William H. Cross Expedition, 1-2 May, 4-6 June, and 6-7 August, 2003 Bibb County Glades Preserve, Alabama, Bibb County
by Joe MacGown
Part 1. The Cross Expedition this year was a bit different from our typical supererogatory sojourns to botanically endemic wonderlands where we carry everything including a freezer and stay for a week collecting intensively for all hours. No, this year we decided to split the trip into three smaller collecting forays with collections being made for 2 to 3 day periods at different times of the year. The expedition this year took place at the Bibb County Dolomite Glades in Alabama. These glades were only recently discovered (in 1992) by a botanist named Jim Allison, who found them while canoeing the Little Cahaba River in Alabama with some friends. The glades, which range in size from 0.1 to 5 hectares, are mostly found on Dolomite outcroppings along the Little Cahaba River and are home to several new and rare species of plants. Where there are cool plants, there are often cool insects, so we decided to make collections at this fine locale.
The first phase of the expedition occurred from 1-2 May 2003 with only two participants, Terry Schiefer (MEM curator) and me (Joe MacGown, assistant curator). We arrived at the first glade at about noon on May 1st with temperatures just above 80° F and slightly cloudy conditions. The first site was located in Bibb County about 3 miles down county road 65 off of Hwy 31 and just south down an unnamed dirt road. There was a sign here with a name of this area, the "Kathy Stiles Freeland Bibb County Glades Preserve." This first area included three small glades that were so close together that we labeled insects collected here with the same data.
The glades here were fairly similar to some we had seen in Tennessee, at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, but the dolomite outcroppings present marked these glades as distinctive as did the species of plants present. The Bibb County glades are home to eight endemic plant taxa and additionally more than 60 taxa of plants are present either in or near the glades that are of conservation concern (according to Jim Allison). Because of the amazing number of new or rare plants, these glades are thought to be one of the most significant reservoirs of botanical diversity in the eastern United States. While we were collecting at the glades in May some of the more interesting plants in bloom in were, Onosmodium decipiens (new species), Castilleja kraliana (Indian paintbrush, new species), Marshallia mohrii (Mohr's Barbara's-buttons), and Amsonia ciliata (very abundant). For a complete listing of plants present, see the plant list compiled by Jim Allison at the end of this log.
Despite the high plant diversity, daytime insect activity did not seem to be very high. There were ants of several species found abundantly and some grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, and other insects present, but in general daytime collecting was not very productive. This may have been in part due to the extensive burning that had been conducted just recently, or maybe it was simply that the flowers in bloom were not the best ones for collecting certain insects on, especially flies, bees, and wasps. Nevertheless, we did collect some insects and I made quite a few ant collections. The dominant ants present where Solenopsis invicta (fire ants), Linepithema humile, Dorymyrmex bureni, Forelius pruinosus, and Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (go to the Bibb Co. ant list to see all species of ants collected on the Cross Expedition).
We hiked around for a while searching for glades, trying to find those pictured on our trusty Nature Conservancy map. The first area we encountered was just past the parking area and was split into two small glades, one that had just been burned (probably within a few weeks prior to our arrival) and as we walked along the river toward the east we came to another slightly larger glade. This glade was on a somewhat steep dolomite outcrop with much exposed dolomite present. This glade and the first pair we decided to include together as one collecting site because they were so close to one another.
After walking and collecting in this general vicinity of what we were calling "Glade 1", we went back to the parking area and walked down a private dirt road that led to another glade to the west. Partway down this road we found a little glade, "Glade 2", that was quite nice and had a lot of Senecio anonymus blooming and what looked to be basal rosettes of a Silphium. As we continued our exploration, we walked through a fish camp by the river (vacant at the time) and then headed northwest through the woods until we came to another glade, "Glade 3". This glade was much more extensive than the first ones we had seen and it was here that we had our first glimpse of the new Indian paintbrush flower, Castilleja kraliana. The landscape here was dotted with Dorymyrmex bureni ant nests, so I felt inclined to collect some of them.
an endemic Indian Paintbrush.
exploring this area for a while, we again headed through the forest in a northwestern
direction. The forest here was sooty from recent burns and terrain was very
steep in places making walking less than easy and treacherous at times. We
were searching for a particular glade that looked to be the most extensive
one on the map, but decided it might be easier to go back to the truck and
drive there. So, we did just that-headed back to the truck and drove north
on County Road 65 maybe a mile before turning left on Fullman Lane. After
driving down Fullman Lane for another mile or so we arrived at what appeared
to be the most likely entrance to the glade we were searching for. We walked
in through a strip of burned woods and there it was. This was definitely the
most extensive glade we had see thus far and we called this site "Glade
4". There was plenty of the Onosmodium and Castilleja blooming here as
well as other plants that we were less than sure about. After some collecting
and exploring, we headed to Centerville to get some food before our night-time
collecting excursions began.
