May 1997 Expedition to Guatemala
by Steve Gaimari
The Schlinger Expedition to Guatemala (including Mike Irwin, Don Webb, Steve Gaimari, Mark Metz, Kevin Holston, Shaun Winterton, and Longlong Yang) began in Guatemala City on 17 May 1997, where we met up with our main contact, Dr. Charles McVean , who made most of the arrangements for us, including securing our guide, Ms Maria Lucia Prinz. On the first full day in Guatemala City, we all went to the insect collection at the Universidade del Valle de Guatemala, sorted their unsorted Diptera to family, and curated several families of flies. After our sort session, we all had some very interesting combinations on pizza (e.g., refried beans and onions).
On 19 May, we made our way to the beautiful town of Chichicastenango, at an elevation of 2000 meters. Despite two days of hard collecting using malaise traps and hand netting in a variety of habitats, including the lowlands around Chichi, we left with no therevids in hand. We did collect many interesting things though, including several specimens of a species of Rachicerus and a species of Vermilio. Fortunately, the shopping in town was great, and we bought all kinds of hand-made and expertly knitted goods.
The next leg of our trip, from 21-23 May, was spent at the beautiful southwest Pacific coastal town of Monterrico. To reach this area, we took our vehicles bysmall barge for several kilometers through a dense mangrove forest. Hot and humid are the best words to describe this area of coastal dunes, which yielded many therevid specimens, including several Megalinga bolbocera (Osten-Sacken), numerous specimens of Brachylinga, a few Penniverpa, and a single female of“Psilocephala” breviventris Kröber. Megalinga was collected at the lights at night, and on the walls in the morning, and occasionally in the vegetation around the place where we stayed, Hotel Baule Beach. All of the other genera were collected perching on leaves in the coastal vegetation, or were swept from grasses slightly farther in from the coast. The therevid collecting was great, but we had a few caualties, in the form of serious Montezuma’s revenge (and Montezuma can be vengeful!). In addition to therevid collecting, we enjoyed spending some time with Chuck McVean and family.
After this, we headed towards the significantly cooler climes of cloud forest in the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserva. On the ride through from Monterrico, Kevin, Shaun, Steve, and Don stopped in a transition zone, where we collected several specimens of a very interesting acrocerid (Phylopota) going to flowers ofPsychotria nervosa Swartz (Rubiaceae). We also saw the famous bullhorn acacia and its ant associates. Then we continued north to Guatemala City and Don flew back to Illinois.
Below the biosphere reserve, we stayed at the home of Don Carlos, a local land owner, and we were treated with the utmost hospitality, being fed by Doña Vicki (Don Carlos’ wife), a wonderful hostess and cook. We put many malaise traps in areas from 1600 to 2400 meters elevation, all with very different insects taken. Therevids were abundant in a few of the traps, including many specimens ofOzodiceromyia schroederi (Kröber) and Ozodiceromyia obliquefasciata (Kröber). In the cloud forest itself, Mike collected a singleton male of a new and very strange species of Phycus from low-lying vegetation. Besides therevids, we collected some very interesting specimens of Vermilio and Xylophagus, as well as numerous interesting asilids and syrphids. Steve reared a very good series of a species in an undescribed genus of Chamaemyiidae feeding on citrus scales.
We also put malaise traps at the very base of the Sierra de las Minas, in the very dry thorn tree zone at an elevation of about 250-400 meters elevation. These traps proved to be very productive, collecting numerous specimens of Ataenogera abdominalis Kröber and Chromolepida pruinosa (Coquillett), as well as a species of Ozodiceromyia. Nearby to this, we visited a local hot springs, Quebrada de Agua Caliente, where we collected numerous larval therevids in the litter and sand under large trees. Many of these larvae have pupated and emerged, and belong in the genera Brachylinga and Penniverpa.
After a successful and fun collecting trip, in which we preserved many specimens for ongoing molecular work as well as for morphological study, we spent a wild night in Guatemala City, and flew out to Illinois on the morning of 30 May (i.e., a few hours after getting back from our night on the town!). Shaun and Longlong joined the lab for a few weeks, but that is another story.
The expedition received financial assistance from the Schlinger Foundation and the National Science Foundation’s Partnership for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET) program.
NOTE FOR GAIL: LINKS ARE TO PHOTOS, WHICH PREVIOUSLY HAD BEEN PLACED ON A SEPARATE PAGE. THE PHOTOS ARE NOW ON BOX, SO YOU CAN SELECT THOSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO EMBED ON THIS PAGE AND THEN SIMPLY UPLOAD THE MEDIA TO YOUR WORDPRESS SITE. CAPTIONS ARE APPENDED TO THE PHOTOS AS BOX COMMENTS.