William H. Cross Expedition, 1-7 August 2000, ALA., Baldwin Co.,
Weeks Bay NER Reserve and Bon Secour N.W.Refuge (Joe MacGown's version)
This year's Cross Expedition spanned from 1 to 7 August 2000 and was held in
southern Alabama in Baldwin County at the Weeks
Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve with some additional collecting
done at Bon Secour
National Wildlife Refuge. The participants of this year's trip included
the bunch from our museum; Richard
L. Brown (Director), Terry
L. Schiefer (Curator), Beverly
A. Smith (graduate student working with bees), David M. Pollock (aka: evil
Dave, fly guy ), and myself, Joe
A. MacGown (museum guy). The expedition leader for this year's trip was
an Anthribid fellow going by the name of Barry Valentine (now retired and supposedly
living somewhere in Ohio). Barry also brought along his wife who has the unbelievable
name of Buena Vista [Valentine]. A few other people joined us as well including
the famous lawyer/collector from Northern Alabama, Howard Grisham, his wife
Sheila, and John MacDonald (botanist/entomologist) from Starkville.
We arrived at the Weeks Bay Reserve about 3:00 P.M. on Tuesday, August 1st. Scott Phipps, formerly a Ph.D. student in botany at MSU and husband to Marla Favor (formerly worked at our dept. at MSU) got us settled in and gave us an overview of the area. He is some kind of guy there at the Reserve and seemed to know what was going on. The accommodations were amazing. Apparently, knowing that we would be coming, they built us a two story building with work space on the bottom floor and bunks, baths (with showers), and kitchen upstairs. There was even air conditioning, outlets, and plenty of light. This building is next door to the headquarters and environmental education building and is also strategically placed at the edge of some interesting collecting habitat. We could literally walk out the back door and collect. In fact, we had a sheet with a blacklight set up right behind the building.
The Weeks Bay Reserve has several large tracts of land with several different habitats, but we basically limited our collecting to three different localities and one additional one at Bon Secour N.W.R. One of our primary sites was the area just behind the lab and headquarters (HQ). This area starts out as a dry upland forest, then becomes a low forested wetland, and ends at the edge of a salt marsh which is adjacent to Weeks Bay. A 3/4 mile boardwalk circles through this entire area making walking through this somewhat wet habitat much easier, although we did leave the trail quite a bit as well. Actually, it wasn't as wet as it should have been because this area was about 30 inches behind in rainfall. It was interesting to see the change in vegetation as one neared the bay. At the beginning of the trail the elevation was a few feet higher and such trees as live oak (Quercus virginiana), water oak (Q. nigra), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), several species of blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), and others were present. As the elevation dips one started getting into a more swampy area with ferns such as cinnamon (Osmunda cinnamomea), netted chain (Woodwardia areaolata), Virginia chain (W. virginica), and royal fern (Osmunda regalis) present and with different tree species here including sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), devilwood (Osmanthus americanus), witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), white oak (Q. alba), and others. As you walked down the trail it became continuously wetter (although not so noticeable as usual due to the extreme lack of rain recently) and much sphagnum moss and more of the same ferns could be seen. Other more aquatic type plants were present as well such as swamp lilies (Crinum americanum), green arum (Peltandra virginica), Pickerelwed (Pontederia cordata), fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), Arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia), Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), Pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), bald cypress (T. distichum), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), and saw grass (Cladium jamaicense). There were several species of vines which were very common including Smilax laurifolia (bamboo vine), Vitis spp. (grapes), Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy) and numerous others. There were downed trees with fungus growing on some of them, dead vines, and other such things to collect on, and we could string our sheets and blacklights across the boardwalk to collect at night. All in all not a bad collecting spot, but our overall insect catch was somewhat low, probably due to the dry conditions.
