William H. Cross Expedition, 24-28 May 2004, Joe Wheeler State Park, Lawrence and Lauderdale Counties, and Prairie Grove Glades, Lawrence County, Alabama

by Joe MacGown



Prairie Grove Glades Preserve

      The 2004 Cross Expedition conducted by the Mississippi Entomology Museum (MEM) took place in Lawrence and Lauderdale Counties in northwestern Alabama from 24 to 28 May. Collections were primarily made at the Prairie Grove Glades, a Nature Conservancy site in Lawrence County, with additional collections at Joe Wheeler State Park in Lawrence and Lauderdale Counties. The expedition leader for this year's trip was Chris Dietrich, a leaf hopper man from the Illonois Natural History Survey. Other people along for the journey included the MEM staff: Richard Brown, director; Terry Schiefer, curator; and Joe MacGown (me), assistant curator guy. Richard Brown's graduate students who came for the trip were Beverly Smith-bees, Sang Mi Lee-gelechiid moths, JoVonn Hill-ants, Edda Martinez-pyralid moths, and Nantasak Pinkaew, a grad student from Thailand studying tortricid moths. Jason Forster, a grad student from Auburn University studying ants of Alabama came along for a couple of days. Tommy Allen (aka, R. T., also goes by the name grumpy old dude), retired guy and lover of all things dipluran came along for the trip for some litter sampling, blacklighting, and food.
     The Prairie Grove Glade in northern Alabama is located in Lawrence County and is about 191 acres in size. This glade is the largest cedar glade in Alabama and has as many as 12 rare plant species present. The glade is composed of flat limestone outcroppings and shallow soils with cedar and hardwoods forming small "islands" throughout the area. There are several rare plants found on these islands including Harper's umbrella plant, Alabama larkspur, and prairie Indian plantain. In the open rocky areas, yellow and white Alabama glade cress, Nashville breadroot, Tennessee milk vetch, glade quillwort, and yellow sunnybells, can be found. Lyrate bladderpod, a federally threatened plant, grows in the somewhat deeper soils at the edges of the glades.
     Joe Wheeler state park is located on either side of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama and consequently, is found in two counties, Lawrence and Lauderdale. The southern part of the park is in Lawrence Co. and the cabins and a nice multi use trail are located there. However, the majority of the park is in Lauderdale Co. on the north side of the river. The Lauderdale side of the park has a marina, resort, hiking trails, camping areas, and lots of nice forested areas. The river is dammed and forms two large lakes, Wheeler and Wilson Lakes, with the state park bordering part of Wheeler Lake. Collections made in the park were primarily made in the woods near the cabin, at the multi use trail, and along the nature trail in Lauderdale Co.
     24 May 2004. We arrived at the cabin at around noon on Monday with the exception of Richard Brown, who was to join us later in the week. We were unloading our equipment as Jason Forster drove up. After unloading, we ate lunch at a local subway restaraunt. We then headed over to the north side of the park to put up some traps and do some day collecting. Terry, Chris, Beverly, Edda, Nan, Jason, and I were the group that made that journey. JoVonn, Jennifer, and Sang Mi went to get some food at the local grocery store, and Tommy put up his tent somewhere or another. Terry, with the aid of Nan and Edda, put up a malaise trap in the mixed forest along the nature trail and I put 5 pitfall traps out in the woods near the trail. Beverly and Chris collected along the road and also on the trail. Nan busied himself by taking pictures of the habitat and traps. Jason and I collected some ants while we were there. The area where we collected was a nice mixed forest with some terrain changes that provided some slopes to collect on. The trail was very close to the river (Wheeler Lake). The soil was quite dry and temperatures were hovering around 90°F while we were there.
     After leaving the nature trail in Lauderdale County, we all headed over to the Nature Conservancy Glade Site in Lawrence County. On the way to the Glade, we stopped at the cabins and collected JoVonn, Jennifer, and Sang Mi, so that they too, could see the glade habitat. At the glade we set up 2 malaise traps, 5 pitfall traps, 2 Lindgren funnel traps, and 2 barrier traps. The traps were all placed at the edge of the glade and the mixed forest. Sang Mi and Nan put up a 3 sheets and lights. While we were there we also collected some insects.


