solitary huge wasp
Island of Crete is the largest Greek island and the fifth largest island of the Mediterranean Sea. The flora and fauna of this island is characterized by a relatively high degree of endemism, which makes it very attractive for botanists and zoologists. The island is about 254 km long from the west eastwards and from 12 to 62 km wide from north southwards. The highest mountain is Psiloritis (2456 m a. s. l.) in the Idi mountains.... olive trees, olive trees wherever you look ... quite a sad landscape for entomologist ...
A massive deforestation of the island took place in the course of four thousands years of colonisation (as well as across whole Mediterranean area) so as a result of that, original forest is virtually absent there now. All fertile land has been transformed into olive tree and citrus orchards, mountain areas are used as pastures for large flocks of sheep and goats. Deforestation and intensive grazing has caused quite a significant erosion and soil degradation, the stands were replaced by trees and herbs bearing drought and grazing. Only sporadically you can find some, but probably not primordial, complexes of the indigenous trees, such as kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), maple Acer sempervirens, pine Pinus brutia or endemic Zelkova abelicea. In the undergrowth you can find Spanish broom Spartium sp. or a prickly barberry Berberis cretica in higher altitudes.Berberis cretica Zelkova abelicea
Our two-weeks-long expedition has set itself the task to determine bionomics and find as many endemic species of the family Cerambycidae as possible. Prinobius myardi Mulsant, 1842 ssp. proksi Sláma, 1982 Grammoptera auricollis Mulsant et Rey, 1863 ssp. basicornis Pic, 1924 Paracorymbia cordigera (Füsslins, 1775) ssp. anojiaensis Sláma, 1982 Paracorymbia martini Sláma, 1985 Paracorymbia picticornis (Reitter, 1885) Anastrangalia montana (Mulsant et Rey, 1863) ssp. steineri Sama, 1994 Pedostrangalia ariadne (K. Daniel, 1904) Trichoferus berberidis Sama, 1994 Trichoferus bergeri Holzschuh, 1981 Stenopterus creticus Sama, 1995 Callimus angulatus (Schrank, 1789) ssp. glabrescens Holzschuh, 1989 Purpuricenus schurmanni Sláma, 1985 Anaglyptus praecellens Holzschuh, 1981 Isotomus jarmilae Sláma, 1982 Pseudosphegesthes bergeri Sláma, 1982 Parmena slamai Sama, 1986 Pogonocherus creticus Kratochvíl, 1985 Pogonocherus perroudi Mulsant, 1839 ssp. brevipilosus Holzschuh, 1993 Leiopus insulanus Sláma, 1985 Opsilia coerulescens (Scopoli, 1763) ssp. cretensis Breuning, 1947 Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984 Agapanthia cretica Bernhauer, 1978 Agapanthia cynarae (Germar, 1817) ssp. michaeli Sláma, 1987
At the first day, after our arrival, we have borrowed a car (Hyundai Getz) and went into the field. Our first destination was the range of Lefka Ori in the western part of the island. We had some information about the locality where endemic species Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984 on its host plant Asphodeline lutea should occur. We have gathered endemic Opsilia coerulescens (Scopoli, 1763) ssp. cretensis Breuning, 1947 on its host plant Echium italicum, as well as a few individuals of Agapanthia cardui (Linnaeus, 1767) along the road on our way there. Finally, we have found stands of Asphodeline lutea, however the vast majority of plants have already faded and we managed to find only one adult of our desired longhorn Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984, but unfortunately in a relatively "used" condition. It was clear to us that we have arrived "too late in the field". We have found only some small larvae in the stems of Asphodeline lutea - the beginning of a new generation. We have forsaken this location and descended to the south coast of the island. The herb Asphodeline lutea was present in vast quantities here and we even managed to gather some more Agapanthia probsti adults. Host plants were completely dry and contained nearly mature larvae of this kind of longhorn there. We have cut some straws for the domestic rearing and slowly inquire about the place of lodging. Asphodeline lutea Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984
The next day, we managed to find another species of longhorns along the road. We saw Purpuricenus desfontainii (Fabricius, 1792) ssp. desfontainii (Fabricius, 1792), to me already known from Peloponnese, and beside this also endemic subspecies Agapanthia cynarae (Germar, 1817) ssp. michaeli Sláma, 1987 on the thistles. We also gathered Stenopterus creticus Sama, 1995 and Stictoleptura cordigera (Füsslins, 1775) ssp. anojaensis (Sláma, 1982) on blossoming Umbelliferae plants. Purpuricenus desfontainii (Fabricius, 1792) ssp. desfontainii (Fabricius, 1792) Agapanthia cynarae (Germar, 1817) Stenopterus creticus Sama, 1995 Stictoleptura cordigera (Füsslins, 1775) ssp. michaeli Sláma, 1987 ssp. anojaensis (Sláma, 1982)
After this "warming-up round", a time was ripe to pick up all our strength, courage and knowledge and set off towards the pivotal location - the center of mountain range Lefka Ori. Altitude of this locality is about 1,000 m a. s. l. Local residents (as almost all of villagers in Crete) live upon breeding sheep and goats. It was interesting to observe how their owners constantly transported them on the buckets of their cars from place to place. sheep... everywhere... ...and goats... absolutely everywhere...
