Schwarz’s Billbug | Community Idea Stations

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Schwarz’s Billbug

Dr. Robert Anderson Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and 88.9 WCVE producer Steve Clark note the positive role of social media in bringing the recent discovery of a rare billbug to light.

Photo (above): Sphenophorus schwarzi in its natural habitat.

Photo (right): Dr. Robert Anderson of the Canadian Museum of Nature pointing to the museum’s recent acquisition of Sphenophorus schwarzi.

Transcript:

SC:  I’m Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You?. I’m going to go for the low-hanging fruit – Bills bug me. (laughing)

AE:  Hey, I could use that as a segway into Swartz’s Billbug.

SC:  Is that today’s topic?

AE:   That’s today’s topic. Do you remember our friend, Bob Anderson, from the Canadian Museum of Nature?

SC:  I do, yes.

AE:  World authority on weevils, and he spent the better part of a week at my home.

SC:  Sifting?

AE:  Sifting and also looking through my collection and identifying weevils, and he made a wonderful discovery. I had misidentified a billbug. This is a type of a large weevil in the genus Sphenophorus, and I had misidentified one, and it turned out it was something very rare.

SC:  Hmmm, oh yes.

AE:  Only known from a handful of specimens, and we had the opportunity later that day to go up to the Smithsonian and compare it to the original specimen that was used in the scientific description all those years ago, and I’ve always wanted to find another specimen, and I definitely wanted to find another specimen that I could give to Bob so he could put it in his collection and have it for reference. So remember a while back when I talked about my love-hate relationship with social media?

SC:  Yes I do.

AE:  This is the part I love.  I put it out there on Facebook when the piece aired here on What’s Bugging You?, and darned if a few weeks later I didn’t receive a message on Facebook from someone in South Carolina that found one. And she was able to identify it through the webpage for What’s Bugging You?.

SC:  Wow.

AE:  And I was, I was just completely amazed, and I asked her, I said, “Well, that’s pretty random. How did you come up with our little bit there?” And it turns out that somebody was looking over her shoulder on inaturalist, which is another very well-known website, and suggested that it was in the genus Sphenophorus. And when she did a google image search for Sphenophorus, up came What’s Bugging You?, and it was a dead match for the picture of the pinned specimen that I had.

SC:  Literally a dead match.  (laughing)

AE:  Yeah, so she was kind enough to let me know about it, but she didn’t collect it. She just took a photograph of it. And I said, “The next one you find, please, you know, let’s, let’s collect it. We could use the specimen for further research.”

SC:  So is she competent to collect in the proper way?

AE:  Yes, absolutely, yeah. She works, uh, she’s doing field surveys of different organisms in the marshes down there and so knows about collecting insects, and so on. And she found another one within a week and packed it away and then just kept it in a freezer on the off chance there might be additional specimens to add, but that was the only specimen that she found. And the beetle just arrived the other day, just in time for my trip to Ottawa. I’m going up there to do some research, so I’ll be able to present this beetle to Bob, and he can add it to the Canadian national collection. There’s already one here in America, so don’t worry about that. We’re keeping things balanced on both sides of the border, but it’s my small way of thanking him for making this wonderful discovery in my collection.
 
SC:  Dr. Art Evans is the author of Beetles of Eastern North America. You’ll find photos, audio, and a link to Art’s Facebook page at ideastations.org/radio/bugs.