The second site was just down the Highway (98) from us and was a bog area which also was circled by a beautiful boardwalk with benches and a couple of pavilion type areas. The bog had many flowering plants supporting quite a bit of activity with dipterans and hymenopterans flying about visiting various flowers. There were a tremendous amount of pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) present representing several species. There were several flowers that we collected insects on here including Oxypolis filiformis (in the carrot family, very good for wasps and some flies), Mashallia tenuifolia (Barbara's buttons, nice purple flower, about 1 ft. tall, many wasps and bees on this), Sabatia macrophylla, Polygala cruceata (purple candyroot), Hypericum brachyphyllum (St. John's wort, some bees, wasps, and flies on this), Ludwigia alternafolia (sprawling, bushy, with yellow flowers), Ludwigia hirtella (a tall, thin sp.), Rhexia petiolata, Eupatorium rotundifolium., Lophiola americanum (golden crest, fuzzy, light purple crest with small yellow flowers), Drosera filiformis (threadleaf sundew), Xyris spp. (yellow eyed grass), Eriocaulon spp. (pipeworts, hardheads, white button like flowers), yellow fringed and fringeless orchids, and others. As we continued down the boardwalk the habitat changed as it approached the mouth of the Fish river. The habitat here was basically a mixed bottomland forest. There was a nice firebreak running through this area where we had traps and did some collecting. One plant in particular was good for flying insects, a plant with small yellow flowers, Hypericum cistifolium. As you walked down the break you could see many webs of the large Nephila crossing the path, very cool spiders with strong silk. The fire break completely surrounded the pitcher plant bog area and eventually wound up at the road. Across the road from the bog was a parking area which was adjacent to a drier area with mixed woods. There was a nice trail there and we blacklighted and collected here some. This was our third primary collecting spot in the Weeks Bay area.
We also collected one night (2 Aug.) and one morning (4 Aug.) at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge at the foredunes (in addition to putting out a boxtrap on 1 Aug.).
Upon arriving at Weeks Bay on 1 August 2000, the first thing we did was unload our supplies and completely take over and redecorate the lab area. We then talked to Scott Phipps for a while about the area. I put three yeast bait traps up underneath various trees in the woods just outside of the HQ area. Barry put out one set of Lindgren funnels in the same area and he also put a sheet with u-v light just behind the building (he left both of these up all week). That afternoon we walked around the boardwalk area doing some collecting and trying to get a hold on some of the local flora. After eating supper we put up one sheet with a mercury vapor lamp behind the lab/HQ area about 20 meters from Barry's sheet (we left this sheet up all week and checked it nightly). We also put up 3 sheets with blacklights down the boardwalk behind the HQ. Richard put a boxtrap out at the foredunes at Bon Secour N.W.R. The collecting was pretty slow really, but we did get some things, especially smaller beetles, some moths, etc. The mosquitoes and other biting flies weren't bad at any rate.
The next morning, Wednesday, 2 Aug., Richard went and retrieved the box trap and went through it pulling out the good stuff. Unfortunately, it rained some that night and much of the sample was ruined. A little later Scott Phipps showed us some different areas where we could potentially collect. These sites included the pitcher plant bog area, an area near the bay with some grasses and wax myrtle (we didn't collect here), and an overgrown area near some houses where Dave collected one asilid. After getting back we scouted the HQ area a bit more doing some collecting and went down another trail with lots of smaller dead trees and vines. After lunch, Richard pinned some moths, Barry and Buena went out collecting anthribids, and Terry, myself, Dave, and Beverly went out to put up the various traps. We put 2 malaise traps up at the pitcher plant bog area. The first one was placed at the edge of the bog and the woods and the second one was placed across the fire break in the woods bordering the bog. We also put one set of Lindgren funnels, one interception trap and one baited Japanese beetle trap out on the fire break. We put another set of Lindgrens and an interception trap in a wet area at the end of the fork in the boardwalk. We then went back to the HQ woods to put out the remaining traps. By this time we were quite warm and sweating, but not too smelly. We put one set of Lindgrens just off the beginning of the boardwalk to the right near some dead trees, we put one malaise trap up about half way down the boardwalk in a sort of open area (maybe an old fire break?), one interception trap was put farther down the boardwalk on the left fork in a wet area, one more was put farther down the boardwalk in another wet area as was one baited Jap. beetle trap. There was no standing water in these wet areas, but they did get spongy when stepped on. Terry and Dave put out one set of Lindgren funnels down the nature trail and two beer and molasses traps out near the lab/ HQ building. Beverly and I put out 7 