Surrounding slopes are covered with forests and pastures, comprising already mentioned trees: kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), maple Acer sempervirens and endemic tree Zelkova abelicea. First and foremost, we were looking forward to beating of hawthorn shrubs, where we should – besides other species - find one of the most interesting, also endemic species - Anaglyptus praecellens Holzschuh , 1981. Unfortunately, hawthorn shrubs were already loosing their blossom and beating them showed to be useless. Fortunately, we uncovered that the blossoming barberry shrubs (Berberis cretica) became the "alternate" of the hawthorn. Besides already mentioned Anaglyptus praecellens Holzschuh, 1981 we managed to find also Callimus angulatus (Schrank, 1789) ssp. glabrescens Holzschuh 1989. Lefka Ori Berberis cretica Berberis cretica Anaglyptus praecellens Holzschuh, 1981 Anaglyptus praecellens Holzschuh, 1981
These barberry shrubs, inter alia, also serve as a host plants of a rare and endemic species - Trichoferus berberidis Sam, 1994. Its larvae are evolving in its dry, dying, but also fully live branches. Acquisition of larvae from these very prickly bushes is only for hellbent men with resolution and cost us a lot of scratches and even drops of blood. Trichoferus berberidis Sama, 1994
Collecting of dry and detached branches of maple Acer sempervirens which concealed larvae, pupae and even developed adults of beautiful endemic longhorn Purpuricenus schurmanni Slama, 1985 was much more pleasant. What a delightful feeling when we broke a twig and this beautiful beetle marched into our hands... Purpuricenus schurmanni Sláma, 1985 Purpuricenus schurmanni Sláma, 1985
Females of this species lay their egg into living and absolutely healthy maple branches. The average diameter of infected branches were from one to ten centimeters. Young larva girdles the bast of the branch, thus it dies. This freshly died branch serves as a food substrate for the larva. During the first year larva creates a tunnel into a side, thinner twig. Then it goes back to the main, axial branch, finishes the girdle, completely interrupts the wood, thus the branch falls off. After first winter the larva finishes its development in the axis of fallen branch and prepares a pupating chamber later in the autumn. In the spring of the third year it pupates and the adult leaves the branch. On the ground below the trees, we were able to find quite a lot of these branches, some of which their inhabitants have left recently.Acer sempervirens a maple branch girdled by a larva of Purpuricenus schurmanni was easy to find Purpuricenus schurmanni Sláma, 1985 - male Purpuricenus schurmanni Sláma, 1985 - female
Additionally, on the pastures in the vicinity we managed to find a very rare and shy species Agapanthia cretica Bernhauer, 1978 on its host plant - Asphodelus aestivus. Females were sitting on stems of flowering plants, whilst males were flying from one plant to another in the hot weather. Asphodelus aestivus Agapanthia cretica Bernhauer, 1978
In one of the other days we have launched to a nearby locality, almost at the tops of the hills, where we have found a number of adults of already familiar rare species Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984, at this time on their another host plant - Asphodeline liburnica. These adults were freshly hatched, with intact pubescence on their elytrae. Asphodeline liburnica Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984 Agapanthia probsti Holzschuh, 1984
In the southern part of the island, there are growths of Ceratonia siliqua and in its dead branches we managed to find larvae of huge and impressive longhorn beetle Trichoferus bergeri Holzschuh, 1981. After two years of rearing we finally obtained beautiful adult of this rare and endemic species. Trichoferus bergeri Holzschuh, 1981
