This text has already been edited by Mike:
Psocoptera – Barklice
Psocids are a common but relatively inconspicuous order of insects. These tiny insects typically live among tree bark and other dry plant matter. While they may have be winged or wingless, all of the species found in Coal Oil Point thus far are winged. They feed on fungi, lichen, and decaying plant debris, and along with many other insects play an important role in cycling nutrients. They can be gregarious or live alone. Some species spin silk in which they live. A few are known to live communally in bird feathers and nests or mammal fur, and some research has suggested they are the ancestors of true lice. Coal Oil Point is home to 6 species of psocids, all of which are winged.
Neuroptera - Lacewings and Dustywings
Neuroptera is a common but not terribly diverse order of insects. They are distinguishable by their densely veined membranous wings, giving the appearance of "lace." Most species are voracious predators, typically preying on plant pest insects such as aphids. Because of this some neuropterans have been successfully used in the biological control of crop pests. We have found two species of lacewings and one species of dusty-wings at Coal Oil Point.
Diptera - True Flies
Diptera is both a very abundant and diverse order. As their name suggests, Flies are excellent fliers. Unlike most insects, they only have one set of membranous wings. Their hind wings have evolved over time into structures known as “halteres,” small knob-like apparatuses responsible for balance. Fly larvae are found in a very wide variety of habitats, ranging from soil and plant tissue to dead and living animal tissue. Adults feed mainly on liquids, often from sweet or decaying sources. The most infamous fly is undoubtedly the mosquito, the females of which must take a blood meal each time before she lays her eggs. Because of
this trait, biting flies such as mosquitoes, black flies, and horse flies serve as vectors of human and animal disease. Flies are responsible for a great deal of the diversity at Coal Oil Point, with over 120 species in the collection.
Dolichopodidae - Long-legged Flies
This family of flies is very common and found in marshy and meadow habitats. They are named for their noticeably long and thin legs. Though small, these flies may be quite attractive, exhibiting metallic blue and green coloration. The adults are generally predaceous on smaller insects, while the larvae may be found in moist soil, decaying vegetation, or water depending on species. The Coal Oil Point collection contains six morphospecies of Long-legged flies.
Syrphidae - Hoverflies
Hoverflies, or Flower-flies are a fairly common family of flies. They are exceptional fliers and are generally found hovering around flowers. Many species look strikingly similar to wasps or bees, though Hoverflies do not have a “stinger.” The adults feed on flower nectar and aphid honeydew. Their larvae are more diverse in habitat, some of which scavenge in dung and decaying matter or graze on aphids on plants, while others are aquatic. The Coal Oil Point collection contains ten morphospecies of Hoverflies.
Agromyzidae - Leaf Miner Flies
Leaf miner flies are small flies generally found among vegetation. They are called “leaf miners” because their tiny larvae live within leaves. They eat the leaf from the inside, mining through it and leaving behind winding brown trails. The Coal Oil Point collection contains eight morphospecies of leaf miner flies.
Chloropidae - Frit Flies
This is a large and common family of rather small-sized flies. Both as adults and as larvae Frit flies live either in decaying matter or in grass stems and as such are found in grassy areas. The Coal Oil Point collection has three morphospecies of Frit Flies.
Muscidae - House Flies
ThThis family includes many common flies, including House flies. Muscids are relatively large and hairy. Some are predaceous as
adults, while most feed on dead plant and animal tissue, dung, and even blood. Muscids that feed on blood such as the Tsetse fly are important disease vectors. Though Tsetse fly is not in California, the stable fly is a biting muscid that may be found in our area. The Coal Oil Point collection contains nine morphospecies of Muscid flies.
Tachinidae - Tachinid Flies
Tachinidae is a very common and abundant family of flies. They tend to be large and hairy, occasionally resembling bees. The larvae parasitize other insects and as a result are very important in controlling the abundance of pest species. The Coal Oil Point collection contains eleven morphospecies of Tachnid flies.
Hymenoptera - Ants, Bees, and Wasps
Hymenoptera is a tremendously diverse order of insects, as well as one of the best known orders. It includes all ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies. Hymenoptera may have four membranous wings, or in the case of worker ants, be wingless. The female members of this order (apart from sawflies), have a “stinger.” The stinger is actually a modified ovipositor (egg-laying organ). It is used both for defense and often to inject venom, to paralyze or kill prey. Another characteristic of this order is that its members are all haplodiploid. This gives a mother the ability to choose the sex of her offspring, because males only have one set of chromosomes (developing from unfertilized eggs), while females have two. Adults of this order mostly feed on nectar or honeydew, while their larvae may feed on plant tissue, nectar, or other insects. Hymenoptera is one of the only orders whose members may be social, living together in communities of closely related family members. Ants and honeybees are most commonly known for their sociality. It is thought that this social behavior most likely evolved as a result of haplodiploidy. The Coal Oil Point collection contains over 170 morphospecies of Hymenoptera, most of which are small parasitic wasps. The wasps account for a large portion of the collection’s overall diversity.
