The best species name ever!

Entomoderes satanicus

Entomoderes satanicus | Ruta Nacional 20 @ km 367, San Luis Province, Argentina

This past February while traveling to see research plots in Argentina, I had the pleasure of accompanying colleague and scarab expert Federico Ocampo to San Juan Province in west-central Argentina to see some of the endemic scarabs that live in the sand dunes that dot the region. Along the way we made a quick stop at a sandy spot along Ruta Nacional 20 in San Luis Province to see what was out and about. Several interesting insects were seen, but one of the most impressive was this marvelously armoured darkling beetle (family Tenebrionidae) belonging to the genus Entomoderes—also endemic with nine species ranging from southern Bolivia to central Argentina (Flores & Roig-Juñent 1997).

Entomoderes satanicus

Stout spines and a heavily sclerotized body surely provide effective anti-predation defense…

The stout, backwards-directed lateral spines on the pronotum are as evil as any I’ve ever seen, perhaps being the the reason behind the most awesome species epithet I have ever encountered—satanicus! Actually, there was some question about whether it represented this species or another in the genus with an almost equally awesome name—draco! I wasn’t able to access the more recent, paywall-protected revision by Flores & Roig-Juñent (1997); however, a relatively recent prior work (Peña 1990) seems to confirm its identity as the former by the presence of distinct raised costae on each elytron between the lateral keel and sutural margin confirm.

Entomoderes satanicus

…but not from tiny enemies (note parasitic mite on the venter behind the right procoxa).

Surely the sharp, stout spines and heavily sclerotized, ridged body provide effective protection from vertebrate predators and perhaps also help to minimize loss of water, since all of the species are found strictly in arid habitats (Peña 1990). I did not collect the specimen, but many such heavily sclerotized darkling beetles can be difficult to nearly impossible to pin by normal means (I have actually used a hammer to help in the case of one species I collected in South Africa. Seriously!), and I’m sure this one would have been no different. For all its armoured protection, however, there still remain chinks—note the tiny, bright red, parasitic mite on the ventor behind the right procoxa in the last photo.


Flores, G. E. & S. Roig-Juñent. 1997. Systematic revision of the Neotropical genus Entomoderes Solier (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Insect Systematics & Evolution 28(2):141–162 [abstract].

Peña, L. E. 1990. El género Entomoderes Solier (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Boletin del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural Textos sobre patrimonio natural de Chile 37:253–259 [ISSUU].

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Spring beetles on Coreopsis flowers

Abby Lee, Ryan Fairbanks, Stephen Penn atop a rhyolite glades

The WGNSS Entomology Group takes in the view of rhyolite glades from atop Hughes Mountain.

Each spring the Entomology Group of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society takes a field trip to one of the many natural areas outside of the St. Louis area. This year the destination was Hughes Mountain Natural Area, about 75 miles SSW of St. Louis in Washington Co. I especially looked forward to going there this spring, as my last visit to the area was close to 20 years ago. Despite the long absence, I vividly recalled the spectacular vistas from atop the mountain of rhyolite and the diversity of unique plants and insects in the igneous glades that flanked its slopes. When we arrived, we found the glades ablaze with spring wildflowers in full bloom, the most prominent of which was lance-leaved coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). As one of the so-called “yellow composites”, coreopsis is a favored source of pollen and nectar for a variety of insects, including beetles and especially the jewel beetles that I find so interesting.

Acmaeodera neglecta

Acmaeodera neglecta Fall, 1899

Species in the genus Acmaeodera are incredibly diverse in the southwestern U.S. (nearly half of the ~150 species/subspecies known from the U.S. occur in Arizona), where they are usually encountered on a variety of flowers. It is my opinion that the adult beetles mimic small bees, especially in flight by virtue of their fused elytra that do not separate during flight as in most other beetles and thus results in a profile resembling that of a small sweat bee (family Halictidae). The diversity of Acmaeodera drops off considerably in the eastern U.S., with only three species occurring broadly in the area. Missouri is a bit luckier than most eastern states, as two additional species found primarily in the south-central U.S. also occur here (MacRae 1991). One of these is Acmaeodera neglecta Fall, 1899. This tiny species (adults measure only 4–6 mm in length) is very similar to the much more common and widespread A. tubulus (Fabricius, 1801) (see photos here), and in fact its resemblance to that species is so great that it remained unreported from Missouri until Nelson (1987) recognized it among material that I had collected and sent to him during my early collecting days. Acmaeodera neglecta can be distinguished from A. tubulus by the elytra with slightly larger punctures and duller surface and the spots usually longitudinally coalesced into an irregular “C”-shaped marking on each side. I find this species most often in glade habitats.

