Currently viewing the category: "Ship-Timber Beetles"
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Subject:  Curious bugs
Geographic location of the bug:  South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Asbhurton
Date: 10/09/2018
Time: 01:55 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi there. We have lived in Ashburton for almost two years and in that time have only ever seen one of the two bugs. We have never seen them before in our lives and no one knows what they are. They are both about 5-6cm in length and both have hard exterior. there are two pictures of the one and one of the other.
Do you know what they are?
How you want your letter signed:  Amy Peacock

Ship Timber Beetle

Dear Amy,
One of your beetles is a Ship Timber Beetle.  According to Beetles in the Bush:  “Placed in the family Lymexylidae (ship-timber beetles), species in this genus look less like beetles than they do large flying ants or strange damselflies due to their highly reduced elytra that expose their greatly elongated abdomen and leave the hind wings uncovered.  The hind wings also are unusual in that they are held fan-like in repose rather than folded as in most other beetles. 
Atractocerus brevicornis is the only species in the genus found in Africa (Scholtz & Holm 1985).” Your other beetle is a Longicorn in the family Cerambycidae.

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Subject:  A Robber Fly ?
Geographic location of the bug:  Yelapa, Mexico-about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta
Date: 03/08/2018
Time: 09:09 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello,  This very loud buzzing insect was in my room at night. It flew with its head up and tail hanging down at the ceiling. It was chasing/harassing geckos. The geckos left my room for two nights following.  I captured it to look at it and released it in the daylight. It flew straight up. I did not get a good daylight photo but here it is on my curtain in the early morning.
How you want your letter signed:  Cody Sontag

Ship Timber Beetle

Dear Cody,
This looks to us like a Ship Timber Beetle in the genus
 Atractocerus.  According to Beetles in the Bush:  “Placed in the family Lymexylidae (ship-timber beetles), species in this genus look less like beetles than they do large flying ants or strange damselflies due to their highly reduced elytra that expose their greatly elongated abdomen and leave the hind wings uncovered.  The hind wings also are unusual in that they are held fan-like in repose rather than folded as in most other beetles.”  The site continues:  “Adults are attracted to light at night …. Nothing is known about the biology of Atractocerus, but larvae of other genera are reported to bore into hardwoods and palm stems (Picker et al. 2002). …  The large eyes of Atractocerus, however, suggest a predatory lifestyle. The common name of the family originates from a northern European species that has in the past been a destructive pest of ship timbers.”

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Subject: Flying, wriggling bug?
Location: Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico
January 4, 2017 5:41 am
This bug was flying inside the house, Manzanillo, Colima, MX
3 January, sea level, temps in the mid-20s C. and tropical
Appeared after dark, flying near the ceiling, then later landed many times on the floor and wriggled like a snake with wings.
It wouldn’t hold still for a photo, so I gently clobbered him with a flipflop, so it’s a bit smooshed in the pictures.
Signature: SolMate Santiago

Ship Timber Beetle

Dear Santiago,
The first time we posted an image of a Ship Timber Beetle in the genus
Atractocerus, we were quite confused as it is decidedly un-beetlelike in appearance.

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Subject: Long abdomen shor wings
Location: San Salvador, El Salvador
July 21, 2015 8:05 am
Hello Mr Bugman.
I found this insect flying around in my room.
The noise was loud, and when I caught the insect, small babies were coming out of it.
What’s the name of this insect?
Thank you.
Signature: Erick Rodas

Ship Timber Beetle

Ship Timber Beetle

Dear Erick,
We would have been totally stumped had we not identified a Ship Timber Beetle in the genus
 Atractocerus in the past.  Though the image is too blurry to be certain, we believe what you have mistaken for “small babies” are actually phoretic mites.

Ship Timber Beetle

Ship Timber Beetle

That’s the one! Thank you a lot!
I really appreciate it.. And well, now I know! Thanks!
Erick Rodas.

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Subject: Australian Possibly Coleoptera or Hymenoptera?
Location: Canberra, Australia
January 14, 2014 5:12 am
Dear Daniel/Bugman,
I usually like to entertain myself by attempting to identify insects around my house, sketch and release them. I can often identify down to the species thanks to many helpful Lucid keys such as from CSIRO. Your website is also incredibly useful in finding insects and links to info pages.
However, tonight I’m stumped as to even which Order this insect belongs to.
My mum thinks it is a beetle because it appears to have elytra and my dad thinks it is a wasp because of it’s elongated body.
It has huge compound eyes, no evident ocelli eyes, hardened forewings which do not cover the membranous hindwings stretching over just half of the body. It’s antennae are short, curved and filamented, and are tucked under the head at rest. It has long mouthparts that if anything resemble a fly’s. It also has a long “filament” which sometimes protrudes from it’s abdomen which I can only assume is genitalia.
I hope that is enough information. Sorry for phone photos!
Many thanks,
Signature: Claudia

