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Unidentified trail (Honey Bee, Apis mellifera?) in wet beach sand

Unidentified trail (Honey Bee, Apis mellifera?) in wet beach sand
Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara County, California, USA
April 1, 2010
Size: ~1.5 cm
I came across this trail in the wet sand at the beach. I was unable to follow it to its conclusion, because the lower end of the trail had been obliterated by a wave, so I have no photo of the individual that created it. I've previously come across similar-looking trails that ended at what appeared to me to be a waterlogged honey bee (Apis mellifera), so I'm thinking that might be what made this one.

I believe the insect was travelling from upper right to lower left.

I'd appreciate any insights from more-knowledgeable folks. Charley Eiseman? Any ideas?

Update: I've added a few photos of similar trails with waterlogged honey bees at the end of them. See:

Images of this individual: tag all
Unidentified trail (Honey Bee, Apis mellifera?) in wet beach sand Unidentified trail (Honey Bee, Apis mellifera?) in wet beach sand

May just be the smallest...
They may just be from the smallest baby sea turtle in existence. I've seen their tracks before and they definitely look like baby sea turtle tracks. Baby sea turtles can be 3.8 - 75 cm (leather-backs are major outliers) long. This is their length, though, so their width and therefore their tracks are a bit smaller. The smallest in your area are the Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles.

Hermit crab
There can be a lot of hermit crabs on those rock/sand mixed beaches in Santa Barbara County. That is my best guess. Dragging its shell.


Moved from Insects.
Click the 'info' tab to see what I'm doing here--I'm collecting images of identified tracks and trails as well as unidentified ones. I decided to make it a guide page rather than an article so any editor can add to it, and so that we have a place to put the unidentified images (though I still think honey bee is highly likely for these).

Just a thought or question
We have unidentified eggs and galls and tracks filed under Arthropoda and unidentified leaf mines and wood boring under Insecta. Should we think about how we want all these to look in BugGuide 2.0?
Maybe, in your honor, these should be subfolders under one called "Unidentified Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates"? :)
Our Unsolved mysteries could also be one of the subfolders.

I have no sense of how BG 2.0 will affect this, but...
I have it organized that way because leaf mines and wood borings (well, except for marine ones) are insect-specific, whereas the others are not.

:) I do have links to all the others on the unsolved mysteries page... I suppose they could all be nested within it instead.

Some thoughts
Several Arthropods leave similar tracks, but I don't know how to tell exactly which one may have made this without seeing it being made. Some that leave similar (perhaps not identical) tracks include:

Grasshoppers - several Oedipodines might find themselves on a wet beach in California (they usually live just above the beach where there is some vegetation), and they can look just like this.

Various other Orthopteroids can leave similar tracks, but most have wider abdomens and/or the leg marks will be less even; plus, few of them are likely to be on a beach (but some might).

Assorted Beetles - quite a few have a rather pointed abdomen that might be dragged (i.e. Rove Beetles).

Assorted Hymenoptera



A number of much groups can leave similar tracks too, but mostly much smaller. I'm sure I forgot quite a few.

Some more thoughts...
From what I've seen, grasshoppers make short, straight footprints with their middle tarsi, which are well spaced from the central drag line. These look to me like the long, curved tracks made by the hind legs of a hymenopteran or beetle. You certainly pay more attention to orthopterans than I do, though, so I'd be interested to hear if you have experience to the contrary.

These are quite unlike any centipede tracks I've seen, and I don't think a centipede could leave a sharp, pronounced central drag line like that. When I've seen a central line in a centipede trail, it has been a broad, flat line made by the belly.

True crabs leave asymmetrical trails, since they walk sideways. A hermit crab, if it was walking straight forwards or backwards and was wearing a pointy shell, would still not leave long, graceful, curved footprints like this, from what I've seen.

See examples of all of the above in (1).

