures were up. Dragonflies and damselflies were abundant and not only in the obvious places. Of course the wetlands around the lodge were very productive, but now the trails in the forests also yielded many species all the way up to 1000 masl and higher. It is on the forest trails that many of the endemic damselflies are found. Let’s take a look at some of the more spectacular finds.

After a brief glimpse of an emerald Corduliinae in April 2012 at the top of the Salinas trail at approximately 1050 masl, at last emeralds were relocated again. In hand the species was verified as Navicordulia kiautai. This is one of the rare Atlantic Rainforest emeralds and had been recorded only twice before and never in Rio de Janeiro State. On subsequent visits it was seen regularly patrolling at midday above a wide trail bordered on both sides by forest. Up to six individuals were seen on any given day. Maybe the flight period is restricted, as it is unlikely that it was overlooked on previous visits.

Unexpected as well was the pretty Phyllocycla species recorded in the amazingly productive forest fragment not far from the lodge at 30 masl. This patch of lowland forest is part of the reserve and a testimony to its wealth. To date 10 gomphids have been found here and at least four Phyllocycla species are present. This individual stood out because of its very distinctive and whitish patterning, quite unlike the other gomphids present. Eventually it could be identified as P. viridipleuris, a species of which the occurrence in southeastern Brazil is shrouded in mystery. Likely, it is rare.

There are many species of Leptagrion forest dwelling damsels in Rio de Janeiro State, but during the whole of 2012 during all surveys only once a female Leptagrion was seen that did not belong to the omnipresent Leptagrion macrurum. At long last Susan Loose, a volunteer working on Odonata, located an unknown Leptagrion species at the beginning of the Green Trail, which turned out to be L. elongatum. Not a day after it was photographed and identified, a female of the same species was found right next to the reserve office!

Another interesting and surprising find at the forest fragment was a Mangrove Darner Coryphaeschna viriditas. On a very hot day an older female was found hanging along the forest edge. Professor Carvalho commented on the rarity of this species in Rio de Janeiro State. Clearly any greenish larger Aeshnid deserves careful attention, as they are around!

The last species to mention, although not mentioning all the other gems encountered is really an insult to them for which I apologize, is a Minagrion. After the September-October survey we did a short special to introduce this fabulous genus. During December we saw both Minagrion ribeiroi, so that species definitely also flies during the austral summer, and a third species, beautiful orange and blue Minagrion waltheri. This was found in bogs on the plain at Salinas, where is keeps inside the grassy emergent vegetation. It is another fabulous representative of this exquisite genus. Now three of the known five species have been recorded at REGUA.

Who is to say what more is out there.

Minagrion, a fabulous genus of damselflies at REGUA

<em>Minagrion mecistogastrum</em> male (© Tom Kompier)
Minagrion mecistogastrum male (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Minagrion mecistogastrum</em> immature male (© Tom Kompier)
Minagrion mecistogastrum immature male (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Minagrion ribeiroi</em> male (© Tom Kompier)
Minagrion ribeiroi male (© Tom Kompier)

Minagrion is a genus of rare and beautiful damselflies almost completely confined to the south-east of Brazil. Five species are known, of which two have been found during our survey at REGUA. Typical for the genus is that they have a process at the venter of S1, something difficult to see in the field, but that can be seen in the hand.

Rare Minagrion mecistogastrum has a very long and thin abdomen. The immature males are beautifully patterned with yellow, black and light blue. With age the males become strongly pruinose, obscuring the colors. They then are mostly bluish. At REGUA a young male was found in lowland forest away from water, but adult males were found perched along the heavily vegetated margin of clear pond about 30 cm over the water’s surface.

A spectacular find was the very rare Minagrion ribeiroi, listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. Unlike its congener M. mecistogastrum it has more usual proportions. The observed males had not developed pruinosity and presumably they keep their beautiful colors as adults. Their abdomens are largely ivory-white, rare amongst odonates. Several males and females have been observed at the forest edge close to a heavily vegetated and clear pond. Typically they would perch on a twig just inside the forest, but exposed to the sun. From their perch they would sally and snatch small insects out of the air in the immediate surroundings, to return to the same sunny perch, a habit that makes them relatively easy to spot.

Both species have been observed in winter only, M. ribeiroi in July and September, M. mecistogastrum in September. Whether they really only occur in the cooler period of the year is subject of further study. For odonate enthusiasts these species are another fantastic attraction at REGUA, although one will need patience and luck to encounter them.

September-October survey of Odonata at REGUA turns up 115 species

Between September 22 and October 6 we did another survey of dragonflies and damselflies at REGUA and its immediate surroundings. 18 new species were added to the list for the Guapiaçu catchment, taking the total for this year to over 150 species, a testimony to the fantastic diversity of the ecosystem. Just in the wetlands next door to the lodge, already more than 60 different species can be found. Below we introduce just a few of the findings.

