I’m at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica for a two week beetle course! I with a small group of about 10 graduate students out here in the jungle. Some of us (not me) work on beetle systematics and so know the families and characters inside and out! Their knowledge is quite amazing. The others are ecologists or just beetle enthusiasts- like me! I have learned a ton so far and it is just the beginning.
We are broken up into three teams and my team and I decided to work on something called inquilines. Inquilines are species that live in the nest of another species. They do this to their benefit, often gaining protection or food, and without harm to the “host” species. My team and I are looking at the beetles that live with social insects- termites, army ants, and leaf-cutter ants. To start our project, today we cut down and hacked open a termite nest! It was amazing. We then collected all the beetles (that we could find) inside as well as the beetles that came to the opened nest. When you open a termite nest, the termites give off an alarm pheromone that attracts predatory beetles. It was awesome! We plan to sift through some leaf-cutter debris as well as follow some army ant marches to pick out the beetles!
Other then the project, we’ve been collecting beetles at night as a whole class. So far we have seen the most amazing beetles! My two favorite were a female Rhinoceros beetle and a huge long horn beetle. We caught both of them using light traps with mercury vapor light as well as black light. They are so gorgeous- check it out. I’ll try to update with more pictures and information on our beetle projects, but the internet is very slow here (thus the disoriented photo).