Ferreting out Feniseca

John Mathew jmathew at oeb.harvard.edu
Fri Aug 13 11:52:24 EDT 1999

Dear fellow lepidopterists,

A year ago we posted a letter on this site requesting information on the
harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) - a letter that appears below for purposes
of reference. A number of you very kindly sent us information and in
certain cases, made specimens available to us. For this, we remain very
grateful. At the present time, we have in our possession, representative
samples from sites in New Brunswick (Canada), Maine, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Georgia,
and we are running a pilot study to determine the level of variability
that exists among populations (and where the sample size is sufficient,
within individual populations). With the species enjoying a wide range all
the way from Nova Scotia down through Florida across to Texas and Northern
Mexico and up through Manitoba, the major part of our sampling still lies
ahead of us, and we would eagerly welcome any input that you may be in a
position to afford us. The first brood of the harvester for the year is
over, but a second and in some cases a third may be on the wing now. If
it is at all possible to obtain specimens and arrange to have them sent to
us, the contribution would be invaluable. We also seek samples of the host
woolly aphids and the ants that tend them, (since we are looking for
patterns that may exist in the symbiotic process across the range of the
species) and it would be wonderful if these too, could be sent our way,
along with information on the habitat in which the collection was made,
the prevailing environmental conditions, and most significantly, the
food-plant of the aphids in question. Information and material may be sent
to either                                   or

John Mathew                                 Naomi Pierce,
Research Affiliate,                         Hessel Professor of Biology,
MCZ Labs,                                   MCZ Labs,
Harvard University,                         Harvard University,
26, Oxford Street,                          26, Oxford Street,
Cambridge, MA 02138                         Cambridge, MA 02138
jmathew at oeb.harvard.edu                     npierce at oeb.harvard.edu

Tel: 617-495-4012                           Tel: 617-495-2576

Fax: 617-495-5667                           Fax: 617-495-5667

Thank you so much. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

John Mathew

Naomi Pierce

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 22:39:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: John Mathew <jmathew at mcz.harvard.edu>
To: leps-1 at lists.yale.edu
Subject: Ferreting out Feniseca 

Dear fellow lepidopterists,

In this year of unusual El Nino weather, we have started work on Feniseca 
tarquinius, the "Harvester," an equally enigmatic and fascinating 
butterfly. The Harvester is interesting to us on account of its 
carnivorous larval stage and complex life history, which involves aphids 
and several species of attendant ants. By sampling many different 
populations throughout the range of the species, we hope to collect 
enough data to conduct a population genetic survey. The project will 
answer questions about how closely related individuals are within and 
among populations, and how much gene flow exists among them. We also 
hope to collect detailed information on the distribution and density of 
Feniseca throughout its range. Like other highly specialized species of 
Lycaenidae, we believe that Feniseca is particularly susceptible to the 
effects of habitat destruction. This study will establish a baseline for 
future work on population dynamics that will provide insight into the 
biology of the species and garner vital information for conservation 

As you may know, the Harvester and its prey can be quite elusive. They 
are distributed throughout the eastern United States, but are present 
only in patches and often at very low densities. We are writing to you in 
order to enlist your support and expert knowledge in our quest for these 
scattered populations. If you do possess any information as to where 
Feniseca has been collected in the recent past and/or know anyone who 
might, we would be most grateful if you could take some time to respond 
with the relevant information and additionally afford to us a contact 
telephone number so as to enable us to contact you in the future. 
You can also reach us by telephone at (617)495-4012 (John or Mike) or 
(617)495-2576 (Naomi), fax at (617)495-5667, or at any of the given e-mail 
addresses appearing at the end of this posting. If you do know of sites and 
would like to become directly involved in this project by collecting adults 
and/or larvae for us, we would be happy to send you a collection kit and 
instructions. We plan to begin active collecting of the Harvester as soon as 

As is the case with all sleuthing, even a fragment of information or a 
promising lead could become vital to our search. Thank you in advance for 
any assistance you might be able to contribute to this effort.

Sincerely yours,

John Mathew 
Graduate Student, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
jmathew at mcz.harvard.edu

Mike Canfield 
Biology Teacher, Friends Central School, Philadelphia, PA
mcanfield at oeb.harvard.edu

Naomi Pierce
Professor, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
npierce at oeb.harvard.edu

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