The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Flat Bark Beetle recycled

Team Canada has won the gold medal that really counts (hockey), and all is once again right with the world.

We now resume our regularly scheduled geekery. 

I found this little critter a week ago, and the lovely folks at BugGuide helped me identify it as the larva of Cucujus clavipes, the Red Flat Bark Beetle (Cucujidae).   It was sluggish and sleepy with cold.  Both the larvae and adults can be found under tree bark, where they prey on smaller arthopods.

This is a beetle I only started noticing last autumn; I found two or three adults in my firewood pile as we hauled many cords of logs into winter storage.  There are only three species of Cucujidae listed in North America, and C. clavipes is the sole representative of  the genus Cucujus. The adult’s bright red colour, triangular head, and very flattened body amount to an immediately recognizable animal, even if only parts of it are available for ID. 

Which leads me to today’s discovery.  A small swath of bark peeled from a long-dead tree revealed this:

A Red Flat Bark Beetle partially obscured by consuming fungi, missing its head and parts of legs, yet still unmistakable and resplendent in red.  A welcome shot of colour in an otherwise grey day.

Added March 9, 2010:

Now that I know where to look, I’m finding oodles of these larvae:

Cucujus clavipes

Their rear-end armaments are really quite spectacular, and they seem to flare them upwards in a threat display when disturbed:

Cucujus clavipes - urogomphi

So much spikiness!!!   It’s amazing how much the camera helps with my identifications…it’s difficult to make out these small details in the field with my unaided eye and I’m often (ususally) unsure what kind of critter I’m looking at.  But then I get back to my laptop and POW!  Spikiness!  Triangle head!  Short hairs!  Cucujus!   Compare these images to those of the Pyrochroids I also find, and you’ll see why these finer details are so important…

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12 responses to “Flat Bark Beetle recycled

  1. Pete Yeeles March 2, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    Now THAT is a cool looking larva. Has a bit of a robotic thing going on, in fact… it could be in the next Transformers movie.

    That last photo, while nice, made me shiver! Looks chilly.

    • TGIQ March 2, 2010 at 8:40 AM

      It IS cool, isn’t it? I particularly like its chunky head, and it has three pairs of spikes at the rear…they’d be a good place to put the rocket launchers 😛

      That creek was frozen over last week…it’s actually getting quite mild here (+3C that day!) My small mugsly dog apparently didn’t get the memo that mild weather=thawed creek…she dashed down to it with abandon…SPLASH!!! Brrrrr……

  2. Ted C. MacRae March 2, 2010 at 11:13 PM

    Lovely scene. Can you name the trees there? 🙂

    • TGIQ March 2, 2010 at 11:47 PM

      Is this a pop quiz? Who ordered THAT?

      If I recall correctly, the conifers are mostly white pine, mixed with some tamarak and red spruce (it’s a plantation). As for the hardwood…there’s a fair bit of european buckthorn on the left, and I THINK the prominent ones are elm, but I’m not sure. My trees-without-leaves knowledge, frankly, stinks. Something I need to work on.

  3. Pingback: Fire-coloured beetle « FallToClimb

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  6. Marvin March 18, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Awesome photos and description. I too find photos a great aid in making IDs, and often find critters in my photos I didn’t even see while in the field.

  7. Joy March 18, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    Wow, an impressive…um…backside! Excellent spikiness.

  8. TGIQ March 18, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Indeed, the spikiness is most splendiferous.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Joy!

  9. Pingback: First Beetles of 2010 (Part 1) « FallToClimb

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