Lion Beetle: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Discovery

The Lion Beetle is an intriguing insect with unique characteristics. These beetles are not only visually striking but also play an essential role in our ecosystem, such as pollination. Understanding their biology, behavior, and significance is crucial for appreciating the biodiversity of our planet.

One fascinating aspect of Lion Beetles is their appearance. Their striking colors and patterns often make them stand out among other insects. For example, the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle sports a metallic green or blue shade with white spots on the edges of its wing covers, while other species feature their own unique shades and markings. Additionally, Lion Beetles are known for their large bulging eyes and long legs, which make them efficient predators in their respective habitats.

Lion Beetle Overview

Ulochaetes Leoninus

The Ulochaetes Leoninus, commonly known as the Lion Beetle, is a unique and fascinating insect. This beetle exhibits a striking resemblance to a lion, mainly due to its elongated, curved antennae, and its golden-yellow color with a black tuft on its thorax that resembles a lion’s mane. Some key features of the Lion Beetle include:

  • Belongs to the Cerambycidae family of beetles
  • Golden-yellow color with a black tuft on its thorax
  • Elongated, curved antennae

Cerambycidae Family

The Cerambycidae family, also known as the longhorned beetles, contains more than 20,000 species of beetles worldwide. These beetles are characterized by their long antennae, which are often longer than their body length. A comparison between the Lion Beetle and other longhorned beetles includes:

Feature Lion Beetle Other Cerambycidae Beetles
Antennae length Elongated and curved Long, often longer than body length
Color Golden-yellow with black tuft on thorax Varied colors and patterns
Unique appearance Resemble a lion’s mane Diverse and distinct appearance

In summary, the Lion Beetle, or Ulochaetes Leoninus, is a captivating member of the Cerambycidae family, distinguished by its peculiar lion-like features. It shares similarities with other longhorned beetles in terms of antennae length. This insect serves as a remarkable example of the diversity and adaptability found within the beetle family.

Life Cycle and Biology

Eggs and Larvae

  • Lion Beetle eggs are typically laid on tree bark.
  • Larvae hatch after around 10 days.

The larval stage is critical in the development of Lion Beetles. After hatching, they begin to feed on decaying wood and plant material.

Pupa Stage

Features of the pupa stage:

  • Short metamorphic phase
  • Lasts about 7-14 days
  • Occurs in hidden spaces such as under tree bark

During the pupa stage, Lion Beetle larvae change into adult beetles. It’s a unique transformation that occurs in a relatively short period.

Adult Beetles

Adult Lion Beetles have striking features:

  • Distinctive body forms
  • Brightly colored
  • Strong wings, capable of flight

These beetles play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.

Characteristic Lion Beetle Comparison
Size Medium Smaller than other beetles
Wings Strong Better at flying than others

Lifespan

The lifespan of a Lion Beetle is relatively brief:

  • Adults live for 3-6 months
  • Entire life cycle lasts 6-8 months

While short-lived, Lion Beetles contribute significantly to their environment as decomposers and pollinators.

Habitat and Distribution

North America

The Lion Beetle, also known as Macrodontia cervicornis, is native to the rainforests of South America, and not typically found in North America1. However, some sightings might occur, possibly due to human introduction or migration.

Pine Trees

While Lion Beetles are mainly found in rainforests, their larvae can be associated with pine trees2. They seek decaying wood to feed and develop. In pine trees, they may be found:

  • In dead branches or trunks
  • Under the bark of fallen trees

Characteristics

  • Large size: up to 6.7 inches (17 cm) long3
  • Impressive mandibles: used for fighting and defense4
  • Body color: black or dark brown, sometimes with reddish-brown markings5

Example

The Stag Beetle, native to Europe, has similarities to the Lion Beetle. They share:

  • Large size and impressive mandibles
  • Preference for dead or decaying wood
  • A similar appearance, but Stag Beetles are generally smaller6

Pros and Cons of the Lion Beetle Habitat

Pros:

  • Natural habitat of the rainforest offers diverse food sources7
  • Contributes to decomposition and recycling of nutrients within the ecosystem8

Cons:

