Monkey Beetles

2013 January 5

We found a number of these black beetles on May 20, 2012. They were in the flowers of the same bush where we found the crab spider posted last time, although not on the exact same bunch of flowers.

They look to me like small scarab beetles (family Scarabaeidae). A good strategy for finding things on BugGuide is to search for a family name plus whatever it is eating, and then scanning the thumbnails until you find something close. So I tried “flower scarab”, and looked for black ones.

When I looked it up myself, I thought it was in the genus Euphoria[1]. But, it turns out I was pretty seriously mistaken, and didn’t even have the right scarab subfamily. Down in the comments, Margaret Thayer and Art Evans pointed me towards the Monkey Beetles in the genus Hoplia as a better match, based on details of the wing covers and abdomen shape. And of the members of this genus that are on BugGuide, the closest match looks to be the Dark Hoplia, Hoplia trivialis.

Beetles in this genus are commonly found on flowers (eating nectar and pollen). The grubs eat plant roots, and pupate underground, emerging as adult beetles early in the spring.

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[1] “Euphoria” is an odd genus name for a group of unassuming little beetles. They don’t seem unusually happy themselves, or likely to make others particularly euphoric upon finding them (and it is pretty unlikely that they are a euphoric drug if eaten, but one can never be too sure about such things without trying it, I suppose). BugGuide has a little blurb about the origin of the name, but they are not sure whether it has something to do with moving well, or looking like a bee. Most likely, the person describing the genus just wasn’t trying very hard to have his “pseudolatin” mean anything in particular. Or maybe he had an Aunt Euphoria that he named the genus after.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. January 5, 2013

    Very nice!

    I learned about scarab beetles that live among flowers a little ways back from Mr. Ted McRae when I posted these pics and he called out a genus for me. http://biobabbler.blogspot.com/2010/06/coleopteran-and-calochortus-careening.html Before then I had no idea some scarab beetles specialized in a flowery kind of life. And yours does have similar hook-like leg ends like the one I found. Seems to work well to anchor one to a petal edge.

    It’s nice to learn about another professional flower clamberer. =)

  2. Margaret Thayer permalink
    January 5, 2013

    I’m not a scarab specialist, but this is definitely not a Euphoria, which is in the scarab subfamily Cetoniinae. They have a rather different body shape (tapered a bit toward the tail end) and the side of the wing cover is excised to allow them to fly with their wing covers closed. I’m 95% certain it’s a member of the (difficult) subfamily Melolonthinae and will forward the link a specialist I know who should be able to provide a more definitive ID.

  3. January 5, 2013

    Greetings! Margaret Thayer forwarded to me your link. This beetle is in the genus Hoplia and looks like H. trivialis .

  4. January 5, 2013

    I attempted to include a link to the appropriate page on BugGuide, but it was stripped from my response above.

  5. January 7, 2013

    Thanks, Margaret and Art! I appreciate the expert assistance. I’ve made corrections to the posting based on your information.

  6. January 7, 2013

    How far can that back leg rotate? In the top photo, it looks like it’s about 160 degrees off normal.

    Awesome photos as usual!

  7. January 8, 2013

    KT:

    It really was able to rotate the legs way up like that, and can use them to swing around on the blossoms they are hanging onto. I suppose that’s why they are called “monkey beetles”.

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