Trimerotropis species
often leave tracks that look pretty much exactly like this. However, sometimes the same species leave totally different "footprints" and sometimes they leave no drag line. They don't always walk in the same way, and it results in different tracks. They walk differently when foraging than when courting or stalking a mate, and differently when it's cool or damp than when it's hot and dry, males less often drag than females and tend to move faster and more erratically, and so on. The others I mentioned vary behavior somewhat too, and while they have a "usual" way of walking, most can behave differently and leave other styles of tracks too. I've personally never seen a Centepede leave a track that looks like this, but have seen photos labeled as such - could be they were mis-labeled though. I have seen Crabs on the beach make tracks very similar to this. Sometimes they go forwards or backwards as well as sideways (I've watched them walk forwards for many yards when they tought they were alone), but usually the footprints are different. Couldn't tell you which species though - I've never learned them well - small fast ones. Right now I'd (very tentatively) vote for grasshopper, but I can't rule out a Hymanopteran at all. Somebody with lots of patience could probably sit there and find out for sure. Might be fun!

Wouldn't it be funny if it was some kid's toy that did it! Or, maybe it was a fish with a sense of humor? :0)

Moved from Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies. Well okay, I could imagine some kind of beetle doing this; it may be that the abdomen mark isn't as pointed as I was thinking. I still think a hymenopteran is most likely though.

Moved from ID Request. I'll start an article if/when we have a critical mass. I knew I'd seen one other photo of tracks on here, and I now remember that it was John & Jane's Eleodes. As far as I know that's all we have at the moment.

no other arthropods have a pointed tail end? No flies, no true bugs...?

I haven't seen
anything else with this combination of long, curved footprints and a pointed abdomen drag. I can't think of a fly or true bug whose abdomen would point down to leave a mark like this. If you come up with an example that seems to be a viable alternative, let me know!

These are lovely photos...
...and in my opinion, really interesting. I'm not sure where they will end up in the guide, but I do hope that they can find some kind of permanent home here. :-)

Can we be SURE of
Arthropods? If he sees these from time to time, getting images with an actual bug at the end might be nice.

Reasonable guess...
I thought Charley's comment implied that it was at least a likelihood that these tracks were arthropod-related. (Did I misunderstand?) Perhaps these images could go here in the meantime and John can continue to look for opportunities to photograph the presumed bee that made the tracks?

I'm confident that these are insect tracks, and I think a hymenopteran is highly probable. I agree that photos of a trail with an insect at the end would be of more value, but these are among the first insect tracks on BugGuide and I think they're worth keeping for the time being.

There are some Darkling beetle tracks
here if you develop a special page for tracks.

It would be great to see all the arthropod tracks...
...compiled in one place! An article maybe?

I was thinking of just moving these images to Hymenoptera for now. Any objections or better suggestions?

compiling track photographs
I meant to say, that I think this is an excellent idea.

Darkling beetle trackway
Very nice image. I am a paleontologist, looking at fossil tracks, and just discovered this site. I am writing a book about trace fossils, & might like to include this image as an example of an insect trackway. If the photographer is willing, & the original image of sufficiently high resolution, how would I go about getting a copy?

If you click on John's name under the image
you will be taken to his contributor page which contains his email contact info.

Hi, J & J ! Perhaps I misunderstood...
...but I think David was actually expressing interest in using your image of the darkling beetle, not John Callender's presumed image of the hymenopteran tracks.

Oh, we don't read comments linked, so we goofed
that one. I think that's an old 35mm slide so I don't know how good it is. I'll track it down and check, john

Looks like
something dragging a tail.

Or a body?
When I've seen trails like this being made by honey bees in the past, what I saw was that the bee's water-soaked body was sort of being pulled through the sand, leaving that central furrow behind.

I'll keep my eyes peeled, and try to find such a trail again with a bee at one end of it, so I can get a shot for comparison purposes. I've come across such trails several times in the past, though I've never photographed one before. I live in an agricultural valley with a nice beach to walk on, and bees apparently end up in the surf a lot around here.

Your guess seems reasonable to me
You're definitely right about the direction of travel, and that is the tip of the insect's abdomen making the continuous central drag mark. Towards the upper right of the frame, the profile of the drag mark suggests the pointy-tipped abdomen of a hymenopteran. I found superficially very similar looking tracks made by a moth on the shore of Lake Ontario, but the blunter abdomen left a broader drag mark.

More shots of bees-in-wet-sand trails, this time with bees at the end of them:

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