Beetles (coleoptera: geotrupidae, scarabaeidae, and silphidae) in burned and unburned pine barrens in Long Island, New York.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Cutover lands (Research)
Pub Date: 04/01/2009
Publication: Name: Entomologica Americana Publisher: New York Entomological Society Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 New York Entomological Society ISSN: 1947-5136
Issue: Date: April, 2009 Source Volume: 115 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 257814200
Full Text: The "Pine Barrens" of Long Island, New York (LIPB) is a unique habitat that is marked by the regular occurrence of fire which prevents the encroachment of non fire-adapted vegetation and thus maintains the typical vegetation. Pine Barren forests are typically situated on sandy soils and are dominated by Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida Miller) and several species of oaks. Prior to large scale settlements, the LIPB may have been restricted to a small area near Westhampton, New York (Kurczewski and Boyle, 2000). The initial (pre-20th century) expansion of the LIPB is thought to have been promoted by human activities such as the harvesting of hardwoods which would have created conditions favorable for the spread of fires (Jordan et al., 2003; Kurczewski and Boyle, 2000). At their maximum extent, the LIPB covered as much as 100,000 hectares (Jordan et al., 2003). Development (residential and commercial) and fire suppression have significantly reduced the LIPB area.

The LIPB provide a unique opportunity to examine the effect of fire on insect diversity. While pine barrens in the Northeastern United States have been surveyed for such insect taxa as Lepidoptera (McCabe, 2004; Wagner et al., 2003), there appears to be little literature specifically addressing the Coleoptera of the LIPB. The objective of this study was to provide a first assessment of the species richness and diversity of scavenger beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae, Coleoptera: Geotrupidae, and Coleoptera: Silphidae) of the LIPB in unburned and recently burned areas. Beetles in these groups play an important role in the breakdown of such materials as animal dung and carrion. The impact of forest fires on scavenging beetles of the families Scarabaeidae and Silphidae has been studied in

Mexico (Rivera-Cervantes and Garcia-Real, 1998) and Spain (Fernandez and Costas, 2002). Those authors found fire to have a species-specific effect on beetle abundance. Fernandez and Costas (2002) found that fire increased the diversity of both silphids and scarabs.

I collected scavenger beetles with baited pitfall traps at two locations (Rocky Point and Westhampton) within the LIPB from April 13 to October 12, 1996. In Rocky Point, the forest type is a closed-canopy pitch pine-oak forest. Westhampton, approximately 15 mi from Rocky Point, supports an open forest of the rare Dwarf Pine Plain type, which is dominated by stunted Pinus rigida and a lower thicket of scrub oak, Quercus ilicifolia Wangenheim. In August 1995, both areas had been partially burned (Central Pine Barrens Wildfire Task Force) and I was able to sample from burned and unburned areas in each of the two different forest types.

An unburned and a burned area were selected for collections in Rocky Point. Two sites were located within each area, and a set of two traps was installed on each site. Two unburned and one burned area were selected in Westhampton. Similarly two sites were also located within each area, and a set of two traps was installed. Thus, there were eight traps in Rocky Point and 12 in Westhampton. Pitfall traps were constructed from coffee cans that were sunk into the ground. Each set of two traps included one trap that was baited with a liquid bait (fermenting malt or other sugar solution), and a second trap baited with a solid bait (either human feces or various types of rotting meat). The two traps were separated by a distance of one meter. The same combination of baits was used across all sites at any given week. Specimens were collected weekly and the baits were refreshed on the same day when specimens were picked up. Shannon's diversity index was calculated for the total catch in each area (Begon et al., 2006).

A total of 4,141 beetles from 20 species were collected (Table 1). Most of the species were collected in both burned and unburned sites. Six species (Copris minutus, Onthophagus hecate, Canthon bispinatus, Geotrupes egeriei, Nicrophorus orbicollis, and Nicrophorus tomentosus) constituted 92% of the total collections. Five species were collected only in Rocky Point: (Onthophagus orpheus, Onthophagus striatulus, Onthophagus taurus, Geotrupes blackburnii blackburnii, and Geotrupes hornii), while two species were collected only in Westhampton (Onthophagus subaeneus and Oiceoptoma inaequale). Small sample sizes preclude making conclusions regarding the distributions of these species in the LIPB.

