I really enjoy the days when I have an opportunity to go over insect images I’ve taken, but haven’t yet had the chance to identify. This small (approx 7-8mm), metallic beetle is a leaf beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. It’s a Long-horned Leaf Beetle (Plateumaris germari). They are associated with aquatic habitats and this specimen was found near a wetland habitat on San Juan Island, WA., May 12, 2015. Yes. I’m slow at getting around to sorting things, but was happy to share this one today.
Xestoleptura crassipes is a species of flower longhorn beetle. Taxonomically it is placed in order Coleoptera, family Cerambycidae. The species name “crassipes” means “thick-legged.” Adults are attracted to flowers (June-September) and larvae are wood borers, found in forested areas and associated with firs and oaks. Adult body length approximately 10-17mm.
I photographed this specimen on July 16, 2019. It was the only one on the daisy plant by my front door. On the morning of July 18, there remained the single beetle (or I believed it to be the same one). That evening, I observed a 2nd beetle feeding on an adjacent flower. This morning (July 19th, 2019), they were both gone. Perhaps this was a successful meetup for finding a mate. 🌼
I found this weird little creature stuck to a leaf on a rose bush by the picket fence in front of the San Juan County Land Bank office on Monday, June 24, 2019 when I walked down Argyle and rounded the corner onto Caines (does anyone on the island actually use street names? Where the heck is Caines, right?)
Brought it home because I couldn’t resist the mystery of figuring out what it might be. What on earth are those spiny things at the end? Is it some sort of pest insect?
After taking a few photos, I did what drives my husband crazy sometimes. I left the leaf with this little spiny-ended thing on the table, in a cup, without a lid. Yep. Just like when I left the really fat deer tick I had on my desk. The one that laid eggs…that hatched when I wasn’t paying attention. This is when it’s really handy to have sticky tape nearby, otherwise you have to vacuum every 10 minutes for about a month to finally sleep at night without feeling like things are crawling all over you and burrowing into your skin. This link should take you to my facebook page post about “Big Bertha.” https://www.facebook.com/buggingyoufromSJI/posts/2375866245969416
This morning, after my cat got me up with incessant meowing right in my ear, I sat down at the table with a cup of coffee. Millhouse (the cat) isn’t supposed to be on the table, but when my husband isn’t around, anything goes! He was staring something down that was m.o.v.i.n.g! Fortunately, I reacted faster than he did. I tipped over the little medicine cup I’d put the leaf in to thwart this little creature’s attempt at a fast getaway.
Carefully sliding a piece of paper under the cup, I could see it looked like a ladybug. Ladybugs come in different colors, with different spots, and there are quite a few species one could encounter on San Juan Island. This beetle goes by an assortment of names. It’s often referred to as the Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle or sometimes the Halloween Beetle because in some places they show up in large numbers at Halloween! 🎃😱
This beetle’s scientific name is Harmonia axyridis (The Asian-spotted Ladybird Beetle). It was imported to the United States as early as 1916 to help control pests as a biocontrol agent. While “Miss Harmonia” eats aphids, thrips, and scale insects (and manages these pests fantastically in soybean crops), she isn’t native and these pest insects aren’t all she eats. Asian-spotted Ladybird Beetles also eat native coccinellid beetles (native lady bugs) and even butterfly eggs. In the winter, she can bring her friends and invade your home. When handled, the ladybird beetles can excrete a stinky defensive chemical from their leg joints. This makes removal of large numbers of them from inside homes somewhat problematic. You don’t want to have them discharging this awful odor that will linger….all…winter!
Another unfortunate consequence of importing these beetles is their love of wine grapes. 🍇 🍷 Asian-spotted ladybirds will eat grapes and then the grapes end up contaminated with an awful smell lingering on them. While I personally don’t drink wine, I know lots of people do and they’d be very unhappy if it tasted like essence of ladybug…a twist on a new aromatic bitter perhaps!
Did I squish her? Nope. I put her in the tree near our bird feeder. It’s possible she will become part of the food chain. While not all birds eat these beetles, some do. Insects and arachnids like robber flies, dragonflies, ants, various ground beetles, and cellar spiders also eat them.
If you see them, should you squish them? That’s up to you and how confident you are that you’ve identified it correctly. I wouldn’t want to mistake a helpful native ladybug as an invader. I recommend that instead of buying ladybird beetles at the garden store to release in your garden you establish native habitat to attract and support native species of ladybugs.
As I looked a bit more into the literature about Harmonia axyridis, I was intrigued with the publication of some research about the biochemistry of the liquid they secrete. It has been found to have strong antimicrobial action against strains of bacteria that are pathogenic to humans. This fluid has even been examined for its action against malaria. Perhaps these beetles don’t belong in the garden, but in your medicine cabinet instead.
Yesterday I had the extreme good fortune to be able to use the scanning electron microscope (SEM) at University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs (San Juan Island). We put a Cerambycid beetle under the SEM and “WOW,” the photos were phenomenal! Here’s a few for you to see. Below is a photo of the beetle’s compound eye. Just think of all the information each of those facets receives and processes.
Cerambycid beetle compound eye, imaged under scanning electron microscope at Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA
Next, you see an image of the beetle head. It shows the antennal insertion points, the compound eyes, frons, clypeus, labrum, mandibles, and bristly setae.
SEM anterior, dorsal view of cerambycid head.
If you’re interested in learning more about the morphological features, here’s a pretty good diagram below for reference.
image from http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/biotact/bc-51b.htm
The last image for you is of the beetle’s tarsi (the foot). This is an important identification feature for many insects. Imagine that! When I was working on my masters degree from the University of Florida, I had an amazing taxonomy professor who was an expert on Coleoptera (the beetles). He created identification keys for Florida beetles and you can take a look at them here: http://www.entnemdept.ufl.edu/choate/beetles.pdf Well, I’m looking forward to using the SEM again and my next imaging will hopefully include the sponging mouthparts of a fly. Stay tuned!
I like beetles. There are interesting ones all over the place…and they do REALLY interesting things. Some can cry like babies. Some like to pat poo into nice little balls and roll them back to their home. Some hang around to take care of their offspring and even “play music” to call them to breakfast…or lunch…or dinner! Some do “bad” things like eat your plants …or your trees…or your house! Some wear really cool suits of shiny armor. They can look like miniature versions of dinosaurs or imaginary space aliens! Some have really cool names…like this one I found the other day…with many friends…hanging out on a dead fir tree. Its name? The FAINTING beetle! That’s exactly what it did when I walked up….fainted right over onto the ground! Stayed that way too…for about 30 seconds with its bright red (aposmatically colored) abdomen warning me it would taste VERY bad if I decided to eat it. No worries there little bug. I was only going to take your photo. Now the scientific name of this fella (or maybe it was a “she”) is Enoclerus sphegeus. It eats the bark beetles that eat fir and pine trees. Check out the photos and next time you see a beetle, take a moment to “admire and inquire” before you automatically stomp it! Not all bugs are bad.
Interested to know more. Check out some of these references for further reading:
Boone, C., Six, D., and K. Raffa. 2008. The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy: competitors add to predator load of a tree-killing bark beetle. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 10(4), 411-421.
Rasmussen, L. 1976. Keys to Common Parasites and Predators of the Mountain Pine Beetle. USDA Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Ogden, UT. General Technical Report INT-29