Warmer and more insect-filled days are coming soon, but for now I’m still scratching in the leaf litter. This week, I uncovered a bug-eyed predator in the Notiophilus genus.
This Carabidae family ground beetle is only about six mm long, but its metallic coloring catches the eye. Speaking of eyes, I thought the bulging eyes were broad shoulders until I downloaded the images and learned otherwise. These beetles need help hunting in low light, and oversized eyes do the trick.
Notiophilus beetles primarily eat springtails, which are an even tinier animal ubiquitous this time of year. Look closely when you turn the compost or rake back leaves and you’ll notice speck-like creatures bouncing about like popcorn. Those are springtails (see photo above). They’re not insects, but a different kind of six-legged animal, fairly recently assigned to the Entognatha class, which evolved separately from the Insecta class … but I digress.
The day I found the beetles, I saw several of them a few yards apart from each other under a layer of leaves. I looked for the beetles in several other Mt. Pisgah locations hoping to get better pictures, but to no avail. This rhymes with what I later read. A study from the midwest a few decades ago found Notiophilus beetles are generally rare, but can be locally abundant.
I’ve not read why these beetles might aggregate, but one study showed they do convene for mass migrations. Research on Notiophilus biguttatus in England found millions of beetles flying at altitude in 2002. Imagine the lucky birds who came upon that fly-through buffet!
There’s one last goodie I found while researching this genus, and that is a drawing made in 1887 by Beatrix Potter. Yes, the same person who later wrote about Peter Rabbit. It turns out she collected insects and fungi and drew finely detailed drawings of them. You can see her Notiophilus at the link below.
Drawing by Beatrix Potter from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, accessed 2/5/21:http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1375188/magnified-studies-of-a-beetle-drawing-potter-beatrix/
Mass migration article by Chapman, et al., from May, 2005, accessed 2/5/21:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0307-6946.2005.00702.x