Bright Red Impostor!
Location: Northern Illinois
July 1, 2011 2:52 pm
Hi there! I was out in my garden collecting insects for a collection I’m making for an Entomology class. While capturing wasps and bees (a nervous business, to say the least) I happened upon this bright red beetle in the gravel. It looks uncannily like a Lily Leaf Beetle, but its head is entirely red and it seems to have pincher-like mouthparts instead of a tube. It also resembles an orange blister beetles, but its legs are entirely black, and its wing sheaths are entirely red. I’ve looked through my field guide as well as BugGuide, but I can’t seem to identify this Lily Leaf Beetle impostor. Do you have any idea what it is? I could wait three months to find out from my professor, but it’s driving me crazy not knowing, when I’ve already identified all of the other insects in my collection.
I’ll understand if you consider this doing my homework. I’m just burning with curiosity and I can’t seem to find a match for this little enigma.
(By the way, my copy of The Curious World of Bugs came in the mail a few days ago, and it’s absolutely charming.)
Signature: Entomologist in Training
Dear Entomologist in Training,
We found your letter to be totally charming, and we had already decided to assist you in your homework project (apparently not due for months) because of your sincerity. We made that decision before even reading that you are enjoying Daniel’s book. We agree with your assessment of this unidentified creature, though we are quite certain it is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. Those long rear legs indicate it could well be a Flea Beetle, and although the coloration on your specimen is a bit redder, your beetle really does resemble Parchicola tibialis, which we found on BugGuide. The date page even places it in Illinois. Another possibility is that it may be in the Tribe Lemiini which is represented on BugGuide by many red species, though they seem to all have black spots. We will check with Eric Eaton to see if he has any thoughts.
Eric Eaton makes a Correction
Well, this isn’t a leaf beetle. It is a blister beetle, specifically this one:
The unstriped form is rather uncommon I suspect.
Updated Correction: July 3, 2011
Art knows beetles better than I do and he has corrected my initial identification of the all-red “leaf beetle” image that you sent me earlier this week.
Sunday, July 3, 2011, 6:46 AM
I was on the Facebook page for “What’sThatBug.com” when I noticed an entry for a bright red blister beetle misidentified as a leaf beetle. It peaked my curiosity and I identified it as Rhyphonemognatha rufa <http://bugguide.net/node/view/270491/bgpage>. According to Enns (1956), this species ranges from Illinois to central Texas, west to Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and southeastern Arizona. I posted a comment to this effect on the FB page and then took the liberty of identifying/commenting on a few recent insect photos that people had submitted for ID. After a couple of days it dawned on me that the folks at WTB don’t identify or comment on images submitted to the FB page. The fine print on the info page clearly directs people to the submit images on the web site, but I doubt that a lot of people are aware of this when they post photos for ID.
I don’t know the folks at WTB, but thought I would drop them a note with my observations. I was unable to log on to the WTB web site directly (my fault, not theirs!) and saw that you had taken a stab at the blister beetle, too! I know that you have a relationship with them and wondered if you would be so kind to pass this email along just as an FYI.
… Cheers, ART
Arthur V. Evans, D.Sc.
Research Associate: Department of Entomology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC