Fire Colored Beetle: Essential Facts for Enthusiasts

Fire-colored beetles, belonging to the family Pyrochroidae, are a fascinating group of insects known for their striking color patterns. Although their name might suggest otherwise, many of these beetles have predominantly black elytra (wing covers), with red or orange heads, thoraxes, and legs, giving them an attractive contrast in appearance. An example of such a beetle is the Pedilus, found in North America.

These beetles stand out among their contemporaries and have captivated the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts alike. They play various roles in their respective ecosystems, contributing to the overall biodiversity and balance of nature.

Several factors make fire-colored beetles a must-know species for insect enthusiasts. From unique biology to fascinating ecological roles, these insects are perfect for those seeking to learn more about the natural world. So grab your magnifying glass, get ready to explore, and let’s dive into the captivating world of fire-colored beetles!

Fire Colored Beetle Overview

Classification and Subfamilies

Fire-colored beetles belong to the family Pyrochroidae within the order Coleoptera, which is a part of the class Insecta in the phylum Arthropoda. They are classified into two main subfamilies, Pyrochroinae and Pedilinae. The subfamily Pyrochroinae includes the genus Pyrochroa, while the subfamily Pedilinae contains the genus Pedilus1.

Distribution and Habitat

Fire-colored beetles can be found across different regions1. They generally inhabit forests with decaying wood, where they can find ample food sources and suitable places to lay their eggs.

  • Found in various locations globally
  • Prefer forests with decaying wood

Physical Appearance and Size

Fire-colored beetles exhibit a range of colors, with some species featuring black elytra (wing covers) and red or orange heads, thoraxes, and/or legs1. Their size differs across species, but they typically measure between 3.5 mm and 15 mm in length.

Physical characteristics:

  • Color: Black elytra, red or orange heads, thoraxes, and/or legs
  • Size: Varies across species (3.5 mm to 15 mm)

Behavior and Ecology

Feeding Habits

Fire-colored beetles, belonging to the Pyrochroa genus, display distinct feeding habits depending on their life stage. The larvae are predatory, consuming small insects and spiders under rocks and foliage. In contrast, adult beetles mainly feed on various flowers, sometimes indulging in pollination during the process.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Fire-colored beetles exhibit a complete metamorphosis, encompassing the following stages:

  • Eggs: Females lay their eggs in a suitable habitat.
  • Larvae: Predatory and mostly found under rocks or foliage.
  • Pupae: Transformation stage, sheltered in a protective cocoon.
  • Adults: Brightly colored with red wings and black eyes, primarily feeding on flowers.

The reproductive process starts with the female beetle laying eggs in a favorable environment. When the eggs hatch after a specific incubation period, the larvae emerge, which are predatory and hunt small insects and spiders. The larvae then transform into pupae within a cocoon before finally evolving into the adults. These adult fire-colored beetles are distinguished by their bright red wings and black eyes, adding vibrancy to the insect world.

Life Stage Habitat Main Activity
Eggs Suitable area Incubated and protected
Larvae Rocks, foliage Predation on small insects and spiders
Pupae Cocoon Transformation
Adults Flowers Feeding, pollination, and reproduction
  • Key Features of Fire-colored Beetles:
    • Bright red wings
    • Black eyes
    • Predatory larvae
    • Pollinating adults

In conclusion, the fire-colored beetles exhibit fascinating behavior and ecology. Their feeding habits and life cycle stages reflect their adaptability to both predatory and pollinating lifestyles. These beetles, with their remarkable appearance and ecological significance, are intriguing creatures to observe and study.

Interactions with Humans and Other Species

Potential Harm and Benefits

Fire colored beetles (Dendroides cantharides) generally reside on bark and are found in America, Canada, and Eurasia1. Their length typically ranges from 8-18 mm2. These insects may inadvertently hitch a ride indoors by hiding in firewood. They are also attracted to lights, which explains their presence near human dwellings. However, they are not poisonous and pose no direct threat to humans. In gardens, they can be beneficial as they feed on aphids and other pests, protecting plants. They also consume nectar and help in pollination.

Predators and Defenses

The fire colored beetle exhibits vibrant chroma as a defense mechanism against predators, such as birds, lizards, and wasps. Their bright colors signal potential danger or bad taste, deterring predators from attacking them. Despite their menacing appearance, they do not have a stinger and are harmless to humans. One closely related species, the red soldier beetle (Rhagonycha fulva), produces a defensive compound called cantharidin, which is toxic to some predators3.