  • Deforestation and loss of habitat can threaten their survival9
  • May not adapt well to North America due to different climate and ecology10
Feature Lion Beetle Stag Beetle
Size Up to 6.7 inches (17 cm) Generally smaller
Mandibles Large and curved Large and curved
Native Habitat South American rainforests European forests and woodlands
Preferred Environment Decaying wood in rainforests Decaying wood in forests

Diet and Damage

Feeding Preferences

Lion beetles mainly consume the foliage of pine trees. Some examples of their preferred trees include:

  • Scots Pine
  • Eastern White Pine
  • Loblolly Pine

Impact on Pine Trees

Lion beetles can cause significant damage as they chew through the needles, leaving:

  • Holes
  • Brown or yellow spots
  • Partially eaten or completely defoliated branches

Effects on Pine Trees:

  • Stunted growth
  • Reduced aesthetic value
  • General weakening

Pros and Cons of Lion Beetle Infestation:

Pros:

  • Natural food source for some predators
  • Indicator of a thriving ecosystem

Cons:

  • Damage to pine trees
  • Possible stunted tree growth
  • Reduction in tree health

Comparison of Pine Trees Affected by Lion Beetles:

Pine Species Susceptibility to Lion Beetle Damage Recovery Potential
Scots Pine High Moderate
Eastern White Pine Moderate High
Loblolly Pine Low High

In summary, lion beetles primarily feed on the foliage of pine trees and can cause considerable damage. The level of damage and the ability to recover varies among different pine species.

Breeding and Mating

Reproduction Process

Lion beetles reproduce sexually, where the offspring are created by the joining of sperm from the father and eggs from the mother. When a male locates a female, he initiates courtship by stroking his antennae and front pair of legs (source). Mating occurs after successful courtship, and the female lays eggs to complete the process.

  • Male behavior: Stroking antennae and front legs
  • Female behavior: Laying eggs post-mating

Zebra and Bow

The zebra and bow mating rituals of lion beetles are examples of distinct behaviors found in different species.

Zebra Mating Ritual:

  • Characterized by distinct stripes on both male and female beetles, resembling a zebra pattern
  • Males are attracted to females’ striped pattern and may even compete for a potential mate

Bow Mating Ritual:

  • Named after the male beetles’ unique bow-shaped antennae
  • Males use their bow antennae to attract females and display dominance over other males

Comparison Table

Feature Zebra Mating Ritual Bow Mating Ritual
Appearance Striped pattern Bow-shaped antennae
Attraction Stripes on both sexes Male bow-shaped antennae
Competitiveness Male competition Display of dominance

These examples show the variety in breeding and mating rituals among lion beetles and their distinct behaviors, which contribute to the unique characteristics of each species.

Identification

Elytra

The Lion Beetle, belonging to the Cerambycidae family (long-horned beetles), can be identified by examining its elytra. Elytra are the hardened forewings that cover and protect the hindwings of beetles. In the Lion Beetle, the elytra are:

  • Color: Typically, they have a rich, dark brown color with lighter patterns.
  • Texture: They are relatively smooth and shiny.

For example, Cerambycid beetles often exhibit distinctive elytra features, making them relatively easy to distinguish within the insect world.

Long-Horned Beetle Characteristics

The Lion Beetle exhibits several key characteristics typical of a long-horned beetle, or cerambycid. These include:

  • Antennae: Long, segmented antennae, often as long as or longer than the body.
  • Body Shape: Elongated and cylindrical body form.
Feature Lion Beetle Ape
Body Structure Elongated, cylindrical Primate, large
Limbs 6 legs 2 arms, 2 legs
Distinctive Features Long antennae, elytra Opposable thumbs

The long-horned beetle characteristics set the Lion Beetle apart from other insects and make identification easier for those interested in learning more about beetle species.

Resources and Exploration

Images and Insights

Lion beetles are quite an interesting species to explore. They are known for their unique features, such as their lion-like teeth. Multiple sources provide images of different lion beetles exhibiting these characteristics:

It’s fascinating to observe the variations among the lion beetles’ teeth and how they function in their habitats.

BugGuide.Net

Another valuable resource for exploring and learning more about lion beetles is BugGuide.Net. This website offers a wealth of information about various insects, including lion beetles. Among the available resources, you can find:

  • Detailed descriptions
  • Classification information
  • Habitat and distribution data

As a result, this platform can greatly enhance your understanding of lion beetles and their characteristics.