Species richness and diversity were similar across all of the unburned areas. An increased evenness of abundance across species probably contributed to a slightly higher diversity index for the Rocky Point unburned area. The Westhampton burned area had the lowest species richness and diversity.

Onthophagus taurus was collected once in the Rocky Point burned area. This introduced species has spread very quickly since its first discovery in Florida in 1975 and its subsequent introduction into New Jersey in the late 1980s. It is known from as far West as Missouri and as far North as New York (Fincher and Woodruff, 1975; Hoebeke and Beucke, 1997; MacRae and Penn, 2001). Masis and Marquis (2009) found O. taurus to be the fourth most abundant species of the dung beetles which those authors collected in oak-pine and oak-hickory forest in Missouri.

Long Island appears to be near the northern extent of the known distributions of Canthon bispinatus, O. tuberculifrons, and O. subaeneus (Woodruff, 1973). Canthon bispinatus and O. tuberculifrons were more abundant in Westhampton than in Rocky Point, possibly because of a preference for more open, sunny habitat. All three species could be dependent on the sandy soil of the pine barrens; such a preference for sandy soil is mentioned for O. tuberculifrons and O. subaeneus by Woodruff (1973).

Onthophagus subaeneus was found only in Westhampton (five individuals). This species apparently feeds on rabbit pellets (Woodruff, 1973). Kurczewski and Boyle (2000) suggest that previous to human settlement, the LIPB may have been restricted to an area including Westhampton. It is possible that O. subaeneus may occur in Westhampton but not Rocky Point because of ecological or historical factors, although there is not enough information about the distribution of this species in other areas of Long Island to speculate further.

In Rocky Point, O. tuberculifrons was absent in the unburned area, while 66 individuals were collected in the burned area, even though the burned and unburned areas were only -200 m apart. The species O. hecate showed the opposite pattern in Westhampton; it was scarce in the burned area but abundant in the unburned areas. In Missouri, Masis and Marquis (2009) found O. tuberculifrons to be completely absent in forest under one management (harvesting) type and present in forest under another type of management; this suggests that this species may have specialized habitat requirements.

Geotrupes egeriei was an abundant species (a total of 1,104 specimens were collected). Its abundance and size (up to 20 mm in length) suggest that G. egeriei may play a significant role in the scavenger community. Like many other geotrupids, the feeding habitats of this species are poorly known, although isolated observations include the provisioning of larval tunnels with dung (Howden, 1955). It is possible that other substances are also used for larval food. Peltotrupes, a geotrupid that inhabits similarly xeric pine-oak forests (scrub and sandhill) in Florida, uses pine and oak leaf litter for larval food (Howden, 1952). Such material is abundant in the Long Island pine barrens and could also be a larval food for G. egeriei.

Beetles of the family Silphidae are readily attracted to rotting meat. A small number of silphid beetles were caught in the burned area in Westhampton relative to all other areas. RiveraCervantes and Garcia-Real (1998) found silphids * to be less abundant in a burned part of pine forest in Mexico. While it is possible that silphids were less abundant in the Westhampton burned area (compared to the unburned area), there is also the possibility that the low trap catches of silphids there were a result of the accelerated desiccation of meat baits in the Westhampton burned area, which was almost completely devegetated. Meat was usually set fresh in the traps, and it may have dried out quickly in this area before it could attract silphids.

