Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A Handsome Fungus Beetle

With the more than 19 days of steady drip or drizzle it is a pleasant experience to wonder through the rainforest, night or day, and see what's on offer. The other morning a single log had a group of Handsome Fungus Beetles actively wandering about. The looked like they could be feeding. The red dots are mites and some of the mites were crawling on some of the beetles. Just what this was all about, I can't determine. Twenty-four hours later in the sunlight the beetles had moved off the log and were scouring a fallen palm frond, frantically searching for food, I suspect.

A group of Handsome Fungus Beetles, Encymon immaculatus (Montrouzier), searching and feeding. Note mites indicated as small red spots.
A Handsome Fungus Beetle, Encymon immaculatus.

I sent photos to my friend Paul Zborowski for confirmation of the identification. It turns out that it is Encymon immaculatus (Montrouzier). He suggested I look at the Plate 5G in the tome The Insects of Australia (1991) for a lovely colour drawing of the species. Then I proceeded to google the species' name and came up with a surprise.

The "definitive" work on the subject was one published in 1971 by H. F. Strohecker. He stated that E. immaculatus is extremely common and was known from many localities east of Wallace Line including Japan, Aru, New Guinea, New Britton as well as New South Wales and Queensland. But may I digress?

This brought back memories. The late Dr Strohecker (or the Colonel as he was known) was a specialist in the Endomychidae, the Handsome Fungus Beetle family, and also a keen orthopterist (one who studies grasshopper, katydids, crickets & their kin, like I do!) . In the 1960's he was contracted to provide a California Insect Survey Bulletin on the grasshoppers of California. To this end he had to describe many new species to make the Bulletin comprehensive. I was a student at UC Berkeley at the time and came into contact with The Colonel and sent him material and even met him on one occasion. All this eventuated in a 1968 Bulletin of which I was one of three authors, the others being Strohecker and my professor, W. W. Middlekauff.

Dr H. Fred Strohecker in Washington, D. C. 1963.

But I digress again (which is what you can do in a blog!). In the Australian Beetles, Lawrence & Britton (1994) state that endomychids are said to feed on fungi but very little is known on the habits of Australian species. Some inhabit termite mounds where they feed on fungi. Maybe I should keep watching my E. immaculatus to see what they prefer. As you can see from the blogs below, there is no shortage of fungi in the rainforest.

References

Lawrence. J. F., Britton, E. B. 1994. Australian Beetles. Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic. 192 pp.

Naumann, I. (ed.). 1991. The Insects of Australia A Textbook for Students and Research Workers, Vols. 1, 2. Melbourne University Press, Carleton Vic. 1137 pp.

Strohecker, H. F., Middlekauff, W. W., Rentz, D. C. 1968. The Grasshoppers of California. Bulletin of the California Insect Survey, 10: 1-177.

3 comments:

Alan Gillanders said...

Your Beetles eat tiny snails. Have a look at my blog of the 6th of April http://alanswildlife.blogspot.com/

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