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.”

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