Friday, July 6, 2012
Over 20,000 species of longhorned beetles have been named worldwide, and there are probably thousands of species yet to be described. The adults are often fabulous looking creatures, with their incredibly long antennae perhaps the most distinctive feature. When a longhorn alights near someone, they're sure to notice it. The problem is, for longhorned beetle enthusiasts, they're mostly out of sight for much of the year. Nearly all of the species spend much of their life cycle as a grub, happily boring through the inner tissues of plants. You'll never, or at least hardly ever, see that stage. But for an all too brief glorious period, the adults emerge from the wood and take flight as they seek mates and sustenance from flower nectar.
Our discovery of this beetle came at the conclusion of a long, very hot field day, and that feeble excuse is my rationale for not making better photos. The beetle was very active, and in dense shade, hence the lack of crispness. I should have taken the time to employ some tricks of the trade to get better images.
Donald the Birder was first with the identification: the multisyllabic Elytrimitatrix undata, yet another spectacular longhorn with apparently no common name. By this point, I had received probably three or four other requests for information about longhorned beetles from various people, which is WAY more than a normal year.
One or two nights after the Facebook beetle post, I got in my car which had been sitting in my driveway with the windows down. Lo and behold, no sooner had I dropped behind the wheel when a suspiciously long antenna poked out from behind the sun visor, and out came a big longhorn! It was dark, and viewing was not great, but I am reasonably sure it was also the clumsy-to-say Elytrimitatrix undata. It scampered to the window and whirred off into the darkness before I could capture it for closer study and possible photos.
Maybe all of these longhorned beetles coming to my attention is just coincidence, but it's way more longhorn action than I normally detect in a season. Most sources seem rather general when describing host species for the three species above; "hardwoods" is a typical but very generic descriptor. As wood-boring beetles often attack the softening tissues of dead or dying trees, I am wondering if the glut of ash trees that have succumbed to the emerald ash borer is producing a bumper crop of longhorned beetles.
If you've seen any longhorned beetles, or have insights into whether this truly is a boom year for them, let me know.
CLICK HERE. Hopefully expedition members will find many of these showy tangerine beasts.