Archive for the ‘beetles’ Category

Rhopalapion longirostre – the Hollyhock Weevil
Urbana, Illinois

The hollyhock weevil is, I believe, the very first beetle in the family Brentidae we’ve featured as part of our Friday series. Rhopalapion longirostre is an introduced European insect that feeds on hollyhocks, a common summer-flowering ornamental that, like its beetle pest, is also introduced. Some neighbors have a stand of these just up the road, and every time I look they are covered in cute little grey weevils (perhaps not coincidentally, the flowers don’t look all that great…)

The female picture here is laying an egg into a flower bud. If you look carefully, you should be able to see the ovipositor sticking into the plant tissue from the tip of her abdomen.

Photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f13, 1/250 sec, diffused flash

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Calosoma scrutator, the fiery searcher
Savoy, Illinois

It’s a good thing Myrmecos isn’t a scratch-and-sniff blog. This beetle is a real stinker.

Calosoma scrutator, the fiery searcher, measures about 3cm long and is among our largest native ground beetles. The spectacular metallic coloration serves to warn predators- and, apparently, photographers- of the noxious chemicals it can release when threatened. I had to wash my hands after handling this insect.

photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera
Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
(top)ISO 200, f/11, 1/125 sec
(bottom) ISO100, f/13, 1/160 sec
indirect strobe in white box

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[the following is an invited post by coleopterist Ted MacRae]

Ted MacRae from Beetles in the Bush here, and today it is my privilege to present this week’s post for the Friday Beetle Blogging series here at Myrmecos Blog. For what reason was I bestowed this great honor? I’d like to say it was because of my witty prose, my stunning photography, or even my all around niceness.  In truth, however, it was simply because I was the June winner of Alex’s Monday Night Mystery contest – so he had to let me!

These are some of my most recent photographs of Cylindera celeripes, or the Swift Tiger Beetle.  This tiny (6-8 mm in length), flightless beetle and I have become good friends over the past couple of years, which is saying something since the species has been dealt a rather bad hand by man over the past century.  Once abundant in the central and southern Great Plains, its numbers have declined drastically as the native prairie habitats it depends upon have been converted to row crops and exotic grasses.  It was last seen in Nebraska nearly 100 years ago, and only small numbers have been seen in the Loess Hills of Iowa during the past half century.  The Flint Hills of Kansas seemed to be its last stronghold, but last year I found robust populations in the Red Clay/Gypsum Hills of northwestern Oklahoma and extended its known range in the Loess Hills south into Missouri.  Since then, I’ve been monitoring these two populations and perfecting laboratory rearing techniques for this never-before-reared species.  Just yesterday (big announcement!), the first individual reared completely from egg to adult emerged from its pupal chamber.  The photos shown here were taken last weekend in Oklahoma’s Glass Mountains – the first shows a female in the act of ovipositing into a small hole she had dug in the soil, and the second is a closer view of the same individual after she had finished her business.

photo details: Canon 50D camera
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f/14 (top) f/13 (bottom), 1/250 sec
Canon MT-24EX flash (1/8 power, double diffusion)

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Penthe pimelia (Tetratomidae)
Illinois, USA

A couple years back I was working on the Beetle Tree of Life project as a molecular phylogeneticist. My main responsibility was to gather DNA sequence data for several hundred beetles distributed across the spectrum of Coleopteran diversity.

As I’m not a Coleopterist, I spent most of my time lost in a befuddled daze of incomprehensible taxonomy. There are so many beetles. The larger families each hold more species than all of the vertebrates combined. Think about all the mammals and birds you know- the warblers, the polar bears, the shrews, the hummingbirds- and they don’t even add up to a quarter of the weevils. That’s just the weevils, too. Never mind the ground beetles, the rove beetles, and the leaf beetles.

I did what I could to learn about these insects. I started the Friday Beetle Blog during this time, for example, and I’d try to look up information about the species I was sequencing. At least so I might know what they looked like.

Nonetheless, Polyphaga defeated me. I just couldn’t stay ahead of the endless flow of incoming samples, and the list of species in our sequence database just got longer and longer.  I’d recognize the names of most of the things just from typing them out all the time, but couldn’t keep else much in my head about them.