Acmaeodera ornata

Acmaeodera ornata (Fabricius, 1775)

Acmaeodera ornata (Fabricius, 1775) is more widespread than A. neglecta (although not nearly so commonly encountered as A. tubulus). This handsome species is distinctly larger than A. tubulus and A. neglecta, usually around 8-11 mm in length, and has a broader, more flattened appearance with a distinct triangular depression on the pronotum. The elytra have a bluish cast rather than the bronzy sheen of A. tubulus and A. neglecta, and the spots on the elytra are smaller, more numerous, and more of a creamy rather than yellow color. No other species in the eastern U.S. can be confused with it, although there is a very similar species (A. ornatoides Barr, 1972) that occurs in Oklahoma and Texas. I have encountered this species numerous times on a variety of flowers in Missouri but have never managed to rear it, and in fact larval hosts remain unknown with the exception of one very old (and unreliable) report of the species breeding in hickory (Carya) and black-locust (Robinia).

Valgus canaliculatus

Valgus canaliculatus (Olivier, 1789)

As a general rule, beetles in the family Scarabaeidae don’t visit flowers—species in the subfamily Cetoniinae being a significant exception. This tiny representative of the subfamily, Valgus canaliculatus (Olivier, 1789), is no larger than the Acmaeodera neglecta adult above by length, although the body is broader and strongly flattened. This species is a representative of the tribe Valgini, one of only two tribes in the family that possess dorsal and ventral scale-like setae (the unrelated tribe Hopliini, or monkey beetles, being the other) (Jameson & Swoboda 2005). It has been suggested that the setae might play a role in crysis or adaptive coloration, and even more interesting is the association of most New World species with termites. Eggs are laid in termite galleries and the larvae feed on the wood within the galleries, but it remains unclear whether the termophily is obligatory or the beetles are simply taking advantage of the stable environment and accessible food source offered by termite colonies. Like other species in the subfamily, the adults are fond of flowers; however, only male valgines visit flowers, using specially modified, brush-like mouthparts to lap up nectar. As far as has been determined, the males do not feed on pollen.

Valgus canaliculatus

Note the flattened, scale-like setae covering both the dorsal and ventral surfaces as well as the legs.


Fall, H. C.  1899. Synonpsis of the species of Acmaeodera of America, north of Mexico. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 7(1):1–37 [pdf].

Jameson, M. L. & K. A. Swoboda. 2005. Synopsis of scarab beetle tribe Valgini (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Cetoniinae) in the New World. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 98(5):658–672 [pdf].

MacRae, T. C. 1991. The Buprestidae (Coleoptera) of Missouri. Insecta Mundi5(2):101–126 [pdf].

Nelson, G. H. 1987. Additional notes on the biology and distribution of Buprestidae (Coleoptera) in North America, II.   The Coleopterists Bulletin 41(1):57–65 [pdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Cover Photo—The Coleopterists Bulletin 69(1)


The March 2015 issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin (vol. 69, no. 1) is out now (I got mine yesterday), and while I’m always happy to see the latest issue of this journal in my mailbox I am especially pleased with this one because it features my photograph of an adult female Crossidius coralinus fulgidus on flowers of gray rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa). I photographed this beetle in September 2011 near Vernal, Utah at the beginning of a trip with Jeff Huether to find and photograph endemic sand dune tiger beetles across the western U.S. We had just visited the dunes near Maybell, Colorado and were on our way to Idaho to visit the St. Anthony and Bruneau Sand Dune systems before dropping south to Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Utah and the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. I was still a “Crossidius virgin” at that point—my first real Crossidius collecting trip would not come until two years later when Jeff and I visited the Great Basin and surrounding areas in a dedicated effort to find as many species/subspecies of Crossidius as possible (we succeeded in finding 12 of 14 targeted taxa). Having never seen C. coralinus before, you can imagine my excitement at seeing the spectacularly colored adults sitting atop flowers of their rabbitbrush host plants. I am especially fond of this photo, however, because it actually represents one of my earliest attempts to combine a natural blue sky background with a flash-illuminated subject—a technique I had learned from John Abbott just a few weeks earlier at the inaugural BugShot Workshop in Gray Summit, Missouri (just 15 miles from my home). I didn’t quite get the shade of blue I was looking for in this particular shot, but it’s close enough and the subject depth-of-field couldn’t be better. I have worked a lot on this technique since then and now consider blue sky background as part of my signature style.

This is the third issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin to feature one of my photographs on the cover. The first was the June 2013 issue (vol. 67, no. 2), which featured a beautiful, metallic green weevil, Eurhinus cf. adonis (2nd photo) that I photographed on flowers of Chilean goldenrod (Solidago chilensis) in northern Argentina, and the very next issue (September 2013, vol. 67, no. 3) featured my photograph of Chrysobothris octocola on dead mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) in western Oklahoma (and a new state record).

If you’re not one already, consider becoming a member of The Coleopterists Society (I’ve been one for 33 years now!). Their flagship journal, The Coleopterists Bulletin, is your one-stop shop for all things beetley—a quarterly fix of pure elytral ecstacy! In addition to the latest issues of the journal, your membership also gives you online access to archives of past issues via JSTOR and BioOne.