The advantages and drawbacks of using BugGuide.Net as a source are as follows:

Pros:

  • Comprehensive information on multiple insect species
  • Contains updated data contributed by the community
  • Easy navigation and user-friendly interface

Cons:

  • May require some basic knowledge of entomology terminology
  • Information accuracy relies on contributors’ expertise
Comparison Images and Insights BugGuide.Net
Focus Visual representations Comprehensive information
Ease of Use Straightforward, image-based User-friendly, requires some knowledge
Reliability Varies based on image source Community-contributed, experts involved

In conclusion, both images and BugGuide.Net serve as valuable resources for understanding and exploring lion beetles. By using these sources, you’ll gain more insights into the unique features of this intriguing insect species.

Recommendations for Dealing with Lion Beetles

Preventative Measures

  • Garden maintenance: Keep your garden clean and remove any plant debris, as this can provide shelter for lion beetles.
  • Healthy plants: Maintain plant health by properly watering, fertilizing, and pruning. Healthy plants are less likely to attract pests.

Addressing Infestations

  • Physical removal: Handpick lion beetles from affected plants and dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water.
  • Biological control: Introduce natural predators, such as parasitic wasps, which can help control lion beetle populations.

Example: For a garden with a rose bush infestation, you can handpick lion beetles from affected rose bushes, and release parasitic wasps to help control the infestation.

Features of Lion Beetles:

  • Distinctive appearance with black and white spots
  • Known to damage foliage and flowers

Comparison Table:

Lion Beetles Japanese Beetles
Appearance Black and white spots Copper and green color
Foliage Damage Yes Yes
Preferred Environment Gardens and ornamental plants Gardens, ornamental plants, crops
Control Method Handpicking, biological control Handpicking, biological control

Pros of handpicking method:

  • No chemicals required
  • Immediate effect

Cons of handpicking method:

  • Time-consuming
  • Ineffective for large infestations

Footnotes

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macrodontia_cervicornis

  2. https://www.pnas.org/content/99/21/13349

  3. https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/474907-Macrodontia-aosomensis

  4. https://www.naturepl.com/stock-photo-image-of-male-lion-beetle-macrodontia-cervicornis-with-exceptionally-large-image01414818.html

  5. https://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/750176008

  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stag_beetle

  7. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/beetles.shtml

  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0929139307002366

  9. https://www2.nau.edu/~watchable/macro/species/LonghornedBeetle/Long-horned-1.php3.redumb9

  10. https://resource.biologists.com/doi/full/10.1191/1742764605lab220sr

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 – Lion Beetle

 

Subject:  Please help identify
Geographic location of the bug:  Newport Oregon USA
Date: 08/19/2018
Time: 01:34 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Its hard to see in the picture, but its head is fuzzy and its antennae appear to be segmented.  I searched tirelessly on the internet to indentify this guy but couldnt figure out if its a cockroach, beetle, or wasp.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you for your help, Ayla.

Lion Beetle

Dear Ayla,
The Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, looks much more like a bee than it resembles other members of the Long Horned Borer Beetle family Cerambycidae.

Lion Beetle

Letter 2 – Lion Beetle

 

New One for Me
Last summer while camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Icehouse Reservoir), I came across a bug I’ve never seen up there before. I think it was about an inch long and just sat there calmly while I circled around it taking pictures. When it finally flew away, it made a loud, low pitched buzzing sound, and the back legs hung down in a way that reminded me of the way a wasp flies. I am dying to know what this thing is, I’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Thank you so much!
Jessie

Hi Jessie,
We believe this is a Long Horned Borer, but we are going to get an expert opinion from Eric Eaton. Eric quickly wrote back: ” The beetle from California is a cerambycid, believe it or not! It is the Lion Beetle, Ulochaetes leoninus. I understand they are convincing bumble bee mimics in flight, and are typically found at fairly high elevations in alpine meadows.”

