For Immediate Release, July 8, 2009
Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943
Palm Springs Scarab Beetle Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection
Palm Springs, Calif.— In response to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, entomologist David Wright, and the Sierra Club, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today protection for the Casey’s June beetle as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also proposed designation of 777 acres of critical habitat for the beetle. Known only from the Palm Canyon area of Palm Springs, the beetle is critically endangered by urban development.
“Casey’s June beetle is even more critically endangered than at the time of our emergency petition,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This long overdue action is a welcome relief, and the sooner the beetle has protection, the better.”
The beetle was originally recognized as needing protection in 2007, but the Fish and Wildlife Service argued it didn’t have the resources to provide protection and instead placed it on the candidate list, which provides no protection. Currently, there are more than 250 species on the candidate list, many of which have been waiting decades for protection. The Center currently has a lawsuit pending in the District of Columbia arguing that continued delay of these species is illegal because the agency is not making sufficient progress listing species.
“Casey’s June beetle is finally getting the protection it deserves,” said Anderson. “The Obama administration needs to move quickly to protect the other 250 candidate species before they disappear forever.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service found that due to declines in distribution and abundance of the species, and its restricted range, most of the remaining habitat of the species is significant for its conservation. Once thought to occur from Palm Springs to Indian Wells in the Coachella Valley, the species still survives in only two populations in a small area in the southern part of Palm Springs. Remaining habitat consists of just 800 acres scattered in nine isolated fragments, primarily on private lands, and is actively shrinking due to the rapid pace of development in the area. The Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan does not conserve the Casey’s June beetle or its habitat.
“Clearly, habitat protection is the most important conservation measure for the Casey’s June beetle,” said Anderson. “Today’s announcement recognizes the dire straits of this scarab beetle, which is found nowhere else in the world, and brings it one step closer to protection.”
Description: Casey’s June beetles are medium-sized June beetles (June beetles are named after their tendency to fly in late spring evenings), 1.4 to 1.8 cm (0.55 to 0.71 inches) in length, and dusty brown or whitish in color with longitudinal stripes. Their reddish-brown antennae are clubbed, as is common in scarab beetles. The clubbed ends consist of a series of leaf-like plates that can be held together or fanned out to sense scents. Most of the body has a covering of whitish scales, supplemented on much of the head, thorax and ventral surfaces with fine, white hairs.
Reproduction: Adults emerge from holes in the ground to mate in late March through June, peaking usually in mid- to late May. Females have rarely been found, and always on the ground rather than in flight. The males fly swiftly over the ground from about one hour before dusk to shortly after dark, sometimes in a searching pattern, to look for females. Females emerge from the ground near dusk and either remain at the end of their “burrows” or crawl over the ground. As dusk progresses, females turn downward in the burrow entrance and extend the tip of their abdomen slightly above the burrow opening, presumably exuding a pheromone that the males use to find them. After mating, the female retreats down her emergence hole or digs a new hole and deposits eggs within damp sand at varying depths, commonly five to 20 centimeters or more below the dry sand/wet sand interface. The damp sand provides consistent temperatures and humidity that prevents desiccation of eggs and larvae.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild lands.
David Wright is an ecologist and consultant with a background in entomology.
The Sierra Club's members are more than 700,000 of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.