After supper, we collected for a while a site on County Road 65 just past the gravel pit at a power line cut. We were looking for a glade supposedly in this area, but did not find it. However, I collected some Camponotus and Formica on young pine trees (loblolly) that were tending aphids. These two species of ants were never found together on the same tree, but always on different trees. Also collected on these young pines were a black elaterid, a buprestid, and Typocerus zebra (cerambycid).
Our next stop was to put out a box trap with black light at Glade 1. We set the trap up on a ledge high above the river and put a rain guard over it as well and tied it to three trees to keep it steady. At the time we put this trap up the weather was still quite nice, but by the time we got back to the truck, we began hearing thunder, and were a little apprehensive about the ensuing collecting.
We then drove over to Glade 4 and put up three sheets and lights. It was challenging finding trees to tie sheets to, but eventually we found some, mostly at the edges of the glades. Right after we got the last sheet staked down a serious looking storm moved in and our sheets were billowing like the sails of a ship and there was thunder and lightning in the air. We didn't really think we would be collecting much, but we hung around just in case. Fortunately, the storm passed by us and it ended up being a pretty good night to collect, at least for moths. The collecting started out slow, but gradually picked up until it again slowed down around 11:00 PM. The temperature dropped considerably and we were actually cold. We took the sheets down and went back to the motel for the night.
The next morning, we went and retrieved our box trap. It was still intact and had insects in it, so we were relieved. The rain guard and the ropes (for box trap stability) were covered with fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) and it took a few minutes to remove the ants. Fortunately, most of the fire ants had not made it into the box trap itself, and the ones that had were killed by the cyanide killing agent. Terry and I spent the next couple of hours sorting the trap in the bed of the pickup truck. The trap had quite a few moths in it and tons of Trichoptera. The most abundant moth was a species of aquatic pyralid that was also seen in great numbers on the vegetation at the edge of the river.
After we finished the box trap sorting, we followed the nature trail that started near the parking area. The trail meandered through the forest and through four small glades. The first three glades were so close to one another that we used the same latitude and longitude readings for collections made at any one of the three. We referred to these sites collectively as "Glade 5". I got a Berlese litter sample at the first of these glades from some litter at the bases of a cluster of trees in the center of the glade. I also collected a scorpion under a rock. The third glade in this group of three glades was on a very steep slope and the vegetation here was slightly different. This was the only place we saw Verbena simplex growing and Terry collected some insects on a flowering bush, perhaps in the family Styracacea while I collected some ants.
We continued down the trail in the woods for quite some time before finally arriving at a very small glade just past a small creek. We called this glade, "Glade 6" and stayed in that area to collect for a while. The collections I made were primarily in the woods very near the glade and under or in a rotting tree. I took a Berlese sample from the litter and soil beneath the rotting tree and collected a nest of Pheidole dentata in the tree itself.
Eventually, we worked our way back to the parking area and then ventured back to Glade 4, on Fullman Lane. While at Glade 4, I took some photos and we collected some day-flying insects. Sometime in the mid afternoon, we headed back to Starkville and took care of what specimens we had collected.
Part 2. The second phase of the Cross trip was held from 4-6 June, 2003. Participants included Richard Brown (MEM director), Terry Schiefer, Beverly Smith (graduate student, MEM), JoVonn Hill (MEM grad. student), Sang Mi Lee (MEM grad. student), Joe MacGown, and James C. Trager who served as expedition leader. James works as a botanist/biologist for the Shaw Nature Reserve in Missouri and also is a well known myrmecologist. His knowledge of both ants and plants greatly enhanced our expedition experience.
From left to right: JoVonn Hill, James Trager,and Joe MacGown
(Richard Brown mostly hidden from view behind JoVonn)
We arrived in Bibb County just before noon on June 4th and checked into our motel in Brent. After eating lunch at Subway, we headed to the glades, which were about 30 minutes away.
Our first stop was Glade 1 where we all collected. While there Terry and I put out 1 malaise trap, 1 Lindgren funnel trap, and 1 barrier trap. Traps were placed up on a hill near the forest edge. There were some different plants in bloom this month than were seen on our earlier trip in May. An interesting looking sunflower-like composite, Tetragonatheca helianthioides, was blooming and I collected some ants on flowers of it. Leptopus phyllantoides (Euphorbiaceae), Rhynchosia tomentosa (Fabaceae, a small yellow flowered legume), a beautiful Hypericum and many other flowers were blooming.
