Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Burton Clyde Cebulski, 1946-2013.

Burt at Chippewa Falls, Ontario, July 2012
 Burt Cebulksi, an avid enthusiast of Odonata, lost a battle with esophageal cancer on October 29.  Burt was a native Ann Arborite, born on October 6, 1946. He graduated from Pioneer High and graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. He went on to do post-graduate work at Central Michigan, and then started teaching. Burt taught biology, physics, general science and environmental science at Adrian High School for 33 years, and was an effective coach in cross country for 29 years.  The Adrian Cross Country Invitational was changed to the Burt Cebulski Invitational in 2012, to honor him as a runner, coach, and example of a caring person.  Burt once ran marathons, and just missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon, which totally surprised me when he discussed that part of his life a few years ago. Burt retired from teaching in 2004, and became more involved in working on Odonata, attending various meetings and conferences.  Burt and his wife Kerry (married in 1976) shared a love for camping, motorcycling, making glass beads, and enjoying the outdoors.

I first met Burt in 1981, when he came to the Museum of Zoology to visit Leonora K. (Dolly) Gloyd.  He became interested in Odonata in the summer of 1976 while a graduate student at Central Michigan University. Dolly's tutelage of Burt continued for about 10 years, and he collected specimens and deposited them in the UMMZ, and developed a technique for collecting Odonata nymphs from under the ice of lakes and ponds. He eventually grew very interested in the Darners (Aeshnidae), and started rearing them from eggs.  It was this interest that grew into a lengthy project of rearing parasitic wasps from the eggs of Aeshna tuberculifera. Over the span of 20 years, Burt made many visits to a favored spot in Alger County Michigan to collect material for his study of the egg parasites.  After his diagnosis of esophageal cancer in January of 2012, Burt asked me to co-author his manuscript to ensure that his project would get published.  He and his family were very pleased to see the paper appear in the Great Lakes Entomologist in early September of 2013.  I know that it meant a great deal to Burt to see it in print, and I am happy to have been part of it. In addition to his work on the eggs, he collected over 700 specimens of adult and immature Odonata from Michigan, which are still being cataloged before they are added to the UMMZ collection as part of the Michigan Odonata Survey (MOS) project.  Burt also helped students with Odonata projects at Siena Heights College in Adrian. 
Burt and Ken Tennessen at GLOM 2008
Burt was by any definition, a very interesting person with diverse interests.  He could look like a scruffy biker dude, but had a warm and generous personality. Anyone seeing the twinkle in his eye would know that he had a great sense of humor. He was a lot of fun out in the field with an insect net, and didn't always reveal his high level of knowledge about the Odonata, preferring to be in the background. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, and was a very competent naturalist. Most people did not get to see the tattoos he had of dragonflies at a pond across his back -- and he had some amazing ink on his arms of the parasitic wasps that he reared.  My favorite though, was the tattoo on his forearm that was based on a card to Dolly Gloyd from Belyshev, a Russian odonatologist. I had published a scan of the card in the newsletter Williamsonia, and Burt surprised me in March 2009 at a Michigan Entomological Society gathering with his new tattoo. It was far better than the card. He also brought dragonfly-shaped cookies that day. 
Burt’s last Great Lakes Odonata Meeting (GLOM) was in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario in July 2012.  He was feeling well enough to attend, and we had a great time driving around, telling stories, collecting Odonata, and just being out in the field together.  Standing around a pond or a stream waiting for a dragonfly to come flying by is a bit like fishing, and we discussed all kinds of topics while out in the field. Burt attended several meetings of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas and most of the GLOM meetings in previous years – in fact, more than I did.  He was a good ambassador for the study of Odonata, and introduced his son-in-law Greg Bauman to them.  Greg is now enthusiastically collecting specimens for the MOS in Marquette Co.  Burt touched a lot of people through his life as a teacher, coach, mentor, naturalist, cyclist, outdoorsman, and artist.  It is sad losing a friend too early, and Burt will be missed most of all by his wife Kerry, his daughters Erin and Chelsey, and extended family.   

Odonata Publications of Burt Cebulski
2009. Collecting Odonates Under the Ice. Argia 21(3):8-9.
2009. Hetaerina titia (Smoky Rubyspot) No Longer rare in Southern Michigan. Argia 21(4):21-22
2011. Dragonflies of Ives Road Fen Preserve. Argia. (23(1):14-15 (with Chelsey J. Cebulski).

2013. Observations on egg Parasitism of Aeshna tuberculifera (Odonata: Aeshnidae) by Eulophidae, Trichogrammatidae, and Mymaridae (Hymenoptera) in Alger County, Michigan. Great Lakes Entomologist 46(3-4):145-153 (with Mark F. O’Brien).