pitfall traps behind the HQ near the area where the mercury vapor set up was. After getting through with the traps Dave and I spread a few moths. Around 6:00 P.M. or so we ate a tremendous dinner of lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. Not bad. John MacDonald and Howard Grisham both showed up just after dinner, quite a bummer for them as the lasagna was history. Just following dinner we all drove to Bon Secour N.W.Refuge where we blacklighted in the foredunes area. We put up two sheets just behind the big ridge on the foredunes and one directly on the foredunes laid out on a hill. Howard Grisham also put out a couple of sheets a bit farther north down Veteran's road, but relatively close to the other sheets. The collecting was very poor at the sheets that night, but we managed to get a few things. The sheet on the dunes was so devoid of insect life that I got bored and started digging in the sand at the bases of various plants looking for insects. While looking under a Heterotheca subaxillaris plant I found some nice little scarabs, Geopsammodius hydropicus, a wingless species with vestigial eyes, a good one for our collection. I also got some tenebrionids, some lygaeids, and other things on and under various plants (especially the H. subaxillaris). Pretty soon everyone was on their hands and knees digging for those little scarab buggers. I guess we have a good series of them now, we probably got 200 or so. Anyway, we got several things here and there and it got even slower at the sheets so Barry, Buena, and Howard took off. The remaining members of the group went to the water's edge and waded a bit. Richard said something bit him, Beverly fell in, and Dave got a possible jellyfish sting on his leg, but it was nice even so. We finally took the sheets down and headed back.
The next day, Thursday, 3 August, Terry, Dave, Richard, Howard, Beverly, and myself did some day collecting at the pitcher plant bog area. John MacDonald also identified some plants for us here. After while it started raining and we headed back to the HQ. After lunch Terry, Dave, Howard, John, and Beverly went back to collect some more. I collected on fungi on rotten wood in the woods behind the HQ. I got a few things here including one decent anthribid and a bunch of staphylinids. I thought about going back to the bog, but it started raining again. We ate chili for supper and it wasn't bad either. That night we blacklighted at the pitcher plant bog area. We put up three sheets on the boardwalk in the bog and Howard put 3 or 4 sheets up in the woods across the road near the parking area. The insect collecting was better here (at least the bog sheets were) than the previous nights. We got quite a few little beetles here and some moths. The sheet that was the farthest down the boardwalk near the woods was the most productive. Across the road seemed relatively dead as far as beetles go, but there were a few moths present.
On Friday morning, 4 August, John, Dave, Beverly, Terry, Richard, Howard, and myself collected at the foredunes from about 10:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. We caught some grasshoppers, robber flies, sand wasps, tephiids, dragonflies, etc. There were a few flowers blooming on the dunes including Heterotheca subaxillaris, Paronychia erecta (square flower), and some type of morning glory (although I don't think anybody collected anything on it). Terry also found some Geopsammodius there, which was good to see that they could be found in the daytime also. Richard and Howard got wrapped with the refuge manager (Bill Gates) in some beach mouse controversy, so the rest of us headed back. We stopped in Foley and ate the pizza buffet at Godfather's pizza. As we were going out the door John found some good plant which was growing like a weed in the front lawn, so he got some specimens for the herbarium. That afternoon Scott Phipps took John MacDonald out to an older growth forest along Mobile bay. They went in a small boat about 10 miles down through Weeks Bay. John collected a few tiger beetles while there. He said that they had an exciting journey coming back because the boat was flooded and they had to bail a lot of water. Dave, Beverly, and I collected at the pitcher bog from 2:00 to 4:30 P.M. (or so). Barry and Buena were there also and we collected wasps, bees and flies (mainly) from the boardwalk on some of the flowers (especially the Oxypolis, and the Marshallia). We ate another reasonable supper, some sort of chicken casserole with a Mexican flavor. Howard's wife Sheila came by for a while this evening, but she didn't collect. John headed on out to where ever he goes, apparently he had seen all the plants that he needed to see. After supper we put out three sheets on the boardwalk and Howard put up two in the woods near the HQ. Also Richard put the wine soaked rope up between some trees along the boardwalk. The best collecting seemed to be at the sheet at the pavilion at the end of the boardwalk, although the others were not as bad as the first night here. Richard put out the boxtrap at the pitcher plant bog. One interesting creature seen that night was a cool spider in the family Dinopidae (Dinopus spinosus). This spider was on the rails of the boardwalk and would make a rectangular net, which was adjustable and the spider would throw the net on its prey to capture it. Pretty neat.
