Fun Facts Friday: A Beetle’s Version of a Home Cooked Meal

7-24 Beetles2Back in June my parents decided to take an impromptu vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico–every college kid’s dream, right? Well,  it wasn’t impromptu (it was for their wedding anniversary) and “the kids” were never  invited to begin with. Still, that’s not how I like to tell the story at family gatherings when I attempt to paint my parents as neglectful. (They’re not, though some extra spending money wouldn’t hurt!) But when I was reading through Arthur V. Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America, I came across a section titled “Parental Care,” and realized, trip to Cabo or not, I have it significantly better than beetles do when it comes to parent-child relationships.

beetle laying egg

Beetles, Pg. 21

As Evans explains, “For most species of beetles, care of offspring is limited to selection of the egg-laying site,” but there are some species that go beyond the call of duty. “Some ground beetles (Carabidae) deposit the eggs in carefully constructed cells of mud, twigs, and leaves,” while “some water scavenger (Hydrophilidae) and minute moss beetles (Hydraenidae) enclose their eggs singly or in batches within cocoons made of silk secreted by special glands in the female’s reproductive system.” (Evans 20)

But it’s the Nicrophorus beetles who win the #1 Parents Award . “They meticulously prepare corpses as food for their young by removing feathers and fur, reshape them by removing or manipulating legs and wings, all while coating the carcass in saliva laced with antimicrobials that slow decomposition.” (Evans 21) A beetle’s version of a home cooked meal!

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Friday Fun Fact and have a great weekend!

Do not disturb

Is it really Friday again? Of course, I’m not complaining, but it feels like just yesterday we were reading about one way in which beetles protect themselves from predators. Luckily for us, Arthur V. Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America has enough material for Fun Facts Friday to last us a long time.

Beetles have been around for millions of years, so they must be doing something right, right? Actually, they do a lot of things right, and one of those things is mating. As Evans notes, “With relatively short lives that last only weeks or months, most beetles have little time to waste in finding mates.” How do they find mates you ask? Mating behavior varies from specie to specie, but here are two of the most interesting ones.

Biouminescence is described by Evans as “the best-known example of visual communication in beetles…” A whitish, greenish-yellow, or reddish light emanates from many eastern fireflies (Lampyridae) and adult female glowworms (Phengodidae). But what’s arguably stranger than a beetle’s glowing abdomen? How about a male death-watch beetle (Ptinidae) banging its head against the walls of its wooden galleries to “lure females into their tunnels…” (Evans 20) Hey, whatever works.

These are just two examples of beetles’ mating behaviors, but you can discover more about beetle mating, defense mechanisms, and collecting beetles in Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America. Hope you enjoyed this week’s Fun Fact Friday and have a great weekend!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Fun Fact Friday: Hiding in Plain Sight

As my favorite dining hall employee says every Friday, “We made it!” Yes we did, and as a reward for surviving the work week, here’s your Friday fun fact from Arthur V. Evans’s new book Beetles of Eastern North America.

Beetles face a plethora of predators everyday from birds, bats, and rodents to spiders, ants, and even other beetles. In response to the constant threat of being attacked, swooped up in the air, eaten, or all of the above, beetles have developed various ways to protect themselves. The avocado weevil, Heilipus apiatus (Curculionidae), besides having an awesome name, also has a unique way of “hiding” from predators: Bird dropping mimic. These beetles, “which look very much like a bird dropping, are of no interest to predators.” Likewise, “the small, dark, and chunky warty leaf beetles Chlamisus, Exema, and Neochlamisus (Chrysomelidae) hide right out in the open and are often overlooked by predator and collector alike because of their strong resemblance to caterpillar feces.” (Evans 28)

Beetles of Eastern North America, Pg. 28

beetle 2

Pg. 28

 

Hope you enjoyed this weeks Fun Fact Friday from Beetles of Eastern North America and have a great weekend!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

 

Fun Fact Friday: All’s Fair in Love and Chemical Warfare

Happy Friday, folks! This week’s fun fact from Arthur V. Evans’s Beetles of Eastern North America explores the astounding chemical defenses employed by Coleoptera against their enemies.

Galerita_small

This colorful little insect is called Galerita bicolor. It spends most of its life hiding under tree bark, but if it’s disturbed, it sprays a noxious stream of formic acid out of its rear-end. Yikes!

bombardier_small

And this little guy’s got an even nastier trick up his sleeve. The Narrow-necked Little Bombardier Beetle (Brachinus tenuicollis) releases a boiling mixture of hydrogen peroxide gas, hydroquines, and various enzymes. The cocktail makes an audible popping sound as it exits the insect, and can be sprayed at a predator with great accuracy. An aptly named bug if there ever was one!

Other beetles, such as lady and blister beetles, are even able to make themselves bleed in order to protect themselves. This behavior, called reflex bleeding, occurs when the startled insect exudes bright yellow or orange hemolymph (beetle blood) from the joints of their legs. The hemolymph is laced with toxic chemicals, making them unappetizing to predators.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of Fun Fact Friday, and learned one of nature’s most important lessons: think before you touch!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface [PDF]  Sample Entry [PDF]

Fun Fact Friday: Thanatosis and Batesian Mimicry (Don’t Worry, We’ll Explain)

Happy Friday, everybody! It’s time for our next installment of Fun Fact Friday, with Arthur V. Evans’s latest book, Beetles of Eastern North America.

