Saturday, March 27, 2010

Red Flat Bark Beetle

This beautiful rusty-red colored beetle is a Red Flat Bark Beetle (Cucujus clavipes). I was shocked to find it crawling in my bathroom sink. I had never seen a beetle like it before. I captured it and took a few pictures and later identified what it was. This only perplexed me even more, why would a bark beetle be in my bathroom sink? Then it dawned on me....my husband cuts and burns wood for our home. This little hitchhiker must have came in on some wood and made it's way to the bathroom. It was a small beetle, barely 3/8 of an inch in length. Every square inch of him was reddish in color, top, bottom, back to front. The only exception to this was his antennae and tibae and tarsi which were black. Very striking beetle. After doing some research, I discovered that this beetle is quite a hardy species, they live throughout North America, even as far north as Alaska, where it is capable of surviving temperatures at -70F. Apparently there have even been studies done with this species that showed it was capable of surviving such extreme super temperatures as -238F. When you consider that most insects that overwinter can only tolerate temperatures in the -13F range, it seems almost impossible that these beetles are able to withstand that kind of frigid cold.  What kind of a creature can even come close to surviving such extremes? Seems they have their own built-in antifreeze-like cocktail that aids them in this logic-defying feat. Very little is reported on their diet, but it is believed to consist of other insects, including beetle larvae, mites, and other small arthropods.

Their extremely flattened body gives them the ability to travel under loose bark with little effort, they can even maneuver through tunnels in the wood left by other wood boring beetles. They will travel these tunnels to prey upon the unsuspecting larvae residing there. These beetles are considered beneficial to humans because of their ability to eat harmful wood boring beetles that can damage timber. I couldn't find much about their mating cycle, but I would presume after mating, the female would deposit her eggs under the bark of a tree, the eggs hatch and the larvae begin seeking beetle larvae to dine on. Adult beetles will overwinter under the bark of trees.
I am constantly amazed at the diversity of insect life. I am often surprised and never bored when it comes to the many miniature creatures roaming around on six legs. 

24 comments:

  1. Cucujus! One of my favourites right now, because I've been running into their very-cool larvae all over the place this winter. They are VERY pretty, aren't they? Such a cool beetle. I am experiencing some envy that one found you at home!

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  2. I have to go in search of the larvae. The wood my husband has been burning in the wood stove was cut about 25 miles from our house on a farm his parents own. I need to go there to find the larvae I guess. This is the first time I've encountered this particular beetle, and to find it in my sink was really a shocker. Very pretty indeed!

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  3. What a beauty! We've never seen a beetle like this either. That must have been awfully surprising to find in one's sink! Now with all this talk about the larvae, we're thinking it's time for a quest to find one!

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  4. Pretty find, Shelly! That red color is so warm and striking, and combined with the flattened body makes for a very chic, designer-look beetle. ;) Nice to know that the "design" was developed on purpose, favoring those bugs who could slide under the bark easily.

    The way you phrased it about this beetle being "considered beneficial to humans" really made me stop and think for a moment. We speak of "beneficials" in the garden world... but of course, that only means they seem to further our specific aims -- and what is beneficial in the short term may not be in the long. I bet every insect is beneficial to some other being in the chain. Everything does work together so intricately in nature; doesn't it?

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  5. @Kenton & Rebecca--she/he is a beauty for sure. I know what you mean about finding the larvae, I am going to try and do the same. I just need to figure out where the wood came from that my husband was burning in the wood stove and I'm sure I will be able to find some larvae in that general area.

    @ Meredith--you are so correct, that all things work intricately together in nature for a broader purpose that isn't always obvious to us. It seems almost any creature serves some purpose at sometime in its lifecycle. This little beauty was a welcome guest in our house, but the little fellow is AWOL and hiding in our home some. I placed him in a cup, he seemed content to stay there. When I went back to check on him.... "Yes Shelly, beetles can climb!" So now I must find our little explorer....lol

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  6. Sweet pictures, and great story! I love your conversational, self-effacing writing style:-)

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  7. Thanks Eric, your comments are greatly appreciated. :o)

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  8. 10 days ago I planted three cucumber plants on a mound as customary. Today, I noticed that one of the three plants was dying so I pulled up the 2" plant from the soil and with it a red colored, flat shaped bug flew up from the root and rapidly disappeared before I could get a better view. It looked like the red flat bark beetle. The color was shocking. Does anyone know if this bug enjoys cucumbers? I'm from Long Island, New York.

