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First record of the aridland cicada, Beameria venosa, in Arkansas.

After years of land-altering changes, little remnant of prairie remains in the West Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic province of southwestern Arkansas. Foti (1989) described these blackland prairies (containing calcareous clay soils) and discussed a survey which determined that only 36 of 295 potential natural areas retained adequate natural values to be considered as natural areas. In 1991, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and The Nature Conservancy began acquiring land in one of the better of those areas near Arkadelphia in Clark County, Arkansas (habitat described by Warriner, 2004), and began restoration through controlled burns and removal of eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Local surveys of insects on this area, now known as Terre Noire Natural Area and presently encompassing 200 ha, have produced extralimital records of otherwise western prairie insects, including a white, long-horned bee (Tetraloniella albata) and the giant prairie robberfly (Microstylum morosum; Warriner, 2004; Tumlison and Benjamin, 2011). While surveying the effects of restoration on these rare species at Terre Noire Natural Area, four populations of the aridland cicada (Beameria venosa) recently were discovered.

At a length of only 11-13 mm (Davis, 1934), B. venosa is the smallest cicada in North America. It is a specialist on prairie grasses (Phillips and Sanborn, 2007) in sparsely vegetated habitat. Although it was first thought to occur only in middle and southern Texas, its known range has been extended northward and westward to include Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, and Iowa (Davis, 1934; Sanborn et al., 2011a) and southward to Mexico (Sanborn, 2006). Similarly, M. morosum, the prairie specialist previously reported for Terre Noire Natural Area (Warriner, 2004), was believed to be endemic to Texas (Martin, 1960) until Beckemeyer and Charlton (2000) extended its documented range to Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.

There are four management units on Terre Noire Natural Area, arranged from North to South (herein, designated 1-4). Searches on the most northern unit (1) have not produced any B. venosa. In unit 2, an exuvium and two individuals (one collected as a voucher) were found at ca. 1150 h among low grasses on 7 July 2011. The site had been burned in April 2011. At 1215 h on 6 July 2011, two individuals were collected in unit 3, in which cedar had been cut and the area had been burned in 2010. Short, sparsely distributed grasses were present in this upslope site, whereas no B. venosa could be found in the thicker and taller grasses that were present down slope in the same unit. on unit 4 (under the most intensive restorative management), two additional individuals were photographed at ca. 1005 h on 13 July 2011, in a small patch of remnant prairie, also among short, sparse grasses. Specimens collected as vouchers were identified by use of keys (Drew et al., 1974; Heath, 1978) and deposited in the collection of invertebrates at Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and at the University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The northern part of unit 4 contains a larger patch of remnant grassy prairie, and, on 13 July 2011, several hundred individuals were seen throughout that area between 1000 and 1130 h. individuals were easily disturbed from their perches, and the coloration and pattern of flight distinguished them from smaller grasshoppers, whose flight tended to be in an up-and-own arc versus the more horizontal pattern of the cicadas. Identifications were verified by close examination when individuals perched again, and some were photographed (Fig. 1).


No record of B. venosa from Arkansas has been reported (McCoy, 1965), and published records from Oklahoma were limited to the central and western part of the state (Drew et al., 1974), until two localities recently were documented in eastern Oklahoma (Sanborn et al., 2011a). Those records are closer to the site documented herein than any records from Texas or Missouri (Sanborn et al., 2011a). Thus, the record for Arkansas reported here extends the range about 200 km (120 miles) southeast of the closest known record.

At the study site, B. venosa was found only in areas with short, sparse grasses (usually about 0.5-1.0 m high). No evidence of the cicada was found in areas with higher and thicker grasses. Although thicker vegetation might seem to be harder to search, a random walk through habitats caused the cicadas to fly, making them easy to spot, locate, and identify. This cicada has been reported to commonly inhabit desert grassland (Davis, 1921), dry areas with sparse vegetation (Beamer, 1928), and other areas with appropriate grasses (Phillips and Sanborn, 2007). Calling from short grasses close to the ground, B. venosa can be exposed to high temperatures, but the species has a high maximum voluntary-tolerance temperature (37.3[degrees]C) and heat-torpor temperature (45.5[degrees]C; Sanborn et al., 2011b). Such tolerance to heat stress appears to be essential to survival in their habitat.

In the short grasses at Terre Noire Natural Area, individuals whose flight revealed their landing location sometimes would drop to the ground when approached slowly for photographing. Beameria will drop from their perches to the ground when disturbed, likely as a mechanism of escape (Sanborn et al., 2009).

This project and the preparation of this report were funded in part by the State Wildlife Grants Program (Grant # T-30-R) from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service through an Agreement with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. I thank the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage) for access to the study site, J. Akin for logistic support, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for a general collecting permit, C. Osborne for a collecting permit specifically for study on Terre Noire Natural Area, and N. and C. Lavers for information about their photographs of B. venosa at Terre Noire Natural Area. J. Barnes verified the absence of B. venosa from Arkansas in the University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum.


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Submitted 6 January 2012. Accepted 9 September 2013.

Associate Editor was Jerry L. Cook.

Department of Biology, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR 71999

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Title Annotation:Notes
Author:Tumlison, Renn
Publication:Southwestern Naturalist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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