With the advent of spring the Gomphidae returned to the scene. A spectacular find was a dragonfly that may be the first recorded male of Praeviogomphus proprius. It will be studied further at the department of entomology of the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, thanks to the support of Prof. Alcimar do Lago Carvalho for the project. Praeviogomphus previously was only known from one female and from a few larvae. Other spectacular new gomphids were two species of Phyllocycla. Aphylla molossus, a large gomphid was also found regularly again.

<em>Praeviogomphus proprius</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Praeviogomphus proprius (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Phyllocycla cf. pallida</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Phyllocycla cf. pallida (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Phyllocycla gladiata</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Phyllocycla gladiata (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Aphylla molossus</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Aphylla molossus (© Tom Kompier)

Another great find was a species of Castoraeschna that may be new to science. This lovely dragonfly was found patrolling the bogs at Salinas, in the mountains above the lodge. Nearby an intriguing female Leptagrion was found that also still needs to be identified.

Tiny and elusive Peristicta jalmosi, only recently described, was found inhabiting a stream close to the old wetland, where males were hanging from the tips of leaves of trees in shady parts low over the water. These damsels are so small that they become next to invisible the moment they start flying. The fact that they perch in dark shady places obviously does not help either, so possibly it has been overlooked in the past.

Castoraeschna n. sp. possibly new to science (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Peristicta jalmosi</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Peristicta jalmosi (© Tom Kompier)

The trails turned up two new species of Heteragrion. This fantastic genus of beautiful and big damselflies keeps on turning up new species that are often as localized and rare as they are spectacular. The specific identity of these two species still needs to be confirmed and it is well possible they are as yet undescribed. So far this year this fabulous genus has turned up seven different species, the commonest of which is H. aurantiacum, which can easily be seen at streams around the lodge. Another more regular, if uncommon and difficult to find, species is H. consors.

<em>Heteragrion</em> sp. (© Tom Kompier)
Heteragrion sp. (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Heteragrion consors</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Heteragrion consors (© Tom Kompier)

Clearly amongst the many attractions of REGUA is also a fantastic Odonata fauna.

New hawkmoth website goes live

In May 2011, A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil was published, but now most of the content is also available on the website Brazil Hawkmoths.

This new website includes all the photographs of pinned and live specimens, plus a number of new photos and some corrections found since the book’s publication. However there are still some species for which photos are needed, so if you can fill the gaps or if you have better photos than the ones included, please do get in touch via alanjmart@gmail.com. We also want to improve our knowledge on flight times, so all records with dates are welcome.

Copies of the guide are available from Alan Martin (via the email address above), or from NHBS (who can ship worldwide).

REGUA build’s a world first – a moth wall!

Okay, so we can’t be sure this is actually a world first, but as far as we know it is! Up until now we’ve attracted moths and other insects at night by hanging a mercury vapour bulb beside the pale wall outside the back door of the lodge(with another bulb at the conservation centre). This has been highly success, contributing greatly to our first publication A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, however, this was far from ideal and so we have designed and built a purpose built moth wall in the lodge garden.

The wall will be fitted with a mercury vapour bulb and a black mercury vapour bulb on both sides, and includes a shelf for holding collecting pots and a roof to keep the moths dry. In out excitement we even started using the wall before it was finished. So far the wall has attracted a huge number of moths, including many species of hawkmoths, dragonflies, crickets, praying mantis, butterflies and beetles, including a beautiful male Harlequin Beetle Acrocinus longimanus.

We can’t wait to see what the wall attracts in the future. For more on the moth wall click here.

The moth wall under contruction (&copy; Rachel Walls)
The moth wall under contruction (© Rachel Walls)
The moth wall under contruction (&copy; Rachel Walls)
The moth wall under contruction (© Rachel Walls)
The moth wall is lit (&copy; Rachel Walls)
The moth wall is lit (© Rachel Walls)
Male Harlequin Beetle <em>Acrocinus longimanus</em> at the moth wall (&copy; Rachel Walls)
Male Harlequin Beetle Acrocinus longimanus at the moth wall (© Rachel Walls)
Male Harlequin Beetle <em>Acrocinus longimanus</em> at the moth wall (&copy; Rachel Walls)
Male Harlequin Beetle Acrocinus longimanus at the moth wall (© Rachel Walls)

Rare stag beetle found at REGUA

Male <em>Pholidoctus humboldti gyllenhall</em>, REGUA, 26 April 2012. (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Male Pholidoctus humboldti gyllenhall, REGUA, 26 April 2012. (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

You really have to know your beetles as there are so many of them. Adilei recently bought a small Lumix camera to take out with him, and on a walk last Thursday to Waldenoor came across a beetle that struck his interest because of its shape. Our research officer Jorge Bizzaro was delighted because he immediately identified the photo as being a Lucanidae, or stag beetle. We went online and contacted Celso Godinho from the RJ Natural History Museum, who confirmed its identification as being Pholidoctus humboldti gyllenhall. This is a rare beetle normally associated with high altitude forest which shows that the forests at REGUA are in good health. The larvae live on dead wood and are therefore called “xilophagous” (living on wood) beetles. The males have these gigantic jaws you see in the photo, capable of lifting 400 times their weight and known for their ferocity between each other. The females are very much smaller and lack the large jaws.