© Ted C. MacRae

Buprestidae type specimens at Fundación Miguel Lillo, Argentina

During my most recent visit to Argentina this past February and March, I had the chance to go behind the scenes and visit the entomology collection at Fundación Miguel Lillo, Instituto de Entomología, Tucumán. It’s always a treat to visit any entomology collection—public or private—at any location. When the collection has holdings of Buprestidae, so much the better. Much to my delight, however, this collection not only had holdings of Buprestidae (not surprisingly representing primarily Argentine species), but also a small collection of type specimens designated by Antonio Cobos Sanchez (1922–1998). Cobos was one of the 20th century’s most prolific students of Buprestidae, with publications in the family spanning the period from 1949–1990 (coincidentally, 1990 being the year of my very first buprestid publication!). I was graciously allowed to photograph these specimens, some of which present interesting nomenclatural situations that are worthy of comment. These are presented below with my notes.

Jose xx & Ted MacRae

Looking at the insect collection at Fundación Miguel Lillo, Argentina.



Tylauchenia golbachi Cobos, 1993 (currently placed in Oocypetes)

Tylauchenia golbachi Cobos, 1993. The species was moved to the genus Ocypetes.

Lapsus calami or mislabeled type specimen? Cobos (1973) described Tylauchenia golbachi from Argentina (now placed in the genus Ocypetes), stating the type locality as “6 kms. N. de Belén, 1.240 m. alt., Catamarca, Argentina (Willink, Terán y Stange coll., con trampa de Malaise, 1-15-I-1970…)”. The specimen above bears the holotype label, but the locality label clearly shows that it was collected in Tucumán rather than Catamarca and that the collector’s name is Guanuco rather than the above stated names. Interestingly, in the same publication Cobos gives the allotype female collection data as “San Pedro de Colalao, Tucumán, Argentina (Coll. Guanuco, 9-III-1949)”. At first I thought this might actually be the allotype rather than the holotype; however, 1) the specimen clearly bears a holotype label, and 2) it is also clearly a male based on the dissected genitalia preserved on the label below the specimen. There are two possible explanations, both of which make it difficult to determine what is the true type locality: 1) the holotype and allotype specimens are correctly labeled, but Cobos simply transposed their label data in his publication describing the species, making Tucumán the true type locality, or 2) the holotype and allotype locality labels were switched at some point and the true type locality is Catamarca, as stated in the publication in which the species is described. This latter possibility is more serious, as in addition to the doubts it generates regarding the type locality it also raises concern about the integrity of the holotype specimen. The latter explanation, however, seems less likely, as it is more difficult to imagine a scenario where only the locality label but not the others was switched than to imagine a transposition of label data in the publication. Sadly, at this point, there seems no easy way to determine which of the two explanations is correct.



Lampetis tucumana monrosi Cobos (nomen nudum?)

Lampetis tucumana “monrosi” Cobos (ms name?)

A manuscript name? Cobos never actually proposed a subspecies “monrosi” for Lampetis tucumana (Guérin-Méneville & Percheron, 1835) (the name on the separate box label is misspelled). He did use the name for two other buprestid taxa: Tetragonoschema monrosi Cobos, 1949—now regarded as a synonym of T. argentiniense (Obenberger, 1915), and Anthaxia monrosi Cobos, 1972—now placed in the genus Agrilaxia. The holotype label on the specimen clearly states “Lampetis tucumana monrosi” in Cobos’ handwriting, so one can only presume that Cobos had identified this specimen as representing a distinct subspecies but never followed through and actually described it.

Ectinogonia (Pseudolampetis) fasciata metallica Cobos, 1969

Psiloptera (Pseudolampetis) fasciata metallica Cobos, 1969. Pseudolampetis was later considered a subgenus of Ectinogonia but is now regarded as a full genus.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave! Cobos (1969) originally described this taxon as a subspecies of Psiloptera (Pseudolampetisfasciata Kerremans, 1919. Moore (1986) moved Pseudolampetis to a subgenus of Ectinogonia, which resulted in two taxa in the latter genus bearing the name “metallica“—Ectinogonia (Pseudolampetisfasciata metallica (Cobos, 1969) and Ectinogonia metallica Fairmaire, 1856—the latter now considered a synonym of E. speciosa (Germain, 1856). In taxonomic nomenclature, two taxa in the same genus cannot bear the same name—a situation known as homonymy. In such cases, the older name has priority and the younger name, in this case Cobos’, must be replaced. This was done by Bellamy (2006), who proposed the new name moorei for this subspecies, resulting in the name Ectinogonia (Pseudolampetis) fasciata moorei Bellamy, 2006. To bring some level of absurdity to the situation, the subgenus Pseudolampetis was subsequently raised to full genus rank, being listed as such in the recent world catalogue (Bellamy 2008), and since Cobos’ name was not originally proposed within the genus Ectinogonia it no longer competes with Germain’s name in that genus. As a result, there is no homonymy and Cobos’ original name must once again stand as Pseudolampetis fasciata metallica (Cobos, 1969), while Bellamy’s replacement name must be regarded as unnecessary. This fact seems to have been overlooked when Pseudolampetis was raised to genus rank, as Cobos’ taxon is still listed in the world catalogue as “Pseudolampetis fasciata moorei (Bellamy, 2006)”! This situation is a perfect example of just how complicated these situations can be to identify, track, and update. The type locality for the unique female is given as “Chagual, 1.200 metros de altitud, Rio Marañón, en el Perú, VIII-1953 (B. Fernández leg.)”.



