Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)




James P. Pitts


Insects fulfill important roles within all ecosystems, including deserts, and interact directly and indirectly with the endemic and endangered species at the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (AMNWR). Here I investigate the variability of species richness, diversity, abundance and community composition of four insect groups between stabilized sand dune habitats, unstabilized sand dune habitats and non-sand dune habitats. The insects examined in this thesis include antlions (Myrmeleontidae), bees (Apiformes), darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae) and velvet ants (Mutillidae). As the impact and interactions of two of the insect groups, antlions and velvet ants, are largely unknown within any ecosystem, this thesis also includes a faunal study of velvet ants at AMNWR and their spatial and temporal variation at the refuge. Generalized linear mixed models were used to identify significant differences in richness, diversity and abundance for each insect group between the stabilized sand dune, unstabilized sand dune and non-sand dune habitats. Species richness differed between habitats for antlions, beetles and velvet ants over the study period. Diversity differed between habitats for antlions and beetles, and abundance differed between habitats for all groups over the study period. Nearly every habitat supported some unique species. The faunal survey of velvet ants revealed minor variation in flight times between species and a unique pattern of temporal niche partitioning in one species. Habitat preferences were observed for seven of 42 velvet ant species at AMNWR. In a comparison of the diversity of velvet ants between AMNWR and the Nevada Test Site (NTS), six velvet ant species that occurred at the NTS were not found at AMNWR. Diagnoses and a key are provided for the velvet ants of AMNWR. This thesis increases the number of known terrestrial invertebrates at the refuge and provides a comparison of terrestrial insect distribution and habitat use at AMNWR. These investigations contribute to the goals and objectives of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain basic inventories and understand the terrestrial habitat use of invertebrates at AMNWR.

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