Sunday, July 03, 2016

Ellipsoptera lepida!

"Any foolish boy can stamp on a beetle, but all the professors in the world cannot make a beetle."

― Arthur Schopenhauer

I've been waiting for this day for nearly a year ... and so has Mark and Dottie Johnson. Last year they were birding in Peru when I saw the Ghost Tiger Beetles near Buena Vista Grasslands. Sadly, the beetles were gone (probably deceased) by the time they got back from their trip. I timed this trip near to the date Alex Harmon discovered them last June. At that time he reported around 50 individuals and we were optimistic for similar results today.

The spot is a large sand dune that's part of a cranberry operation adjacent to the grasslands. It's on private land, but we were able to get permission from the owner to explore it. The sand is used on the bogs to protect cranberry vines from winter's frigid temperatures. Fortunately for the beetles, they have an area on the north side of the dune that doesn't get used by the grower, so the tiger beetle larvae don't get scooped away.

As we walked along the base of a dune, Mark was the first to spot one of the Ghosts. A few minutes later I found three more and then Dottie spotted others with her binocular. Though there were a lot more of them this time around, they seemed much more skittish than I remembered. With effort and patience, Mark and I were able to obtain nice portraits of these amazing beetles.

Ghost Tiger Beetle Ellipsoptera lepida

While Mark and I kept our attention focused on insects, Dottie was listening for birds. I heard birdsongs as well and between the two of us we managed to hear Eastern Kingbird, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Yellowthroat, various swallows, Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagle, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a few other species.

Iron Ore, I think.

Content that I had enough quality images of the tiger beetles, I searched the dunes for other interesting subjects. There was quite an assortment of sand wasps and bees, but they were far too fast. We saw a few different kinds of robber flies as well, but they were also uncooperative photographic subjects. I settled for rocks!


Don't do this to your binoculars!

St. John's Wort

Met its end in the sand some time ago.

Seaside Grasshopper Trimerotropis maritima 

These Seaside Grasshoppers blended in almost perfectly with their surroundings.

It was a fun trip and I hope we can do it again next year!

Farewell ... until next year?

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell


  1. excellent photos remember collecting ghost beetles for an ent. class forever ago in alluvial sand areas of Chippawa River. also robber flys

  2. Very cool beetles and I liked the grasshoppers too. It's amazing what you find.

  3. Thanks everyone! I loved every minute of my time there!