Conognatha rufiventris weyrauchi Cobos, 1969

Conognatha rufiventris weyrauchi Cobos, 1969. The taxon is now considered a synonym of Conognatha abdominalis Waterhouse, 1912.

Insufficient grounds. Cobos (1969) regarded this specimen from Peru as subspecifically distinct from Conognatha rufiventris Waterhouse, 1912 from Brazil based on a suite of subtle character differences and named the taxon Conognatha rufiventris weyrauchi in honor of Prof. W. Weyrauch, who made made the holotype specimen available to him for study. Moore & Lander (2010) considered that the taxon did not represent C. rufiventris, but rather was a uniquely colored specimen of Conognatha abdominalis Waterhouse, 1912. The holotype is a male with the type locality given as “del Valle de Chatichamayo, a 1.200 m., en Peru (J. Schuiike leg.)”.

Conognatha amphititres Cobos, 1958 (syn. of Buprestis amoena Kirby, 1818; currently placed in Conognatha)

Conognatha amoena amphititres Cobos, 1958. The taxon is now considered a synonym of C. amoena (Kirby, 1818).

Insufficient grounds—part II. Cobos (1958) regarded this specimen from Brazil as subspecifically distinct from C. amoena (Kirby, 1818—originally described in the genus Buprestis) based on subtle characters and gave it the name Conognatha amoena amphititres (no etymology was given for the subspecies name). Moore & Lander (2006) regarded these differences as insufficient for subspecies status and placed the taxon as a synonym of the parent species. The holotype is thought to be a female with the type locality given as “Rio de Janeiro (Brasil)”.


Colobogaster weyrauchi Cobos, 1966

Colobogaster weyrauchi Cobos, 1966

Cobos (1966) described Colobogaster weyrauchi from Peru and named it after the collector, relating it to the widespread Colobogaster cyanitarsis Gory & Laporte, 1837. The type locality was given as “Pucallpá, 200 m. alt., Perú (W. Weyrauch coll. I-1948)”.



Dismorpha grandis Cobos, 1990

Dismorpha grandis Cobos, 1990

Cobos (1990) described Dismorpha grandis from Argentina in his very last buprestid publication, stating that the species had the appearance of an enormous D. irrorata (Gory & Laporte, 1839) (thus, the name “grandis“). The holotype is a male with the type locality given as “Bemberg, Misiones, Argentina (Exp. Hayward-Willink-Golbach: 12-29-I-1945)”.


Diadorina golbachi Cobos, 1974 (monotypic)

Diadorina golbachi Cobos, 1974 (monotypic)

Cobos (1974) described Diadorina golbachi from Argentina as the only member (and thus the type species) of the new genus Diadorina (the genus is still regarded as monotypic), naming it in honor of the collector. The holotype specimen is a female with the type locality given as “La Tigres, Santiago del Estero, Argentina (R. Golbaeh coll. 11-16-1-1970)”.


Pachyshelus huallaga Cobos 1969 (correct spelling is huallagus)

Pachyshelus huallaga Cobos, 1969

Cobos (1969) described and named this species after the river at the type locality in Peru. He related it to Pachyschelus atratus Kerremans, 1896 from Brazil and northern Argentina, stating that it differed by its distinct and less brilliant coloration and other features. Since the genus name is considered masculine, the correct species name is “Pachyschelus huallagus Cobos, 1969″. The unique holotype is a female with the type locality given as “Tingo María, Rio Huallaga, 700 metros de altitud, Peru, X-1946 (W. Weyrauch leg.)”.

Pachyschelus weyrauchi Cobos, 1959

Pachyschelus weyrauchi Cobos, 1969

Cobos (1969) described Pachyschelus weyrauchi from Ecuador and named it in honor of its collector. He related the unique male to Pachyschelus aeneicollis (Kirsch, 1873) from Peru and Bolivia, citing differences in coloration, body shape, and surface sculpture. The type locality was given as “El Puyo, 900 metros de altitud, Ecuador, 10-IV-1958 (W. Weyrauch leg.)”.

There are two additional Buprestidae type specimens in the collection (Colobogaster pizarroi Cobos, 1966 and Hylaeogena cognathoides Cobos, 1969), but they are in another drawer that we did not find immediately and, thus, I did not have a chance to photograph them. My apologies!


Bellamy, C. L. 2006. Nomenclatural notes and corrections in Buprestidae (Coleoptera). The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 81(3/4):145–158 [pdf].

Bellamy, C. L. 2008. A World Catalogue and Bibliography of the Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestoidea). Volume 2: Chrysochroinae: Sphenopterini through Buprestinae: Stigmoderini. Pensoft Series Faunistica No. 77, pp. 626–1260, Pensoft Publishers, Sofia-Moscow [details & links].

