Flower Longhorn, Probably from Wisconsin

2011 December 31

In the summer of 2011, we all took a weekend trip to Madison, Wisconsin[1]. When we got back, on July 11, we found this beetle in the car, crawling on our luggage.

It could have been picked up anywhere along the way, but most likely it got into the car either when we stopped to wade around and look at fish in Lake Tomahawk, or when we visited the Watersmeet Trout Hatchery[2]. Both times, the car was parked for some time right next to a whole lot of trees with the windows open, and either place would have been a prime opportunity for a beetle to slip in.

This is another Flower Longhorn, probably either Trigonarthris proxima or Trigonarthris minnesotana. The larvae live in decaying wood (mostly hardwoods, but maybe also pine), and the adults like to eat nectar and pollen from flowers.

It was a pretty good-sized beetle, and the girls liked playing with it. In the past, some similar longhorn beetles have been a bit inclined to nip, but this one didn’t.

Anyway, this illustrates one of the ways that insects can travel quite a long way in a short time – by hitch-hiking in vehicles. In one day it traveled about 200 miles without any particular effort on its part, and if it were a fertilized female it could then have gone ahead and laid eggs wherever it ended up. And this was without us doing any of the classic invasives-spreading activities like hauling firewood, or pulling boats from one lake to another, or driving a muddy vehicle around. This is why, with the modern highway system, I don’t really see any plausible way to prevent invasive species from spreading once they get established in a place that people regularly travel through. Luckily this one wasn’t an obnoxious invasive, but it could have been.

[1] We were at the 2011 North American Discworld Convention, a gathering for fans of Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” books. It was a lot of fun. The girls especially liked “Papa Balloon“, the balloon sculptor, who made little ponies

and lady beetles

and head-ducks [3]

for them in between his big projects, like the model of a flat world on the backs of four elephants riding on a giant turtle[4],

and Death riding a motorcycle[5].

[2] Watersmeet (“Home of the Nimrods”) is in Michigan, but only just – it’s about ten miles past the border with Wisconsin. So, any insects found in Watersmeet are sure to be found in Wisconsin, too.

[3] In the Discworld books, one of the many running gags is the “Duck Man”, a man who always has a live duck on his head that he will not acknowledge the existence of. So the idea at the convention was that, if you had a balloon duck on your head, and anybody asked about it, you were to give the person asking a confused look and say, “what duck?”

[4] That’s the setting for the whole book series – a world carried around on the backs of four elephants standing on the back of a giant sea turtle, swimming through the void, with a small sun and moon orbiting around it in a complex way to give climate variations and seasons.

[5] Throughout the 39 novels in the series, I understand that the “anthropomorphic personification of Death” makes an appearance in all but two of them, even though he sometimes only has one line.

3 Responses
  1. December 31, 2011

    Ah! This is the second selection of photos I’ve seen from the Madison Discworld convo. Really must add more Pratchett to my To Be Read list. All I’ve read to date is Going Postal.

  2. Bridget permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Ah Discworld! I’ve read about 6 of them. I keep trying for more!

  3. January 3, 2012

    I may not be the most rabid Discworld fan in the world, but I am one of the longest-term ones: I read the first one (“The Colour of Magic”) as a result of a glowing review of it I read way back in 1983 (and had to go to some lengths to acquire a copy, as I recall, as this was much before Pratchett became famous in North America, and he was still mainly being published only in England). It has been really interesting to watch the way the series has morphed over time, from simple swords-and-sorcery parody in the early books, to a range of satire, adventure, kids’ books, and straight-up comedy in its own right.

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