Today’s episode—”Big Beetle, Tiny Beetle”—shows some of the amazing range of this fantastic (and largest) order of insects; the Fiery Searchers and Tumbling Flower beetles.
Dermestid Beetles are small (about ¼”), dark, compact, short-legged beetles that often have a covering of scales or hairs. Their larvae are dark, reddish-brown and bristly, and are a bit bigger than their parents. Some of these beetles, especially those that live in domestication are called larder beetles. Thery eat some high-protein dried plants, but their primary targets are stored animal materials like cured bacon and ham, dry pet food and dog biscuits, cheese, cereal, hides, wool carpets, upholstery and clothing.
Clay-colored Leaf Beetles (CCLBs) have a broad crimson stripe, which may refer to some portion of the CCLB’s anatomy. As a group, they come in a variety of shapes and colors and they are vegetarians in both their larval and adult stages. Adults feed in the open on leaves, stems, flowers and/or pollen; many target a specific plant or group of plants for food.
Pennsylvania Leatherwings also called Goldenrod Soldier Beetles are among the most common members of the Soldier Beetles in the Midwest. Adults are found in mind-boggling numbers on the flowers of roadsides and old fields in late summer and throughout fall. References seem divided about the food habits of adult PLWs. Some put them squarely in the vegetarian column eating pollen and nectar, while others put them in the carnivore (small insects) or the omnivore (pollen, nectar and small insects) category.
Water pennies are the larvae of riffle beetles. Water pennies live underwater on rocks in rapid currents—an unusual habitat for a beetle, but one that offers some protection from predators. Adult riffle beetles can be found in the water or basking on rocks and logs just above the water line. The adults are hairy, ¼inch beetles; the larvae, called water pennies for their shape and color, look like well-camouflaged, tiny, suction cups.
Darkling beetles are small-to-medium-sized, dark, slow-moving beetles. Their elytra are often grooved and/or pitted. Both the adults and larvae are nocturnal scavengers on “dead” material like clothing, rugs, stored foods, and plant and insect collections as well as on rotting wood and fungi. There are about 1,200 species of darkling beetles in North America mostly in the West.
Looking like dark watermelon seeds, mobs of whirligig beetles scoot across the still waters of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. Their basic design is a short antennae, elytra that end before the abdomen does, the ability to secrete a smelly substance that deters predators, and a shiny, black finish. They row with their flattened and fringed middle and hind pairs of legs, and they hold their front pair of legs forward, ready to grasp their prey.
The Japanese Beetle is a chunky half inch of beetle with a shiny green thorax and burnished bronze elytra (wing covers). The adults are primarily leaf skeletonizers, eating the soft tissue that lies between the tougher leaf veins, creating green lace. The larvae (grubs) feed underground on a variety of roots, especially those of horticultural and agricultural plants and turf grass.
This week’s BOTW is another of those retreads from the olden days when BOTW was brand new. If you are a Charter BugFan, you’ll note that exciting new species, pictures and information have been added.
Water Scavenger Beetles and their offspring prey on their smaller aquatic neighbors, the adults also scavenge, resulting in a food pyramid that includes decaying vegetation and dead animal tissue. They are, in turn, eaten by fish and targeted by many parasites.