James, JoVonn, and I primarily collected ants on this trip, although other insects were collected as well. JoVonn collected all grasshoppers he saw. James picked up some Psuedomyrmex pallidus in the culms of Andropogon gerardii (big blue stem). We also picked up some litter samples from the woods bordering the small glades. Beverly concentrated her collecting efforts on wild bees, while Richard, Sang Mi, and Terry collected various other insects.
Sang Mi Lee, at Glade 1 near the Little Cahaba River
Later in the afternoon we all went to Glade 4 on Fullman Lane, where, again, everyone explored and collected. Terry and I put out a malaise trap, a barrier trap, a Lindgren funnel trap, and 5 pitfall traps. Although, the glade here was larger than the other small glades, it seemed to have much less diversity of insects. The imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, had really taken over this area, and was one of the few ant species seen here.
Malaise trap on hill at Glade 1
After collecting and putting out traps at Glade 4, we went back to Brent to eat supper. Several of us opted for a local restaraunt, while James and JoVonn ate later as they weren't hungry yet.
After dinner most of us headed back to the glades to blacklight with exception of James and JoVonn, who stayed at the motel to go through litter samples collected that day. We put three sheets and blacklights up at Glade 1. Additionally, Terry and Richard put up a small box trap with ethyl accentuate used as a killing agent at Glade 3. Richard and I put out a larger box trap with cyanide "A" dust at Glade 4. Unfortunately, the box trap at Glade 4 proved to be a bust because the cyanide was apparently no longer strong enough to kill the insects. Consequently, few insects were collected from that trap.
Collecting at the sheets that night was less than exciting. There were enough moths flying in to keep Richard, Sang Mi, and me busy, but the other insects were not so plentiful. Even so, Terry and Beverly collected what was there. Temperatures dipped fairly early that night and the influx of newly arriving insects dropped off dramatically, so we decided to call it a night sometime between 11:15 and 11:30 PM.
We took down the sheets and went back to the motel to put up our catch. Some of the rooms had mini refrigerators where we could store our insects. Moths were placed in moist relaxing chambers until they could be spread the following day.
Early the next morning, 5 June, Richard went to the glades and picked up the boxtraps. He came back to the motel about 9:00. Upon his arrival the rest of us, except Sang Mi headed out to collect at Glade 1. Both Sang Mi and Richard stayed at the motel to sort the box traps and spread moths. Before we left, James collected some ants by the motel, including Paratrechina bourbonica in the parking lot.
We collected for the rest of the day at Glades 1, 2, 3, & 5 and the woods adjacent to these glades. Terry collected on oak-leaved Hydrangea flowers and other flowers along the roadside coming into Glade 1. Terry also beat trees and shrubs in an effort to collect cerambycids and other beetles. JoVonn, James, and I geared our collecting towards ants, but collected other insects when those of interest were seen. I collected with James and JoVonn a while, trying to learn what I could about anting from James. Eventually, I broke off from the group and collected on my own. All three of us collected several litter samples. We sifted through some of the litter samples in the field and pulled out ants and beetles. Other litter samples were stored in ziploc bags and taken back to our museum to run in Berlese funnels. I collected some interesting ants nesting in the sand beside the Little Cahaba Creek. Two of these ants were Solenopsis pergandei and Paratrechina arenivaga. Beverly concentrated her collecting efforts on catching bees on flowers, especially in Glade 3.
As the day wore on, we decided to head back to town and eat some grub. We went back to the motel and grabbed the Brown guy and the Sang Mi chic and ate supper at the Saw Meal restaraunt.
After supper, Terry, Beverly, Sang Mi, Richard, and I went to Glade 4 to blacklight. We put up 3 sheets there. While we blacklighted James and JoVonn sorted litter samples at the motel. Again, collecting was less interesting than hoped for. We did get a variety of insects nonetheless. At some point near 11:00, we wrapped up the blacklighting and headed back to the motel.
The next morning, 6 June, we loaded up the trucks and went back to the museum. After arriving at the museum, we unloaded everything and got Berlese funnels going. JoVonn and I continued to bug James about all things ant related until he was ready to pass out from exhaustion. We finally relented and I think he went and found a bed to crash in.
