Harlequin Beetle Facts: Discover the Intriguing World of this Colorful Insect

The harlequin bug, scientifically known as Murgantia histrionica, is a strikingly colorful insect that creates problems for gardeners and farmers alike. Their visually appealing appearance may lead some to pause when dealing with them, but it’s important to be aware of the harm they can cause to various crops. Having knowledge of their key facts, including their appearance, habitat, and diet, can be helpful in managing their impact.

These bugs are identified by their robust, black body adorned with vivid red, orange, or yellow markings source. They have shield-shaped or oval bodies, and are usually about 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. Their size might be small, but the damage they can do to crops is not insignificant.

Harlequin bugs are especially fond of plants in the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and mustard source. However, they can also be a secondary pest to other fruit and vegetable crops such as beans, cantaloupe, onion, and tomato. By feeding on these plants, they can cause significant harm and reduce crop yields.

Physical Characteristics

Colors and Markings

The harlequin beetle, also known as the harlequin bug, has a distinct appearance. Adults exhibit:

  • Vibrant red, orange, or black markings
  • A bold pattern of contrasting spots

This coloration makes them easily recognizable.

Sexual Dimorphism

In harlequin beetles, there is little to no sexual dimorphism. Both males and females have similar physical features, making it challenging to distinguish between the sexes visually.

Size and Body Structure

Adult harlequin beetles exhibit:

  • Flat, shield-shaped bodies
  • Body length of about 9.5 mm

Their compact, flat structure and relatively small size help them navigate their environment with ease.

Wings and Elytra

The harlequin beetle’s wings and wing covers, or elytra, are significant features. Key points include:

  • Front pair of wings overlap at rest
  • Distinct X marking visible on the insect’s back

This unique arrangement allows for easy identification of these colorful pests.

When considering their physical characteristics, it’s clear that the harlequin beetle’s appearance has been adapted to stand out and easily navigate its habitat.

Distribution and Habitat

North America

Harlequin bugs can be found in the Southern United States, ranging from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. These bugs are mostly found in vegetable gardens and feed on various vegetables including:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower

South America

In South America, harlequin bugs have been reported in countries like Uruguay and Brazil. They inhabit habitats such as vegetable gardens and farms where they feed on plants of the Brassicaceae family.

Central America

Harlequin bugs are also found in Southern Mexico and Costa Rica. They tend to inhabit garden spaces and agricultural fields, particularly those that grow cabbage family plants.

Comparison between regions:

Region Affected Countries Common Habitats
North America United States (Southern States) Vegetable gardens, farms
South America Uruguay, Brazil Vegetable gardens, farms
Central America Southern Mexico, Costa Rica Vegetable gardens, farms

In summary, harlequin bugs are distributed across North, South, and Central America. They primarily inhabit vegetable gardens and farms where they feed on Brassicaceae family plants.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Eggs

  • Harlequin bugs lay clusters of barrel-shaped eggs
  • Eggs are easily recognized by their distinct shape and pattern

Female harlequin bugs lay about 12 barrel-shaped eggs in clusters on host plants. They are easily distinguished by their unique keg-like shape (source).

Larvae (Nymphs)

  • Nymphs are active and voracious feeders
  • Five nymphal stages before reaching adulthood

Once hatched, harlequin bug larvae (also known as nymphs) go through five stages of development while actively feeding on the host plants. Each stage lasts approximately 1 week, making the entire nymphal process last around 5 weeks (source).

Pupa

  • Harlequin bugs do not have a true pupal stage like beetles
  • Development directly progresses from nymph to adult

Unlike beetles, which have a pupal stage in their life cycle, harlequin bugs do not undergo a traditional pupal stage (source).

Adults

  • Adults overwinter and typically live for several months
  • Reproductive capabilities depend on food availability and temperatures

Adult harlequin bugs pass the winter and may live for several months, depending on environmental conditions. The adult stage is when reproduction occurs, with the timing and success depending on food availability and temperatures (source).

Diet and Feeding Behaviors

Host Plants and Preferred Foods

Harlequin bugs have specific dietary preferences. They mainly target plants from the Brassicaceae family, which include:

  • Kale
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Horseradish

Additionally, these bugs also feed on other crops such as beans, cantaloupe, onion, raspberries, and tomato, but they particularly enjoy Brassicaceae plants (). They thrive on these plants by sucking the plant’s sap, which can cause significant damage to the host plant.