Ship Timber Beetle

Ship Timber Beetle

Hi Claudia,
This is quite a find, and our collective hats go off to your mother for actually correctly identifying the insect order.  This really is a beetle, despite its decidedly un-beetle-like appearance.  It is a Ship Timber Beetle in the family Lymexylidae and probably the genus
Atractocerus, and it is represented in our archives a scant three times, prior to your submission.  There is considerable information from our previous postings, but we are going to search the web for additional links with additional information.  According to BioDiversity Explorer:  “Adults are attracted to light at night and larvae bore into hard wood and palm stems.”  According to British Insects:  the families of Coleoptera, they are capable of:  “Boring into living wood (causing fungal infections on which the larvae feed), or boring into dead wood.”  According to Beetles in the Bush:  “Nothing is known about the biology of Atractocerus, but larvae of other genera are reported to bore into hardwoods and palm stems (Picker et al. 2002). Larvae of the genera Lymexylon and Melittomma are believed to form symbiotic associations with ambrosia fungi that grow on the walls of their galleries (Young, 2002).  Adult females deposit fungal spores in a sticky matrix when they lay their eggs, and the hatching larvae carry the spores into wood on their bodies.  The large eyes of Atractocerus, however, suggest a predatory lifestyle. The common name of the family originates from a northern European species that has in the past been a destructive pest of ship timbers.”  There is a host of information in Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia.  The Atlas of Living Australia has a record of Atractocerus crassicornis Clark, 1931, from the northeast corner of West Australia, and there is a record of another species, Atractocerus tasmaniensis Lea, 1917, from Tasmania, also on the Atlas of Living Australia.  Yet another species, Atractocerus victoriensis is listed, but not pictured, on the Australian Faunal Directory.  According to A Guide to the Beetles of Australia (and we have to type this out because the document will not allow us to cut and paste):  “Ship-timber beetles are extraordinarily slender with a distinctive shape.  Members of the genus Atractocerus have very short elytra and well-developed, gauzy flying wings.  When these beetles are at rest, their wings are folded fan-like but as the reduced elytra can not cover them, they are exposed.  Gravid females have enormously swollen abdomens.  They lay their eggs in woulds of eucalypts and possibly other hardwoods too.  The cylindrical and elongate larvae have short, strong legs, and a hood-like pronotum, which partially conceals the head from above.  They bore into the timber and grow to considerable size (up to 35 mm in length).  Their tunnels run parallel and transversally with and to the grain.  Discontinuous, irregular bands of stain marks caused by their activity discolour the timber.  The larvae feed on a fungus, which grows on the walls of their tunnels in the timber.  This fungus is transmitted by the beetles themselves.  It is presumed that their development takes at least two years.  Adults can be found in decaying timber, on tree trunks and occasioinally fly to artificial lights.  Adult specimens of a Western Asutralian species of  Atractocerus sometimes fly in swarms at dusk.”  Thanks so much for contributing additional photos of this rarity, and our first example from Australia, to our archives.

Ship Timber Beetle

Ship Timber Beetle

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Subject: Bug
Location: guinea west africa
December 19, 2012 4:24 pm
this bug is 6.5 cm, black and resembles bug on the website sidebar. Short antennae.
Signature: Codfish Joe

Possibly Ship-Timber Beetle

Hi Codfish Joe,
This is not an Earwig, but it does remind us of a very unusual beetle we have in our archive, the Ship-Timber Beetle.  We have a representative that was photographed in Costa Rica and it has been identified as being in the family Lymexylidae and the genus
Atractocerus.  We will need to do additional research to see if the Ship-Timber Beetles are known to be found in Africa.  This posting from Beetles in the Bush makes our identification likely correct.  According to Beetles in the Bush:  “Atractocerus species are rarely encountered and therefore, not well studied. Their evolutionary history is still unknown; however, the oldest known lymexylid fossil is a very primitive member of the genus Atractocerus preserved in 100 myo Burmese amber (Grimwold & Engel 2005). Thus, the lineage containing these beetles had already appeared by the mid-Cretaceous and may have originated as early as the Jurassic, a fact that has earned them the moniker “living fossils.” These beetles were once thought to be among the most primitive of all Coleoptera – their simple wing venation, almost undifferentiated antennae and tarsi, and naked abdomen being likened to a supposed neuropteran common ancestor. ”

Possibly Ship-Timber Beetle

Thank you so much for responding so quickly. I am Codfish Joe’s mom, and I want to tell you what a blessing you have been to him with your website. We live in Guinea, Africa, and see many interesting wildlife here (mostly bugs!). He is very much a nature lover, and it enriches his day when he can identify one of God’s creatures that he has discovered. I did manage to find that the Ship Timber Beetle lives in SOUTH Africa, but we are a long way from there (closer to Senegal and Sierra Leone), so I don’t know if it would be here or not. Our dog found it and was playing with it. We’ve lived here 5 years, and it is our first time to see the ugly thing!
Thanks again,
CFJ’s mom

Dear CFJ’s mom,

Thanks for your kind response.  We are pretty certain about the identification.

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination