Blue-margined Ground Beetle

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When lifting rocks in southern Illinois in search of small snakes and salamanders, I found this awesome insect.

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The Blue-margined Ground Beetle is large, extra-robust, flightless, and features a huge head and jaws. It typically runs about under or on the leaf litter in forests.

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This insect is about an inch long and gets its common name from the smooth, blue border around its outer edges. Its large mandibles are said to deliver a painful bite and as an added defense measure, it can release a foul-smelling liquid if threatened.

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Both the larva and adult Blue-margined Ground Beetles are active predators, mainly feeding on other insects, particularly caterpillars.

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This is one neat looking insect that I haven’t seen for several years – it was nice to come across one while visiting the Land of Lincoln.

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Emerald Euphoria

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While hiking through the woods while on a visit to Maryland, an insect “crash landed” onto a log that I was approaching.

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This is a type of scarab beetle that as an adult feeds mainly on sap from wounded trees – especially oaks. Most scarab beetles in the eastern United States, such as June Bugs, are nocturnal – but this species in active in the daytime.

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The Emerald Euphoria not only has the ability to fly, but is also has the unusual characteristic of doing so using its more-often-than-not hidden membranous hind wings, while it hard outer wing covers remain closed. They are fast and powerful fliers, though somewhat erratic while airborne.

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This species falls into the category of “Flower Scarabs” and sometimes visits Dogwood, Sumac and Thistle. It’s moderate size and metallic sheen of its green color make this a distinctive and enjoyable insect to encounter on a Summer hike.

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Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

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At this time of the year it’s not unusual for me to encounter this half-inch-long, metallic green insect with conspicuous sickle-shaped jaws and large, bulging eyes on the sides of its head. I usually see them on dirt paths near waterways during warm weather.

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Adult beetles are fast runners and fliers. When they fly, they usually stay within three feet of the ground. They are very active during the day, moving rapidly in short bursts, often landing several feet in front of you only to take off again when you catch up to them.

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They are predators of other insects and can catch prey on the ground and in the air. These shiny beetles are among the fastest runners in the insect world. The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle pounces on its prey, capturing it with its powerful jaws.

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Because tiger beetles have excellent vision, you might have trouble getting close to one. For best results, sneak up on one very slowly to observe magnificent insect close up.

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The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle’s eye-catching brilliance and fascinating predatory behavior have made it a longtime favorite with naturalists.

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Earth-Boring Scarab Beetle

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Although I’ve seen this insect in my home state of Ohio, my latest encounter with one of these interesting creatures was last month in southern Illinois.

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As their name implies, Earth-Boring Scarab Beetles dig burrows into the ground, sometimes up to 8 feet deep. An egg is laid at the end of each long tunnel and food is left there. When the egg hatches a grub (the beetle’s version of a caterpillar) emerges. The food left for the grub is consumed and it eventually pupates before transforming into an adult beetle.

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Adults Earth-Boring Scarab Beetles eat dung, hummus and rotting plant matter. They are commonly found in compost heaps and around manure piles. This is one of the last beetle species that can be seen in the Fall. While the Earth-Boring Scarab Beetle’s diet seems somewhat unsavory to people, the consumption of the nutrients left in that food source allows valuable resources to return to the food chain when the beetle itself is consumed by a predator.

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It’s nature’s way to recycle and reuse vitamins and minerals.

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California Night-stalking Tiger Beetle

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These are really neat beetles which have sickle shaped mandibles and live in open habitats. They reside mainly in California, but there also have been sightings of this insect in southwest Oregon.

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The California Night-stalking Tiger Beetle inhabits areas between meadows and forests where there are an abundance of pine trees.

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This is a carnivorous beetle both during the larval and adult stages of development. Larva wait near the entrance of the burrow for passing organisms and quickly grab prey and drag it back into the burrow.

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Adults are mainly nocturnal and roam about during cloudy days or night in search of prey, which is mostly insects. Their diet depends heavily upon what organisms are available; they are rather opportunistic.

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Although fast-moving like the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle from my home state of Ohio, this species is unable to fly. I’ve been glad to come across this intriguing creature on my last two visits to California.

