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wormlion - Vermileo comstocki - male

wormlion - Vermileo comstocki - Male
Hampshire Rocks Road at Loch Leven Lakes Trailhead, west of Donner Pass near Hwy 80, Placer County, California, USA
July 12, 2017
Found under the overhang of a rock. There were larval pits under the overhang in the soft, loose soil.

Images of this individual: tag all
wormlion - Vermileo comstocki - male wormlion - Vermileo comstocki wormlion - Vermileo comstocki wormlion - Vermileo comstocki

Vermileo comstocki
I looked at Essig Vermileo specimens today. The museum has 12 V. opacus adults (from 3 different localities) and 8 V. comstocki adults (from 3 other localities). The palp color is different as night and day. V. opacus has white palps (both male and female); V. comstocki palps are very dark. The wings are clearer on V. opacus.

Also, glancing at them without a scope, V. opacus seems a bit smaller and more delicate than V. comstocki which seems slightly larger and stockier. This is not so useful to know unless you see them side-by-side.

Six of the V. comstocki specimens were collected at Donner Pass by Jerry Powell. One was from Yosemite (collected by E.O. Essig himself). Another was from Strawberry, Tuolumne County (which is near Hwy 108).

About 10 of the V. opacus specimens are from Riverside County. Two are from "Snowline Camp, El Dorado County." This is fascinating to me because I'm rearing two larvae from El Dorado County (different place from where I found the above adult). I assumed they'd be the same species I found near Donner Pass but now I'm not so sure. Hopefully I'll get adults.

It would be interesting to have a better idea someday of how these species are distributed in the state, and if there are any differences between them in terms of their life histories.

Great additional info Joyce!
I'm heading to the Cal Academy today, and will look at their Vermileo specimens. I think they too promise some novelties in terms of range extensions within CA, vis-a-vis what's recorded in the least in those references cited on the info page.

(I'm wondering where in Riverside Co. those 10 specimens came from? Whitewater? San Jacinto Mnts? Maybe even further east?)

Riverside County specimens
They were from the Boyd-Deep Canyon Desert Research Center and from "Junction Deep Creek and Horsethief Creek" which I think is just a bit west of Boyd, I assume in the same canyon.

Will be interesting to find out what you learn at the CAS!

Palpi color and localities for CAS specimens
The California Academy of Sciences Vermileo collection consisted of 24 adult and 2 larval specimens of V. comstocki from 9 localities; and a single adult of V. opacus from Palomar Mountain Observatory Campground, San Diego County...collected between June 25-27, 1968 (the label gave that span of dates rather than a single date). One specimen from Humboldt County in the V. comstocki box (corresponding to this record) was labelled as Arthroceras was quite pollinose and distinct from the V. comstocki in the box, appearing to have been misplaced there.

The V. opacus appeared to be a male. At first I couldn't see any palpi...but eventually it seemed I could make them out as somewhat white, cupped-structures, appressed against the labellum...and not (more-or-less) conical, as in all the other specimens of Vermileo in the collection. Perhaps those palpi may have been deformed or damaged...but this was somewhat unfortunate because it meant I didn't have a clear instance of V. opacus as a basis for comparison of palpi.

Curiously, there were also two specimens of V. comstocki from the same Palomar Mountain Campground location (at 1524 meters elevation) collected on June 27, 1968 (during the same field trip). They had very dark brown palpi of typical shape and position. The labels indicated all of the Palomar Mountain specimens were determined by "Turner". The wings were slightly brown-tinged on the V. comstocki, and only slightly less so (if at all) on the V. opacus.

All the other (V. comstocki) specimens had dark brown palpi and slightly brownish-tinged wings. Sex wasn't indicated on the labels, but all those whose terminalia were not shriveled or broken off seemed to be males, except for least as far as I could tell, though it wasn't always clear to me. The localities and dates from the labels for the V. comstocki specimens were:

  San Diego County: Palomar Mountain Observatory Campground (1524 meters elevation), collected 27-VI-1968 (2 specimens)
  Riverside County: Dark Canyon (11 km NW of Idyllwild), collected 1-VII-1968
  Los Angeles County: Windy Spring (just NW of Windy Gap), off Angeles Crest Highway, collected 27-VI-1974
  Los Angeles County: Switzer Station, Arroyo Seco, (1000 meters elevation), collected 29-VII-1977
  San Benito County: Pinnacles National Monument, collected IV-12-1941 (9 specimens)
  Mariposa County: Summerdale Forest Camp (1520 meters elevation), collected 27-VI-1973 and 28-VI-1973 (6 specimens)
  Tuolumne County: Lyon's Dam, collected VIII-7-1937 (2 larvae and one female)
  Siskiyou County: Road to Taylor Lake (5750 feet elevation), collected 28-VII-1968
  Siskiyou County: McBride Springs (1524 meters elevation), collected 8-VIII-1967

Note that the San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Benito, and Siskiyou County stations of V. comstocki (the "Sierra wormlion") indicate it often ranges beyond the Sierra Nevada.

The overall size of the single V. opacus specimen was indeed a bit smaller than the V. comstocki specimens, but the "almost hyaline" vs. "slightly brown-tinged" wing character didn't seem to be a very clear discriminant. I'm still wondering about the distinctness of the two species...but until there's a published resolution of that issue I suppose it makes sense to place BugGuide posts according to the currently published treatments...i.e. Leonard(1930) and Pechumen(1938).

Moved from Vermileo.

Nice find Joyce!

Congrats on your finds too -- and on rearing an adult! I collected one larva about 3 weeks ago. I wish I'd seen the images you posted of the way the pits are situated with the rocks before I first went looking for them. It took a while to find them at first. Now they seem to be everywhere!

Last week I brought home 6 or so more larvae. They're strangely fun to have around and watch. Some of the new larvae are really small. The original larva from 3 weeks ago is now 11mm long. I'm hoping I'll eventually get adults from the larvae but it was sure a nice surprise to run into adults hanging out under the rocks.

Very cool.
Good luck raising the larvae, and good detective work at the Essig!

From the lateral "claspers" of the terminalia...I'm guessing this may be a male?


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