Ichneumonoidea - Braconids and Ichneumons
This is the largest superfamily within Hymenoptera, named for the largest family, Ichneumonidae. Members range vastly in size from
minute to over 2 inches, and are essentially ubiquitous. The larger of these wasps have very impressive ovipositors, though they rarely will sting humans. The ovipositor is often used instead for paralyzing prey which they feed to their larvae alive. These parasitoid larvae are very important in controlling the abundances of pest insects. The Coal Oil Point collection has over 50 species of Ichneumons and Braconids.
Chalcidoidea This group includes small to minute wasps with characteristically reduced wing veination. These tiny wasps are generally parasitic on other insects and as a result are very important in controlling the abundance of pest insects. Some of these are even hyperparasites, meaning that they parasitize other parasites. The Coal Oil Point collection contains over 40 species of Chalcidoidea, including 10 species of Fairyflies (Mymaridae).
Proctotrupoidea - Proctotrupids, Diaprids, Scelionids, and Platygasterids
This superfamily includes several types of small but very common parasitoid wasps. As larvae, these wasps are parasitic on other insects. Each species of wasp is generally a specialist in parasitizing a particular group of insect. The Coal Oil Point collection includes 28 morphospecies of Proctotrupoidea, 19 of which are Scelionids.
Apoidea - Bees
Superfamily Apoidea includes all bees. Contrary to common perceptions, most bees are solitary. The social honey bees and bumble bees are in fact the major exceptions. Solitary bees live in small nests in the ground or other natural cavities. Bees feed on flower pollen or nectar and as a result play an invaluable role in pollinating plants, including flowering crops such as cotton, fruits, and vegetables. The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection includes ten species of native bees, in addition to the nonnative European honeybee.
Formicidae - Ants
The family Formicidae includes all ants. Ants live communally in nests ranging in size from a dozen to several thousands of individuals. Nests are found in the ground or in other natural cavities and typically consist of one queen, many workers, and depending on the season a small number of males. Depending on the species, ants may be predaceous, phytophagous, or scavengers.
Coal Oil Point is home to five species of ants, including the highly invasive Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile.)
The following text is new and has not been edited by Mike: Isoptera – termites Termites are well known pests for eating dead wood, often damaging buildings, fences and other wooden structures. While this can be more than a frustration for humans, the termites’ role in processing and decomposing dead wood and vegetable material is tremendously important for recycling these nutrients so that they can be used for new plant tissue. Much of the breaking down of the wood is actually done by symbiotic bacteria that live inside the termites’ guts. Termites live in social colonies in nests of anywhere from several hundred to several thousand individuals, which usually include a queen, and both worker and soldier castes.
The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection contains two species of termites. Thysanoptera – thrips Thrips are very small insects, typically between 0.5 and 2.0 mm long. Their bodies are generally long and slender, and may or may not have wings. When wings are present, they have a characteristically hairy fringe. Thrips may also be recognized by their unique asymmetrical sucking mouthparts, which look like a conical beak at the base of the head. Thrips use these mouthparts to feed on plants, fungus spores, or other small arthropods. The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection contains three species of thrips. Orthoptera – grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids Orthoptera is a very common order of relatively large insects. Their forewings are usually long, thin and somewhat hard, while the hind wings are broad, membranous and can be folded in a fan-like
manner beneath the forewings. They are not very strong fliers, though they have large hindlegs which make them great jumpers. Grasshoppers, crickets and katydids are voracious plant eaters, and can be a significant agricultural pest. They are often known for their chirping and “singing.” These sounds are created by males rubbing their legs or wings on another body part and used to attract female mates. Aside from the Jerusalem cricket, all of the Orthoptera shown below are immature. Homoptera – aphids and planthoppers Homoptera is a common order of small insects typically found on plants. Like Hemiptera, they have long beaks, or proboscises with which they pierce plant tissue and feed on the sap and fluid within. Homoptera expel the undigested portion of sap from their anus, producing a substance knwn as honeydew. The honeydew is used to attract ants. These ants receive a meal and, in exchange, protect the Homoptera. Aphids are perhaps the most commonly known family within this group. A group of aphids will feed on a plant, sometimes stunting its growth and, with high infestation, can actually kill the plant. Ladybugs, which feed on aphids, can be purchased at most garden stores for use as a biological control agent. Homoptera can be troublesome agricultural pests not only for the damage they do to the plants by feeding from them but also for their ability to spread disease among plants. Despite this, Homoptera are an important food source for many birds, lizards, and predatorial insects (including Flower Files*, Lacewings*, and Ladybird beetles*.) The Coal Oil Point collection includes 24 species of Homoptera. *link to pages Cicadellidae – Leafhoppers Cicadellidae is a very large and diverse family. They vary greatly in size (3-13 mm,) color and markings. Leafhoppers feed on the leaves of their host plant and most species feed on a specific type of plant. Because of their feeding habits, they can be significant disease vectors, transmitting fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases. The invasive glassy winged sharpshooter, for example, transmits Pierce’s disease
