Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back to La Selva - in the rainy season!

Cement path at La Selva
Finally, after a full year, I am back at La Selva, working on the Flea Beetle Project!  During the past year Kim and I fulfilled a promise we made to ourselves to live for a full year on our Palomar property.  This turned out to be very successful and comfortable for us, to the point where it was hard to leave!  In fact Kim stayed an extra month to complete her job at Mother's Kitchen restaurant; she will join me in early September.

During the year we installed a broadband internet uplink, enabling me to update the flea beetle web site  (as well as allowing us to shop  and watch utube and netflix).   Also during the year I created a draft project summary, which may be found on the web page:
Red Ptocadica flea beetle on Passiflora lobata leaf.
http://johnterahsmiley.com/heliconius-passiflora-flea%20beetle/FB%20summary%202014/summary%202014.html .  To me this summary is very exciting, portraying a wide-angle picture of this tiny, complex, colorful world.  Writing the summary has also prompted me to focus on some of project's shortcomings, two of which I hope to correct on the present trip.  One is my lack of natural history observations during the June through August rainy season.  Another is that I still have not found the juvenile stages of one of the most common flea beetles, in genus Monomacra.

The present trip has begun ideally for correcting the first   problem - I arrived to La Selva August 5 after an unusually intense rainy season.  Any observations I can make over the next few weeks will tell a great deal about rainy season effects on the beetles.  Thus far, after a few days of observing,  I can say that many of the flea beetles are actively reproducing, as indicated by aggregations of 5-15 beetles of the same species on a plant, including mating pairs.  These include two species of Parchicola, Monomacra violacea, red Pedilia, and red Ptocadica.  The only common species I haven't yet found is yellow-tibia Parchicola.  This suggests (with the possible exception of yellow-tibia Parchicola) that life goes on as usual for the beetles during an intense rainy season.  This is in contrast to the Heliconius butterflies, whose numbers and activity seem greatly suppressed.  Perhaps another important difference between the flea beetles and the butterflies?

Red Pedilia larva after moulting to 2nd instar
As for the second problem, I need to grow a set of potted Passiflora vines for caging with Monomacra violacea flea beetles.  To do this I need to make Passiflora cuttings and root them, which takes a few weeks.   Once ready, I will catch the flea beetles and put them in the cage.  Then, over time, I will check the cages for eggs and larvae.  I predict great similarity to Parchicola, which is thought to be closely related to Monomacra, but we will find out.  In any case, it's great to be back!

Eggs of Red Pedilia on Passiflora pittieri