Friday Beetle Blogging: A Very Waspy Beetle

Neoclytus acuminatus – red-headed ash borer.

I was out inspecting the bees last week when I noticed a gaudy pair of longhorn beetles walking about on the back of one of the hives. Neoclytus! Surely one of our prettiest native insects. I hastily stuffed the pair in a jar to photograph later.

The male spent a most of their brief stay in the jar aggressively standing over his partner, as above. The pair would would periodically mate, but mostly they just sat, platonically, in this position. I’m guessing the male is mate-guarding, preventing others from accessing his female.

Neoclytus species are mimics of wasps, and this species bears colors similar to the common and painfully-stinging paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus. Presumably this mimicry confers some protection from wasp-shy predators.

Since I live just blocks from the city center, you might think the wildlife of my tiny yard would not be so interesting. Yet, urban gardens host plenty of little treasures.


photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/16, 1/200 sec
Diffuse overhead strobe

A dung beetle that prefers ants

Here’s something I did not know. Some South American dung beetles have given up their usual fecal diet to prey actively on ant queens:

Canthon virens attacking a leafcutter ant queen. Adapted from Forti et al 2012, figure 2, and used under a Creative Commons license.

I can’t say I blame them.

Luiz Forti reports in a recent issue of Psyche:

Canthon virens exhibited 28 behaviors while predating upon Atta sp. queens. Adult beetles search for queens while flying in a zigzag pattern, 15 to 20 cm above the ground. After catching a queen, the predator stands on its back and starts cutting the queen cervix. Once the prey is decapitated, the predator rolls it until an insurmountable obstacle is reached. The distance from the site of predation to the obstacle can vary widely and is unpredictable. The beetle rolling the queen also buries it in a very peculiar way: first, it digs a small hole and pulls the queen inside, while another beetle is attached to the prey. The burial process takes many hours (up to 12) and may depend on the hardness of the soil and the presence of obstacles. In general, one or two beetles are found in a chamber with the queen after it is buried. They make the brood balls, which serve as food for the offspring.

source: Luiz Carlos Forti, Isabela Maria Piovesan Rinaldi, Roberto da Silva Camargo, and Ricardo Toshio Fujihara. 2012. Predatory Behavior of Canthon virens (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae): A Predator of Leafcutter AntsPsyche, vol. 2012, Article ID 921465. doi:10.1155/2012/921465

Friday Beetle Blogging: This Beetle Has A Pollen Problem

Molorchus bimaculatus (Cerambycidae) on Spiraea

I photographed this little longhorn beetle yesterday stuffing its face with pollen as it ran among the flowers making a mess of things. Of course, such sloppy eaters work to the plant’s advantage. When this beetle takes off for the next bush up the street it will be positively spilling over with the gametes needed to make the next generation of Spiraea.

photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/13, 1/250 sec exposure
Diffuse overhead twin flash

Friday Beetle Blogging: An Early Jewel Beetle

Acmaeodera jewel beetle, Konza Prairie, Kansas

I took a break from ant-hunting at Konza Prairie last week to poke around for whatever other buggy treasures I might find. This little jewel beetle was quite cooperative, sitting gently in a dandelion to feed on pollen. I’m going to leave this one as Acmeaodera sp., unless the more coleopterologically adept of you wishes to offer a more specific identification.

*update: Ted MacRae, with lightning speed, identifies our beetle as Acmaeodera tubulus.

photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 400, f/13, 1/125 sec
Diffuse MT-24EX twin flash

Answer to the Monday Night Mystery

Monday’s Coleopterous Challenge has gone on quite long enough. Who was the odd beetle out? It was this ground beetle, in with a sea of darkling beetles:

Opisthius richardsoni (Carabidae)

Tenebrionid expert Kojun Kanda not only picks up 10 points for instantaneously identifying the mystery beetle, but 2 bonus points for naming pretty much all the other beetles in the collage. That’s 12 points, enough to take the entire monthly challenge as well.

Nice work, Kojun. Email me for your loot.

Friday Beetle Blogging: Palmetto Tortoise Beetles

The Friday Beetle returns with an animal made famous by the late Tom Eisner:

Hemisphaerota cyanea, photographed in Gainesville, Florida

If you can direct your attention away from the metallic colors for a moment, have a look at those massive foot pads. Eisner & Aneshansley (2000) noted the remarkable adhesive power of the pads and figured out how they work:

Abstract: The beetle Hemisphaerota cyanea (Chrysomelidae; Cassidinae) responds to disturbance by activating a tarsal adhesion mechanism by which it secures a hold on the substrate. Its tarsi are oversized and collectively bear some 60,000 adhesive bristles, each with two terminal pads. While walking, the beetle commits but a small fraction of the bristles to contact with the substrate. But when assaulted, it presses its tarsi flatly down, thereby touching ground with all or nearly all of the bristles. Once so adhered, it can withstand pulling forces of up to 0.8 g (?60 times its body mass) for 2 min, and of higher magnitudes, up to >3 g, for shorter periods. Adhesion is secured by a liquid, most probably an oil. By adhering, the beetle is able to thwart attacking ants, given that it is able to cling more persistently than the ant persists in its assault. One predator, the reduviid Arilus cristatus, is able to feed on the beetle, possibly because by injecting venom it prevents the beetle from maintaining its tarsal hold.

These colorful beetles are common on palmettos in the southeastern United States.

Friday Beetle Blogging: Beauty and Youth?

Rove beetle larvae – Kibale forest, Uganda

Most of us think of beetles as heavily armored and often colorful tank-like animals. But they aren’t born that way. Like all insects with complete metamorphosis, beetles start as grublike larvae bearing little resemblance to the adults. I photographed these two immature rove beetles while searching for ants in a rotting log.

photo details:
Canon MP-E  65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/13, 1/200 sec
diffuse twin flash