Cobos, A. 1966. Notas sobre Bupréstidos neotropicales. XV: Tres especies nuevas de Colobogaster Sol. (Coleoptera). EOS, Revista Española de Entomología 41(2-3):205–214 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1969. Notas sobre Bupréstidos neotropicales XVII. Especies y subespecies nuevas (Coleoptera). EOS, Revista Española de Entomología 44(1968):19–43 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1958. Tercera nota sobre Bupréstidos (Ins. Coleoptera) neotropicales descripciónes y rectificaciónes diversas. Acta Zoologica Lilloana 15:83–102 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1973. Revisión del género Tylauchenia Burm., y afines (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). Archivos del Instituto de Aclimatacion 18:147–173 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1974. Notas sobre Bupréstidos neotropicales, XIX. El género Amorphosternus H. Deyrolle y afines. Archivos de Instituto de Aclimatación 19:65–81 [pdf].

Cobos, A. 1990. Revisión del género Dismorpha Gistel (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). Revista Brasileira de Entomología 34(3):539–559 [pdf].

Moore Rodriguez, T. 1986. Contribución al conocimiento de los Buprestidos neotropicales (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Revista Chilena de Entomología 13:21–29 [BioStor].

Moore Rodriguez, T. & T. Lander. 2010. Revision du genre Conognatha. Edition Magellanes 24:1–172 [introduction and generic discussion in French and Spanish; keys to species in English, French and Spanish] [order information].

© Ted C. MacRae 2015

Two endemic Jamaican jewel beetles: one known, one not?

I recently received a batch of jewel beetles from Enrico Ruzzier of Italy. It was an impressive sending (as is any sending of jewel beetles!) collected from diverse parts of the world, but what really caught my eye were two specimens he had collected earlier this year in Jamaica—both representing species in the genus Chrysobothris. Most members of this genus are moderate-sized in relation to other species in the family, but at only 5 and 6 mm in length the two specimens I received are downright tiny. They also are extraordinarily pretty compared to most species in the genus by virtue of their striking patterns of metallic green, red, and blue to violaceous colors! Even more interesting, however, was their West Indian provenance. This “biodiversity hotspot” enjoys not only high species diversity but also high species endemism as a result of the 7,000+ islands that comprise it. This is especially true for Jamaica, where my records indicate that 64% of the known jewel beetle fauna (16 of 25 species) occurs nowhere else.

One of the specimens was easily identifiable as Chrysobothris quadrimaculata (Fabricius, 1776) because of the transverse green, violaceous, and reddish-cupreous bands on the pronotum and metallic green “cross” on the elytra separating four large violaceous spots, each with a reddish-cupreous central area (Fisher 1925). This species has so far been found only in Jamaica and appears to be uncommon in collections. As far as I can tell, the only illustration of the species is a 224-year old drawing appearing in Olivier (1790)¹. Considering this and the extraordinary beauty of this little beetle, it seems appropriate to post a photo here (sent to me by Enrico in his initial query regarding its identity).

¹ This early landmark taxonomic publication is occasionally offered for sale by rare book dealers at asking prices that run in the thousands of dollars! Fortunately, the National Library of France has made a pdf of the book available for free download.

Chrysobothris quadrimaculata (Fabricius, 1776)

Chrysobothris quadrimaculata (Fabricius, 1776). Photo by Enrico Ruzzier.

The second specimen, even smaller but no less pretty than the first, has defied all attempts at identification. It does not key out in Fisher (1925) and clearly differs from the four species and one subspecies known to occur in Jamaica (all of which are endemic). Further comparison with descriptions of all known West Indian species also fails to turn up a match. Considering this and the fact that many West Indian Chrysobothris seem to be quite rare in general (Maier & Ivie 2012), I would not be surprised if this specimen turns out to represent yet another (and as yet undescribed) endemic species for Jamaica. I am hopeful (although not optimistic) that posting a photo here (also provided by Enrico Ruzzier) will prompt those with West Indian material in their collections to examine their holdings and see if any additional specimens can be located.

Chrysobothris n. sp. ex Jamaica

Chrysobothris n. sp.? Photo by Enrico Ruzzier.


Fisher, W. S. 1925. A revision of the West Indian Coleoptera of the family Buprestidae. Proceedings of The United States National Museum 65:1–207 [BioDiversity Heritage Library, BioStor].

Maier, C. A. & M. A. Ivie. 2013. New species and records of Chrysobothris Eschscholtz (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) from Montserrat, Saba, and Anguilla, with a key to the Chrysobothris thoracica species-group in the West Indies. The Coleopterists Bulletin 67(2):81–88 [BioOne].

Olivier, A. G. 1790. Entomologie, ou histoire naturelle des insectes, avec leurs caractères génériques et spécifiques, leur description, leur synonymie, et leur figure enluminée. Coléoptères. Tome 2, genera 9–34 (32. Bupreste), pp. 1–485, 63 plates, Baudouin, Paris [Bibliothèque nationale de France].