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  9. I did a little bit of research and I could not find anything that indicated that this species would feed on the roots of cucurbits such as your cucumber. I will keep looking and see if I can figure what your mystery bug is. I must admit I am curious

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  10. Irvin you might look up Asiatic Garden Beetle, they somewhat resemble June Bugs. They have a very distinct reddish tint to them. They also feed on garden vegetables. The adults live under ground during the day and emerge in the evening. The larvae feed on the roots of plants. It could be the larvae were there in the form of a grub, and when you pulled the plant you disturbed an adult.

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  11. My mom and aunt live in a highrise that was proven to be infested by these beetles,, they were told they had scabies,, lice,, nits,, bedbugs,,pepper mites,, turned out they were highly allergic to the beetle excrement,, now i have to find out what type of expert exterminator could rid the building of these beetles .. The are actually eating their wood furniture in their apartment.

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  12. oops forgot to say that this is in st louis mo,, the health dept is seeking ways to try and rid the highrise of these beetles. If anyone had any info or had experience with this please post thank you

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  13. anonymous I am unsure what to tell you about this. I seriously was not aware that this particular beetle could cause such a problem. I've asked a fellow blogger to respond to your comments, he will know so much more about this than I do. I hope he is able to help you out.

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  14. These beetles do not infest houses or eat furniture. Shelly gave a great summary of their life history, which is spent under the bark of dead trees where they prey on other insects.

    The key to pest control is accurate identification, and whatever it is that you're having a problem with should be properly identified before attemtping any control measures.

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  15. Interesting litle guys, and very pretty. I collected a specimen today at a field site in which I had traps set up to guage L. nigrinus populations. The experiment was a bust, but part of the trap set-up included flashing that ringed the tree and was sealed on the bottom. During the tear-down of the flashing, I surprised (woke up) several of these guys. I really appreciate your site, as you saved me from having to go through the dichotomous key in my entomology book. Thanks!

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  16. Hiya Bill, I am so glad this post was helpful to you. May I say I am jealous that you live somewhere that you are able to set out traps with the hope of catching something? We finally got our first warm up the past few days and it is supposed to be 60 by Wednesday here. I am excited....sure beats 20 degrees and snow.

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  17. We live in upstate NY and I just found a Red Flat Bark Beetle on the rug. I, too, had never seen one and spent a good bit of time trying to identify him. Thank you for your great site! I'm glad to know that they are harmless and hardy. That way I know he will be fine when I put him outside in our cold climate! Thanks again!

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  18. Thank you so much for this blog!! I'm personally terrified of unidentified bugs so when I found my little guy running across the living room carpet I FREAKED OUT! lol
    Now, thanks to the information you've provided along with the other posts here and other research I've done, I realize that I have a Japanese/Asian Beetle larvae eating machine, which is awesome news in my book! In case anyone was wondering I live in southwest lower Michigan and I do believe this is my FAVORITE BUG OF ALL TIME!! Take care and have a beautiful day! Sam S.

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  19. Sam I am so excited that you were able to find helpful information on your new bug find. These are truly awesome beetles and definitely a friend to gardeners everywhere. I hope to see you around here again, have a blessed day.

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  20. Hi,
    My Wife just found one today on the steps!
    We,re in northern Ontario,Canada.Today was about
    50-60 degrees F.

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  21. we just found one on our rug in New Hampshire! your website helped us identify what kind of beetle it was - thank you! My kids had a blast listing out the identifying parts of the beetle and looking it up online. What a fantastic world we live in!

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    1. SO glad you were able to ID your little beetle. These are beautiful and fascinating little insects. Kudos to you for encouraging them to explore and learn about bugs, rather than stomping them. :o)

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  22. I've just got one on the ceramic wall of my kitchen... I thought it was a cacaroach... Almost killed the bug but i'va captured it and now it's in a little pill bottle with a small hole while i'm getting some more infos if it's a parasite or not. Bug's destiny will depend on that.

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    1. These particular bugs are not parasitic or harmful to humans. They do however feed on the insects that are residing inside trees. This activity makes them beneficial to humans.

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