Wednesday 8 July 2020

To protect threatened beetle, entomologists hope new colony takes hold

JULY 7, 2020

by Rodger Gwiazdowski, University of Massachusetts Amherst

As thousands of hopeful coronavirus shut-ins look forward to heading to Atlantic beaches for the July 4 holiday, University of Massachusetts Amherst entomologist Rodger Gwiazdowski and colleagues are also heading to the beach—but they'll visit the last quiet natural one protected by the National Park Service at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

There, Gwiazdowski and a team of biologists will visit part of the Gateway National Recreation Area to survey the beach above the tide line for what they hope is the beginning of a new population of the federally threatened Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle. In early May they had released almost 200 grub-like larvae at Sandy Hook, which is about 15 miles south of Staten Island with a clear view of Coney Island. On their early July re-visit, the researchers hope to find the larvae emerged as adult beetles.

In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, Gwiazdowski and colleagues including Joe Elkinton at UMass Amherst plan three years of relocating larvae that are in the last growth stage before they pupate into adults. "We'll do two pre-surveys in early July," Gwiazdowski says. "If we find some, we'll go back later to see if we can determine a peak number."

He points out, "These insects used to be found on seaward beaches all up and down the East coast but their numbers crashed after 1945. In the 1990s, some were left on Martha's Vineyard and, a few of those were moved to nearby Monomoy Island off Cape Cod. "Now, the Monomoy population has exploded and we're seeing what a pre-discovery population looked like before Henry Hudson and other Europeans arrived."

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