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A beetle species found on a former California governor's ranch has been named for him


A beetle that has been neither here, there nor everywhere since 1966 has been rediscovered after more than half a century.

KIP WILL: This one, when I pulled it out, I said, well, that doesn't look like anything I've seen here before.

FLORIDO: Kip Will is an entomologist at UC Berkeley.

WILL: I spend an awful lot of my time looking at the ground because I work on this group commonly called ground beetles.


One place he does a lot of searching is a ranch in Northern California.

WILL: So I drive up, and just before sunset, I can set up these UV lights that draw insects into traps. And then I wander around at night with my headlamp and look for active insects.

SUMMERS: A few years back, he found an intriguing specimen - a small beetle, just five millimeters long, whose body glimmers green and bronze. After searching collections, Will realized it hadn't been spotted by scientists since the 1960s.

FLORIDO: It had also never been named or described. So writing in the journal ZooKeys this week, his team named it.

WILL: Bembidion brownorum.

SUMMERS: Brownorum as in brown because the beetle wasn't just found on anybody's ranch. It was found on the ranch of former California Governor Jerry Brown, and the scientists named it in tribute - a rare honor, the governor says.

JERRY BROWN: Well, it feels great. Never happened before.

FLORIDO: Brown told us, as a politician, it always feels good when people say your name even if it's the species name of a beetle. And the former governor often welcomes scientists to work on his 2,500-acre ranch outside Sacramento.

BROWN: It's a great place for scientists to come do their work in a very special way. I see this as getting familiar and knowledgeable with your own surroundings.

SUMMERS: Kip Will says insect-hunting studies like this are important because scientists still haven't discovered a huge portion of the insects thought to exist on Earth.

WILL: Nature's like this big puzzle with millions of pieces, and each one of those little pieces tells us a little bit more and gives us a little sharper image of the patterns that are out there.

FLORIDO: As for this particular beetle, Will says its population is likely declining - perhaps because its preferred habitat overlaps with the preferred habitat of humans.

WILL: So that's why we call it an unlucky beetle. It's just unlucky that its life history coincides with some aspect of the habitat that we're probably altering. And so they take the hit.

SUMMERS: On that point, the former governor says he shares not only a ranch and a name with this rare beetle, but also...

BROWN: Well, our vulnerability to extinction - I share that.

SUMMERS: And if history is any guide, even some of the most ubiquitous beetles sometimes meet their end.


THE BEATLES: (Singing) Here, making each day of the year, changing my life.... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.