Insect of the Week: the May/June beetle

Adapted from pages 466-468 of Garden Insects of North America:

May/June Beetles (Phyllophaga spp.) are among the largest of the white grubs, typically about 3/4 inches to 1 inch long and stout-bodied. Adults are generally chocolate brown to nearly black. More than 200 species occur in North America, with about 25 reported to damage turfgrasses, garden plants, and field crops. The adults are active at night and may be seen careening around porch lights and bouncing off screens, often in late spring. The beetles feed on the foliage of various trees and shrubs, with oak a preferred host for many species, but this rarely results in any significant injuries. Much more significant damage results from the white grub larvae, which chew on plant roots. Grasses are most commonly damaged, but larvae can seriously injure roots of young trees and shrubs planted in grassy areas.

 In northern areas, May/June beetles often have an extended life cycle that requires 3 years to complete. With these species, eggs are laid in the soil in May or June, and a limited amount of feeding takes place by young larvae during the first season, before they migrate downward for winter. They return to feed on roots and grow rapidly during the second season, producing most damage at this time. In the third year there is some additional feeding before the insects pupate in a belowground chamber. They transform to adults in late summer and early fall, ready to emerge the following year.

An adult May/June beetle. Photo credit: David Shetlar

Variations of May/June beetle life cycles occur, and in the southern U.S. many species complete development in a single season. Phyllophaga crinita, an important species in Texas, and P. latifrons, found in most Gulf States, have this habit. They commonly damage St. Augustinegrass, bermudagrass, and buffalograss.

Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs
Second Edition
By Whitney Cranshaw & David Shetlar

This second edition of Garden Insects of North America solidifies its place as the most comprehensive guide to the common insects, mites, and other “bugs” found in the backyards and gardens of the United States and Canada. Featuring 3,300 full-color photos and concise, detailed text, this fully revised book covers the hundreds of species of insects and mites associated with fruits and vegetables, shade trees and shrubs, flowers and ornamental plants, and turfgrass—from aphids and bumble bees to leafhoppers and mealybugs to woollybears and yellowjacket wasps—and much more. This new edition also provides a greatly expanded treatment of common pollinators and flower visitors, the natural enemies of garden pests, and the earthworms, insects, and other arthropods that help with decomposing plant matter in the garden.

Designed to help you easily identify what you find in the garden, the book is organized by where insects are most likely to be seen—on leaves, shoots, flowers, roots, or soil. Photos are included throughout the book, next to detailed descriptions of the insects and their associated plants.

An indispensable guide to the natural microcosm in our backyards, Garden Insects of North America continues to be the definitive resource for amateur gardeners, insect lovers, and professional entomologists.

  • Revised and expanded edition covers most of the insects, mites, and other “bugs” one may find in yards or gardens in the United States and Canada—all in one handy volume
  • Features more than 3,300 full-color photos, more than twice the illustrations of the first edition
  • Concise, informative text organized to help you easily identify insects and the plant injuries that they may cause

 

Firefly Fact Friday – Japanese Fireflies: Harvested for Beauty

This week our firefly fact comes from Sara Lewis:

While fireflies were harvested for their light-producing chemicals in the U.S., in Japan fireflies were harvested for their beauty. In Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, many firefly merchants set up shop every summer from the early 1800s through the 1920s. They hired hunters to collect genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata) fireflies, which they sold to clients in Osaka, Tokyo, and Kyoto. Hotel and restaurant owners released these wild-caught fireflies into their gardens, where customers would pay to enjoy their luminous beauty. By some estimates, firefly vendors sold three million wild insects to city folk every June and July. Soon, firefly populations began to dwindle due to over-collecting, river pollution, and habitat loss. Silent Sparks describes the ecohistory of Japanese and U.S. fireflies, including some successful conservation efforts.

catching fireflies print

Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies
Sara Lewis

LewisFor centuries, the beauty of fireflies has evoked wonder and delight. Yet for most of us, fireflies remain shrouded in mystery: How do fireflies make their light? What are they saying with their flashing? And what do fireflies look for in a mate? In Silent Sparks, noted biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis dives into the fascinating world of fireflies and reveals the most up-to-date discoveries about these beloved insects. From the meadows of New England and the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains, to the rivers of Japan and mangrove forests of Malaysia, this beautifully illustrated and accessible book uncovers the remarkable, dramatic stories of birth, courtship, romance, sex, deceit, poison, and death among fireflies.

The nearly two thousand species of fireflies worldwide have evolved in different ways—and while most mate through the aerial language of blinking lights, not all do. Lewis introduces us to fireflies that don’t light up at all, relying on wind-borne perfumes to find mates, and we encounter glow-worm fireflies, whose plump, wingless females never fly. We go behind the scenes to meet inquisitive scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding fireflies, and we learn about various modern threats including light pollution and habitat destruction. In the last section of the book, Lewis provides a field guide for North American fireflies, enabling us to identify them in our own backyards and neighborhoods. This concise, handy guide includes distinguishing features, habits, and range maps for the most commonly encountered fireflies, as well as a gear list.

A passionate exploration of one of the world’s most charismatic and admired insects, Silent Sparks will inspire us to reconnect with the natural world.

For more information, visit Sara Lewis’s website! To check out some cool firefly videos, find her on Vimeo.

Firefly Fact Friday

In honor of the publication of Silent Sparks by Sara Lewis, we are going to suspend Bird Fact Friday for the next few weeks and replace it with Firefly Fact Friday. Silent Sparks is filled with a wealth of fascinating information on fireflies, and we’re excited to share it with you!

From page 17 of Silent Sparks:

Fireflies begin life as larvae, living underground and dedicated to eating and growth. They can subdue and consume prey several times their size, including earthworms and snails. Fireflies only live as adults for a few weeks, compared with the one to three years that make up their juvenile stage.

Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies 
Sara Lewis

LewisFor centuries, the beauty of fireflies has evoked wonder and delight. Yet for most of us, fireflies remain shrouded in mystery: How do fireflies make their light? What are they saying with their flashing? And what do fireflies look for in a mate? In Silent Sparks, noted biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis dives into the fascinating world of fireflies and reveals the most up-to-date discoveries about these beloved insects. From the meadows of New England and the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains, to the rivers of Japan and mangrove forests of Malaysia, this beautifully illustrated and accessible book uncovers the remarkable, dramatic stories of birth, courtship, romance, sex, deceit, poison, and death among fireflies.

The nearly two thousand species of fireflies worldwide have evolved in different ways—and while most mate through the aerial language of blinking lights, not all do. Lewis introduces us to fireflies that don’t light up at all, relying on wind-borne perfumes to find mates, and we encounter glow-worm fireflies, whose plump, wingless females never fly. We go behind the scenes to meet inquisitive scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding fireflies, and we learn about various modern threats including light pollution and habitat destruction. In the last section of the book, Lewis provides a field guide for North American fireflies, enabling us to identify them in our own backyards and neighborhoods. This concise, handy guide includes distinguishing features, habits, and range maps for the most commonly encountered fireflies, as well as a gear list.

A passionate exploration of one of the world’s most charismatic and admired insects, Silent Sparks will inspire us to reconnect with the natural world.

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: 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!
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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]

Book Launch for Art Evans’s Beetles of Eastern North America at Stir Crazy Cafe on May 23, 2014

Beetles of Eastern North America_Poster_04 11 2014