The 12 Bugs of Christmas

In lieu of the usual bug biography, the BugLady presents The Twelve Bugs of Christmas—a tribute to a dozen insects (a Baker’s Dozen, really) that were photographed this year but not featured in a BOTW. Let the singing commence.

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Family Chrysomelidae)

Members of the leaf beetle family Chrysomelidae (more than 1,700 species north of Mexico) are often named after the plants they specialize on. The Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles prefer Swamp milkweed, but they’re found on other milkweeds as well. Multiple eggs are laid under milkweed leaves; multiple larvae hatch out and feed together on milkweed leaves for a while before going their separate ways. Adults also feed on milkweed, enjoying both the leaves and the flowers.

Blister Beetles (Family Meloidae)

Blister Beetles belong in the beetle family Meloidae, a family that contains about 400 species in North America and 3,000 species worldwide. Here in the Eastern side of the country, these mostly diurnal, medium-sized, wide-headed, long-legged, cylindrical beetles are often striped, spotted or drab in color. Their soft elytra (wing covers) are curved around the length of the abdomen but may not extend to its tip.

Two Long-horned Borers (Family Cerambycidae)

Long-horned Beetles are a bunch of often-brightly-colored beetles of all sizes that may sport astonishingly-long antennae (horns). There are more than 10,000 (maybe more than 20,000) species of long-horned beetles worldwide, and about 1,000 of those occur in North America. The larvae of some species get into mischief by boring in trees, whether living or lumber.

Fire-Colored Beetle (Family Pyrochroidae)

Both the head and thorax of the Fire-Colored Beetles are narrower than the elytra, and there’s a neck-like constriction behind the head. Most species of FcBs have antennae that are mildly pectinate (comb-like), but in some species the antennae have evolved spectacularly into dramatic, even antler-like fringes.

Green June Beetle (Family Scarabaeidae)

The Green June Beetle range extends from New York (and sometimes even farther north) west to Kansas, just nicking the edge of Wisconsin, and then it plunges south through the Gulf Coast. Look for it at the intersection of agriculture, grass-scapes and fruit trees.

Grapevine Beetle (Family Scarabaeidae)

Grapevine Beetles are nocturnal, oval, chunky, possessed of sturdy front legs that are widened and toothed for digging, and plates at the ends of their antennae. The color of GBs varies from pale broom-straw yellow to rich saffron. There’s a spot on each side of the thorax, and three on the side of each elytron. Look for GBs east of the Great Plains, in woodlands, thickets, vineyards and gardens—places where rotting wood/stumps are found near grape vines.

Wedge-Shaped Beetle (Family Ripiphoridae)

The Wedge-shaped Beetle (Macrosiagon limbata) doesn’t seem to have a common name. There are 11 species of Macrosiagon north of the Rio Grande. The extremely ephemeral adult females hang out on flowers, where they deposit their eggs and where they may do a little nectar feeding. Like tachinid flies, WSBs lay their eggs on flowers in hopes that their newly-hatched young will intersect with another insect and hop on board.

Two Big Beetles

The White-Spotted Sawyer Beetles are not favorites of the lumber industry because their wood-boring habits decrease usable wood, stain it, and open the door for decomposers. Hermit Flower Beetles are found around the edges of woodlands. Like the WSS, the HFB’s larvae are found in the wood of dead trees—the eggs are laid in damp, rotting wood and within that wood the large, whitish larvae feed for three years. WSSs and HFBs are found from coast to coast across the northern half of North America.

Crawling Water Beetle (Family Haliplidae)

Crawling Water Beetles live in ponds and lake edges and can be found scrambling through the water column or feeding in mats of aquatic plants, especially algae. Where there is a current, look for them in crevices between rocks.