Currently viewing the category: "Ship-Timber Beetles"

Musandam insect
Location: Musandam, northern Oman
November 14, 2011 6:57 am
This insect can fly very swiftly as it did shortly after I photographed it, much to my surprise.
Signature: Keith Wilson

Unknown Insect

Dear Keith,
New mail was slow today, so we went back through our unanswered requests to find some interesting posts.  Your photo has us quite intrigued as well as stumped.  The head somewhat resembles a Stick Insect in the order Phasmidae, though the legs are quite short and there are no visible antennae.  Something about this insect reminds us of the insects that have aquatic nymphs, though again we are not quite certain.  Though it has been some time since you sent this request, can you provide us with any information on its size or the conditions under which it was seen, including terrain?

Hi Daniel,
The insect was a beetle – a ship boring beetle, known as Atratocerus belonging to the family  Lymexylidae. It was about 30 mm long. It was the second record for Arabia and may have come in on a wooden ship as it was found near a local fishing boat where there are lots of wooden dhows. The antennae are present but folded under the head.

Eric Eaton identifies Ship Timber Beetle
Dear Daniel:
Trying this again.  First time it never sent, or saved….
Happy holidays to you, too!
I am delighted that I can give the gift of this identification, especially when my initial thought was that this is a fly of some kind.  I was literally off by several “orders” of magnitude!  I still managed to find this blog post by my friend Ted MacRae.  Turns out this is a beetle.  I know!  He has a nearly identical image, but good information to go with it:
Hope that helps.  Take care.

Ed. Note:  Here are a few quotes from Beetles in the Bush posting on this Ship Timber Beetle:

“One of the more unusual, and enigmatic, beetles that I encountered in South Africa was this beetle in the pantropical genus Atractocerus.  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).”

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.”

Can’t even class this to Order!
Location: Caribbean coast, Costa Rica
May 12, 2011 12:25 pm
Hi bugman!
I just stumbled upon your page while trying to identify this insect that was buzzing around my room last night. It’s really bugging me (pardon the pun) that I, a biologist with basic Entomology skills, can’t even figure out what order this insect belongs to!
The insect is approximately 3cm in length. It has hardened forewings like a beetle, and chewing mouthparts as well, but the forewings are minuscule and don’t cover the hindwings at all. The eyes take up nearly the entire head. The antenna that remains (one is missing) may be damaged, so I can’t use them to help. And the abdomen is very long, roughly 9 segments, about one-third of which extend beyond the wings. It has no cerci or abdominal appendages.
I’m sorry I don’t have better images, the only macro capabilities I have are with a zoom lens. If you need more detail regarding a specific body part, I’d be happy to describe it for you.
Signature: Jennifer

Ship-Timber Beetle

Dear Jennifer,
Trying to identify North American species can often be quite difficult despite the comprehensive archives on BugGuide, however, once the unknown entity hails from the tropics, all bets are off since there are numerous families there that are not represented in temperate zones.  We agree that the mouth parts and they elytra-like forewings seem to indicate that this may be some type of beetle, but we haven’t a clue as to its identity.  The legs are not inconsistent with those of the beetles either  We will try to contact Eric Eaton, but he is currently away, having traveled here to Los Angeles for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for the annual Bug Fair.  We may see him tomorrow and we can direct him to this posting to see if he has any ideas.  Meanwhile, our posting might lure some expert to weigh in with an identification.

Ship-Timber Beetle

Hi Daniel,
It is truly a mystery. I’ve been living here for 4 years and have never seen one of these, and now I had another in my house last night, and it was nearly a centimeter larger. I am anxious to hear the verdict!

Karl’s identification supports mardikavana’s comment
Hi Daniel and Jennifer:
Your bizarre creature is indeed a beetle.  It is a Ship-Timber Beetle (Lymexylidae) in the genus Atractocerus. This one appears to have an ovipositor which would make it a female. Here is one more image from flickr.  Regards. Karl

Ed. Note:  Here is one more link from the Museo Virtual de la Ciencia.

Thank you both so much! I am glad to hear that my hunch was correct!