Terry and Edda putting up a Malaise trap in Joe Wheeler St. Park

    We left the glade late in the afternoon and went back to the cabin (about 30 miles away) where we ate supper. Hamburgers and salad, not a bad deal. Put out a box/blacklight trap with ethyl acetate for a killing agent in the woods near the cabin. We put up a sheet with a mercury vapor lamp in the same woods along the trail. I went to a local gas station and got some gas and oil for the generator that powered the MV lamp. When I got back it was already almost dark, and we needed to get over to the glade to turn on the lights. As I drove up to the cabin, Chris noticed that one of the tires was almost flat on the university truck I was driving. Unfortunately, there was no spare tire. Bummer. However, Tommy Allen had the same model Ford F150 and loaned us his spare for the night. We finally got the thing changed and headed to the glade for an exciting night of bug collecting and cedar tree worship. Terry, Edda, Sang Mi, Nan, Beverly, Chris, and I went to the glade and JoVonn, Jennifer, and Tommy stayed at the cabin area to collect.
     The night collecting was quite good for small moths, small beetles, and leaf hoppers. Sang Mi, Edda, and Nan all collected moths and the rest of us collected the other insects. This was one of the few trips that I didn't collect or spread moths and that really didn't bother me too much. I figured that with three people collecting them, and later in the week with Richard collecting them as well, that I would concentrate on the other groups. We stayed and collected until sometime around midnight and then went back to the cabin.
     When we got back, we were going to check the MV lamp and sheet, but apparently, the bulb had become too hot and shut off. JoVonn went ahead and put the generator up so nobody would disturb it. So, we just took care of our specimens and went to bed. Ye hah.
     25 May 2004. Early in the morning, Terry put up a barrier trap and a Lindgren funnel trap in the woods near the cabin. After that, Chris, Terry, Edda, and Beverly went to the glades to collect. I went and found a place to repair the tire, which wasn't easy. The tire guy couldn't fix it, so I had to buy a used tire. It wasn't the same size as the other front tire, but it was close, so I went ahead and got it. Really wasn't much choice as it were. Finally made it back to the cabin where I met up with the other antish fellows, JoVonn and Jason (they even have antennae). We collected the rest of the morning in the woods bordering the river near our cabin. We got some decent stuff in the leaf litter along the slopes including Proceratium chickasaw, always a favorite. We observed many Aphaenogaster carolinensis looking jokers and Formica pallidefulva prowling around and nesting and collected specimens from several colonies (ant list for trip). Some time after noon we quit collecting and ate some lunch.
     The glade collectors (gladeators) showed up at the cabin sometime midafternoonish looking quite beat, red, and sweaty. It was a hot and humid day for sure. After they showed up, I went to the glade myself, to get litter and soil samples and also to put out a box trap. JoVonn and Jason elected to continue their collecting at the cabin trail since they were having such good luck. While at the glade I collected ants in soil and litter, especially in the cedar woods at the borders of the glades. I found plenty of ants and bagged several gallons of soil and litter to sift through later. After a couple hours or more of collecting, I placed the large box trap with blacklight in the center of the prairie area and connected the blacklight to the battery, then I headed back to the cabin to eat some grub.


