Posts Tagged: melyrid beetle
So you're walking through a sunflower field and you're seeing lots of honey bees foraging on the flowers.
But wait, look over there. Are those beetles?
Melyrid or blister beetles (Melyridae family) and spotted cucumber beetles (family Chrysomelidae) are frequently found on sunflowers.
The spotted cucumber beetle is known as a major agricultural pest, as it eats or damages the leaves of such crops as cucumbers, cotton, soybeans and beans.
Are the melyrid beetles pests of sunflowers? "Yes, in the sense that they are pollen eaters," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
However, beetles can also be pollinators. And there's a word for that.
Beetle pollination is called cantharophily. And cantharophily "may be the oldest form of insect pollination," say emeritus professors Penny Gullan and Peter Cranston of the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, in their textbook, The Insects, an Outline of Entomology.
As they point out in their book: "Beetles mostly visit flowers for pollen, although nutritive tissue or easily accessible nectar may be utilized and the plant's ovaries usually are well-protected from the biting mouthparts of their pollinators." They mention several families of beetles that can be pollinators--among them Cantharidae (soldier beetles), Cerambycidae (longhorn beetles), and Cleridae (checkered beetles).
And they mention Melyridae, the soft-winged flower beetles, as being pollinators, too.
Cantharophily in the sunflower field.
Melyrid beetle on a sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Spotted cucumber beetle on a sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Since this is National Pollinator Week, you're probably out celebrating the bees--maybe doing hand stands, cartwheels and pirouettes.
But have you ever thought about beetles as pollinators? They are.
We spotted this little critter on a California golden poppy at the Sonoma Mission in Sonoma, Calif. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, knew what it was immediately, even though through all the pollen.
It's a melyrid beetle, a flightless beetle. Some species found elsewhere in the world are loaded with poison and are eaten by poison-dart frogs and passerine birds, including the pitohui. Scientists writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) say these frogs and birds derive their poison from melyrid beetles and if they don't eat enough of them, they lose their toxicity. Indeed, there's a golden poison-dart frog that carries enough venom to kill 10 people, according to National Geographic.
If you want to know what this melyrid beetle looks like when it's not wearing its coat of many pollen grains, check out this photo by Peter Bryant of UC Irvine and another photo by Thomas Roach of Lincoln, Calif., an insect photographer and a frequent visitor to the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus.
Melyrid beetle (Endeodes insularis) on a poppy petal. (Photo y Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of melyrid beetle covered with pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)