From the daily archives: "Monday, December 16, 2013"

Subject: very large beetle
Location: puerto vallarta, mexico
December 16, 2013 3:17 pm
I found this beetle while on vacation in puerto vallarta mexico
We were there november 30 to december 7 2013
The beetle was dark brown in color and very large in size
Do you have any idea what this is ?
Thank you
Signature: jackie

NOT a Christmas Beetle with Christmas Lights

NOT a Christmas Beetle with Christmas Lights

Dear Jackie,
This is some species of Scarab Beetle in the family Scarabaeidae, but we cannot say for certain which species.  It reminds us of a female Rhinoceros Beetle in the subfamily Dynastinae.  One possibility might be a female
Megasoma nogueirae which is pictured on The Generic Guide to New World Scarab Beetles.  We love your photo with the Christmas Lights.  There is a group of Australian Scarabs which put in their yearly appearance around the holidays (Southern Hemisphere summer) that are known as Christmas Beetles.  While we fully realize your individual is not a Christmas Beetle, we were nonetheless reminded that we will most likely begin getting photos of that group from down under in the near future.

Subject: Unusual beetle
Location: Murambi East suburb of Mutare, Manicaland, Zimbabwe
December 16, 2013 4:56 am
Hello,
Found a very unusual beetle this morning in a compost heap at the back of the garden. Have never seen anything like it before. Has a brilliant green “eye” on its brown carapace which shifts position depending on the direction of illumination. Has a most unusual white “snout” more like a platypus bill than a rhino horn. The beetle is about 3 centimeters long and moves quite fast.
Would be very interested to know what it is.
Thanks
Signature: Peter Lowenstein

Goliath Beetle:  Ranzania splendens petersiana

Regal Fruit Chafer: Ranzania splendens petersiana

Dear Peter,
This is truly a spectacular Scarab Beetle.  We struggled for some time with its identity, and we eventually found a matching photo on Beetles of Africa where it is identified as
Ranzania splendens petersiana.  The family is listed as Goliathini, though we believe that to be the tribe and the family to be Scarabaeidae.  Beetles of Africa indicates this lovely beetle is from Malawi and Zimbabwe and states:  “This beautiful shovel snout is a sap and fruit feeder.”  There are some beautiful photos of this species on InsectmaniaFlower Beetles.com has some information on breeding in captivity.

Dear Daniel,
Many thanks for your prompt reply with the positive identification and references. Looks like our emails with my notification of tentative identification by a local friend (copy attached) have crossed. The photos on Insectmania are indeed beautiful as is the creature.
I returned my specimen to the compost heap after taking several photos but was quite reluctant to do so. Am not therefore surprised to learn that they are bred in captivity.
Your assistance and interesting links very much appreciated.
Kind regards and best wishes,
Peter

Ed. Note:  The Crossed Email
Hi,
A friend here in Mutare has identified the beetle as Tauhrina Splendens –
using the book “Insects of South Africa” – copy of entry and photo attached.
Have done a Google Advanced Image Search on Taurhina Splendens which turned
up a website http://www.ispot.org.za/species_dictionary/Taurhina%20splendens
with a description and a photo of the beetle which looks similar to mine
(attached).
Thought I would let you know straight away for your information and records
and save you the job of searching for it.
Kind regards,
Peter

Ed. Note:  Regal Fruit Chafer
December 17, 2013
In attempting to identify another South African Scarab, we stumbled upon a nice image of the Regal Fruit Chafer on BioDiversity Explorer.

Subject: Velvet Mites
Location: Nigeria
December 16, 2013 6:03 am
Hi Mr Bugman,
I sent you a robberfly like a decade ago, and found some Velvet Mites I was able to determine using your site.
Maybe you’re still interested int he pics.
Signature: Robert

Velvet Mites

Velvet Mites

Hi Robert,
Thank you for sending your images of Velvet Mites in the family Thrombidiidae.  According to What’s Bugging You?, “Although often difficult to find, they are sometimes extremely abundant locally, if only for a few hours at time. For example, after a brief yet intense thunderstorm, a massive emergence of giant red velvet mites was sighted from the air at an altitude of 1500 feet just north of  Tucson. An estimated 3-5 million mites had emerged in an area roughly two acres in size!  The annual emergence of the giant mites is apparently timed to coincide with that of their primary prey, termites. However, their opportunity to gorge themselves on abundant termite reproductives is quite limited. After mating, the termites quickly shed their wings and bury themselves so that they are out of reach of the mite’s predatory embrace. Adult giant red velvet mites spend most of their lives in subterranean burrows in a diapause-like state waiting for a specific set of ecological conditions triggered by summer monsoons.”  According to Charles Hogue in Insect of the Los Angeles Basin, “The larvae are parasites of grasshoppers, and the adults are predators on subterranean termites.”   The Africa Image Library has a nice photograph of a Velvet Mite and East African Notes and Records blog has an image of a Tanzanian stamp with a Velvet Mite as well as the information:  “Marguerite Jellicoe’s evocative description of the start of the annual rains in Singida includes a rare reference to the cultural significance of red velvet mites in Tanzania. I first came across these brightly coloured arachnids (family Trombidiidae) in 1981, at the start of my second wet season in the village of Utengule in Usangu (in what is now Mbarali District). I was away when the rains began on 2nd December, but when I returned to the village two days later these small crimson creatures were everywhere on the newly dampened earth. Sangu-speakers called them inkhadupa, their generic name for ticks and mites, and told me that they were thought to fall down from the sky along with the rain. In this respect they were similar to ground pangolins (Manis temminckii), another creature believed to fall from the heavens, from whence they were sent by the ancestors, amanguluvi.”  