between grapevines, making it a tremendous pest for both wine and grape industries. The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection contains 13 species of Leafhoppers. Heteroptera – True Bugs Heteroptera is a very large and diverse order of insects. True bugs are easily recognized by their front wings, known as hemelytra. The basal half of the wings are thick and leathery, while the other half are membranous. Like Homoptera, they have long beaks, or proboscises as mouthparts. Some use these for feeding on plants, while others are predators of other insects and a few even suck blood. Most true bugs are terrestrial, though a good number are aquatic. The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection contains 24 species of true bugs.
Miridae – Leaf Bugs Miridae is the largest family of true bugs. They primarily live among vegetation. Most leaf bugs feed on plants, while a few are predaceous of other insects. (What else can I say about this group?) The Coal Oil Point collection contains eight species of Leaf Bugs.
Embioptera – webspinners Webspinners are a little known order of insects. They live in silklined colonies beneath soil and debris, and chiefly eat dead plant matter. Webspinners have the ability to spin silk using glands on their front legs as soon as they are hatched. Males of most species have wings, however females are always wingless. Webspinners are quite active and quick runners, usually running backward. When disturbed in their homes, webspinners will often “play dead.” Only one webspinner specimen has been found at Coal Oil Point Reserve thus far.
Dermaptera – Earwigs Earwigs are primarily nocturnal insects, hiding in crevices and debris during the day. They feed primarily on decaying plant matter, though a select few are predaceous. The name “earwig” comes from an old superstition that they get stuck in people’s ears. This myth is completely untrue. Earwigs can be recognized by their characteristic rear pincers. Both males and females have pincers, however the males’ are larger and more rounded. These pincers are used as a defense, and can deliver a painful pinch. Only one earwig specimen has been found at Coal Oil Point Reserve thus far.
Cecidomyiidae – gall midges As larvae, most species of gall midges produce galls in plant stems or leaves. They use these galls as both protection and a food source. Species that do not make galls feed on plant tissue, decaying vegetation or fungi. As adults, gall midges are small and frail looking. They have long thin legs and antennae and are often mistaken for mosquitoes, though they are completely harmless to humans. The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection has 12 species of gall midges. Chironomidae – midges Chironomidae is a large and common family of small flies. Midge larvae are aquatic, and known as “bloodworms” for their distinctive red color. This red color comes from hemoglobin, which stores oxygen and allows the larvae to live in harsh, low oxygen waters. Because of their abundance, bloodworms serve as a significant food source for fish and other aquatic animals. As adults, midges can also be seen congregating in large mating swarms near fresh water. Because of their similar body type, midges are often mistaken for mosquitoes though they do not bite. The Coal Oil Point Reserve collection has 12 species of midges.
This text was written by Mike:
Collembola - Springtails
Springtails are a large order of minute insects. They take their common name from a forked organ extending from the end of the abdomen of most species that can be used to propel the insect hundreds of body lengths away, putting them among the top ranked insect jumpers. Springtails may be incredibly abundant, occurring in great numbers in and around wrack and other decaying vegetation. However, because most are less than 2 mm in length, they are rarely noticed. They are nonetheless among the most important scavengers at Coal Oil Point, as well as in most terrestrial environments. We have found four different species of springtails at the Reserve, though there are doubtlessly more.
Archaeognatha - Jumping Bristletails
The jumping bristletails are an inconspicuous group, looking much like their better known cousins, the silverfish. Like silverfish they are wingless, scaly scavengers. Their main claim to fame is a remarkable jumping ability. A braided cord-like muscle running the length of the body can be rapidly contracted to pull the head and tail downward, launching the insect several centimeters into the air. The scientific name of the order means 'old mouth', referring to the relatively primitive mouthparts of these insects. Archaeognatha is an extremely ancient order, and are considered living fossils. We have identified a single species at Coal Oil Point.