Impact on the Environment

Harlequin bugs are considered pests, as their feeding behaviors often lead to negative consequences for various fruit and vegetable crops. For example, when they feed on broccoli and cauliflower, the sap-sucking action leaves small white spots on the leaves, affecting the plant’s overall health ().

Host Plant Impact on Environment
Broccoli Small white spots on leaves
Cauliflower Small white spots on leaves
Beans Secondary pest
Cantaloupe Secondary pest
Onion Secondary pest
Raspberries Secondary pest
Tomato Secondary pest

Due to the damages they cause, farmers and gardeners should monitor their crops closely for any signs of harlequin bug infestation and take appropriate measures to control and prevent their spread.

Relationship with Other Insects and Animals

Pseudoscorpions

Pseudoscorpions are tiny, scorpion-like arachnids. They often have a mutualistic relationship with harlequin beetles. Pseudoscorpions hitch a ride on the beetles, using them for transport to new food sources.

For example:

  • Pseudoscorpions share prey with harlequin beetles
  • In return, harlequin beetles get assistance in finding new food sources

Lady Beetles

Lady beetles, also known as ladybugs, are natural predators of some pests that can also affect harlequin beetles’ preferred plants. Their relationship is often indirect but beneficial in promoting overall plant health.

Here are some key points:

  • Lady beetles help control aphid infestations
  • Aphids can damage plants that harlequin beetles feed on

Comparison Table

Insect Interaction with Harlequin Beetles Type of Relationship
Pseudoscorpions Hitch rides, share prey Mutualistic
Lady Beetles Control aphid populations Indirectly beneficial

In conclusion, pseudoscorpions and lady beetles play essential roles in the ecosystem and have different types of interactions with harlequin beetles. Understanding these relationships can help in managing pest populations and promoting overall plant health.

Pest Management and Control

Chemical Insecticides

Chemical insecticides can be used to control harlequin beetles in gardens and crops, such as cabbage, mustard, and radish. Examples of effective insecticides include acetamiprid, cyfluthrin, and pyrethrins. When using insecticides, it is essential to follow the label instructions for proper application and management.

Pros:

  • Quick results
  • Effective control in severe infestations

Cons:

  • Non-target effects on beneficial insects
  • Potential environmental impact

Biological Control

Biological control methods help manage harlequin beetle populations by introducing their natural predators. For instance, the larval stage of harlequin beetles can be targeted by certain predatory insects. These predators can help to reduce beetle numbers on host plants and in gardens.

Some natural predators include:

  • Parasitic wasps
  • Ladybird beetles
  • Green lacewings

Cultural Management

Cultural management techniques can also help prevent and control harlequin beetle damage in vegetable gardens and crops. These methods focus on creating an unfavorable environment for beetles and removing their preferred host plants.

Examples of cultural management methods:

  • Remove mustards and other preferred host plants from the garden area
  • Inspect crops regularly for signs of infestation
  • Rotate crops to limit harlequin beetle populations

Comparison Table:

Method Pros Cons
Chemical Quick results, effective control Non-target effects, environmental impact
Biological Control Environmentally friendly, sustainable May take longer to see results
Cultural Management Low cost, non-toxic Requires diligent monitoring, may not be suitable for large infestations

Notable Species and Variants

Harlequin Bug

The Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica) is a vibrant and colorful pest known for its distinct shield shape and striking red, orange, or yellow markings. They are typically 1/4 to 3/8 inch long and most commonly found on vegetables.

Characteristics:

  • Prefer plants in the Brassicae family
  • Feed on a wide range of vegetables and fruits

Examples of their preferred host plants include:

  • Mustard
  • Cabbage
  • Greens
  • Radish

Harlequin Ladybird

The Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) is a type of ladybug, also notable for its bright colors and varied pattern of spots. Native to Asia, they have been introduced to other continents as a biological control agent for aphids.

Characteristics:

  • About 7-8 mm in size
  • Presence of numerous white or cream-colored spots on their wing covers

Examples of their natural prey:

  • Aphids
  • Scale insects
  • Mites
Harlequin Bug Harlequin Ladybird
Appearance Shield-shaped and colorful Bright and spotty
Size 1/4 – 3/8 inch 7-8 mm
Habitat Brassicae family plants A variety of habitats
Prey/Pests Various vegetables Aphids and other pests

Scientific Classification and Etymology

The Harlequin Bug, also known as Murgantia histrionica, belongs to the family Pentatomidae, not Cerambycidae. These little insects are actually classified as a type of stink bug. Some key points about their classification are:

  • Family: Pentatomidae
  • Genus: Murgantia
  • Species: histrionica

The name histrionica stems from the Latin word “histrio,” which means stage player or actor. This is likely due to their striking red and black markings that make them stand out, similar to costumes used in theater productions.