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

Stag and “stagette” beetle

Lucanus capreolus, female (L) and male (R) | Fort Defiance Park, Illinois

Lucanus capreolus, female (L) and male (R) | Fort Defiance Park, Illinois

Last month I posted some photos of the very “stag beetle-ish” looking longhorned beetle, Parandra polita. Chestnut brown in color with large, forward projecting mandibles, this member of the longhorned beetle subfamily Parandrinae looks almost nothing like longhorned beetles in other subfamilies but very much like a small species of stag beetle (family Lucanidae). If it weren’t for the straight rather than elbowed antennae, even experienced coleopterists might be fooled by its appearance. The beetle had been attracted to an ultraviolet light setup in wet bottomland forest at the southern tip of Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet. Perhaps not coincidentally, several true stag beetles representing both males and females of the species Lucanus capreolus were attracted to the lights that night as well.

Males are distinctive by their large, sickle-shaped mandibles.

Males are distinctive by their large, sickle-shaped mandibles.

The genus Lucanus contains the largest stag beetles in North America—the most desirable of the handful of species it contains being L. elaphus (North America’s largest stag beetle) due to the male’s outrageously enlarged mandibles and the species’ general scarcity. Lucanus capreolus nearly matches L. elaphus in size and has an equally broad distribution across eastern North America, but it seems to be a more common species and has the male mandibles only moderately (though still distinctly) larger than the female. Despite its more routine occurrence, I rarely see more than a few individuals at a time, and they are almost always all males. This night, however, I was fortunate to encounter not only males but several females as well. I’ve previously photographed the female of this species (Diminishing Stag Beetle), but this was my first chance to photograph both male and female together.

Females have much smaller mandibles (but are still capable of delivering a painful 'nip').

Females have much smaller mandibles (but are still capable of delivering a painful ‘nip’).

While male L. elaphus are undeniably distinct, I frequently see confusion about how to distinguish male L. capreolus from L. placidus (the third eastern North American species of the genus, occurring more sporadically than L. capreolus), and separating females of all three species can be even more confusing. Male L. elaphus are readily identified by their greatly elongated and multi-toothed mandibles, but a suite of characters may need to be employed for females and non-elaphus males. The best character to use for L. capreolus are the distinctly bicolored femora that are yellowish at the base; however, color can be variable and some individuals will exhibit the more uniform chestnut-brown color typical of L. elaphusLucanus placidus, on the other hand, is usually distinctly darker in color than either of the other two species. Surface sculpture of the elytra and pronotum also offer useful characters. The elytra of L. capreolus and L. elaphus are rather smooth, while in L. placidus they are more distinctly punctate/rugose. The pronotum of both L. capreolus and L. placidus, however, is usually distinctly punctate compared to the relatively smooth pronotum of L. elaphus. The shape of the labrum (projection between the mandibles) is also usually distinctive and is not influenced by gender like the mandibles. In L. elaphus the labrum is rather pointed, while in L. capreolus and L. placidus it is more blunt (indeed, in L. placidus the labrum can almost be described as quadrate, or “squared”). Lastly, the number of teeth on the inner margin of the mandibles is usually diagnostic for females of the three species—L. capreolus possessing one tooth, L. placidus possessing two, and L. elaphus possessing more than two.

Unlike in most insect groups, males rather than females.

Unlike most insect groups, male stag beetles rather than females are generally larger.

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

Big, black (and red), and beautiful!

While I may have already declared Plinthocoelium suaveolens (bumelia borer) as North America’s most beautiful longhorned beetle, any short list of top candidates for this title must also include the species Crossidius coralinus. Like most other members of this strictly North American genus, these gorgeous beetles emerge as adults during late August and September to feed on the profusion of yellow blooms put forth by their larval host plants, Ericameria nauseosa (gray rabbitbrush). Across the Great Basin and adjacent areas, the relatively large size, spectacularly long antennae, and stunning value contrast between red/black or orange/black beetles, yellow flowers, and blue skies combine to make the sight of C. coralinus a highlight on any fall insect collecting trip. If beauty alone isn’t enough, the species also exhibits an unusual level of polytopism across its range. Red in some areas (e.g., C. c. temprans), orange in others (e.g., C. c. monoensis), bigger or smaller, and varying degrees of development of the black areas that cover the basal edge and apical portion of the elytra, the species segregates into several described subspecies and many more unnamed but locally distinct populations. This post features photos of individuals from several populations that field-mate Jeff Huether and I encountered during last August’s Great Basin collecting trip.

Crossidius coralinus coralinus

Crossidius coralinus ssp. coralinus (male) | Montezuma Co., Colorado

Crossidius coralinus coralinus

Crossidius coralinus ssp. coralinus (female) | Montezuma Co., Colorado

One of the most impressive populations I’ve encountered is illustrated by the male and female individuals shown in the above photos, which were seen near the city of Cortez in southwestern Colorado. Linsley & Chemsak (1961) assigned specimens from this area to the nominate subspecies, characterizing them as “moderate-sized”; however, some of the individuals that we encountered at this site were truly gargantuan (exceeding 20 mm in length). Note how extensive the black areas are in these individuals, especially the female.