Wagner, et al. (2003) discussed the importance of the pine barrens of the northeastern United States to insect diversity. Coleoptera make up a great proportion of this diversity, and they should be given a greater degree of research attention in this region. Goldstein and Simmons (2002) summarized historical and recent data on scarab species records from Massachusetts offshore islands which host several types of habitat, including grasslands and shrublands. These habitats, like the LIPB, appear to be maintained by fire. The scarabaeoid beetles they recorded from these islands include all three of the geotrupid species and seven of the scarabaeine species that I report in this study. The diversity of the pine barrens beetle fauna may be somewhat dependent on fire, but more work will be necessary to determine if this is the case.--Kyle Beucke, Department of Entomology & Nematology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 110620, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620, emaik kbeueke@ufl, edu.

Key words: Fire, insect, scavenger, pitfall trap.


This work was conducted during my junior year in High School. I wish to thank my father Daniel for his companionship and tireless assistance in accessing the research sites. Melanie Krieger, Fred Vencl, and Dr. Douglas Futuyma provided valuable advice. The Nature Conservancy, the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation allowed me access to the research sites. Dr. Tim McCabe (New York State Museum), Dr. Henry Howden (Canadian Museum of Nature), and Dr. Robert Woodruff (University of Florida) aided in identifications. Louis Sorkin (American Museum of Natural History) helped greatly with the writing of this paper. Dulce Bustamante (University of Florida) assisted me with the calculation of diversity indices.

Received 13 November 2007; accepted 4 April 2009


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Table 1. Scarab, geotrupid, and silphid species captured in burned and
unburned areas of Long Island, NY Pine Barrens.


                    Species                    Unburned 1   Unburned 2

Scarabaeidae:       Copris fricator (F.)             0           0
Scarabaeinae        C. minutus (Drury)             318          83
                    Canthon bispinatus              93          99
                    Onthophagus hecate             131         219
                    O. nuchicornis (L.) *            3           2
                    O. orpheus (Panzer)              0           0
                      (subspecies undet.)
                    O. pennsylvanicus Harold         0           1
                    O. striatulus (Palisot           0           0
                      de Beauvois)
                    O. subaeneus (Palisot            3           2
                      de Beauvois)
                    O. taurus (Schreber) *           0           0
                    O. tuberculifrons Harold        36          32
Geotrupidae         Geotrupes blackburnii            0           0
                      blackburnii (F.)
                    G. egeriei Germar              381         417
                    G. hornii Blanchard              0           0
Silphidae           Nicrophorus orbicollis          56          75
                    N. tomentosus (Weber)            9          19
                    Necrodes surinamensis           10          13
                    Necrophila americana             1           5
                    Oiceoptoma inaequale             4           3
                    O. noveboracense                 2           9
Totals                                           1,047         979
Species richness                                    13          14
Shannon diversity index                              1.64        1.7
Grand total = 4,141

                                                     Rocky Point

                  Species                    Burned   Unburned   Burned

Scarabaeidae:     Copris fricator (F.)          1         0         1
Scarabaeinae      C. minutus (Drury)          411       144       125
                  Canthon bispinatus           79         3        11
                  Onthophagus hecate             9      253       165
                  O. nuchicornis (L.) *          3        3        11
                  O. orpheus (Panzer)            0        1         0
                    (subspecies undet.)
                  O. pennsylvanicus Harold       0        6         8
                  O. striatulus (Palisot         0       11        13
                    de Beauvois)
                  O. subaeneus (Palisot          0        0         0
                    de Beauvois)
                  O. taurus (Schreber) *         0        0         1
                  O. tuberculifrons Harold      31        0        66
Geotrupidae       Geotrupes blackburnii          0        1         0
                    blackburnii (F.)
                  G. egeriei Germar            111      103        92
                  G. hornii Blanchard            0        9         4
Silphidae         Nicrophorus orbicollis         5      241        43
                  N. tomentosus (Weber)          4       36        90
                  Necrodes surinamensis          7        0         1
                  Necrophila americana           0        1         1
                  Oiceoptoma inaequale           0        0         0
                  O. noveboracense               0       10         0
Totals                                           661      822       632
Species richness                                  10       14        15
Shannon diversity index                            1.2      1.69      2
Grand total = 4,141

* =introduced species.
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