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Female (left) and male Sandalus niger Cicada Parasite Beetles

Sandalus niger is one of the oddest beetles in eastern North America.  While most parasitic insects are concentrated in other orders- notably Hymenoptera and Diptera- Coleoptera contains relatively few parasites.  But there are a few.

Beetle larvae in the small polyphagan family Rhipiceridae attack cicada nymphs in their underground burrows.  Our local species is Sandalus niger, and in the past week the spectacular inch-long adults have been gathering in mating aggregations on tree trunks around campus.

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the remarkable antennae of the Sandalus male

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The antennae of the female are much less developed

Photo details (top): Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 250, f/11, 1/160 sec, indirect strobe in white box

(middle): Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 250, f/2.8, 1/80 sec, diffuse ambient light with moderate flash backlighting

(bottom): Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f/13, 1/160 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper