The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Tag Archives: Buprestidae

Nice Butt

I think we need a hint of yellow and SHINY after all that god-awful grey and snow yesterday:

There, isn’t that much better? 

I have to admit, this little guy had me stumped for a bit.  It’s a Very Small Beetle (that’s a dandelion it’s feasting on).  Looking at the image above, I briefly entertained notions of ant-like flower beetles and soft-winged flower beetles, but the body shape was all wrong.  I started to scan through the folder containing other pics of the critter, looking for a better angle of the lower half of its body, and found this:

A. (Melanthaxia) inornata

Well, I’ll be dipped: it’s a Buppie butt!  It hadn’t occured to me to think of the Jewel Beetles (Buprestidae) for some reason.   I think I tend to dreamily imagine them all as Big Obvious Bearers of Tremendous SHINY, not as small, inconspicuous and easily overlooked black specks on dandelions.   This is clearly a flight of fancy on my part; a great many Buprestids are actually Very Small Beetles.

Ted will probably (hopefully) correct me on this, but I think it’s a member of the Anthaxia genus (which seems to have two sub-genera and is generally confusing, although Coleopterists would NEVER be confusing, right?).

An Inordinate Fondness #3: Discovery Zone

Beetles are, quite simply, hecka-cool.  Although all insects are generally fascinating I have a tendency to get very excited about beetles in particular because…well…OMGSHINY!!!  That being the case, I am just a tad all-a-flutter about hosting An Inordinate Fondness this month (so much SHININESS in one post I can hardly stand it!).  

One of the things I like best about beetles (good grief, where do I start?), which represent about 1/4 of all living species on earth, is that there is never a shortage of new critters to discover.   This week I came across a new and incredibly interesting species of beetle.  When I first spotted it, I mistook it for a very small jumping spider: everything about its behaviour was akin to that of a Salticid, from the way it peered up at me on extended forelegs with head raised, to its odd manner of darting from place to place  with sharp bursts of movement.  I leaned in close (it was only about 2mm long) and decided it was NOT a spider, so picked it up to have a better look.  I thought I saw a tiny beak running between its legs…a beak?  Was this a true bug?  It was so small my unaided eyes could not even discern whether it had hard beetley elytra or the half-membranous wings of a hemipteran.  I snapped a bunch of photographs in hopes that my camera could pick up details my eye could not.   

And it did:

A little out-of-focus, but clearly a beetle; a small stout snout beetle (Curculionidae), with long legs and simply enormous eyes!  I scoured my field guides and then turned to the web for some assistance, and soon enough it had a name:   Lechriops oculata.  Along with its species name, I found out that the Korean word for its subfamily (Conoderinae) translates to “spider weevil”.  Cool beans!!!  Who knew that such a tiny little beetle would end up being a source of hours of reading, learning and discovery. 

Without further ado, I am super-pleased to present the 3rd installment of An Inordinate Fondness: Discovery Zone.    In this collection of Coleopteran coolness we get a good dose of the geekly glee shared by enthusiasts when a beetle is found. Sometimes accidental, sometimes carefully orchestrated, each beetle discovery is thrilling in its own right.  With 13 entries spanning three continents and nine beetle Families, hopefully it will whet your Coleappetite™ (ha!) for another month.


Eureka!  (Or, sometimes good discoveries happen by accident)


Great discoveries can be made even when we’re not looking for them. Hugh at Rock Paper Lizard finds a gorgeous Ground Beetle in a not-so-gorgeous pile of compost.  I say, keep digging, Hugh!  OMGSHINY! 

Seabrooke at the the Marvelous in nature encounters an unexpected beetle-ey guest during her nighttime moth-hunting activities (this is great fun: you get three BONUS BIG BUGS along with the beetle, who has Funky Feet. Sweet.

A different kind of winged creature is the unlikely guide that leads Jason to the discovery of a very large (and very tenacious) rove beetle.   He shares his highly blusterous experience at xenogere.