Crossidius coralinus jocosus (male) | Costilla Co., Colorado

Crossidius coralinus ssp. jocosus (female?) | Costilla Co., Colorado

Crossidius coralinus jocosus (female) | Costilla Co., Colorado

Crossidius coralinus ssp. jocosus (female) | Costilla Co., Colorado

On the other side of the state near Fort Garland (southeastern Colorado) we encountered a population that Linsley & Chemsak (1961) considered representative of the subspecies C. c. jocosus. In contrast to the larger size and extensive black markings of the nominotypical population we found near Cortez, individuals in this population were considerably smaller in size and exhibited less extensively developed black areas of the elytra. Their small size also made them a little harder to notice—perhaps that is the reason we found so few individuals (~7 total at several sites along Hwy 160). We did note also, however, that the gray rabbitbrush flowers seemed to be well past their prime, so perhaps an earlier appearance of the rains upon which plant flowering and beetle emergence rely had us on the tail end of their activity period.

Crossidius coralinus coralinus

Crossidius coralinus ssp.? (male) | San Juan Co., Utah

Crossidius coralinus coralinus

Crossidius coralinus ssp.? (female) | San Juan Co., Utah

Linsley & Chemsak (1961) noted several populations across middle and southern Utah, but the only one to which they assigned a name was C. c. coccineus in Washington Co. (southwestern Utah). While we didn’t visit Washington Co. on this trip, we did look for these beetles at several sites north of Monticello in San Juan Co. (southeastern part of the state). Geography would place this population close to nominotypical populations, and while the beetles in this population resembled them in size they clearly differed in the greatly reduced black areas of the elytra. Note the male especially, with the black area reduced to little more than a sutural stripe in the apical half of the elytra. Linsley & Chemsak (1961) related specimens collected just a few miles further south from ours to an unnamed population in adjacent Wayne Co. (near Hanksville), both of which seem to be close to C. c. coccineus due to their robust size and the reduced black elytral markings of the male.

Crossidius coralinus ssp. (female) | Nye Co., Nevada

Crossidius coralinus ssp.? (female) | Nye Co., Nevada

Crossidius coralinus is found commonly along the western edge of the Great Basin in the form of C. c. temprans. However, Linsley & Chemsak (1961) presented very few records of the species further east in Nevada. We stopped at several spots in central Nevada while traveling along Hwy 6, but despite an abundance of gray rabbitbrush stands in peak bloom we found but a single male and a single female, the latter shown in the above photograph. Geographically this female should be assignable to C. c. temprans, but the black area of the elytra is not nearly so expanded as is typical for that subspecies. The only record from central Nevada in Linsley & Chemsak (1961) is a single male from White Pine Co. (a little further to the east), but they related that specimen to an unnamed population near Marysvale in Piute Co., Utah of smaller size and with the black area of the elytra distinctly expanded in both sexes.

The author photographing insects on flower head of Ericameria nauseosus.

The author photographs insects on gray rabbitbrush in San Juan Co., Utah.

There are those who say “Subspecies, schmubspecies!” I concede they may be right for a large number of named subspecies, possibly including C. coralinus, and while the basin and range topology of the Great Basin and discontinuous distribution of host plants within that geography provide ideal conditions for the development of distinctive, geographically based populations, I suspect C. coralinus has sufficient mobility to allow gene flow across its range (with the possible exception of populations in California’s Central and Owens Valleys). Moreover, the inability of Linsley & Chemsak (1961) to segregate the central Great Basin populations into discrete taxonomic units suggests that the subspecies concept may not be applicable. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that distinctive, localized populations of this species do exist. Moreover, I hesitate to dismiss subspecies in problematic taxa such as C. coralinus, because doing so makes it easier to ignore variability and presume (possibly incorrectly) no geographic component. Variability is interesting and should be thoroughly evaluated to determine its basis regardless of its basis. Geographically based variability is especially interesting because it suggests the existence of distinct genetic traits that contribute to the genetic diversity of species. Such traits are valuable to protect, and the use of subspecies provides a convenient shorthand for referring to the populations that contain them in both taxonomic and conservation contexts.


Linsley, E. G. & J. A. Chemsak. 1961. A distributional and taxonomic study of the genus Crossidius (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae). Miscellaneous Publications of the Entomological Society of America 3(2):25–64 + 3 color plates.

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

Why I went to Georgia

Call me biased, but for my money few groups of beetles can match the maddening combination of beauty and difficult taxonomy of jewel beetles (family Buprestidae) (I can already hear the protestations of weevil and scarab workers). In the case of jewel beetles, much of the difficulty is due to a propensity for hyperdiverse genera. For example, in North and Central America more than half of the nearly 2,000 described species belong to just three genera—AcmaeoderaChrysobothris, and Agrilus. It’s enough to make many a casual coleopterist throw their hands in the air and ship their specimens off to “specialists” for identification. This is, strangely, for me part of their attraction. Any reasonably serious effort to study jewel beetles over a period of time is sure to uncover a wealth of new data, from previously unknown hosts associations and distributions to the alpha taxonomist’s raison d’être—new species!