Here’s a comparison table between fire colored beetles and red soldier beetles:

Feature Fire Colored Beetle Red Soldier Beetle
Color Bright orange and black Orange and black
Length 8-18 mm 8-10 mm
Diet Aphids, nectar Aphids, nectar
Stinger No No
Cantharidin production No Yes

Key characteristics of fire colored beetles:

  • Vibrant orange and black coloring
  • Length: 8-18 mm
  • Pectinate antennae
  • Predators include birds, lizards, and wasps
  • Defense mechanism: Warning coloration

Pros and Cons of the fire colored beetle in gardens:

Pros:

  • Controls pest populations (aphids)
  • Contributes to pollination

Cons:

  • May enter indoors by hiding in firewood or being attracted to lights

Current Research and Future Directions

The Fire-Colored Beetle is an interesting insect that has captured the attention of researchers worldwide. In this section, we’ll discuss current research and future directions in the study of this fascinating creature.

One research focus has been on the mating behavior of the Fire-Colored Beetle. It’s been observed that the male beetles use pheromones to attract females, but further studies are needed to fully understand this communication process.

Fire-Colored Beetles are known for their bright coloration. Researchers speculate that these bright colors may serve as an aposematic signal to deter predators. More studies are needed to better understand the evolutionary benefits and ecological implications of this coloration.

As with many species, conservation efforts have also been a focus for future research. Knowledge about the Fire-Colored Beetle’s habitat preferences and population dynamics is limited, so studying these aspects will help guide conservation plans to protect their ecosystems.

To summarize, ongoing research and future directions of the Fire-Colored Beetle include:

  • Mating behavior
  • Bright coloration and aposematism
  • Conservation and habitat preferences

In conclusion, the Fire-Colored Beetle is an intriguing species with many unanswered questions. Continued research will shed light on its mating habits, colorful appearances, and conservation needs, ensuring a better understanding of this fascinating insect.

Footnotes

  1. Fire-Colored Beetle (Family Pyrochroidae) 2 3 4

  2. https://animaldiversity.org/site/accounts/information/Dendroides_concolor.html

  3. https://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/red-soldier-beetle

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Blister Beetle and opportunistic Fire Colored Beetles

 

blister beetle (lytta aenea) beseiged by smaller beetles (pedilus terminalus?)
Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 7:07 AM
Hey bugman, I was walking through the woods here at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and I came upon this blister beetle (id’d courtesy of Eric Eaton and y belov on bugguide) being beseiged by the smaller beetles. According to Eric, the smaller beetles are after the cantharidin that the blister beetle secretes as a defense mechanism. I had never seen this before. Eric said that though this behavior was not unheard of, it was not observed very often. I though i would share a picture with you. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks so much for an amazing website!
Thanks, Michael Davis
Maryville, Tennessee

Blister Beetle and cantharidin hungry Fire Colored Beetles
Blister Beetle and cantharidin hungry Fire Colored Beetles

Hi Michael,
Thanks so much for providing our site with your wonderful documentation of a Blister Beetle and the opportunistic Fire Colored Beetles.  According to Jim McClarin on  BugGuide:  “Male pyrochroid beetles seek out blister beetles, climb onto them and lick off the cantharidin the blister beetles exude. Not only have these beetles developed a resistance to the cantharidin, they use the blistering agent to impress a female of their own species who then mates with them, whereupon most of the cantharidin is transfered to the female in the form of a sperm packet. The eggs the female subsequently lays are coated with cantharidin to protect them from being eaten before they hatch.”  If we ever did something crazy like trying to pursue a degree in Entomology, we believe we would specialize in the family Meloidae as we are constantly fascinated by Blister Beetles and their amazing diversity and complex life cycles.

Letter 2 – Fire Colored Beetle

 

red copper bug with wings feathery antennae
Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 7:28 PM
This was found on our cedar picnic table on June 30th in our front yard, flowers, woods around, We are about 40 acres from a lake. Stones in driveway. Tall grasses. Plenty of wildflowers, fruit trees, vegetables.
Heather
Northern Wisconsin

Fire Colored Beetle
Fire Colored Beetle

Hi Heather,
You have submitted a photo of a Fire Colored Beetle in the family Pyrochroidae.  We believe it is in the genus Dendroides, probably Dendroides concolor based on an image posted to BugGuide.  The westernmost sighting of this species posted to BugGuide is from Ohio, but that does not necessarily exclude this species as your individual.  A similar looking western species is Dendroides concolor, but BugGuide reports that species from Oregon and Washington, and we feel it is a less likely candidate.  BugGuide has this to say about the family in general:  “Adults are active at night, and may be attracted to lights.  Some species may be attracted to fermenting baits. Male pyrochroid beetles seek out blister beetles, climb onto them and lick off the cantharidin the blister beetles exude. Not only have these beetles developed a resistance to the cantharidin, they use the blistering agent to impress a female of their own species who then mates with them, whereupon most of the cantharidin is transfered to the female in the form of a sperm packet. The eggs the female subsequently lays are coated with cantharidin to protect them from being eaten before they hatch.”  The pectinate antennae indicate that your individual is a male.