Velvet Mites

Velvet Mites

Subject: Yet another coloured grasshopper
Location: Cameroon, near Bamenda
December 16, 2013 6:12 am
.. found in Cameroon, near Bamenda.
In the third pic you can see it watching the camera, I think.
Signature: Robert

Elegant Grasshopper

Variegated Grasshopper

Hi again Robert,
We actually identified this Elegant Grasshopper while researching the previous posting.  We first found a postage stamp from 1970 Malawi with the Elegant Grasshopper,
Zonocerus elegans, beautifully rendered.  That led us to numerous other images, including BioLib and Biodiversity Explorer.  The coloring and markings on your individual are slightly different, and we suspect this is individual variation, though it might indicate a different species in the same genus.  Toxic Milkweed Grasshoppers in the family Pyrgomorphidae should be handled with caution as they can exude a toxic substance if carelessly handled.

Elegant Grasshopper

Variegated Grasshopper

Update:  February 22, 2014
We just received a correction that this is a different species in the same genus.  It is the Variegated Grasshopper,
Zonocerus variegatus, and there is a nice image on PBase.

 

Subject: Coloured grasshopper
Location: Mulange Massif in Malawi
December 16, 2013 6:06 am
Just one mor for fun: a quite coloured grasshopper I found in ther Mulange Massif in Malawi
Signature: Robert

Grasshopper

Green Milkweed Locust

Hi again Robert,
In trying to research the identity of this Grasshopper, we discovered several images that look quite similar, but alas, there is no proper identification.  The first image we found is on Getty Images Stock Photography, and the second image we located is on FlickR.  We believe this individual is in the family Pyrgomorphidae, the Gaudy Grasshoppers or Toxic Milkweed Grasshoppers.  Continued searching under the family name led us to iNaturalist where we believe we may have correctly identified your grasshopper as
 Phymateus viridipes.  According to iNaturalist:  “Phymateus viridipes Stal, aka Green Milkweed Locust or African Bush Grasshopper, belonging to the family Pyrgomorphidae (Gaudy Grasshoppers), is an African locust about 70 millimetres (2.8 in) long at maturity and capable of long migratory flights. Its body and forewings are green in colour while the hindwings are bright red and blue, presenting a striking appearance in flight. The pronotum, or dorsal area immediately behind the head, is covered in spines or carbuncles which are often tipped with red. The nymphs or hoppers are bright yellow and black and highly gregarious, forming large groups during this growth stage and are more or less polyphagous.  As with other Phymateus species it raises and rustles its wings when disturbed and may secrete a noxious fluid from its thoracic joint.[2] This locust feeds on highly toxic plants such as Acokanthera oppositifolia and Secamone alpinii. They congregate in large numbers on trees and shrubs, arranged in such a way as to resemble foliage.”  This beautiful Grasshopper is pictured on stamps from several African countries, including Swaziland and Rwanda.

Subject: Lange undetermined bug
Location: Namibia
December 16, 2013 6:19 am
And the last one, before I stop procrastinating:
Some large bug I saw last year at dusk in Namibia.
Looked quite friendly 🙂
Signature: Robert

Katydid we believe

Predatory Katydid

Dear Robert,
Based on what you have written, we suspect there are other identification requests from you in our email inbox, and we can’t imagine how furthering your own education can be considered procrastination.  This is a Longhorned Orthopteran in the suborder Ensifera, and we are not certain if it can be classified as a Katydid.  Since there is no visible ovipositor, we believe this is a male.  We will write to Katydid expert Piotr Naskrecki to see if he can supply any additional information.

Katydid, we believe

Predatory Katydid

Piotr Naskrecki provides and identification
Hi Daniel,
This is a male of the predatory katydid Clonia vittata (Saginae). These are fascinating animals, huge sit-and-wait predators. The subfamily has an interesting disjunct distribution and can be found only in Western Palearctic  and the southern part of sub-Saharan Africa..
Cheers,
Piotr

Thanks so much Piotr.  We are linking to your Smaller Majority Blog.