Part 3. The third trip to the Bibb County Glades was on 6 and 7 August 2003. Richard Brown, Terry Schiefer, Jim Goode, and I (Joe MacGown) participated in this particular journey. Jim Goode, at the time of this trip, was a new graduate student in Entomology looking forward to studying Scolytidae in Mississippi.
We arrived in Brent, Alabama at about 11:00 A.M. and were welcomed by rain. The day was looking quite bleak and very wet, not the best conditions for most types of collecting. Anyway, we checked into our motel, the famous Windwood Inn, where we met Barry Hart of the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. We all moseyed over to Subway and ate some sandwiches while it continued to rain. Everybody headed back to the motel where we waited (hoped, prayed...) for the rain to end, or at least slacken a bit. Early in the afternoon, it did finally slow down somewhat and we chanced a trip to the glades, since that was why we drove over and all.
We first went to Glades 1, 2, and 3 to collect. The area was very wet, but at least the rain had stopped. Sweeping of vegetation was impractical, due to the degree of wetness present, however other collections were made. I managed to collect four litter samples even though the ground was saturated. Two of the samples came from the soil in the hollow at the base of an old sycamore tree located just beside the Little Cahaba River at Glade 1. The hollow area was covered by a thin layer of the tree, which I removed in order to get to the soil and litter. The soil was actually fairly dry, consequently, and I found several good things, including at least one new record of ant for Alabama. A large larva of Dynastes tityas, the unicorn beetle (in the family Scarabaeidae) was found here as well. The other two soil and litter samples were also obtained from the Glade 1 area, but in the woods adjacent to the Glade itself. Both of the two samples were found in a hollow stump in the woods.
I made collections of Bombis (bumble bees) on flowers at Glade 1 and collected a colony of Pseudomyrmex pallidus (cool elongate and somewhat elangant ant) in stems of big bluestem grass. I collected some Halictus sp. bees on Rudbeckia at Glade 2 and made other collections of anything seen.
Richard collected quite a bit in Glades 1, 2, and 3. He found some very nice little mirids (plant bugs) on the new species of Silphium at Glade 2. He also collected other insects, including blister beetles (Meloidae), ants, etc. At Glade 3 he collected colonies of Dorymymex bureni, a fast moving little Dolichoderine ant.
Terry concentrated his collecting on the various day flying groups such as bees, wasps, flies, and also beetles. His collections were mostly made on specific flowers. Jim occupied his time making collections of various insects including bees, grasshoppers, etc. The was the first collecting trip Jim had been on with us, so he also observed how we collected the various insects, with everybody pointing out interesting things when seen.
All in all, even though the day started out wet, we had success with our afternoon collecting and the sun was finally out in full force by late afternoon. However, it was soon time to eat some supper, so we headed into town for a little grub.
After dinner, we went to Glade 4 and put up 3 sheets with blacklights. Richard put up a large blacklight/box trap with cyanide dust in it at Glade 3 and a smaller box trap with Ethyl Acetate at Glade 1 up on the hill overlooking the river.
All four of us collected at the sheets at Glade 4. The night collecting was in general, pretty slow, possibly due to the high humidity. I collected a variety of things, even so, mostly moths and small beetles. Richard collected mostly moths, Terry collected beetles, and other non-moths, and Jim collected everything except for moths. After pulling down the sheets, just after 11:00, we went back to the motel, took care of our specimens and called it a day.
The next morning, 7 August 2003, Richard and I went to Glades 1 and 3 to retrieve the box traps. The smaller trap at Glade 1 had fire ants crawling on it, but none (or very few) got into the trap itself. We took what we had and went back to the motel and loaded the rest of the equipment into the truck in the, yes, you guessed it, rain. Richard sorted the box traps on the drive back to MSU. Quite a feat actually, but he managed nonetheless.
LOCALITY DATA AND HABITAT INFO
Bibb County Glades Preserve
Glade 1, near entrance to Preserve by Little Cahaba Rvr.
included 3 small glades
Bibb Co. Glades Pres.
Glade 2, very near Site 1, but on side ride going thru private
property-lots of Senecio (in May)
Bibb Co. Glades Pres.
Glade 3-Glade near 1 & 2, but on the other side of
private property area
Bibb Co. Glades Pres.
Glade 4-on Fullman Lane, most extensive glade
Bibb Co. Glades Pres.
Glade 5-glade after first creek from Glade 1, thru woods
Bibb Co. Glades Pres.
Glade 6-very small glade yet farther down trail thru woods
from glades 1 & 2
Bibb Co. Glades Pres.
Other sites (non Glade sites)
Brent, Windwood Inn
County road 65 site, powerline cut
Co. Rd. 65
Mixed Forest near