Although summer was slowly turning into autumn, no beetles had been caught for weeks, so it was about time to go for a collecting trip. We thought it would be worthwhile exploring the conifer forests of the Zemplén Mountains to seek for the ebony click beetle (Ampedus nigrinus) that we found in the Kőszeg Mountains in March. Joined by Petra, Nikola and Attila, we started our two-day trip very early in the morning. At the crack of dawn we had already been walking along the river Bodrog wrapped in mist. Our plan was to spend the first day in Füzérradvány Castle Park, and the second one in a valley cut deep into the mountains. We had great weather the whole time and it was kind of refreshing to leave the smoggy city for a while and gaze at the colours of autumn in the forests instead.

The sun came up around 6:30 AM.

Our first stop near the Bózsva Stream.

Thanks to the chilly dawns and calm frosty mornings, Nikola had the chance to test his camera.

The next morning a local friend of ours, Gábor Hegyessy showed us the best trees for beetle collecting in the park while his family was gathering tons of mushrooms.

The ancient hollow oak in which Gábor has found the click beetle Brachygonus ruficeps (Mulsant et Guillebeau, 1855) formerly this year. Although all our efforts to find this tiny little species were in vain, we had the luck to find the click beetle Ampedus hjorti (Rye, 1905), previously unknown in this region.

Ampedus hjorti
(Rye, 1905)

A sizeable larva of the protected rusty red click beetle Elater ferrugineus Linnaeus, 1758.

Grubs of the variable chafer, Gnorimus variabilis (Linnaeus, 1758). This protected beetle has not been recorded formerly in the castle park.

The tiny-sized (2 mm) handsome fungus beetle,
Mycetaea subterranea (Fabricius, 1801) can be found in hollow logs and under bark

In the evening we headed for our accommodation in Pálháza. We had a big dinner in the nearby Tölgyfa Étterem (Oak Tree Restaurant), and then, at the end of the day, the tiny beetles were extracted from the wood mould collected during the day.

The wood under the loose bark of old dry oaks was quite rich in beetles. Spider beetles, darkling beetles, hairy fungus beetles appeared from the sifted material.

The next day we started our trip at Kőkapu rushing up the hills.

Thousands of mushrooms were seen in the damp valley.
The fallen trunks were covered by brackets and other wood-decay fungi

Fire salamander sneaking out from under a stone.

Some hours later we finally managed to find a mature spruce stand that was worth looking at. Although there are no indigenous conifer forests in Zemplén Mountains, older spruce plantations harbour several beetle species associated with conifers. Taking apart moss infested decaying logs in the closed and haunting forest, we finally got what we went for. The ebony click beetle (Ampedus nigrinus) just found was somewhat 500 kilometres from its only reported site in Hungary (Kőszeg). We have good reasons therefore to assume that other older mountain spruce forests in the area between these two sites are also inhabited by this tiny species of click beetle.

It is always a pleasure to be lucky to find the species for which you travel so much. The joy we felt was so great that we went on another hike up to a cliff called Kerek-kő, then descended a steep slope through a colourful beech wood to the valley where our car was parked. It was quite dark when we hit the road and drove some 300 kilometres back home.


(photo: N. Rahmé)

Copyright © 2009. Hungarian Natural History Museum, Department of Zoology, Coleoptera Collection