Development of the Insect Collection

Development of the Insect Collection

7/1/2013 11:03:49 AM

Here at The Levy Preserve our primary mission is to preserve and promote plant diversity. However, this site also provides a diverse range of habitats for many other organisms including insects, birds, reptiles, fungi, and many other species or organisms. Accordingly, we are also interested in learning more about these organisms in order to better understand the full range of biodiversity that exists on this 25-acre site. One project that is currently underway is an assessment of arthropod diversity. Arthropods include animals such as insects, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, crabs and lobsters. There are more than one million described species of arthropods, which makes them the most diverse group of organisms on the planet. Leading this project is Dr. Paul A. De Luca, an entomologist who is currently employed as an Assistant Professor of Biology at The College of The Bahamas in Nassau. At present he has collected and identified nearly 150 different kinds of insects, spiders, centipedes and scorpions, which make The Levy Preserve their home.

To collect specimens Dr. De Luca employs a variety of methods. Many of the specimens are caught by hand using sweeping nets. This is extremely effective for insects such as butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and a few kinds of flying beetles. Another collecting method is the pitfall trap, which is basically a plastic container that is placed in a small hole dug into the ground. Arthropods that crawl on the forest floor, such as ants, sow bugs and ground beetles, fall into the container and become trapped. A different kind of trap that is used is the malaise trap, which is effective for capturing flying insects such as flies, moths, wasps and bees. As a flying insect encounters the netting material it will instinctively crawl upwards, eventually entering the plastic container at the top and becoming trapped inside. After capturing specimens Dr. De Luca kills them, either by placing them in a freezer for a short time or by sealing them in a container containing a chemical called ethyl acetate, which quickly kills them. Specimens are then prepared according to standard entomological methods, and then placed in display cases that preserve and protect them for future study.

 Thus far the most abundant group of insects that have been caught at The Preserve are beetles (Coleoptera). There are more than a quarter of a million described species of beetles worldwide, and so it is not surprising that beetles are so well represented here at the preserve. Bees and wasps (Hymenoptera) are also quite diverse here, but since these insects are the principal pollinating agents of flowering plants their abundance at a plant preserve comes as no surprise! One interesting species of wasp found here is the impressive Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis sp.), which is the world’s largest wasp. Tarantula Hawks are so named because the females hunt large spiders, including tarantulas, which they use as a food source for their young. The Levy Preserve is also home to a large number of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). One of the more colorful moth species is the Faithful Beauty Moth (Composia fidelissima), which is one of the rare moths that are active during the day

The ultimate goal of this project is to identify every species of arthropod that exists at The Levy Preserve, which, according to Dr. De Luca could easily number into the thousands. Dr. De Luca said: “Almost every day we find something new, an insect that we haven’t collected before. This site is evidence that by conserving habitats we are protecting biodiversity, which is not only of scientific value, but of intrinsic value as well to the people and culture of The Bahamas.”

Malaise trap                           Malaise trap                                                                     Tarantula Hawk Wasp

                     Faithful Beauty Moths                                              
Lepidoptera Collection 



Paul DeLuca presents  Preserve Manager                           Non-Insect Arthropods at The Preserve
Mark Daniels with a Riker Mount of Preserve Arthropods