This week’s post is dedicated to (drumroll, please)…the art of playing dead.

8-13 Beetles

Did you know?

Thanatosis, or death feigning, is a behavioral strategy “employed by hide beetles (Trogidae), certain fungus-feeding darkling beetles (tenebrionidae), zopherids (Zopheridae), weevils (Curculionidae), and many others” to avoid becoming a predator’s dinner. When these beetles sense danger, they pull their legs and antennae up tightly against their bodies so that they look dead and lifeless to their enemies. These small predators lose interest in the hard, small, and unflinching beetles, and move on to their next target. Pretty cool, huh?

Batesian Mimicry is another tactic to keep from being eaten. In this case, beetles “mimic the appearance or behavior of stinging or distasteful insects,” as in the case of the flower-visiting Acmaeodera (Buprestidae), scarabs (Scarabaeidae), and longhorns (Cerambycidae). They all sport fuzzy bodies, bold colors and patterns, and behaviors to make them believable mimics of bees and wasps, and make quick and jerky movements to complete the staging. And believe you, me, neither animals nor humans want to be stung by bees – and so the predators retreat.

We hope you feel informed, and we’ll see you next Friday for another great Fun Fact!
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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Fun Fact Friday: Making Sense of Mandibles

Today’s fun fact for Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans takes an inside look at the stag beetle’s best accessory: his mandibles. Why do they have them? What do they use them for? Hold tight to find out!

Did you know? Photo Credit: Arthur V. Evans, Beetles of Eastern North America

The common name “stag beetle” refers to the large antlerlike mandibles found in some males, such as the giant stag beetle Lucanus elaphus (See middle frame at right). Mandible size within a species is “directly proportionate to the size of the body and regulated by genetic and environmental factors.”

Why do they have them?
Males use these oversized mouthparts to fight with rival males over who gets to take the lady beetle to dinner. You can find these beetles in moist habitats where there are plenty of things dying, like  a swamp. An area with decomposing wood is the ideal hideaway for these critters, since they drink tree sap and flower nectar, and munch on decaying deciduous and coniferous wood. But that’s good new for us: no home damagers here!

Bonus Fact:
The Family Lucanidae supposedly got its name when Pliny the Elder noted that Nigidius (a scholar of the Late Roman Republic and a friend of Cicero) called the stag beetle lucanus after the Italian region of Lucania, where they were turned into amulets for children. The scientific name of Lucanus cervus is the former word, plus cervus, deer.

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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Fun Fact Friday: Bizarre Mating Rituals of the Male Beetle

Ah, Friday. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of abundant spare time, rife with the possibility of reading, gardening, eating, and…listening to mating calls?

Beetle1

In this week’s edition of Fun Fact Friday, we bring you the mating rituals of the male beetle, particularly those of the Family Ptinidae.

Did you know?

In his forthcoming book, Beetles of Eastern North America, Arthur V. Evans enlightens us to the truly absurd habits of death-watch beetles, who bang their heads against the walls of their wooden galleries to lure females into their tunnels. They’re in a class of their own, however; most beetles produce sound by rubbing together two ridged or roughened surfaces in a process known as stridulation. Stridulation generally transpires “during courtship, confrontations with other beetles, or in response to other stressful situations, such as an attack by a predator.”

For the most part, beetles don’t partake in fancy wooing practices; there are no flowers or free meals to speak of. But it seems there’s some soft music and chivalry involved, after all. So now you know!

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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

7-24 Beetles2 Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041
560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus.| eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews   Table of Contents  Preface[PDF] Sample Entry[PDF]

Fun Fact Friday: When Beetles Go Rogue

To celebrate the recent publication of Beetles of Eastern North America, Arthur V. Evans’s tremendously beautiful and comprehensive guide to all creatures coleopteral, we’ll be posting a new “fun fact” about beetles each week. These anecdotes won’t be limited to your standard beetle biology; they’ll surprise you, make you laugh, and wish that you’d bought the book sooner!

Did you know? 

7-24 BeetleIn this week’s edition, we’re bringing you a story all the way from Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. In a rare twist of irony, it seems that the pine tree planted to honor the memory of former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison has been overrun and subsequently destroyed by beetles of the family Curculionidae.

7-24 HarrisonTree

While the specific type of bark beetle that bested the tree isn’t included in the Eastern edition, we won’t have to wait very long to solve this entomological enigma; Arthur V. Evans is already hard at work on part two, aptly titled Beetles of Western North America

So, now you know: if you’re looking for a self-sustaining weed-wacker, look no further than the beetles in your backyard!

Photo credit: Breakingnews.ie

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

7-24 Beetles2 Beetles of Eastern North America
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041
560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Princeton University Press’s best selling books for the past week

These are the best-selling books for the past week.

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
 7-17 Government Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better by Peter H. Schuck
CountLikeanEgyptian
Count Like an Egyptian: A Hands-On Introduction to Ancient Mathematics by David Reimer
Carlson_Tesla jacket Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
Fernandez_Everyday cover Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us by Oscar E. Fernandez
Evans_Beetles
Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
SouloftheWorld The Soul of the World by Roger Scruton
FaustI&II Faust I & II by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
OnBullshit On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
Osterhammel_Transformation The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century by Jürgen Osterhammel (trans. Patrick Camiller)