By M.L. Chamorro, B. de Medeiros, and M.L. Buffington
Dates: June 16–July 10, 2022
Main purpose: To collect specimens for a genomic-scale dataset to infer relationships of various Palm Weevil groups. This trip will provide critical specimens for this collaborative research project aimed at mitigating the spread of invasive species and also aimed at increasing our knowledge about weevil pollinators.
Permits: STRI/Mi Ambiente
Summary: Bruno de Medeiros, Lourdes Chamorro and Matthew Buffington undertook fieldwork at five different sites in Panama June 16–July 10, 2022. Bruno was completing his postdoctoral fellowship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and this would be perhaps the best opportunity to undertake the fieldwork we had been discussing over several years. We made significant new discoveries, including new insect host plant associations for more than a dozen species. Many of the facilities we visited are well known lodges to research entomologists where mercury vapor lights and generators were readily available.
Acknowledge: Smithsonian Casey Funds, USDA, STRI, Albert Thurman, Don Windsor, the owners and guides in the various lodges we visited while in Panama, Fortuna Station personnel.
Cerro Chucantí, Darién
We explored the remote and difficult to reach Cerro Chucantí. The road to the station from the nearest town is only accessible by horses during the rainy season (a four-five hour ride). We collected numerous new and interesting insects, including several dryophthorines. We tried out a very portable UV light, the LepiLED - we protected our eyes, hence the sunglasses at night. Weevils don't necessarily come to lights but some do - this is an easy way to set up a UV light since it runs from a battery pack. Guido Berguido was our point of contact.
Santa Fe National Park & Calovebora
We explored the Santa Fe National Park area as well as the Caribbean city of Calovebora, newly accessible area via a 3-year old paved road, where we hoped but failed to find weevils on drift wood. Collecting in Santa Fe was extremely productive, however, a guide is necessary to find the trails. We stayed at The Coffee Mountain Inn. The town is somewhat distant from the park and a vehicle is definitely needed.
Mount Totumas (Volcanes)
June 28–July 2
We next travelled to Mount Totumas Cloud Forest near Volcanes. This private reserve borders the International Park La Amistad. We met several other entomologists at this site, including the owner, American expat Jeffrey Dietrich. The accommodations are fantastic and the food delicious. There are a number of well marked trails. Several naturalists routinely visit this lodge.
Fortuna Cabins (Bocas del Toro/Chiriquí)
July 2–July 6
Right on the Continental Divide we highly enjoyed this site. The views and collecting were spectacular. This property is located in Bocas del Toro Province at the border with Chiriquí. We tried a new method of collecting using V-Flight Intercept Traps (V-FIT) and this proved to be an excellent way to collect beetles. We also ran UV/MV lights and had the pleasure of coming across the same entomological friends we had met earlier at Mount Totumas. STRI has a station in Fortuna and the staff there were extremely knowledgable and helpful at finding the elusive Continental Divide Trail as well as directing us to some unique habitats.
The last stop was the well collected Cerro Campana where we stayed at the Jungle Lodge located within the park owned by the Panamanian-Swiss Oliver Wachter Santis. Collecting was very good, however, we were not able to collect any Stockwellius, a genus known only from a single female specimen from this locality. We also made several new friends at this location and the trails were accessible directly from the lodge.
We will continue to update this story and don't hesitate to contact us with questions. The material collected will be deposited at the University of Panama and the Smithsonian Institution, NMNH in Washington, DC. Photographs are copyrighted Lourdes Chamorro and Bruno de Medeiros.