First-time discoveries

The thrill of encountering a new beetle species – whether new to you or new to science – well, either way it’s gosh-darn exciting!   Shelly, our guide at MObugs, is astonished to discover her first Red Flat Bark Beetle  in a most unusual place (no, it was not under a piece of bark).

 Myrmecos blog reminds us that discoveries can be steeped in controversy, and that science is a two-way street.  A new species of fossil insect is found in amber…the authours claim it’s an ant.   “No way!” , cries the blogosphere, “It is most certainly a beetle!” Then the authours chime in with their 2¢, and the gloves come off!

Matthew Wills at Backyard and Beyond nearly trod upon these mystery beetles (I’m glad he didn’t, because they are OMGBLUESHINY!). His post describes the rewarding challenge of identifying unfamiliar beetles. (Wouldn’t we all love one giant field guide with EVERYTHING in it???)   


Aaron Brees is busy Exploring the Remnants and enjoying a bevy of Tiger Beetles (his first batch of the year) in sandy spaces, when he finds this lovely creature: the Oblique-Lined Tiger Beetle.  It is the first time he’s encountered the species and his excitement over the find is evident!




Discovery through research

It is no secret that Ted MacRae from Beetles in the Bush likes Jewel Beetles (a lot).  Understandably, he jumps at the opportunity to spend a day with visiting Buprestid experts in Sacramento.  Ted has another motive, however: the burning question of the identity of a six-year-old Buprestid mystery larva.   The stars seem to align: a fallen willow fallen tree, some poop (*ahem* frass), a pocket knife, a big ol’ larva and a Buprestid Larva Dissecting Guru of the Universe = one very exciting discovery: a sneaky larva poorly known to science…until now! While the larva is not SHINY (sorry, Ted), it makes up for it by having a Big Giant Head With a Nifty-Shaped Furcus.


Beetley discoveries don’t always happen in the field; sometimes delving into the scientific literature can be almost as exciting….you never know what you might find!  Soon-to-be-entomology-grad-student Heath Blackmon at the Coleopterists Corner  has been uncovering literary gems as he prepares for his future studies.  In his post, A History of Coleopterology, he provides an excellent summary of a fascinating article on “Charles Darwin, beetles and phylogenetics”.   The accompanying tree of life is a beautiful touch.




 *POOF* (That’s my brain exploding from how fracking GORGEOUS this beetle is.  I am quite certain that I need to move to the Philippines.).   There is not one but two HECKASHINY snout beetles to be found on Estan’s  Salagubang blog.   The two incredibly-coloured critters provide an astonishing example of cross-tribal mimicry.



It’s interesting to see how certain natural phenomena are re-discovered and enjoyed  generation after generation, even in two places an ocean apart.  Dave Stone from Things Biological shares some beautiful shots of a familiar summertime friend: the Firefly.  Meanwhile, Javi Gállego reminisces about his childhood experiences with “lights in the grass”  in Spain on his blog macroinstates.  He also expresses concern about the seemingly declining populations…will there be fireflies for future generations to admire on warm summer nights?  (Click on the translation widget to read other posts in English).

Lastly, Alex  says what we have come to realize: there are “so many beetles”!  Nonetheless, even amid the mind-bogglingly diverse order of beetles, some may eventually become familiar faces.   A search in an old log leads to the discovery of an old friend, and a great photoshoot.


Xenogere is the home of May’s edition of IAF…be sure to get your SHININESS to Jason by May 15!

Winter Treasure Hunt (Part 4: beetles?????)

(Continued from Part 3: the fungus amungus!)     

I promised “beetles” for today’s final installment of my treasure hunt series.  I have some bad news and some good news.       

The bad news: the day I went walkabout on the lonely road, the temperature was well below zero, the snow cover was ample and Wiarton Willie  was a few days shy of dropping the “6 more weeks of winter” bomb; active beetles were in pretty short supply.       