Odonata - Dragonflies & Damselflies
The 'odonates' are a well known group of exceptional aerialists. These insects have attracted much popular attention, and they are gaining on butterflies with their own 'watchers' groups. Dragonflies and damselflies are predators in both the adult and immature stages. The immatures are little aquatic monsters, with a grotesque extensible lower lip ('labium') that is uses to snatch mobile prey ranging from mosquito larvae to tadpoles and small fish. Many biologists have become interested in the complex courtship and mating behavior of odonates. Most are highly territorial, with males staking out good oviposition sites, and defending them against other males. After mating males will often maintain their hold on the
females to ensure she fertilizes eggs with his sperm before mating again (some males can remove from females the sperm from previous mates.) We have only collected one dragonfly and one damselfly at Coal Oil Point, but there are probably more. Their flying prowess keeps them out of our simple traps.
Plecoptera - Stoneflies
Immature stoneflies (nymphs) are very common freshwater insects. The tend to prefer colder streams, and their presence and abundance is often used as a measure of stream health. Adult stoneflies seldom feed, though they are fed upon by a wide variety of aquatic animals and birds. Cold running water is in short supply at Coal Oil Point, and this lone adult stonefly was a somewhat surprising find. Its nymphs may live in the mainly freshwater backdune pond to the west of our trapping site.
Coleoptera - Beetles
Beetles are the most diverse order of insects, and are generally considered the most successful group of organisms on Earth. Beetles are characterized by their modified forewings, called 'elytra', which cover the hindwings when not in use. This adaptation has allowed them to diversify into a great diversity of ecological niches, with many plant feeders, predators, fungivores, and scavengers. While many plant-feeding beetles are considered pests, many beetle predators, especially ladybird beetles, are highly beneficial.
At Coal Oil Point, beetles can be found anywhere you look, from the intertidal zone among the barnacles, to the sandy beach, up into the dunes. The majority of these species are endemics of coastal habitats, never being found even 100 meters inland. A beetle survey was the initial focus of our Coal Oil Point work, and they are relatively more thoroughly sampled than most of the other orders. One hundred forty-four species of beetles have been found to live at Coal Oil Point so far.
More information on California beetles can be found in the California Beetle Project web pages.
Carabidae - Ground beetles
Ground beetles are conspicuous beetles worldwide. Essentially all are predators, mostly fast running and nocturnal. The known ground beetle fauna of the reserve consists of 12 species, though interestingly only 2 of these, the tiger beetle Cicindela oregona, and Bembidion tigrinum, are apparently restricted to coastal habitats. This is a lower proportion than is seen in many other families. All others represent more widespread species.
Histeridae - Clown beetles
Histerids are predatory beetles. But while fairly diverse and common in many areas, they are seldom seen. They are small, generally secretive beetles, spending most of their time underground. When disturbed they can retract their head and appendages, much like a tiny turtle. Seven species of histerids have been found at Coal Oil Point, all but one of which are coastal specialists. Most of these species are found beneath beach wrack, where they prey on the eggs, larvae and pupae of wrack breeding flies. A beautiful black and red dune specialist, Spilodiscus sellatus, is suspected also to occur at the Reserve. But it has not been confirmed yet. (Please let us know if you're lucky enough to see it!)
Hydrophilidae - Water scavenger beetles
Most adult water scavenger beetles are, unsurprisingly, aquatic scavengers. The Reserve's aquatic habitats include Devereax slough, which hosts a couple of salt-tolerant hydrophilids. There are also a few species found in the freshwater dune pond, as well as in the vernal pools in the appropriate season. But not all hydrophilids are aquatic. Probably the most common hydrophilid at Coal Oil Point is Cercyon fimbriatus, which lives in rotting wrack.
Staphylinidae - Rove beetles
The rove beetles are the most diverse family of beetles in California, with over 1200 known species. They are also the most diverse family of beetles at Coal Oil Point, with 25 species. Adults and larvae are mostly predators. The family is characterized by their long narrow body, with very short wing covers exposing most of the abdomen. Nearly half of the rove beetle species at Coal Oil Point are restricted to coastal habitats. The most striking of these is Thinopinus pictus, a predator of beach hoppers, and the wrack piles in general host many of these endemics. A highly specialized flightless species of rove
beetle, Diaulota fulviventris, lives in the intertidal zones on barnacle covered rocks. It survives tidal inundation by finding minute air pockets in rock crevices.
