Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fire-colored Beetle (Neopyrochroa flabellata)

Fire-colored Beetle (Neopyrochroa flabellata)

A member of the family Pyrochroidae. The common name for this family of beetles (Fire-colored Beetles) is based on the bright red or orange colors found on some species.

Male pyrochroid beetles seek out blister beetles and ingest the blistering agent (cantharidin) exuded as a defense mechanism by these meloid beetles. (One source I found said the male fire-colored beetles "lick off" the cantharidin. Another said they "feast compulsively on meloid carcasses". Regardless, male pyrochroid beetles consume canthariden.)

The toxic cantharidin deters predators from dining on beetles that have ingested it. Perhaps more importantly, it makes the male pyrochroids more attractive to females. As an introduction to mating, the pyrochroid male secretes a gooey substance from a groove-like structure in his forehead. The female tastes it. Only if she detects cantharidin does she readily agree to mate. Females actively reject advances from males having none of this toxic substance.

During breeding cantharidin is transferred to the female affording her some protection from predators and, more importantly, she passes the chemical defense onto her eggs. Studies using ladybugs as predators have shown the cantharidin reduces egg predation.

Sources and links:
Science News



Lisa at Greenbow said...

Intersting bug. I haven't seen this one around here. Marvin are you finding all of these bugs on your property? If so I am amazed that you have found so many different ones. One summer I tried to take a picture of every bug I found in my garden. I kept finding the same ones over and over. I got bored pretty quick.

Andrée said...

I love the feathery antennae, like some moths. Enjoy your text very much. Great photo!

RainforestRobin said...

I could not believe the story of this bug! FASCINATING!! I was intrigued by the female tasting to see if the male has enough canthariden. Gosh, the things going on in nature that we miss completely because we move onto the land and basically kill everything that we don't understand or that frightens us...even if it isn't potentially deadly to us we kill and destroy without learning from these amazing creatures. I was spellbound by the life of this little guy and what he does to survive. Astounding isn't it?! Great post. I had you ear marked to come and visit today along with a few other people, and the funny thing is I arrived here and just kept reading and reading and reading. I love it!!! :) Thanks Marvin for such a FASCINATING SITE!

Marvin said...

Thanks to everyone for your visits and kind words.

Lisa: 99% of the insects I photograph are taken somewhere within easy walking distance of our house. Many of the bugs I encounter are the same ones over and over, but there are many new one too. Since we live in the boonies with both pastures and forests nearby, we probably have more insects than in a more urban or suburban setting. Also, there's no heavy use of pesticides anywhere close as their could/would be in suburbia or near cropland.

Lana Gramlich said...

That's very interesting...& makes me glad I'm human. *LOL*

Old Wom Tigley said...

Strange strange creatures.. but clever as anything.