One notable differentiation between Harlequin Bugs and other stink bugs is their unique color pattern. Typically, adult Harlequin Bugs have:

• Gaudy red-and-black-spotted bodies
• Shield-like, flat shape
• Distinct X marking on their wings when at rest

In comparison, Acrocinus is a genus of beetles in the Cerambycidae family with the following characteristics:

  • Family: Cerambycidae
  • Genus: Acrocinus
  • Species: various

Acrocinus beetles, unlike Harlequin Bugs, usually have:

• Long antennae
• Duller colors
• Elongated bodies

Feature Harlequin Bug Acrocinus Beetle
Family Pentatomidae Cerambycidae
Antennae Short Long
Body shape Shield-like Elongated
Color pattern Red-and-black Duller colors

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 – Harlequin Beetle in Guatemala

 

PLEASE identify
For these two insects, I need to know their common English name, the Genus name, and the Species name in Latin—please help!!! Thanks so much!!!
(07/30/2008) Both were in Tikal, Guatemala. Thanks so much for your help.

Your beetle is a Cerambycid or Long Horned Borer Beetle known as a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus. It is one of the largest and most magnificent members of its family. It is found in Central and South America. We held off on an identification until you provided us with a location. We wrote back requesting the location because we really wanted to post the photo.

Letter 2 – Harlequin Beetle from Brazil

 

Unknown insect
November 6, 2009
Insect found in the RPPN Rio das Lontras – In Brazil, the Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN) is a private conservation area that is registered in perpetuity and protected by a federal law, with the aim of conserving biological diversity. The creation of a RPPN is a voluntary act by the owner, who decides to designate his property, or part there of, as an RPPN, without losing the right to tenure.
Fernando José Pimentel Teixeira
(UTM): 709.016,89 Norte e 6.942.224,05 Leste

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear Fernando,
First we are very happy that you have provided us information on the RPPN which sounds like an excellent way to preserve open spaces that are protected against logging and other activities.  We are very active in Land Use issues here in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles, California where unchecked development is responsible for the loss of the endangered Black Walnut woodland community.  Though our own tiny pockets of open space cannot compare with the grandeur of the Brazilian rain forests, we know how difficult it can be to try to preserve land.  Your magnificent beetle is known as a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus.  The males have forelegs that are nearly twice the length of the body.  The Harlequin Beetle belongs to the Family Cerambycidae, the Longhorned Borer Beetles.

Letter 3 – Harlequin Beetle from Costa Rica

 

Costa Rican Longhorn (flat face) beetle
June 8, 2010
Very large and colorful. Almost 3 inches including very long antennae. Very long forelegs. Unique pattern on all body parts. Found in highland forest on Pacific side. Costa Rica.
Mary B. Thorman
Costa Rica

Harlequin Beetle

Hi Mary,
This spectacular and distinctive beetle is a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus.

Portrait of a Harlequin Beetle

Letter 4 – Harlequin Beetle from Brazil

 

Harlequin Beetle in Jacareí, Brazil
Location:  Jacareí, state of São Paulo, Brazil, South America
October 11, 2010 9:18 am
Hey, just wanted to thank you for your site. I’m always running across interesting bugs here in Brazil, and often wonder what kind of insect I’m looking at. In this case, this beauty was just on the sidewalk here in town, and I had my iPhone and handy and snapped this photo. I didn’t have anything handy to set beside it to convey the size, but the body alone was at least 3 inches long.
Thanks to your site, I was able to quickly identify it.
Keep up the good work!
Signature:  Kiko

Harlequin Beetle

Dear Kiko,
Your cellular telephone photo of a magnificent Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, is of a much higher quality than what we have come to expect from phones.

Letter 5 – Harlequin Beetle from Brazil

 

PLEASE IDENTIFY THIS BUG
Location: Lat/Lon: 27.6° S 48.6° W
December 25, 2010 8:02 am
I COULD NOT IDENTIFY THIS BUG.
FOUND AT HOME, SPRING 2010, CITY: FLORIANOPOLIS, STATE: SANTA CATARINA, BRAZIL.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHERINE MOURA
Signature: ANDRÉ LEAL

Harlequin Beetle

Dear André,
This magnificent beetle is known as the Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, and it ranges from Mexico to South America and is also found on the islands in the Caribbean.  Encyclopedia Britannica Online has some interesting information on this species.