The GOOD news:  in keeping with the theme of  “tracking” from Parts 1 and 2 , I still found ample trace material to satisfy my Coleopteran cravings.      

An important part of any forest ecosystem is its wood-boring beetles.  There are many families of beetles that use trees (living or dead) as a food source, including the longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae), metallic wood-boring beetles (Buprestidae), as well as several snout beetle (Curculionidae) sub-families: bark and ambrosia beetles (Scolytinae) pinhole bark borers (Platypodinae).        

The larvae of these insects feed beneath the bark, happily chewing tunnels (or “galleries”) through the tissues responsible for moving water and nutrients throughout the tree.  A heavy load of wood-boring larvae can kill a tree by effectively cutting off its circulation (called “girdling”, picture below).   Boring beetles can also carry fungi, viruses and other pathogens into the tree, exacerbating the injury.      

Girdled tree - damage is extensive enough to kill. Several types of wood-borers have been feeding at this site.

 Signs of wood-borer activity can be seen on trees year-round.  These include scars left on the bark from ovipositing (egg-laying) females, exit holes from newly-formed emerging adults, and larval galleries.   The frass (wood-shaving-esque poop) of some larvae can be found in the forks of branches or at the base of a tree, although many species simply pack their galleries with excrement (below).  Locating these signs on dead or dying trees is a fairly simple task, as the bark often sloughs off or cracks and exposes the beetle damage beneath.        

Serpentine (S-shaped) larval galleries (typical of Buprestids), packed with frass.

Round exit hole (typical of Cerambycids) - note jagged edges created by chewing action of emerging adult beetle

D-shaped exit hole (typical of some Buprestids) from same tree. I observed woodpecker damage from a considerable distance; these exit holes are ~4mm in diameter and required a closeup inspection, but the woodpecker activity was a good first hint at their presence.

Bark beetle (Scolytinae) galleries-a female beetle deposits multiple eggs along the central chamber. Each "branch" stemming from it is formed by an individual larva.

Wood-boring beetles generally attack weak or dying trees.  That said, some species do feed on healthy trees; these  include serious forest pests such as the introduced Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) and Asian Long-horned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), both of which are found in Ontario.  Living trees with thick, rough bark often hide signs of their injuries for several years until the damage is extensive.  This can make detection particularly challenging for monitoring programs.  In younger trees, or species with smooth bark, it can be easier to detect recent borer damage.       

For example, (TEXT OF SHAME removed and tossed away in SHAME).  (Link to PHOTO OF SHAME here.)  New, random pic of multiple galleries, exit holes, etc. created by ACTUAL beetles inserted in its place:   

Sub-in for PHOTO OF SHAME: real beetle damage.

Wood-boring beetle larvae are an important food source for many animals, including other insects (such as parasitic wasps) and birds, especially woodpeckers.  Woodpecker feeding damage can actually be an early indication of a beetle infestation in an otherwise healthy-looking tree, and is therefore often used in forest pest surveys.        

Pileated woodpecker damage

Pileated Woodpecker damage. Note small beetle exit holes on exposed trunk below.

 The large gouges and piles of wood chips left by the enthusiastic boring of the Pileated Woodpecker (above) are unmistakable.  However, the tidier drill-holes of some smaller woodpeckers, such as the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,  can easily be confused for beetle entry or exit holes (below).  The woodpecker damage can be recognized by the neat, evenly spaced rows of holes; beetles are not quite so organized.       

Yellow-bellied sapsucker feeding damage

Yellow-bellied sapsucker damage.

If you made it this far, thanks!  I think I’ll be visiting the lonely road again in the near future to see what other goodies I can find.  I’ve also decided to make more time to take advantage of the wild spaces near my home.  I promise to share!     


White Pine Insect Fauna Reference (no longer relevant due to SHAME, but still interesting):      

Saunders, W.M. 1883. Insects injurious to the White Pine.  Annual Report of the Entomological Society of Ontario. pp 52-59.      

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