Harlequin Beetle from Trinidad

Tribal-Designed Cockroach/Beetle
November 15, 2009
We found this creature on the shower curtain in the bathroom. Screaming rang through the house. This thing however remained very still, even when he was placed in a bottle.
It’s black with orange and green-brown tribal-like design throughout it’s body. At the top of it’s hard-like wings, it’s very bumpy – either holes or bumps. It’s body is three inches long, including its head. EXTREMELY LONG antennae – they bend into the top of the cover. 2 very long front legs, 4 other legs. It’s underside is like a cockroach’s.
We don’t know if it’s a cockroach or beetle, and we’re not sure if it’s poisonous or not (we have a 5 yr old kid).
We’ve looked everywhere, but no one and no website seems to know. Please help.
Trinidad, West Indies

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear WildFire,
This is a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus, one of the Long Horned Borer Beetles in the family Cerambycidae.  It has no venom, so it is not considered dangerous, though we caution about calling it perfectly harmless.  Like other members of its family, its larval stage is spent boring in wood, and the larva also pupates in its wooden chamber.  The adult beetle needs to escape this wooden nursery, and its jaws are well adapted to chewing its way out.  They could deliver a painful bite, and possibly cause bleeding, especially to a five year olds soft skin.  We would encourage you to release this noble insect so that it may find a mate and procreate.

Thank you for your reply. I find it very strange since I’ve been living here for twelve years and I have never seen one of these before. Can you possibly tell me the origin of these beetles? And what they feed on, perhaps?
Thanks again.

Dear Wildfire,
The following information comes from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:  “large tropical American beetle with an elaborate variegated pattern of black with muted red and greenish yellow markings on its wing covers.

The common name refers to the beetle’s gaudy pattern; the Latin longimanus of the species name refers to the extremely long forelegs of the males. These legs are usually longer than the beetle’s entire body, which can measure nearly 76 mm (3 inches). In addition to serving as a sexual advertisement to females, the long legs help the males to traverse the branches of trees (the beetles fly as well as crawl). Despite the seemingly conspicuous colours, the harlequin hides itself effectively among the lichen- and fungus-covered trunks of tropical woods such as fig trees.

Ranging from Mexico to South America, this beautiful beetle feeds on sap and lays its eggs on the trunks of dead or dying trees. It is active during the day but can be attracted to lights at night. Females prefer to lay their eggs on trunks and logs with bracket fungus, which provides excellent camouflage. Before laying, the female gnaws an incision about 20 mm (0.8 inch) wide and 7.6 mm (0.3 inch) deep in the bark. She will lay 15 to 20 eggs over the course of two to three days. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the wood. When they mature at seven to eight months, the 13-cm (5-inch) larvae tunnel further, where they dig a cell in which to pupate. The adult beetle emerges four months later, gnawing its way out of the wood. The life cycle is annual.

The harlequin beetle’s body often hosts a species of tiny arachnids known as pseudoscorpions (Cordylochernes scorpioides), which live beneath the harlequin’s colourful wing covers. The minute pseudoscorpions use the beetle for transport to new food sources and as a way to meet potential mates. To keep from falling off when the beetle flies, they attach themselves to the harlequin’s abdomen with silken threads spun from pincherlike glands in their claws. When they arrive at a suitable new site, they anchor to their destination with a new strand of silk and slide off the beetle.

Harlequin beetles belong to the long-horned beetle family, Cerambycidae.

2 thoughts on “Harlequin Beetle from Trinidad”

  1. Hi I woke up to one of this bug this morning..I only noticed it when I rest my hand on it…my question is. ..has there been any reported deaths or infection caused by thus bug ???


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