Richard picked the boxtrap the next morning, Saturday, 5 August, and went through the sample. Better than the last one anyway. Dave, Terry, Beverly, and myself collected at the pitcher plant bog, the woods nearby including the firebreak, and the woods across the road. I collected a few things beating on the nature trail in the woods by the parking lot. This was a very nice and also very long trail. There were some good sized trees out here and an invasive exotic fern was quite common here too, the Japanese climbing fern, Lygodium japonicum (a beautiful climbing fern). We went back for lunch around noon. After lunch Terry and Dave went back to the bog to collect some more. I stayed and pinned moths as did Richard, and Beverly pinned some of her insects. I also collected near the boardwalk in the woods some. That night we again blacklighted at the HQ woods. Richard put out the boxtrap at the pavilion at the end of the HQ boardwalk. The collecting was getting a little monotonous at this point, not lots of new things, but a few.
Relatively early the next morning, Sunday, 6 August, Dave, Beverly and myself collected at the pitcher bog. It was actually a little too wet from the dew to make collecting easy, but I actually got more stuff today than any other time here. I walked down the firebreak doing general collecting and sweeping. I swept plants of Hypericum cistifolium and got quite a few halictids on that. I collected a few tiphiids which were buzzing the ground and I walked into a bunch of webs of Nephila clavipes. When the firebreak got to the road I swept roadside vegetation (esp. Oxypolis filiformis) until getting back to the boardwalk where I collected hymenopterans and dipterans mainly on O. filiformis and Marshallia tenuifolia. There were quite active by this point as it had warmed up considerably. Beverly mainly was collecting bees along the boardwalk and Dave spent much time looking for flies along the roadside vegetation as well as the boardwalk area. After a few hours of this we went back to take care of our bugs and ate lunch. After lunch Terry, Dave, Beverly, and I took down all the traps. Dave did some collecting on some flowers across the highway from the headquarters area. He collected a few bees, wasps, and flies on flowers of Hyptis mutabilis. Three of the bees collected were Xylocopa micans, the all black Xylocopa which we don't get up our way in Starkville. Scott and Marla came by around 4:30 P.M. and chatted for a bit and then we all went down to the local bar and grill (Lulu's, owned by Jimmy Buffet's sister Lucy) and had some good seafood. After dinner we went back to HQ and blacklighted some. We had two sheets up on the boardwalk there, one at the first intersection and the other one at the end of the boardwalk by the pavilion. Most people didn't stay out too late, but Richard and Terry stayed out pretty late. In fact, I'm not sure that Richard ever slept that night. The collecting was pretty good actually, especially early.
The next morning, Monday, 7 August, we got packed and loaded and headed home. We got home about 2:30 P.M.
During the course of the week the Valentines did a good bit of collecting especially at the HQ and the bog. They apparently got a fairly good bunch of anthribids through the course of the week. One group that they collected could be found on certain fungi found on tree. The fungi was often black and sooty looking but was also in several other colors and the beetles found on this where tiny. They also got some good stuff beating dead vines and branches. Terry and I both did some beating during the course of the week, but had very limited success. It was definitely a poor week for beating overall.
Locality Data and Habitat Information
Weeks Bay Sites
Weeks Bay H.Q. Area
Weeks Bay NER Reserve
Pitcher Plant Bog Area
Weeks Bay NER Reserve
Woods across the Road
from Pitcher Bog nr.
Weeks Bay NER Reserve
Dave's Asilid Site
Weeks Bay NER Reserve
Swift Track on Bay
John MacDonald coll.
tiger beetle here
Weeks Bay NER Reserve
Bon Secour N.W.Refuge sites
Bon Secour N.W.Ref.
Habitat Information for 2nd labels
Weeks Bay H.Q.
Pitcher Plant Bog/Boardwalk area
Pitcher Plant Bog
Woods just past Bog on and nr. Boardwalk
Bog and woods Mixed
in Bog & Mixed
Woods across Rd. from Bog
nr. parking area
Dave's asilid site
John's Tiger beetle Site
at edge of Bay