Coccinellidae - Ladybird beetles
Ladybirds are among the best known and best-loved beetles. As predators of plant feeding insects, especially aphids and other homopterans, many species have been great allies in the fight against agricultural pests. This has led to many ladybirds being introduced outside their native ranges. Nearly one third of California's 180 ladybirds have been introduced from elsewhere. Nineteen species of ladybirds have been found at Coal Oil Point. Most of these are native, and most are also widespread species. Unlike most beetle families, there don't appear to be any species restricted to coastal habitats.
Tenebrionidae - Darkling beetles
With over 300 species, California is home to a great diversity of darkling beetles. Members of this family are common everywhere, but especially in drier areas. Flightless 'stink beetles' in the genus Eleodes are conspicuous in a variety of habitats throughout the state. But while these large, slow beetles exemplify the family in some ways, many Californian darkling beetles look nothing like these. Coal Oil Point is home to at least 7 species of darkling beetles, including several coastal specialists. The small, ladybird-like Phaleria rotundata is found only in sandy coastal areas, as are Epantius obscurus and two species in the genus Coelus. One of these, the Globose Dune beetle (Coelus globosus) has become rare throughout its range, and is a state 'species of concern'. The two species of Coelus are difficult to tell apart, but C. globosus is usually slightly larger, and has the 'clypeus' (a part of the head above the mouth) more deeply cut-out, as shown in the picture below.
Chrysomelidae - Leaf beetles
As their common name suggests, leaf beetles are plant feeding beetles. Most are colorful, conspicuous beetles, frequently restricted in their feeding to one or a few similar plant species. While 10 species of leaf beetles are known from Coal Oil Point, none seem to be restricted to coastal habitats. Some, like the Cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) are very widespread. One
species of particular interest is the eucalyptus feeding Trachymela sloanei. This species was newly (and accidentally) introduced to our area from its native Australia in just the past few years. For fans of non-native eucalyptus, this beetle is considered a pest. For others who consider eucalyptus itself an invasive pest, the beetle is a welcome ally.
Curculionidae - Weevils or Snout beetles
Weevils are practically defined by their 'snout'. This elongated portion of the head bears the mandibles and other mouthparts at its tip. This is used by the females of most species to chew holes into plant material in which they lay their eggs. Adults and larvae of all weevils are plant feeders. The group also contains the notorious bark beetles (formerly recognized as a separate family Scolytidae). With over 600 species in California, the weevils are our second most diverse family of beetles (behind Staphylinidae).
Coal Oil Point hosts 7 species of true weevils (Curculionidae), in addition to two species in more primitive weevil families (on each of Anthribidae and Brentidae). Coastal specialist weevils include the dune inhabiting Trigonoscuta, and the driftwood feeding Elassoptes marinus.
Lepidoptera - Butterflies & Moths
The Lepidoptera is characterized by their scaly wings, which is what 'lepid-optera' means. While butterflies are much better known, they are vastly outnumbered by their moth relatives. The differences between these groups is often emphasized (butterflies being dayflying, brightly colored, and having knobbed antennae), but they share many more similarities. All develop from a plant-feeding caterpillar, which transforms into a pupa (or 'chrysalis' as the butterfly pupa is generally called) on its way to becoming a winged adult. The butterfly fauna (25 species) of Coal Oil Point is well known thanks to the efforts of local enthusiast Nick Lethaby, who provided our species list. The moths at the Reserve have not been as well studied. Though we've collected many, the malaise trapped specimens are difficult to identify. Some additional moth-specific collecting will be needed to develop a good idea of their diversity.
Siphonaptera - Fleas
Fleas are notorious pests. They are wingless, high-jumping blood suckers, well known to dog and cat owners everywhere. They have also been implicated as vectors of a number of human diseases, most notably bubonic plague (transmitted from rodents to humans by flea bites). Though in reality most fleas are harmless and ubiquitous cohabitants of birds and small mammals, most people will be disconcerted to learn that plague does in fact occur in California, and is rarely but occasionally transmitted to people by fleas from ground squirrels. This is not a major concern at Coal Oil Point, but awareness and caution is always advisable (visit the CDC for more information). The lone flea we have found at Coal Oil Point was in the opening of pocket gopher burrow.
Arachnids and other arthropods
While this site deals mainly with insects, a large number of non-insect arthropods can also be found at Coal Oil Point. These are also important elements of the Reserve's ecology, though we know too little about them to do them justice here. The Reserve's spider and mite fauna appears especially diverse, and we show a few examples of these arachnids here. Most reserve visitors also encounter beach hoppers, which belong to a group of crustaceans known as Amphipods. These scavengers are associated with wrack piles and other beach debris.