INSECT INVENTORY

Academy entomologists are currently combing the mountains of Yunnan, China in search of new species.

In one of the world's most populous regions, a small sanctuary for a group of rare plants and animals is still standing, largely because it is located high in the mountains of China's Yunnan Province, where the slopes are too steep for agriculture. Still, even the highest forests face the possibility of a future as firewood or lumber. In an effort to document and protect this bastion of biodiversity before it disappears, a team of Academy scientists is currently working with colleagues from Yunnan's Kunming Institutes of Zoology and Botany to create an inventory of the region's rich wildlife, including its insects and arachnids.

During their first two weeks in the field, the entomologists on the team have collected thousands of specimens, including several that likely represent new species. One of these, a carnivorous Carabid beetle in the Leistus genus, has a mandible that helps to collect and hold the smaller insects it preys upon. Another, a spider relative called a harvestman, has a striking emerald green body instead of the more neutral coloration that is typical for harvestmen. As the team members begin to analyze their finds back at the Academy, they are likely to discover that they have collected many other new species as well.

The current expedition is part of an ongoing research effort called the China Natural History Project, which the Academy launched in 1998. As the data from the project is compiled, it can be used to inform future conservation decisions.

Map by Colleen Sudekum
Norm Penny, the Collection Manager of the Academy's entomology department, has already netted a number of interesting insects, including several of the lacewings he studies. Photo: Dong Lin, CAS
This carnivorous beetle represents a new species in the Leistus genus. Photo: Dong Lin, CAS
Local children, attracted by all of our camera equipment, came to investigate this colorful praying mantis.
Photo: Dong Lin, CAS