One of the hundreds of beetles I sequenced was the polypore fungus beetle Penthe pimelia. I always liked that name, it would pleasingly emerge within the Tenebrionoidea in our phylogenies. Other than that, I couldn’t tell you a thing about it, not with dozens of other tenebrionoids to worry about, and hundreds of other polyphagans and so on.

So I’m pleased to report that, all on my own, here in Illinois, I’ve found Penthe pimelia. This is what they look like- velvety black, not quite as long as a penny, and painfully shy. This one was hiding out in a rotting log, presumably feasting on fungus.

Photo details (top): Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 400, f/13, 1/200 sec, indirect flash in white box
(bottom) Canon mp-e 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f13, 1/250 sec, diffused flash

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Cucujus clavipesDendroides fire-colored beetle

We in the Friday Beetle Department don’t often turn our attention to immature beetles. But these Cucujus clavipes Dendroides larvae are too striking to pass up.

Cucujus Dendroides fire-colored beetles inhabit the flat, two-dimensional space under the bark of dead trees. The oddly compressed body helps this insect squeeze through tight spaces looking for food.

update: Identification updated, on closer examination of the urogomphi.  I think everyone should spend more time examining urogomphi.

Photo details: Canon mp-e 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f13, 1/250 sec, diffused flash

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Ladybird in the sun

Hippodamia sp. Ladybird beetle
Tucson, Arizona

Photo details: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 100, f4.5, 1/320 sec, ambient light

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Tenebrio molitor, pupa

Tenebrio molitor is a darkling beetle known more for its immature stages than for its adults. It is the ubiquitous mealworm. You can buy these granivorous beetles at any pet store as food for fish, birds, and reptiles.

The above shot of a developing pupa requires two sources of light. A flash head positioned behind the insect backlights the subject to produce the translucent glow. A second, positioned above and in front, is powered down and provides the highlights and details of the head and appendages.

Tenebrio molitor larva and pupa

Stronger backlighting gives this shot more glow

Photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f13, 1/40-1/250  sec

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This week was warm enough to go insect hunting in the yard, so the Friday beetle is back with new material.  I snapped a few shots of this little staphylinid under a brick, figuring I’d identify it later.

That turned out to be a more complicated process than I’d anticipated. (more…)

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Harmonia axyridis, the Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle

If I had to pick the most annoying insect in Illinois it’d be Harmonia axyridis. This lady beetle was introduced to our continent as a control agent for aphids but became a pest in its own right. It consumes not just aphids but all manner of other insects, including beneficials like native lady beetles. Swarms of them descend into our houses in the fall. They get just about everywhere. They have a noxious odor. And they bite.

A study out in PLoS One byLombaert et al has determined that our local beetles here in eastern North America are the culprit behind a spate of recent invasions elsewhere in the world. The researchers extracted DNA from 18 loci across the various populations, modeled several different introduction scenarios, and concluded that one story makes the observed genetic data the most likely.  It’s this one:

Figure 1 from Lombaert et al 2010 showing the most likely path of introductions of H. axyridis.

The authors call this result “surprising”, but I disagree. If a pest builds to enormous numbers in a region that sees a lot of commerce, exports of that pest may become much more likely than exports from the native range. Especially if native populations are kept down by predators and competition.

We see this in ants all the time.  The invasive Argentine ants in California arrived from an earlier invasion to the eastern U.S., not as a separate colonization from Argentina.  Fire ants in Australia appear to be from the United States, not South America.

In any case, it’s an interesting and timely study. Now, if they could just figure out where I can send the beetles in my house so they don’t come back, that’d be really valuable.

source: Lombaert E, Guillemaud T, Cornuet J-M, Malausa T, Facon B, et al. 2010 Bridgehead Effect in the Worldwide Invasion of the Biocontrol Harlequin Ladybird. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9743. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009743

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Ostoma pippingskoeldi, Sierra Nevada, California

If you peel back the bark of an old stump in the forests of western North America, there’s a good chance you’ll find some of these attractive tank-like insects. This is Ostoma pippingskoeldi, a predatory beetle in the family Trogossitidae. They lurk about under bark searching for soft-bodied prey, including the larvae of other beetles.

All legs and antennae tucked safely away.

Photo details (top): Canon mp-e 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS D60
ISO 100, f13, 1/200 sec, diffused flash
(bottom): Nikon coolpix 995, ambient light

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