A Collection of Beach-Loving Beetles

Te Papa’s entomology collection is now home to 66 native sand scarab beetles (Pericoptus sp.) from the estate of L.H. McDowall. In the 1960s, McDowall illustrated insect guide books such as ‘Native Beetles’ and ‘Native and Introduced Butterflies and Moths’. A collection of her original illustrations was also recently acquired by Te Papa.

The beetles were all collected by McDowall at Eastbourne (on the eastern side of Wellington Harbour) between 1961 and 1962 and are a fine example of a series of specimens of one species collected from a single place. A 2008 – 2009 survey of Eastbourne dune invertebrates by Victoria University Masters student Samantha Jamieson failed to find sand scarabs, so this collection may represent a locally extinct population.

Sand scarab larvae feed on rotting wood and the roots of dune vegetation and may take two years to reach maturity. The beetles are the adult stage and are large and sturdy looking. They are sometimes attracted to seaside properties by light.

References:
Manson, D.C.M.,  McDowall, L.H. (illustrator). (1960). Native Beetles. A.H. & A.W. Reed: Wellington. 64 pages.

Manson, D.C.M.,  McDowall, L.H. (illustrator). (1965). Native and Introduced Butterflies and Moths. A.H. & A.W. Reed: Wellington. 63 pages.

The L.H. McDowall collection of sand scarabs. Photo credit: Phil Sirvid, Te Papa.

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