Friday 5: Arizona’s Amazing Beetles

Welcome to another Friday 5!  My state is one of the best places in the country to collect insects and people are known to come from all over the world to improve their insect collections here.  I have some AMAZING insects in my collection, ones that are widely known to be among the most beautiful or most spectacular of all insects.  These are my 5 favorite Arizona beetle species:

5. The palo verde beetle or palo verde root borer, Derobrachus hovorei:

palo verde beetle

Palo verde beetle, Derobrachus hovorei

This beetle is amazing due largely to its size and its fierce demeanor.  These things are huge, about 3 inches long, and are among the biggest beetles in the country.  They’re so big, in fact, that they don’t fly well at all.  I find the majority of these beetles by sound when I hear them crashing into walls, fences, bushes, etc!  See those big mouthparts in the front?  These beetles will use them to fight with other palo verde beetles – and they’re not above waving both those and the spikes on the thorax about to intimidate you.  You probably don’t want to be unfortunate enough to let one get a hold of your fingers either.  Still, I adore these!  They’re impressive beetles and they’ve always been one of my favorites.  I’ll write a whole post about these eventually.

4. The sunburst beetle, Thermonectus marmoratus

sunburst beetle

The sunburst beetle, Thermonectus marmoratus. Image from http://bit.ly/cYqS4O.

This is my favorite aquatic beetle!  It’s not the biggest (they’re about half an inch long) and it’s not the most unique as far as behavior or habitat goes.  It’s certainly not the most uncommon as it’s all over southern Arizona in abundance.  However, I think this beetle is gorgeous.  They’re predaceous diving beetles (family Dytiscidae), so they are phenomenal swimmers.  If you haven’t seen one of these gliding through the water… well, you’re missing out!  And, these beetles have the ability to float nearly motionless in the middle of the water column, which most aquatic insects are unable to do.  Between their curvaceous shape, their stunning looks, and their serene movements, this one easily makes my list of the 5 most amazing Arizona beetles.

Quick aside: I love these beetles so much that I planned to have them swimming in bowls of water at my wedding.  People use goldfish in bowls at weddings all the time, so why not sunburst beetles?  They have a lovely calming and elegant appearance that is just right for a casual, outdoor, spring wedding by a lake.  I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with something so creative, yet so appropriate for my wedding and personality.  However, two close relatives (the kind I couldn’t have a wedding without) were vehemently opposed to having live insects near them at the wedding and threatened not to come if I went through with it.  So, I didn’t have any sunburst beetles at my wedding. You’d think the relatives of entomologists would be a little more tolerant of insects.  Sigh…

3. Chalcolepidius ostentus

Chalcolepidius ostentus

Chalcolepidius ostentus (let’s call it, oh, the metallic click beetle)

These beetles are stunning!  Metallic blues and greens, big, and surprisingly hard to find among the trees they like to sit ins.  Honestly, I don’t know much about these beetles beyond knowing where I collected the 2 in my personal collection and knowing that they’re click beetles so they have the normal click beetle associated behaviors.  I’ve had a hard time finding information about them and they don’t appear to even have a common name!  But the joy you feel upon coming across one of these in southern Arizona is indescribable.  For that reason, they make my top 5 list.

2. Grant’s Hercules beetle, Dynastes granti

Dynastes granti

Grant’s Hercules beetle, Dynastes granti

Like the palo verde beetles, these rank among the biggest beetles in the United States.  This particular species is one of three found in North America and it’s only found in the 4 Corners states and northern Mexico.  It’s reasonably common in Arizona and is often collected at blacklights around the state.  As with most insects that have those super long horns, the males of these species get into some pretty intense battles over females.  The winner  scores the gal!  Now that I think of it, I actually don’t have a single Dynastes granti in my collection…  I need to fix that sometime!

And finally, 1. Chrysina gloriosa, the glorious scarab

Chrysina gloriosa

Chrysina gloriosa. Photo by John Abbott and from http://bit.ly/cMmuS5.

This beetle’s name says it all: the glorious scarab.  Chrysina gloriosa (also commonly known by its former name Plusiotis gloriosa) is quite glorious!  It’s bright, apple green with metallic bronze highlights and thick metallic silver stripes down the elytra.  This is one of the most beautiful beetles you could ever encounter and will simply take your breath away if you are lucky enough to see a live one.  However, this beauty comes with a cost.  Because they are so exquisite, these are highly prized beetles.  When collectors find them, a strange hoarding mentality often overcomes them.  There’s a suspicion among some entomologists in my area that this is going to eventually lead to significant declines in the populations of these beetles.  They may be collected to near extinction in time!  Many of the collectors in my state have one or two of these beetles in their collections and leave the rest alone to help conserve these beetles for future generations.

I’ll finish up with one quick note about the image of this beetle.  I recently came across John Abbott’s photography online and found the image above in his beetles gallery.  The man is amazing!  His photographs will leave you speechless.  I encourage you to check them out.

Next week: 5 artists whose insect work I adore.  Let’s get some cultural entomology on!

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