Chris with vacuum and net at the glades

     When I showed up at the cabin, supper was ready. It seems that I timed that pretty well. Jason went home to his parent's house, which was apparently fairly close. The rest of us chowed down on some excellant lasagna that Beverly had prepared and some tasty salad with plenty of Coke to wash it all down with. It seems that lasagna has become a staple of these Cross excursions, and I for one, am quite okay with that.
     After supper we blacklighted on the cabin trail. We put up four sheets, three with blacklights and batteries, and one with a mercury vapor lamp and generator. The catch was quite different from the previous night, not surprisingly since the habitat was so different. There were more large beetles, as well as smaller beetles flying in, but less microlepidoptera. Everybody was starting to feel the effects of the frantic pace we had set, so most folks called it a night relatively early (11:30 or so), except for Nan, who stayed up a bit later at the last sheet we left him with.
     26 May 2004. Early the next morning (too early in my opinion) Sang Mi and I drove back to the glade and retrieved the box trap and catch. The light was still running and we didn't get any rain the previous night, so all was well. We took the box back to the cabin to sort it. Sang Mi, Nan, and Edda spent much of the morning sorting the trap. Chris, Terry, and JoVonn went to the glade to collect that morning. Beverly collected insects at the Park near the cabin that morning and Tommy had success finding diplurans in the woods near the cabin. Later in the morning, Beverly and I headed over to the glade to join the others in collecting there. We stayed until about 2:30 PM. Beverly concentrated on bees, wasps, and other flying insects and I concentrated on ants and managed to get some little samples as well as do some general collecting for ants and other insects. After collecting at the glades, JoVonn, Beverly, and I went to the multi use trail at the park to collect. JoVonn and I went one way and Beverly went the other way down the somewhat circular trail. We really had no idea how long the trail was, but JoVonn and I went all the way around it. It took us much longer than we had anticipated and when we arrived, Beverly looked as though she had be waiting for quite some time. However, it was worth it, because we got some decent ants. We also saw a gigantic Formica subsericea nest beside the trail that was about 10 feet X 5 feet and somewhat elliptical in shape. When we disturbed the nest, thousands of workers streamed out. Really amazing. When we got back to the truck, we went back to the cabin and ate supper. We had jambalaya for supper, which was a tasty reward for all the hard work in the field that day. I believe Sang Mi made supper that night, perhaps with a bit of help from Nan and/Edda? Sometime that afternoon Richard showed up at the cabin. Richard, Sang Mi, Nan, and Edda took the generator, batteries, and lights and took off for another night of collecting at the glade. They put up four sheets, three with blacklights, and the other with the mercury vapor lamp hooked up to the generator. Terry, Chris, Beverly, and I arrived at the site just before dark. We collected insects that night until about midnight, then went back to the cabin.
     27 May 2004. Early in the morning, Chris ended his exciting stay and went back to Illinois. He wasn't going to get much rest though-he was going to Taiwan the following week with some students to collect for a month. After he left, Terry and Beverly went back to the glade to collect some more. JoVonn and Jennifer collected on the nature trail at the day use area in the state park in Lauderdale Co. and I collected at the multi use trail in the state park in Lawrence Co. until about 1:30 PM. While there, I collected some rather large and aggressive Pheidole ants in the Pheidole crassicornis group on the trail in an open powerline cut with lots of tall weedy growth. Japanese beetles were quite common along the trail and were seen on blackberry plants with regularity. After collecting at the multi use trail, I went to the cabin and ate lunch. I passed Terry on the road, and he was headed to the same trail I had left to do some beating in hopes of landing cool cerambycids. After I grabbed some food I went over to the other side of the river to collect along the nature trail and in the woods in Lauderdale Co. Before I left, I pulled up the pitfall traps. Two of the traps were overturned and the other three didn't look like they had a lot in them, but thats how it goes I guess.
     That night, I put up the large box trap with cyanide at the glade site once more. At the same time I was putting that up, Sang Mi, Richard, Nan, and Edda put up four sheets on the multi use trail in Lawrence County. Again, three of the sheets had blacklights and the fourth had a mercury vapor lamp. The last sheet was loaded with caddisflies, unfortunately no one was overly interested in them, although we did get a good sampling of what was present. We ended up taking that sheet down early. Collecting was rather slow that night and JoVonn, Jennifer, Sang Mi, and I quit somewhat early, as we were quite tired at this point. We replaced the mercury vapor lamp with the blacklight, so that we could carry the generator out (the generator powered the mercery vapor lamp) because it was a long walk to the vehicles and the folks that continued to collect thought that they would be too tired to carry it back later.
     28 May 2004. The next morning Richard went over early and took down the boxtrap and brought it back to the cabin to sort through with the help of his mothling students. Terry, Beverly, and I went back to the glade and took down all the traps that we had put out there. We then took down the other traps that had been placed in the state park. After the traps were down, we went back to the cabin where the others had just finished sorting the box trap sample. We loaded up the truck, cleaned the cabin a bit, and headed back to Starkville. It pretty much rained the entire way back. Joy. The end.

 

LOCALITY DATA AND HABITAT INFO

Joe Wheeler State Park Sites

Nature Trail-Lauderdale County
ALA.,Lauderdale Co.
Joe Wheeler State Park
34°48'01"N 87°19'49"W

Cabin site and trail near cabin, Lawrence Co.
ALA.,Lawrence Co.
Joe Wheeler St. Park
34°47’44”N87°22’32”W

Multi Use Trail at Joe Wheeler State Pk in Lawrence Co.
ALA.,Lawrence Co.
Joe Wheeler St. Park
34°47’09”N87°23’16”W

Prairie/Cedar Glade Site in Lawrence County

Prairie Grove Glade site
ALA.,Lawrence Co.
Prairie Grove Glades
34°31'04"N 87°30'14"W