Harlequin Beetle

Dear Daniel,
Thank you so much for your answer. On Xmas day!!!!!
Congratulations for your wonderful website.
Have you ever heard about Fritz Muller? He was a extraordinary researcher during the 19th century , who lived about 80 miles from my hometown. An early Darwin’s theories supporter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_M%C3%BCller
Thanks very much and happy new year.
Regards
André Leal

Harlequin Beetle

Hi again André,
Thanks for your kind compliments.  Though we were aware of Mullerian Mimicry, we were not aware of the details of the research of Fritz Muller that resulted in the term.  Thanks for the link.

Letter 6 – Harlequin Beetle from Brazil

 

Subject: Not Identified
Location: Southeast Brazil
March 15, 2015 10:02 am
March 06, 2015 7:32 am
I found this bug on a electric post in front of my house.
3/13/15 at 10:00pm
Signature: J.V.

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear J.V.,
This magnificent Longicorn Beetle is a Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus.

Letter 7 – Giant Harlequin Beetle from South America

 

Hey folks, one from Suriname for you.
Haven’t sent anything in a while – a tribute to your site. However, on a recent trip to Suriname, a 3-4 inch long beauty found me at the airport. Interesting creature in the middle of the airport at the start of rainy season.
Taran Rampersad

Hi Taran,
We are happy to hear you are able to easily identify most of your insects through our site. This is a Giant Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus. It is found in many South American countries. Your specimen is a female. The is a marked sexual dimorphism found in this species, with the forelegs of the male beetles being nearly twice as long as those of the female.

Very cool, Daniel – thanks! I blogged about it: http://www.knowprose.com/node/18076
WhatsThatBug.com Scores Again: Giant Harlequin Beetle
When I saw this insect at the Paramaribo Airport on the way out of Suriname , I was intrigued. 3-4 inches long, and very interesting patterns on its back (click image to see larger version) – I was curious to know what it was, guessing it to be some form of soldier beetle . I couldn’t find it on the web anywhere, so I decided to write What’s That Bug? and within 24 hours – despite being swamped, they identified it as a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus . Apparently, this is the first bit of information on it on the web, as searching for Harlequin Beetle and Acrocinus longimanus turns up absolutely no results at the time of this writing other than noting that it is missing in the Wikipedia . Go figure. In searching around for information on it, I found out that longimanus is ‘????????? “Macrocheir (Latin =Longimanus)”‘ through the referencec on Artaxerxes I of Persia , which is related to the disparity in length of appendages. Interesting stuff.

Letter 8 – Harlequin Beetle from Brazil

 

Huge unknown insect from Brazil
Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 1:58 PM
I am living in Florianopolis, Brazil. I was recently walking at night and saw this insect on the sidewalk. It was very large about 8 inches from leg to leg with a body about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. I have never seen anything like it before. It was very slow but quite aggressive. Its two front legs were each about 3 inches long and its antenna were about the same. it looked like a hard shell and was red and black pattern. The picture is not great quality as it was an iphone at night. I set my audi key next to it for size reference (which is about 2 inches X 1 inch). I have spent some time trying to figure out what it was but have not had any luck on the internet. I hope you are able to help me out. You will be glad to know that I moved it to safety off of the sidewalk so nobody would step on it. When I tri ed to nudge it . it actually wrapped its legs around the bottom of my shoe and I had to shake it off just to give some size reference to its legs. If you identify it for me I will send you the pic of the tarantula found in our garage which is bigger than the blackberry I set next to it.
Dave
Florianopolis Brazil

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Hi Dave,
This is a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus, one of the Longhorned Borer Beetles or Longicorn Beetles in the family Cerambycidae.  We have received several letters in the past with photos of this stunning beetle.

Letter 9 – Harlequin Beetle

 

Subject: Bug in Costa Rica
Location: Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
June 2, 2012 2:16 pm
Hola Bugman!
My son found this big bug hanging on to the awning of our house here in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The body was probably closer to 3 inches long, the antennae even longer.
Signature: Laura

Harlequin Beetle

Hola Laura,
This spectacular beetle is known as a Harlequin Beetle and it is one of the Longhorned Borer Beetles in the family Cerambycidae.  We get numerous reports of Harlequin Beetles from Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands.  We are postdating your letter to go live during our holiday later in the month.

Letter 10 – Harlequin Beetle from Bolivia

 

Subject: Sphinx moth & Creepy Mystery Bug
Location:  Bolivia, South America
July 7, 2014 12:23 pm
Hey Bugman!
I have two bugs for you.