Letter 3 – Lion Beetle

 

Identify this bug
Location:  Eastern Oregon
August 16, 2010 4:40 pm
I need help identifying this bug. It was found in a forested setting at about 4300 ft.
Eric S. Tonn

Lion Beetle

Hi Tom,
When we received a submission just over a year ago of this same species, a Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, it took quite some time to properly identify it.  There continues to be but a single image of this species on BugGuide and there is no accompanying information.  CalPHotos has a lovely image of the Lion Beetle with its wings spread.  This species is quite unusual in that the elytra do not cover the flight wings.

Lion Beetle

We are so thrilled to be adding a second posting of this rare beetle that we are using all three of your images.

Lion Beetle

Letter 4 – Lion Beetle

 

Safly?
Location: NW WA state
August 14, 2011 6:15 pm
I am in NW WA, found 3 of these crawling around and ovipositing on a dead grand fir. They have a short tail, but not as long as the ones in the horntail pictures. Their antenna are very long and curl when they aren’t exploring like this one is. They have a fuzzy head, but the body is smooth. Very interesting insect. Thanks for doing this site, quite cool.
Signature: Nature lover in WA

Lion Beetle

Dear Nature Lover,
Morphologically, the Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, is very atypical, and it doesn’t really resemble any other members in its family Cerambycidae, the Longhorned Borers.  This is only the fourth submission of this rare alpine species we have ever received.

Excellent! Thank you. My husband and I have been in the woods and up in the mts quite a bit and this was something quite new and interesting.  We are at 400 ft elevation in thick regrowth of grand fir with some cedar, dogfir, etc mixed in. These guys were on a dead grand fir.  Thank you for your great site and for responding so fast. My sisters will be quite interested also.
The subject should have been “sawfly” but for some reason I missed the “w”, though “safly?” makes sense too.
Looking through your website for the other 3 submissions, found one from another person in my area.  Ours did this raising of the front legs also.  The dead tree they are laying on has sawdust around it, thinking is full of termites so we were planning on dropping and burning it. However, we will leave the bottom part they were on for their eggs and larva to have and put the lowest rounds off in the woods, just in case there are some in there.
I find it odd that 2 of your listing come from high country, 2 from the Port Townsend area low country. Keep up the good work and thanks again.
2009/08/03/flower-longhorn-deformed-cosmosalia-chrysocoma-we-believe/
Jean

Letter 5 – Lion Beetle

 

Subject: Confused Californian
Location: Stream in Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains
July 21, 2014 10:17 pm
Hello!
I found this guy on a dry rock in a small stream in the far northern Sierra Nevada mountain range. One of my friends said it looked like a “cross between a bee and a long horned beetle.” then he quipped that was not possible. I was surprised as he is hard to stump!
Signature: S. Dykstra

Lion Beetle
Lion Beetle

Dear S. Dykstra,
When we first received some excellent images of a Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, in 2009, we were quite confused and amazed ourselves.  BugGuide now has many more images of this unusual Cerambycid, but there is still no information posted on the Info page.  According to the Introduction to California Beetles by Arthur V. Evans & James N. Hogue:  “The Lion Beetle … looks and behaves just like a bumblebee, even attempting to sting with its ovipositor.  When disturbed, the Lion Beetle raises its abdomen forward over its back while flapping its wings, reinforcing its bee-like appearance.”

Letter 6 – Lion Beetle

 

Subject: Bee mimic?
Location: Northern California (Sierra Nevada Foothills)
May 4, 2016 5:18 am
Hiya bugman,
What is this thing??? Looks like some kind of beetle to me, based on the antennae and wings, but that inverted abdomen is wild! Found in Northern California a couple of days ago. Please help us figure out just what this little critter is.
Thanks!
Signature: -M

Lion Beetle
Lion Beetle

Dear M,
We absolutely love to receive images of Lion Beetles,
Ulochaetes leoninus, as they are not commonly seen.  Lion Beetles are Longhorned Borer Beetles in the family Cerambycidae and they are effective mimics of stinging bees or wasps.

You’re the best. I love your site. I’ve been using it since probably 2002 or 2003, but this is the first time I sent anything. Keep up the GREAT work; you’re literally one of the best sites on the entire internet in my opinion.
Best,
Marc

Dear Marc,
We had a rough day at work today and your comment really helped improve our mood.

