What's That Bug???? Ship-Timber Beetle

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!

6 thoughts on “What's That Bug???? Ship-Timber Beetle”

  1. This is definitely beetle. I have seen that kind of beetle before in a collection but I am afraid that I will not be able to answer before the start of an new week but after the weekend I will be gone for five days so I hope that Eric Eaton can help. Unless i can get a respond before the end of this week.

  2. The large eyes and tiny forewings suggest it is a Staphylinidae, Rove beetle. But I can’t find a match on BugGuide.


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