Chrysobothris seminole

Chrysobothris seminole on its host, Chrysoma pauciflosculosa.

One of the more problematic jewel beetle groups is the “Chrysobothris femorata species-group”. For many years, these abundant and conspicuous members of forest and landscape ecosystems have confounded collectors, foresters, and extension entomologists alike. A recent revision of the group by Stan Wellso and Gary Manley (Wellso & Manley 2007) has done much to improve the situation through the description of several new species and clarification of the hosts, distributions, and identifying characters of previously known species. I have benefited more than many from their work, since during the 25 years leading up to that work I had collected large numbers of specimens assignable to this group and was fortunate to have this material examined by Stan and Gary and included in the type series of most of the new species they described. Having in my collection series of nearly all of the known species in this group greatly facilitates identification of specimens received for identification and the recognition of any new species that might come my way. Notice, however, that I said “nearly” all of the known species—there were two species described in that work that I did not have examples of; C. seminole from Georgia and Florida and C. mescalero from New Mexico and west Texas. Happily, I can now say that only C. mescalero is still missing from my collection.

Chrysomoa pausiflosculosa

Chrysomoa pausiflosculosa (woody goldenrod) | Emanuel Co., Georgia.

Chrysobothris seminole is unique in the group by its association not with deciduous hardwood trees, but rather the stems and root crowns of living woody goldenrod (Chrysomoa pauciflosculosa), a member of the aster family (Asteraceae). This plant is not a true goldenrod (genus Solidago), although they are in the same family, but is named such for the profusion of yellow inflorescences that appear during fall and resemble those of goldenrod. However, unlike goldenrod, woody goldenrod is a perennial plant with a woody root crown and stems from which new growth emerges each year. Woody goldenrod is restricted to coastal dunes and sand scrub habitats in the U.S. southeastern coastal plain, although the beetle itself has only been found in a few locations in Florida and southeastern Georgia. The beetle was first collected in numbers by Roy Morris and Edwin Donaldson, who reared adults from woody goldenrod root crowns they had collected in an effort to rear adults of another wood-boring beetle; this one in the family Cerambycidae and also undescribed and restricted to woody goldenrod. That beetle was recently described as Crossidius grahami Morris & Wappes, 2013.

Chrysobothris seminole

Adults are found primarily on lower stems of living plants.

In late May of this year, I made the 13½-hour drive from St. Louis to Emanuel Co., Georgia to visit the type locality of C. seminole and try my hand at finding this species. Along the way I met up with two excellent beetle collectors in Tennessee; Joshua Basham and Nadeer Youssef. Josh and Nadeer are among the few people who have succeeded in collecting this species, having visited the type locality during the previous two years and managing to collect a small series of adults. Their experience proved to be invaluable, as we saw only three individuals during our two days in the area. Josh saw the first soon after we arrived at the type locality and was kind enough to let me see it in situ on its host plant and make the collection, and Nadeer was equally kind to give me the third individual we saw. Our consensus was that a combination of early timing and lack of rain was the reason for their scarcity, and to hedge our bets we collected a number of plants that showed evidence of buprestid (as well as cerambycid) larval workings in the lower stems and root crowns to attempt rearing additional specimens. Because of their scarcity, I kept the adults alive and photographed them later that night in a more secure “studio” setting, and while this species has been photographed before I do believe that the photographs presented here are the only photos of live individuals.

Sand scrub habitat | Emanuel Co., Georgia.

Sand scrub habitat | Emanuel Co., Georgia.

In addition to its unique host plant association and restricted distribution, C. seminole can be distinguished from other members of the C. femorata species-group by both sexes having the frons and clypeus uniformly brown (in most other species of the group the frons and clypeus are variously colored, often brightly so in males of the species). The one other species with both males and females also exhbiting a uniformly brown frons and clypeus is C. mescalero (now the only species still lacking in my collection), which Wellso & Manley (2007) distinguished from C. seminole by having three distinct elytral costae (C. seminole has two indistinct costae), its indistinct elytral foveae (in C. seminole the foveae are distinct), and its southwestern distribution and association with oaks. I suppose now I’ll have to start making plans for a June/July visit to sand dune habitats in New Mexico and west Texas sometime in the near future.


Morris, R. F., II & J. E. Wappes. 2013. Description of a new Crossidius LeConte (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae: Cerambycinae: Trachyderini) from southern Georgia with comments on its biology and unusual distribution. Insecta Mundi 0304:1–7 [pdf].

Wellso, S. G. & G. V. Manley. 2007. A revision of the Chrysobothris femorata (Olivier, 1790) species group from North America, north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Zootaxa 1652:1–26 [abstract].

© Ted C. MacRae 2014