- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Eleven-year-old Caleb Seekins loves bugs.

So he is pretty excited to now be listed as “collector” on a special insect now part of the collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Seekins found a “Carabus vietinghoffi” beetle, commonly called a “rainbow beetle.”

“One day, me and my mom were doing yard work and we saw this beetle on the ground,” he said. “It got away when she tried to get it. A few minutes later, I saw it. I picked it up and got it in a container.”

His mom brought it to the university for identification.

The other person excited about this find is Derek Sikes, the entomologist at the museum.

“We get a couple of these every year,” said Sikes. “They usually are turned in by people just like Caleb, who find them and just think they are interesting.”

“It’s a pretty special deal for a couple reasons,” he said. “It’s more of an attractive beetle in Alaska. We generally don’t have pretty things like that here, with lots of iridescent colors.”

He sent along a photograph of the beetle, which is a Beringian species. Commonly found in Asia, this species of beetle made it into North America when the Bering Land Bridge was in place and sea levels were low.

“It is wingless,” he said. “They walk everywhere, so they disburse rather slowly.”

Most of the rest of the United States was covered in ice sheets during that period of history, so the beetles didn’t migrate very far once they made it into Alaska. They remain widely distributed in Asia and in Russia and a little bit into eastern Canada.

“They are predators. They feed on all kinds of caterpillars and small insects they catch and eat,” said Sikes. “Thus, that makes them gardeners’ friends. They’re not gonna have a huge impact cleaning pests out of a garden, but they are certainly helpful.”

According to Caleb’s mother Tami Seekins, Caleb has always loved insects.

“This is really kind of fun because Caleb has been interested in insects all his life,” she said.

She said when he was a toddler “he would have a fit because I wouldn’t let him eat a hornet.”

Then, when he was five or six years old, he started collecting hornets, moths and other insects in jars - “any insect he could get his hands on,” she said.

She confessed that she secretly released the insects.

“Honestly,” she said. “Who wants jars and jars of yellow jackets on their porch!”

When he was 8 years old, he captured queen ants and hand-fed them to his turkey.

Tami Seekins said she was excited for her insect-loving son.

“This is really cool that he found something of interest to the ‘intellects’ at the university,” she said.

Sikes said he was excited to collect this beetle, because it adds to the overall knowledge of the insect and its habitat.

“Species differ across their range and differ in sexes,” Sikes said. “So in order to understand the variation, like where the species occurs, how it changes, we need to have large samples across time and space.”

“They do change from year to year,” he said. “But over a longer time period, more change is likely.”

For instance, there is no record of any of these beetles collected south of North Pole, so scientists don’t know if this species of beetles even exists south of the Alaska Range.

Storing a collection of the beetles now will allow scientists in 100 years to see what changes have occurred.

“Sometimes the species disappears entirely,” said Sikes.

The collection is the only scientific record available when that happens.

Fairbanksans regularly drop off interesting insects at the Museum of the North.

“Someone brought in some fleas the other day,” said Sikes. “Spiders get dropped off. Ticks, all kinds of things.”

“If people turn in records like this, it really helps us,” he said.

The rainbow beetle that young Caleb Seekins found was the first one turned in this year.

The seventh-grader’s response when he heard the importance of his find?


He said he thinks he might want to have a job like Derek Sikes when he is older.

Sikes reaction to that news? “Cool. I hope he sticks with the math and science.”


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com



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