Monday, August 19, 2013

In Praise of Pantala

A challenge to net, members of the genus Pantala are well-known long-distance travellers.  This is a specimen of Pantala flavescens, the Wandering Glider, taken at the small ephemeral pond at Pittsfield Preserve on Aug. 16. Supreme aerialists, these dragonflies seem to be able to hover effortlessly over a body of water, and then zoom off vertically in pursuit of a potential mate or to chase off a rival.  It's sort of like watching one of those fighter jets go from landing speed to vertical with afterburners, but with a LOT less sound and energy expended.  Due to their ability to take advantage of wind currents, their high wing area to body-mass ratio, and their ability to go from egg to adult in 3 months, these dragonflies are found all over the world.  It's a global species, with migratory flights reported from the Indian subcontinent to Africa, and of course, all over North America.  Sometimes we laugh at their miscues - such as an ovipositing female mistaking a shiny car hood for a pond, but the laugh is on us if we try to swing a net and capture one.
Small temporary ponds can often have a lot of small creatures in them, including larval fishes.  The rapid development of Pantala nymphs is dependent on having access to a good food source, and however many miscues the females may make, it's obvious that many of them are successful.
This world-wide distribution map from Discover Life obviously lacks ALL the collection localities, but you can see that is it a cosmopolitan species.  Our UMMZ collections has hundreds of specimens from all over the world.  Alas, except for the MI specimens, the rest are not cataloged.  You can read about the migratory flights of Wandering Gliders in the Indian Ocean here., and in Venezuela here. In Michigan, we have numerous sightings of Pantala flavescens all over the state.  It's the other species - Pantala hymenea - that we see much less often.   August and September are the months when we most often see swarms of Wandering Gliders -- as they complete their summer's life cycle and emerge from the ponds, they will become more numerous (especially this year, with adequate water all summer). Eventually, these amazing fliers will make their way south of the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic coast to new ponds and deposit their eggs and fly off to the next pond.  We will see some of their offspring next May/June as they return to the North. In Michigan, we have specimen vouchers for counties as shown at the left.  Undoubtedly, there are many sight records that are not indicated here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Golden-Winged Skimmer Incursion into Michigan.

L. auripennis in Jackson Co., courtesy of Craig Robson.
Earlier this summer, Rick Nirschl collected the first Michigan record of Libellula auripennis in Washtenaw County at the powerline ROW in Nan Weston Preserve.  There is a small fen there, and the specimen was photographed and collected by Rick and Curt Powell.  Obviously, a great find, and then the question becomes -- is it a one-off vagrant or an indication that there may be others? One observation means a new state record, a second site means that the species is perhaps establishing a beach head in SE Michigan.  That second site turned up today as I received an e-mail from Dave Cuthrell, forwarding an email from Craig Robson who photographed a Golden-winged Skimmer at the Grand River fen in Jackson County on July 30. That second sighting is very important, and it's possible that the species will be found elsewhere in S Michigan. Libellula auripennis is typically a SE US and Gulf Coast species, with a few scattered records S of the Great Lakes, in central OH and N Indiana.  It will be interesting to see what happens in Michigan.

On another front, the Xerces Society has a new program out called "Dragonfly Pond Watch Project." It looks to be an interesting endeavor, and should engage a bunch of citizen-scientists to record both migratory and resident odes across the country.  It's part of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, and the Xerces Society has a really good PR and web presence.  I encourage you to give the site a look!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back to Normal at Pittsfield Preserve

Dragonfly paradise for now.
During last year's awful drought and strange early spring, the mid-summer to fall looked pretty grim -- many ponds dried up, and the Odonata of late summer were almost non-existent here.  One place in particular -- Pittsfield Preserve -- where I have been monitoring the Odonata, was bone-dry by this time last year, and I was quite curious about what I would see this year.  We have had an abundance of rain this year, and even though it has been quite hot the past couple of weeks, we have also had adequate rainfall.  I went out to Pittsfield Preserve today, and am very happy to see all of the wetlands - both man-made and natural, have good water levels.  The ephemeral pond that is filled by the draining wooded wetland to the east is doing very well, and there were lots of odes flying around.  I collected a new species for the site there -- Enallagma traviatum westfalli.

Pachydiplax longipennis
 The skimmers were in great abundance at the wetland sites, with Libellula pulchella being the most numerous.  Also in abundance were many Blue dashers, Pachydiplax longipennis.  It's a great feeling to be standing by a pond and see dozens of dragonflies at any instant.   I am very pleased that populations have apparently rebounded, and  the wetlands look very lush right now. I caught a few specimens, but the list for today's trip is as follows:
Lestes australis
Enallagma basidens
Enallagma traviatum westfalli
Ischnura verticalis
Anax junius
Libellula pulchella
Libellula luctuosa
Plathemis lydia
Pachydiplax longipennis
Erythemis simplicicollis
Celithemis eponina
Perithemis tenera
Tramea lacerata
Pantala flavescens
Sympetrum rubicundulum?

an old P. lydia
 Fifteen species isn't too shabby for an hour or so in the field at one small location.  I am sure I missed a few damsels that were too far away to ID.