Second bug: This thing was seen by my father during the two years he spent in Bolivia. (Sorry for the image size; its the only copy we have.) He said these were fairly common, and that the pole next to it was about an inch wide so that should give you an idea of the size. The frightening thing is that the one pictured is a “small one,” and my dad was attacked by one about seven inches long which scratched up his neck with it’s long creepy claw arms pretty badly. But that’s South America for you. We’ve been wondering for years what it is, and also been grateful that we don’t have them in Orange County, CA.
Thanks for your help!
Signature: Krystal

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Hi Krystal,
Even with the poor image quality, this Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, is unmistakeable. 

Hi Daniel!
Thank you so much for your quick reply! I think I’m with you that our moth friend was a One-Eyed Sphinx. And my dad and I were very excited about the Harlequin Beetle! We conducted many fruitless internet searches, so to finally have a name for it was awesome. I love your website and I always tell my friends to check it out when they find a bug. Thanks for all you guys do!
Krystal

Letter 11 – Harlequin Beetle from Trinidad

 

Bug Identification
Mon, May 4, 2009 at 8:18 AM
This little gem was spotted in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago 1st May 2009. It is located on the side a bank headquarters approx 5ft from a grass lawn.
From tip of head to tail of body it measured approx 3inches. The photograph provides greater detail. It was stationary for about 2hrs and then when i returned it had gone. I am therefore unable to proivde details of flight/movement.
I would be grateful for classification/name etc etc if available
Simon Ward
Trinidad, Port of Spain

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear Simon,
The Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus, really is a spectacular Longhorned Borer Beetle from Central and South America as well as come of the Caribbean Islands.  Thanks so much for sending us your great photograph.

Letter 12 – Harlequin Beetle from Trinidad

 

stripy tiger scary flying weirdo bug
July 11, 2009
dear bugman, this peculiar insect was zooming around my living room this evening. i live on a forested hillside in trinidad with a variety of visitors but i have never encountered anything like this. it is the beginning of the rainy season and very hot.
shaken but interest stirred
cascade, northern range foothills, trinidad

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear Shaken,
This is a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus.  According to the Encyclopedia Britanica website:  “The common name refers to the beetle’s gaudy pattern; the Latin longimanus of the species name refers to the extremely long forelegs of the males. These legs are usually longer than the beetle’s entire body, which can measure nearly 76 mm (3 inches). In addition to serving as a sexual advertisement to females, the long legs help the males to traverse the branches of trees (the beetles fly as well as crawl). Despite the seemingly conspicuous colours, the harlequin hides itself effectively among the lichen- and fungus-covered trunks of tropical woods such as fig trees.
Ranging from Mexico to South America, this beautiful beetle feeds on sap and lays its eggs on the trunks of dead or dying trees. It is active during the day but can be attracted to lights at night. Females prefer to lay their eggs on trunks and logs with bracket fungus, which provides excellent camouflage. Before laying, the female gnaws an incision about 20 mm (0.8 inch) wide and 7.6 mm (0.3 inch) deep in the bark. She will lay 15 to 20 eggs over the course of two to three days. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the wood. When they mature at seven to eight months, the 13-cm (5-inch) larvae tunnel further, where they dig a cell in which to pupate. The adult beetle emerges four months later, gnawing its way out of the wood. The life cycle is annual.”

Letter 13 – Harlequin Beetle from Nicaragua

 

pretty beetle
Location: Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua
June 9, 2011 9:00 pm
Dear Bugman,
When I woke up this morning, I found this insect on a door. It’s two front legs are very long, as well as the antennae. When we tried to move it, it hissed. A while later, it flew away.
We are supposed to be in the rainy season, but it has been hot and dry. Hope you know what it is! God bless.
Signature: hector

Harlequin Beetle

Dear Hector,
We always love posting photos of Harlequin Beetles,
Acrocinus longimanus.  Your individual is a male as evidenced by his disproportionately long antennae and front legs.  The species ranges from Mexico to Brazil.

Letter 14 – Harlequin Beetle from Nicaragua

 

Subject: Please identify
Location: Jinotega, Nicaragua
January 23, 2013 10:08 pm
My friends took a trip to Nicaragua and came across this beautiful insect. Could you please identify it for me?
Signature: Amy CP

Harlequin Beetle

Hi Amy,
This is a beautiful image of a Harlequin Beetle.

