One of North America’s rarer longhorned beetles

Here are dorsal and lateral views of the only specimen I’ve ever collected of Neoclytus approximatus—one of North America’s most uncommonly encountered longhorned beetles. I collected it on dead Pinus echinata in southeastern Missouri (Carter Co.) way back on June 7, 1987 (just over 34 years ago!), but I believe that is only an incidental record and not a larval host for the species considering that the species has been recorded from primarily the U.S. Great Plains (North Dakota south to Texas, east to Iowa and Missouri, and west to Colorado)—a region mostly devoid of native pines.

Neoclytus approximatus (dorsal view).

What it does breed in remains a mystery. I’ve seen a number of specimens collected in the city of St. Louis, Missouri in the 1930s with U.S.D.A. eugenol-baited Japanese beetle trap, although my own efforts with Japanese beetle traps in St. Louis during the 1980s turned up no specimens. Another Missouri specimen bore a label saying “Monarda” (a genus of flowering plants called “bee balms”)—perhaps referring to the flower of the plant (MacRae 1994). This latter record may suggest the species breeds in herbaceous plants rather than woody plants—which some longhorned beetles are known to do, and its apparent distribution across the Great Plains makes this idea even more tenable.

Neoclytus approximatus (lateral view).

Van Pelt (2007) provides the only other clue to host for the species, citing it “on shrubs” in Big Bend National Park. Until somebody figures out the host for this species, it is liable to remain one of the most elusive species of North American Cerambycidae.

Literature Cited

MacRae, T. C. 1994. Annotated checklist of the longhorned beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae and Disteniidae) known to occur in Missouri. Insecta Mundi 7(4) (1993):223–252 [pdf].

Van Pelt, A. F. (ed.). 2007. Inventory of insects of Big Bend National Park, Texas. Report to Big Bend National Park, 204 pp.

© Ted C. MacRae 2021

5 thoughts on “One of North America’s rarer longhorned beetles

  1. Hi Ted! The specimens I got in North Dakota were sweep netted from perhaps knee height to waist height prairie vegetation in a drainage coulee that eventually opens into Lake Sakakawea,..Got several of them that day in early August..

    • Cool, that would further support the idea this species breeds in the stems of some herbaceous or perhaps semi-woody shrub. Whichever it is, it is likely living rather than dead stems or it would have been reared by now.

      By the way, how many individuals did you encounter?

  2. Nice to see a new post!
    These beetles are so seldom-seen that clues to their discovery is worth our while.
    Good luck in your quest for clues from the community!
    Sorry to go on so long — but news of these critters is rare!

    During my active collecting career [1958-2010] I seldom saw beetles of this ilk.
    I mean the Clytini — which seldom come to lights.
    There is a certain wasp-like getstalt for these critters which 1 grasps — for me — after just 1 exposure.
    [My first impression of a wasp-imposter, in western Oregon, was of a swarm of agitated little seeming-demons.]
    But I always collected them & used great care in their mounting & curation — just as we see in your specimen.

    One singular event occurred for me in the Peloncillo Mts., on the AZ – NM border
    This was in Guadalupe Canyon in Cochise Co., AZ — right down here in the very bottom SE corner of the state.
    It was during the monsoon, perhaps in the 1980s.
    Perhaps this event is worth sharing — as well as I can still recall it.
    On that certain mid-afternoon I was poking around, waiting to set up lights.
    I saw some strange beetles running around on a tree trunk.
    I had no impression of wasp-ishness, aside from their rapid flicking & jerky-scurrying.

    The tree was a live & apparently healthy specimen of our native sycamore, Platanus wrightii.
    The trunk was maybe 7-11 inches in diameter.
    I suspect attempts to rear it from collected wood would fail.
    This was likely a mating assembly — tho I cant recall that I saw any in copulo, or engaging in other interactions.
    It might have been an oviposition opportunity.
    The spot they chose was a bit below chest height — I think I looked higher & lower, but saw them only on this 1 spot.
    There were likely fewer than 10 individuals, very active & alert, but reluctant to fly.
    They scrambled around the slick trunk or bits of scaling bark & a leafy twig nodule or 2.
    I noted no evidence of a wound in the bark of the tree.
    They mostly evaded my capture attempts, but did not have sense enuf to flee further afield.
    After a few minutes, I got 3 of em, & they were duly mounted & labeled.
    They were perhaps 9-10 mm long; I cant recall if both sexes were represented.
    Their colors were muted — not brilliant like your pictured critter.
    I recall dull red & some black & maybe something else — a tri-color impression.
    And there were no thin longitudinal elements in their decor.
    I could not ID them with E.G. Linsley & J.A. Chemsak’s volumes — even to genus.
    So I concluded they likely were new — or perhaps were a known Mexican species not yet recorded for the US.
    These 3 were handed off to a colleague here in AZ, but I dont know if they ever got described, reported, whatever.
    Perhaps they got described — but word never got back to me?
    Please let me know if you have questions on matters not covered here.
    All of my longhorn collection is long gone, to 1 university or another.


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