I will reiterate here what I have long believed -- long-term studies of a habitat produce more interesting information as one spends more time at a site.  As much as it's great collecting at a new place that is different from the local areas, the long-term observations at a place such as Pittsfield Preserve provide information on species succession, yearly variations, and so forth.  It's also interesting seeing new species come into a site.  This year, I observed a single female Perithemis tenera at the preserve.  Maybe there will be more there next year.

in copula
Still to come are the Aeshnas, and it will be interesting to see what is flying this year, since all of the woodland ponds they inhabit were dry last year.
Halloween pennant ♀

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A quick visit to Drummond Island

A bunch of entomologists invaded Drummond Island This past weekend, June 14-16, for the annual meeting of the Michigan Entomological Society.  It was a well-attended affair, and most of us had not been to the island before.  Drummond Island sits about a mile off Point detour in eastern Chippewa Co, and is comprised of dolomitic limestone.  One very interesting aspect of the island is the alvar, a pavement-like limestone formation that supports an interesting ecology and features some plants adapted to live in the rigorous environment.  A bunch of us visited the renowned Maxton Plains alvar, part of which is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

One doesn't generally think of Odonata and dry limestone, but there are many boggy spots and ponds on Drummond Island, as well as several creeks and a small river.  In addition, this IS an island with many bays and inlets with lots of protected coves with abundant reeds, etc., so there are many good habitats for odes.  The weather was not too bad, but we did have several thunderstorms roll through on one of the days.  Most of my time with a net was spent on maxton Plains, or along the lake shore near the Drummond Island Resort near Maxton.
The highlight for me was when Jorie caught a female Williamsonia fletcheri after photographing it eating a crane fly.  The Ebony bog-haunter isn't a new record for Chippewa County, and it has also previously been collected on Maxton Plains.  However, I don't know of anyone finding them with prey before.  Here is a photo of the female that Jorie caught.
Ladona julia was fairly abundant, and on day two, it was very common along the roads.  Celithemis elisa was seen in several spots on Maxton Plains.  The ubiquitous Gomphus spicatus was also along the roads, and we often saw Libellula quadrimaculata.   On June 15, I captured an Arigomphus cornutus at the edge of a wet area where it was feeding.  The emerald Dorocordulia libera was abundant, as were Epitheca spinigera.  We often saw feeding swarms 10-30 feet in the air on the lee side of trees. I saw some other emeralds, but they were flying to high for me to net.  I also saw one Cordulegaster, but it was on its way into the woods as a thunderstorm approached and never saw it again.  One real treat was watching the mayflies hatch at dusk, and the hordes of Basiaeschna janata that fed on them.  Every individual that I netted was a female.
I didn't spend a lot of time with the net, but it looks like anyone wanting to put some real effort on Drummond Island ought to come up with some good records.  There is a lot of state land on the island, and plenty of places to stay.  The habitats are varied enough that some real finds might be possible.  This farthest east part of the Upper Peninsula certainly deserves further investigation!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Some Metrics for 2012

Now that I have cataloged most of last year's (2102) catches, Let me present you with some numbers.
Despite the awful end of the season results, last year's 492 specimens were added to the database.
Many new county records were added, but I have not yet picked those out of the matrix.
Tramea onusta, a new UP record was added by Jorie O'Brien.
108 species were collected.

Collections were made in 27 counties (see map): Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Cass, Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Lake, Lenawee, Livingston, Luce. Marquette, Macomb, Manistee, Montoe, Oakland, Otsego, Presque Isle, Saginaw, Schoolcraft. Tuscola, Washtenaw, and Wayne.

The earliest collection date was March 25 - Ischnura verticalis in Saginaw Co. by Jeff Sommer, and the latest collection date was November 9 - Sympetrum vicinum in Washtenaw Co., by Mark O'Brien.

Anax junius was collected on April 13 in Oakland Co. by Craves/O'Brien, 11 May in Washtenaw Co. (MFO), and Marquette Co., Jorie O'Brien and Greg Bauman.

The following people added vouchers:
Greg T. Bauman
Julie Craves
Carl Freeman
Matt Hysell
Doug McWhirter
Adrienne O'Brien
Darrin O'Brien
Jorie O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
Stephen Ross
Jeff Sommer
Quinn Sommer

Thanks to all of you!!!!