Letter 15 – Male Harlequin Beetle found dead on beach in Mexico

 

Subject: Ginormous 6 legged creature found on beach
Location: Puerto vayarta mexico
March 22, 2017 7:39 pm
Hola
We found this dead bug on the beach in Mexico . It’s distinguishing features are
– 6 legs front 2 very long…approx 3.5inches
– pinchers
– super long antennae
– black and yellowish
– upon closer inspection looked like it could fly
– very hard shell
– underneath looked like a cockroach
– body was approximately 2inches
We asked many locals nobody could identify. We are so curious. I researched waterbeetles but nothing had the huge front legs.
Thank you for your help and we look forward to learning what it is!
Signature: Kate

Male Harlequin Beetle

Dear Kate,
This magnificent male Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, is in the Longicorn family Cerambycidae.  It can fly.

Male Harlequin Beetle

Letter 16 – Harlequin Beetle from Panama

 

Subject:  OMG
Geographic location of the bug:  Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Date: 07/24/2018
Time: 04:13 PM EDT
Look who I found in the jungle today!!!
Warm Regards,
Jesse Kamm
Harlequin Beetle

Hi Jesse,
This gorgeous guy is a Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, and the long front legs and antennae indicate he is a male.  There is an illustration on Illustraciencia that compares the sexes and contains this grammatically interesting description:  “The harlequin woodcutter is a nocturnal insect  that is often near from house’s light during the night. It has little thorns in the side of the torax and, if it is trapped through the wings, its abdomen movement produces a characteristic noise that helps to scary its enemies in order to escape.”  The noise is called stridulation.

Harlequin Beetle

Letter 17 – Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

 

Trachyderes mandibularis??
December 6, 2009
found this beetle at my place in BCS
Joanee
Buena Vista, BCS

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle
Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Hi Joanee,
The Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle, Trachyderes mandibularis, ranges from Texas, Arizona and California south to Honduras, so it would be found in Baja California Sur where you spotted this specimen.  We believe your identification is correct.  This species is well represented on Bugguide.

Letter 18 – Long Jawed Longhorn Beetle

 

Weird Bug in Tucson Arizona
Location: Tucson AZ
October 19, 2011 9:11 pm
Hi, we saw this but outside an Ace Hardware store in Tucson Arizona USA. I have never seen anything like it here before. I took a few photos but didn’t want to get too close because it had huge pinchers. The thing finally flew away. It was about 1.5 to 2 inches long not including its antennae.
Signature: Meg

Long Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Hi Meg,
This is one impressive beetle.  It is a Long Jawed Longhorn Beetle,
Trachyderes mandibularis, and we have posted a few photos of this species in the past.  According to BugGuide, its range is:  “southwestern U.S. (TX-CA), south to Honduras, southern Florida.”  The well developed mandibles indicates that this is a male.

Thank you so much. I can see how they got their name. Armed with the name of the insect I looked up more about them. Funny I had never seen one before in all my years living here.
Meg

Letter 19 – Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

 

Subject: What bug is it?
Location: Pinellas Park Florida
October 1, 2016 8:17 pm
Can you please tell me what kind of bug thus is?
Signature: Adam Bradley

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle
Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Dear Adam,
This is a Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle,
Trachyderes mandibularis, a species described on BugGuide as “Distinctive, but variable.”  Texas Entomology lists host plants as:  “Celtis sp. – Hackberry, Ficus sp. – Ficus, Tamarix gallica – French tamarisk” while BugGuide has a totally different list of host trees:  “Citrus, Parkinsonia, Salix, Celtis.”

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle
Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Letter 20 – Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

 

Subject: Identify beetle please
Location: Apache Junction Arizona
July 3, 2017 8:46 pm
We found this flying beetle & would like to know what it is . The time was 7:30 near dusk today. Thanks
Signature: Loretta

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Dear Loretta,
This is a wonderful image of a Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle,
Trachyderes mandibularis.  We just posted another Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle from Arizona last week.

Letter 21 – Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

 

Subject:  What is this bug??
Geographic location of the bug:  Ville Platte La
Date: 11/01/2017
Time: 05:33 PM EDT
Hi, I have searched the internet and can’t seem to find a picture of this but can you please help me out thank you so much for your time.
How you want your letter signed:  MEGAN FONTENOT

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Dear MEGAN,
Your images of this Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle,
Trachyderes mandibularis, are beautiful.  According to BugGuide:  “Males have particularly long mandibles.”

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

Letter 22 – Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

 

Subject:  Bug on branch, in trash.
Geographic location of the bug:  Pinellas County Florida
Date: 07/31/2018
Time: 02:18 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this bug?
How you want your letter signed:  No

Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle

The Long-Jawed Longhorn Beetle, Trachyderes mandibularis, is profiled on the Texas Entomology site where it states:  “Adults are active during the day and most are found near wounded trees that are oozing sap.”