Daniel,
Sorry it took me a week to respond to this, but I want you to know that there have been MANY days when WTB pulled me out of a funk just by looking at all the amazing specimens and knowledge that you have. It is seriously one of my favorite sites, and I visit all the time. Thanks to WTB I was able to identify quite a few of the crazy critters that have visited my home over the years… hellgrammites and their adult version Dobson flies; crane flies; solpugids; about 3 thousand different kinds of spiders (OK that’s an exaggeration); june beetles, and the bug that started it all for me — the house centipede.
Hope this Wednesday is going better than your last. 🙂
-Marc
  

Letter 7 – Lion Beetle

 

Subject:  Lion beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  South Lake Tahoe, CA
Date: 07/06/2019
Time: 10:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found him on the floor of our cabin.
How you want your letter signed:  Andrew

Lion Beetle

Dear Andrew,
You deserve a congratulations for even recognizing that the Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, is a beetle as it much more closely resembles a Bee.  Thanks for sending in your awesome image.

Letter 8 – Lion Beetle

 

Subject:  Lion beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Bremerton Washington
Date: 08/25/2019
Time: 12:48 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Was trying to figure out what it was but your site helped with that. Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  JbTv

Lion Beetle

Dear JbTv,
Thanks so much for submitting your excellent images of a Lion Beetle, even though you did not require an identification.  We are happy to learn our site was helpful to you.  What we especially like about your Lion Beetle images is that the individual has curled up its abdomen into what is commonly regarded as a threat position that would be assumed by a stinging insect, and which we frequently see in Rove Beetles like the Devil’s Coach Horse.  This posture is especially effective in insects that mimic stinging insects, like your Lion Beetle.

Lion Beetle

Letter 9 – Lion Beetle

 

Subject:  Lion Beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Lake Blanca Washington State
Date: 07/26/2021
Time: 04:42 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Saw that you were looking for photos of this as I was trying to identify it.
How you want your letter signed:  Jason

Lion Beetle

Dear Jason,
Thanks for taking the time to submit your image of a Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, a Longhorned Borer Beetle that is an excellent Bee impersonator.

Letter 10 – Lion Beetle in British Columbia

 

Subject:  Unknown bee
Geographic location of the bug:  Vancouver island B.C.
Date: 07/30/2019
Time: 06:49 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This noisy bee landed on the end of a log and eventually crawled underneath.
How you want your letter signed:  Richard

Lion Beetle

Dear Richard,
Though this looks very much like a Bee, it is not.  One can’t even begin to contemplate the complexity of the transformational events that caused this Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, to mimic the appearance and behavior of a stinging insect for protection from predators and other threats that have learned to avoid aposomatic or warning colors and markings after having first been stung.  The first time we received an identification request for a Lion Beetle, we were quite confused ourselves.

Lion Beetle

Hello Daniel,
thanks so much for the identification.  We did our best with images but no luck.  We were beekeepers for a few years and were puzzled by this critter. The loin like tuft of fuzz like a bumblebee on a body most resembling a queen honey bee was a strange sight.  I’m grateful to have had a chance to see one fly and land close enough to take a couple of photos.
Cheers,
RIchard

Letter 11 – Lion Beetle mistaken for wasp

 

Subject: Large Bee wasp bug
Location: Pacific northwest southern region
August 3, 2014 1:06 pm
This is 1 and 1/4 inch long bug. Makes chirping noise when threatened with like scorpion rear extension. Thanks for your help.
Signature: Jo

Lion Beetle
Lion Beetle

Dear Jo,
Though it is easily mistaken for a wasp or bee, this Lion Beetle,
Ulochaetes leoninus, is a Longhorned Borer Beetle in the family Cerambycidae.  According to the Introduction to California Beetles by Arthur V. Evans & James N. Hogue:  “The Lion Beetle … looks and behaves just like a bumblebee, even attempting to sting with its ovipositor.  When disturbed, the Lion Beetle raises its abdomen forward over its back while flapping its wings, reinforcing its bee-like appearance.”  Your individual is a female.  Male Lion Beetles have much longer antennae.

Thank you, it does want to do that stinging thing.  Jo

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.

2 thoughts on “Lion Beetle: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Discovery”

  1. We found a lion beetle in South Lake Tahoe, California. About 6200 feet in elevation. If you want a photo, I can send it.

    Reply

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