Merope tuber Study: Finding the Elusive, but Important Insect

A. Lateral habitus of male Merope tuber, scale = 1.0 mm.

Source: "MEROPE TUBER (MECOPTERA: MEROPEIDAE) ON LONG ISLAND" Entomologica Americana, 2019

May 19, 2021

In the summer of 2018, Dr. Carly Tribull of Farmingdale State College (SUNY) led a scientific research project at several Trust preserves. Dr. Tribull and her research assistants, Jenny Gan, Mick Mitchell, and Elizabeth Bello were looking for the elusive Merope tuber. These insects are extremely rare and the larvae stage has never been observed. “Since Merope tuber go through a complete metamorphosis, meaning the larvae stage looks completely different from the adult stage, finding a larvae specimen is the holy grail of entomology,” said Dr. Tribull.

At the start of the study Dr. Tribull reached out to the Peconic Land Trust for land use permission and recommendations for site placement. She enjoys working with land trusts for the local knowledge they can provide. In setting up the traps for the Merope tuber study, Matt Swain, Director of Stewardship, was able to show the team several sites that would be appropriate for their research.

During the study, eight adult specimens were collected at the Trust’s Dickerson Preserve in Southold. The group did not collect samples from any of their other sites on the East End including one in Orient. Previously one sample had been found in Orient in 1949. From their research, the team published the peer reviewed article, “MEROPE TUBER (MECOPTERA: MEROPEIDAE) ON LONG ISLAND” in Entomologica Americana, 2019.

In the summer of 2019, Merope tuber were found among a small grouping of trees along a hop farm on the North Fork. This habitat was similar to the Dickerson Preserve site where a few trees bordered farmland along Route 48. Additional research on Merope tuber could provide a case study on fragmented habitats due to suburbanization. Looking forward, Dr. Tribull hopes to place more traps on the East End in 2022, collect live specimens, and finally observe a Merope tuber in the larvae stage.

To learn more about this study and other scientific research projects occurring on Trust properties, contact Matt Swain, Director of Stewardship.

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