Letter 23 – Male Harlequin Beetle from Brazil

 

Help…
What is this insect ?? Thanks for your help ! I do Brasil
Eduardo Miguel Simon

Hi Eduardo,
This strikingly gorgeous beetle is known as the Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus. It is one of the wood boring beetles in the family Cerambycidae. The God of Insects site selected this species as the Bug of the Month in June 2006 and writes: “A fantastic Neotropical longhorn beetle, conspicuous for it’s large size, beautiful colors and the amazing length of the front legs on the male. These elongated limbs (much reduced in the female) are a secondary sex characteristic, used in mating. It should also be noted that it aids them in traversing the tree trunks on which they can be found. Females seek out old trees, such as Ficus, that are infested with bracket fungi. An incision is made in the bark and an egg deposited. Larvae bore into the timber for 7-8 months and then pupate for the remainder of the year, to emerge and start the cycle anew.”

Letter 24 – Harlequin Beetle from Trinidad

 

Tribal-Designed Cockroach/Beetle
November 15, 2009
We found this creature on the shower curtain in the bathroom. Screaming rang through the house. This thing however remained very still, even when he was placed in a bottle.
It’s black with orange and green-brown tribal-like design throughout it’s body. At the top of it’s hard-like wings, it’s very bumpy – either holes or bumps. It’s body is three inches long, including its head. EXTREMELY LONG antennae – they bend into the top of the cover. 2 very long front legs, 4 other legs. It’s underside is like a cockroach’s.
We don’t know if it’s a cockroach or beetle, and we’re not sure if it’s poisonous or not (we have a 5 yr old kid).
We’ve looked everywhere, but no one and no website seems to know. Please help.
WildFire
Trinidad, West Indies

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear WildFire,
This is a Harlequin Beetle, Acrocinus longimanus, one of the Long Horned Borer Beetles in the family Cerambycidae.  It has no venom, so it is not considered dangerous, though we caution about calling it perfectly harmless.  Like other members of its family, its larval stage is spent boring in wood, and the larva also pupates in its wooden chamber.  The adult beetle needs to escape this wooden nursery, and its jaws are well adapted to chewing its way out.  They could deliver a painful bite, and possibly cause bleeding, especially to a five year olds soft skin.  We would encourage you to release this noble insect so that it may find a mate and procreate.

Thank you for your reply. I find it very strange since I’ve been living here for twelve years and I have never seen one of these before. Can you possibly tell me the origin of these beetles? And what they feed on, perhaps?
Thanks again.
WildFire.

Dear Wildfire,
The following information comes from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:  “large tropical American beetle with an elaborate variegated pattern of black with muted red and greenish yellow markings on its wing covers.

The common name refers to the beetle’s gaudy pattern; the Latin longimanus of the species name refers to the extremely long forelegs of the males. These legs are usually longer than the beetle’s entire body, which can measure nearly 76 mm (3 inches). In addition to serving as a sexual advertisement to females, the long legs help the males to traverse the branches of trees (the beetles fly as well as crawl). Despite the seemingly conspicuous colours, the harlequin hides itself effectively among the lichen- and fungus-covered trunks of tropical woods such as fig trees.

Ranging from Mexico to South America, this beautiful beetle feeds on sap and lays its eggs on the trunks of dead or dying trees. It is active during the day but can be attracted to lights at night. Females prefer to lay their eggs on trunks and logs with bracket fungus, which provides excellent camouflage. Before laying, the female gnaws an incision about 20 mm (0.8 inch) wide and 7.6 mm (0.3 inch) deep in the bark. She will lay 15 to 20 eggs over the course of two to three days. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the wood. When they mature at seven to eight months, the 13-cm (5-inch) larvae tunnel further, where they dig a cell in which to pupate. The adult beetle emerges four months later, gnawing its way out of the wood. The life cycle is annual.

The harlequin beetle’s body often hosts a species of tiny arachnids known as pseudoscorpions (Cordylochernes scorpioides), which live beneath the harlequin’s colourful wing covers. The minute pseudoscorpions use the beetle for transport to new food sources and as a way to meet potential mates. To keep from falling off when the beetle flies, they attach themselves to the harlequin’s abdomen with silken threads spun from pincherlike glands in their claws. When they arrive at a suitable new site, they anchor to their destination with a new strand of silk and slide off the beetle.

Harlequin beetles belong to the long-horned beetle family, Cerambycidae.