Letter 3 – Fire Colored Beetle

 

Bug with wispy secondary set of antenna
May 27, 2010
Dear WhatsThatBug,
I found this interesting little guy on the ceiling in my kitchen. It is currently Spring where I live and the outside temp is about 80 degrees. I took some pictures after I caught him in a jar and then a few outside when he was released. I found him to be especially intriguing due to the fact that he has a small pair of antenna and then large ones that I would describe as feather-like. Initially I thought they were wings coming of his head, but upon closer inspection I saw they were whispy thin antler-like antenna. So please tell me…What’s that bug?
Kari
New Jersey

Fire Colored Beetle

Hi Kari,
What gorgeous images of a Fire Colored Beetle, Dendroides concolor.  Here is what BugGuide has to say:  “Adults are active at night, and may be attracted to lights. Some species may be attracted to fermenting baits.  Male pyrochroid beetles seek out blister beetles, climb onto them and lick off the cantharidin the blister beetles exude. Not only have these beetles developed a resistance to the cantharidin, they use the blistering agent to impress a female of their own species who then mates with them, whereupon most of the cantharidin is transfered to the female in the form of a sperm packet. The eggs the female subsequently lays are coated with cantharidin to protect them from being eaten before they hatch.
… Jim McClarin

Fire Colored Beetle

Letter 4 – Fire Colored Beetle Larva, not Forcipate Dipluran

 

Unknown Naiad, Firefly larva, and Dipluran?
Sat, Oct 18, 2008 at 4:59 PM
Hi BugMan,
I love your website, I’ve been interested in insects since I was younger and always dreamed of being an entomologist. When I entered high school I drifted away from my hobby but in the past few years my inner insect passion has returned. …
The next two photos I took a few days ago in my grandparents’ woods just outside of Scotts, Michigan. The first insect I found under the bark of a rotting log, to me it looks like some kind of firefly larva but I have no idea what it’s holding, remains of a slug perhaps? The second I also found under bark of dead log, it looks like a Dipluran but I don’t really have any idea. I’m not an expert by any means but if you can better identify it, I’d greatly appreciate any of your help.
Thanks for your time,
Phillip “SITNAM7” in Climax, Michigan
SW Michigan, in Kalamazoo and Climax woods

Forcipate Dipluran
Forcipate Dipluran

Hi again Phillip,
Your identification of a Dipluran seems correct to us. It appears to be a Forcipate Dipluran in the family Japygidae. The members of this family posted to bugGuide look different, but your image matches one reproduced in our Audubon Insect Guide. We are very excited that your photo has added a new category to our website. According to Audubon: “Forcipate Diplurans are whitish, slender, flattened, and wingless insects, 1/8-1/4″ (4-6 mm) long, with long legs and threadlike antennae almost as long as the body. Unlike other diplurans, members of this family have a distinctive pair of short 1-segmented cerci resembling tiny forceps at the tip of the abdomen. Like other diplurans, these live under leaves, stones, or logs on the ground, or under bark.”

CORRECTION: (October 20, 2008)
Hi, Daniel:
Thank you for the prompt! I always enjoy the site anyway, but sometimes forget to visit….
Only thing ‘amiss’ is:
The “forcipate dipluran” is actually the larva of a beetle, probably one of the fire-colored beetles in the family Pyrochroidae. Cucujus clavipes (family Cucujidae) has a very similar larva, however, and I’m unsure how to properly tell them apart. Diplurans are much smaller, paler.
Eric Eaton

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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1 thought on “Fire Colored Beetle: Essential Facts for Enthusiasts”

  1. I just found one of these fire colored beetles crawling on my floor. Its spring here. I’ve never seen one bef6. I’m not sure how it ended up in my house though. There’s no fire wood for it to hitch a ride on, so I’m baffled. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d actually prefer they stay under a piece of wood outside rather than finding their way into my home. I’m really hoping he was alone!

    Reply

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