From this location we were planning to move to the bank of the island. Rocks on the coast are covered with pine trees (Pinus brutia). Its dry twigs serve for development of longhorns of genus Pogonocherus. We cut a few branches and twigs for home-rearing. Later in September, a very rare and endemic Cerambycid Pogonocherus creticus Kratochvíl, 1985 hatched from dead branch of the pine tree. Pogonocherus creticus Kratochvíl, 1985 Pogonocherus creticus Kratochvíl, 1985
On the way we stopped at the locality we collected dry twigs of oleander (Nerium oleander), which contained developmental stages and also the adults of Parmena slamai Sama, 1986. We also found several larvae of Deroplia troberti (Mulsant, 1843) ssp. cruciata Sama, 1996. At the foot parts of the bushes we have discovered huge quantities of pupae and imature adults of Xylotrechus stebbingi Gahan, 1906. This species originates from northern India and Nepal, but it was spread by a man into several places of the Mediterranean a few years ago, where it thrives very well and expands to other areas. On flowers we have observed a relatively great number of endemic species Paracorymbia picticornis (Reitter, 1885). Nerium oleander Parmena slamai Sama, 1986
Deroplia troberti (Mulsant, 1843) ssp. cruciata Sama, 1996
Deroplia troberti (Mulsant, 1843) ssp. cruciata Sama, 1996
Deroplia troberti (Mulsant, 1843) ssp. cruciata Sama, 1996 Xylotrechus stebbingi Gahan, 1906 Xylotrechus stebbingi Gahan, 1906
Paracorymbia picticornis (Reitter, 1885)
Penichroa fasciata (Stephens, 1831) was another interesting species we were able to rear from dead branches and stumps. This species is quite common in whole Mediterranean area and it is polyphagous on various broadleaved trees. Penichroa fasciata (Stephens, 1831)
South slopes of Idi mountains were another major pivotal destination to us. Here one can find remnants of kermes oak (Quercus coccifera) growths. These growths are also used for grazing and the oak shrubs are frequently trimmed by shepherds - probably for fuel. Stumps and stubs are perfect substrate for xylophagous bugs, longhorns included.range Lefka Ori ..fences, fences everywhere... Beautiful longhorns as Isotomus jarmilae Sláma, 1982, Chlorophorus aegyptiacus (Fabricius, 1775) and Pseudosphegesthes bergeri Sláma, 1982 develope in these dead parts of oak trees. We have found several pupae and even imature adults of impressive longhorn species Isotomus jarmilae Sláma, 1982 there. Isotomus jarmilae Sláma, 1982 - prepared exit hole with a plugging ... and inside this chamber a pupa... ...and beatuful longhorn beetle afer a few days of inpatience waiting ... Isotomus jarmilae Sláma, 1982
Chlorophorus aegyptiacus (Fabricius, 1775)
We also managed to discover latter of them - Pseudosphegesthes bergeri Sláma 1982 - at the end of our expedition, in oak forests on the northern slopes of mountain range Lefka Ori. We have found prepupae, pupae and imature adults of this very rare species. ..male with a dense pubescence.. ..coloration of a female is a bit plainer.. Pseudosphegesthes bergeri Sláma 1982 - male We must mention, that the dry oak wood reached the top levels on a scale of hardness and our axes reflected naughty from the stubs, as one of members of the expedition could convince on his own skin and bone.
After fourteen days, we were happy to note that our expedition was very successful, we managed to find a large number of adults and big amount of dead wood with developmental stages of endemic longhorn beetles, which was the task we have set for ourselves. See you Crete.... or rather farewell ..