A few weeks ago I was cleaning out the various containers in which I had raised bugs last year, when a little speck stuck to the outside of one of the bags caught my eye. It was a dead, 1.3-mm long beetle:
I quickly took a few photos and posted them on BugGuide.net. I’ve noticed that the more tiny, brown, and nondescript a beetle is, the more likely it is that someone will get excited about it. It was quickly determined that this was a “minute brown scavenger beetle” (Latridiidae), apparently in the genus Dienerella, but it seemed a little off. Vassili Belov asked latridiid specialist Wolfgang H. Rücker to take a look, and Wolfgang suggested a couple of possibilities but said he would need to examine the specimen to be sure. Having no further use for a tiny brown dead beetle, I put it in an empty gelatin capsule, cushioned with some tissue paper, and taped this to a piece of paper, which I slipped into a regular mailing envelope and sent off to Germany. It occurred to me this might be slightly risky, but I wasn’t quite curious about this beetle–having no knowledge of its natural history, other than that it was apparently attracted to bags of dried plant material and insect frass–to spend more on shipping it in a parcel. It also seemed sort of silly to send something so tiny in a big box. Well, I learned my lesson. This morning Wolfgang sent me a photo of what the beetle looked like on arrival (there was also a more zoomed-out view, showing the whole gel capsule smashed to bits):
A few hours later, he wrote back to tell me it seemed to be Dienerella pilifera, a species until now only known from Europe, North Africa, and Japan. I guess a new species for the Americas would be considered a significant find. Oops. I will be sure to take better care of any little brown specks I find in the future.