15-21 May 2001

Installment #73---Visitor #Web Site Statistics

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Sometimes when we go to the woods around Hilton Pond Center, we get the eerie feeling that someone--or something--is watching US while we're watching nature. Occasionally, however, the beady little eyes that are staring at us aren't eyes after all--as is the case with the Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Nearly two inches long and found across the eastern U.S. as far west as Texas, this formally attired gray and black and white insect is one of the largest members of the Click Beetle Family (Elateridae); the huge eyespots on its pronotum make it one of the most easily identified. These are "false eyes," of course--likely an adaptation to scare off potential predators. The true eyes of the Eyed Click Beetle are much smaller and located at the bases of its heavily sawtoothed antennae (below left).

Few of the 800 or so species of Click Beetles in North America are as dramatically adorned as the Eyed Click Beetle. Most are considerably smaller (a half-inch long or less) and without distinctive markings. Several uniformly brown or black species frequently are seen around porch lights at night.

Despite their differences in appearance, all Click Beetles have a startling behavior that demonstrates how they got their primary name--as well as the alternate epithets of "snapping beetle," "skipjack," and "spring beetle." When placed on its back--or when grabbed by an insectivore--a Click Beetle bends its head and prothorax backward and then straightens out suddenly with a snapping motion; this results in an audible click and launches the beetle several inches into the air. This stunt is facilitated by a spine on the underside of the prosternum that fits into a groove in the mesosternum (below).

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Occasionally, a Click Beetle will take flight during its midair maneuver, but more often it simply falls back to earth. If it lands on its back the beetle may "click" again, or it may tightly tuck its legs and antennae and "play possum" until the predator loses interest. Eventually, it will wander off, perhaps looking for a little sustenance (flower nectar or leaf sap) or a mate.

Click Beetles--like bees, ants, butterflies, and some other insect orders--undergo a four-stage (complete) metamorphosis that includes the egg, larva (AKA "grub"), pupa, and adult. Although adults are harmless, Click Beetle larvae cause significant agricultural and horticultural damage. Click Beetle grubs--also known as "wireworms" because of their elongated shape and hard exoskeletons (above right)--live in soil or dead wood for two to ten years, depending on the species. During that time, they are predatory on other wood-borng insects. Most other wireworm species, by comparison, chow down on roots and stems-- including those attached to corn, potatoes, tobacco, turf grasses, garden ornamentals, and a variety of legumes.

We don't grow any of these plants at Hilton Pond Center, of course, but we do have plenty of old wood and wood-boring insects, so we're content to let our local wireworms go about their subterranean business and, as they mature, to delight us with the acrobatic antics of adult Eyed Click Beetles.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Wireworm photo courtesy Charlie E. Rice

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Be sure to scroll down for an account of all
birds banded or recaptured during the period,
plus other nature notes of interest.

Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Your tax-deductible contributions allow us to continue writing, photographing, and sharing "This Week at Hilton Pond." (Please see Support if you'd like to make a gift of your own. You can also contribute by ordering an Operation RubyThroat T-shirt.)

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"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

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15-21 May 2001

Black-throated Green Warbler (male)
Only the sixth of this species
ever banded at
Hilton Pond Center

The following species were banded this week (15-21 May):

Chestnut-sided Warbler--1
Magnolia Warbler--1
American Redstart--4
Black-throated Green Warbler--1
Chipping Sparrow--2
American Goldfinch--3
Canada Warbler--2
Eastern Phoebe--2
Blackpoll Warbler--2
Acadian Flycatcher--1
Black-and-white Warbler--2
Pine Warbler--1
Common Yellowthroat--1
Indigo Bunting--2
Red-eyed Vireo--4
Northern Waterthrush--3
Northern Cardinal--1
Gray Catbird--5
Wood Thrush--1
Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee--2*
Eastern Tufted Titmouse--1
Brown-headed Cowbird--1
Eastern Bluebird--9 (nestlings)
Swainson's Thrush--3
Gray-cheeked Thrush--1
American Robin--1

* = At least one Recent Fledgling

Swainson's Thrush
Distinct buffy eye-ring

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Eye-ring absent; face gray

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Adult males are somewhat
brighter, with more chestnut

(15-21 May 2001)
26 species
57 individuals

62 species
530 individuals
(since 28 June 1982)
122 species
38,813 individuals

Pine Warbler
Intensity of yellow varies
greatly among individuals

American Goldfinch (2)
Northern Cardinal (1)
(Ninth-Year M)
Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee (1)

Acadian Flycatcher
A common breeder in the
Carolina Piedmont

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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