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Vians Flea Beetle

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On a warm Winter day I saw this cool creature (with a drop of water on its back) hanging out in my rock garden. ”Flea Beetle” is a general name applied to the small, jumping beetles of the leaf beetle family. They are similar to other leaf beetles, but characteristically have hindlegs that are greatly enlarged. These oversized femora allow for the springing action of these insects when disturbed.

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While they can jump, they also walk normally and fly. Many are attractively colored; dark, shiny and often metallic colors prevail. They tend to be small, and at one quarter of an inch, this is one of the larger species.

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The Vians Flea Beetle is found in the United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast. In Canada the species ranges from the Northwest Territories to Nova Scotia and areas southward.

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During adverse weather conditions (like rain) they seek shelter in the soil. Flea beetles overwinter as adults in leaf litter, hedgerows, windbreaks and wooded areas. In early spring, the adults become active again.

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Pink Smartweed is their most common food plant, but Vians Flea Beetles have also been collected on members of other plant families too. It was a nice Winter surprise to encounter this tiny, but cool creature.

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European Ground Beetle

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Also called the “Bronze Carabid” this insect is common in central and northern Europe, as well as Iceland and Newfoundland. While native to Europe, it has been introduced to and is expanding its range throughout North America. I would catch them as a kid in Cleveland and my most recent enounters with them have been when visiting southern Illinois.

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This decent-sized beetle (about an inch long) is a beneficial predator because it eats slugs in its young stage. Use of adults as a biocontrol agent for multiple pests in large scale farming operations is currently being tested. This insect seems to prefer cultivated grounds, especially in city parks and gardens.

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Its mandibles are robust and positioned forward. The European Ground Beetle’s legs black and relatively slender. Although dark in color, it has hints of metallic green, blue, bronze and purple that look airbrushed.

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Although its main defense is running away, some, if caught will regurgitate foul-smelling brownish-red liquid as a defensive mechanism. It’s been nice to get reacquainted with this childhood creature while out herping.

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Cactus Longhorn Beetle

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During my last visit to the Mojave Desert I had my first encounter ever with this very cool insect. It lives in the desert scrub and mesquite woodlands of the American Southwest. It spends most of its life cycle in and around various cactus plants, relying on the cactus for both food and shelter.

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These flightless black beetles have long antennae that stick up almost like horns, helping them earn their name. They are Darkling Beetle mimics and behave like darklings in that they raise the tips of their abdomens in the air when disturbed. Unlke Darkling Beetles, they are not able to produce a noxious smelling chemical defense.

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Adults are nocturnal and feed on cacti. They hide during the day at the base or under the pads of cacti. At night they crawl to the tops of plant to feed. Their larva feed underground on the base and roots of cacti. The adult beetles are over an inch long and rather imposing in appearance.

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Beetles comprise the largest group of insects on Earth, representing one-quarter of all living organisms and one-third of all animals – and this is one that I find intriguing.

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Rove Beetle

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While visiting Lake Hope in Hocking Hills, I came across a couple of examples of this interesting insect. Rove Beetles are primarily distinguished by their short wing covers that typically leave more than half of their abdomens exposed.

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Their family is an ancient group, with fossil Rove Beetles known from the Triassic, 200 million years ago, and possibly even earlier. Most Rove Beetles are predators of insects and other invertebrates living in forest leaf litter. They are commonly found under stones, around the edges of freshwater environments.

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This type is known scientifically as Platydracus maculosus and is the largest and one of the most commonly encountered species, though its maximum size is only about an inch long. The brown spots on its abdomen are one of its identifying characteristics.

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These cool creatures are not harmful to humans and are considered beneficial because they are predators of insect pests.

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Big-headed Ground Beetle

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Although a bit scary looking, due to its small size, this insect poses no danger to humans. These distinctive, shiny-black creatures are usually about 3/4″ long and are named because of their large mandibles.

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These beetles share physical characteristics of the tropical stag beetles, but are not closely related. Big-headed Ground Beetles can often be found under loose rocks and boards. If touched, they often “play dead” by folding in their legs and arching their backs.

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They are able to live in a variety of different habitats, including urban areas, woodlands and gardens. Big-headed Ground Beetles are frequently found in agricultural areas, where they hunt other insects (their main food source).

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