Letter 25 – Harlequin Beetle in Lucite

 

Insect ID
Location: ???? but a sticker in plastic casing says Columbia
January 23, 2012 5:21 pm
Hi Bugman,
I teach a 4-6 Special Needs Class and have come across this insect that I would like to ID for my students. It is in an acrylic case. Can you help?
Body…..5 cm long…2.5 cm wide…1 cm thick
Color…..Black and Brown
Antenna…..10 cm long with segments (about 9)
Wings…..looks like 1 pair (hard to tell)
Feet look like they have 2 toe-like extensions
Thanks
Signature: D. Jimenez

Harlequin Beetle in Lucite

Dear D. Jimenez,
This is a Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, and it does range in Columbia as well as other places in Central and South America.  They are much more impressive and beautiful alive.

Letter 26 – Harlequin Beetle from Trinidad

 

Subject: Beetle
Location: Trinidad
February 22, 2013 3:34 pm
This is a bug my brother saw in Trinidad. I think it’s like a Harlequin….
Signature: Jeff

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Hi Jeff,
You are correct.  This is a Harlequin Beetle.

Letter 27 – Harlequin Beetle from Venezuela

 

Subject: Giant Venezuelan Tree Beetle?
Location: State of Merida, Venezuela
July 19, 2013 7:29 pm
OK, I think eventually this site nailed it a few years ago when you identified my submission of ”Possible Ironclad Beetle” and came up with ”Noserinus furcatus Kirsch” which looks right to me. LIke then, I’ll state ”This is in Andean cloud forest. High altitude valley, State of Merida, VZ. Near La Trampa.”
This picture was taken this July, same location. When I asked about scale, I was told 4” across. This time I did not take the picture – same finca.
Signature: ehtiyot

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Dear ehtiyot,
This spectacular Longhorned Borer Beetle in the family Cerambycidae is a Harlequin Beetle,
Acrocinus longimanus, a species found in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean Islands.  According to Encyclopedia Britannica:  “Ranging from Mexico to South America, this beautiful beetle feeds on sap and lays its eggs on the trunks of dead or dying trees. It is active during the day but can be attracted to lights at night. Females prefer to lay their eggs on trunks and logs with bracket fungus, which provides excellent camouflage. Before laying, the female gnaws an incision about 20 mm (0.8 inch) wide and 7.6 mm (0.3 inch) deep in the bark. She will lay 15 to 20 eggs over the course of two to three days. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the wood. When they mature at seven to eight months, the 13-cm (5-inch) larvae tunnel further, where they dig a cell in which to pupate. The adult beetle emerges four months later, gnawing its way out of the wood. The life cycle is annual.”  We have not been successful in finding if there are specific trees favored as host plants, though we find it hard to believe that just any tree will do for food.

Letter 28 – Harlequin Beetle from Panama

 

Subject: bug in Boquete Panama
Location: Boquete, Panama
September 8, 2014 1:27 pm
We spotted this bug on our house wall and have never seen one before. From top to bottom it is around the size of a drink can! It has been there for hours and shows no signs of going anywhere soon.
Best regards
Carol Slater
Signature: Carol

Harlequin Beetle
Harlequin Beetle

Hi Carol,
Most images that we receive of Harlequin Beetles,
Acrocinus longimanus, are very poor quality, but your image is stunning.  Your beetle is a male which can be distinguished by the extremely developed front legs.  According to Encyclopedia Britannica:  “The common name refers to the beetle’s gaudy pattern; the Latin longimanus of the species name refers to the extremely long forelegs of the males. These legs are usually longer than the beetle’s entire body, which can measure nearly 76 mm (3 inches). In addition to serving as a sexual advertisement to females, the long legs help the males to traverse the branches of trees (the beetles fly as well as crawl). Despite the seemingly conspicuous colours, the harlequin hides itself effectively among the lichen- and fungus-covered trunks of tropical woods such as fig trees.”

Authors

    by
  • 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.

  • 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.

5 thoughts on “Harlequin Beetle Facts: Discover the Intriguing World of this Colorful Insect”

  1. I work at a law firm very near the savannah in Port of Spain. On our fourth floor, outside near some plants, we found one of these yesterday. I’ve never seen one of these before, and I even wonder if he’s the same specimen that Simon wrote about. There is nearly no movement from it, but clearly it is alive. Are these rare?

    Reply
  2. Hi I woke up to one of this bug this morning..I only noticed it when I rest my hand on it…my question is. ..has there been any reported deaths or infection caused by thus bug ???

    Reply

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