Adult Scarlet Malachite Beetle

2015 September 23

The girls found me this beetle on the window on June 7, 2015. I recognized it immediately.

It’s a Scarlet Malachite Beetle, Malachius aeneus. While I first found one of these in 2008, and then found a larva that we raised to an adult in 2010, I never really got a fully satisfactory set of pictures of the adults. So, let’s try again. This next picture is an exceptional pose that I rarely get – a beetle with wings fully extended:

You can see, about 2/3 of the way down the leading edge of each of the flight wings, the complicated vein pattern where the wing hinges so that the tips can fold back. It takes time to fold the flight wings back under the wing covers, and since this one kept thinking about flying away it never got the wings fully stowed. Here it is on my fingertip, for scale.

These are mostly predatory beetles, as we can see from the predator-type mandibles, although they also like to hang out in flowers and eat pollen.

While these are an introduced species in North America, nobody seems to know exactly when or from where they were introduced. They evidently used to be quite common in houses in England back when they used thatched roofs, because the beetles liked to hunt the many things that lived in the thatch. But, these days they are evidently endangered in the British Isles, even while becoming quite common over here.

With this bright coloration, they are most likely toxic (or at least nasty-tasting), like most of the other soft-winged flower beetles. All of these beetles have flexible wing covers that feel more like extremely thin leather[1], and are not the hard, protective shells that are more typical in beetles. So the shells aren’t much of a defense against being eaten.

[1] I should tell the girls that their wing covers are the sort of leather that fairies would use to make shoes and leather jackets.

3 Responses
  1. September 23, 2015

    Lovely photos and wonderful bug, but I’m wondering if the repeats are a function of running out of different bugs. Have you done any statistical analyses on percentage of repeats and what that means for estimates of number of species?

  2. September 24, 2015

    I haven’t done the statistics, but yes, I have definitely gotten to the point where I’ve photographed the majority of the commonly-seen species. I used to take pictures of pretty much everything, but this last summer I’ve actually skipped most of them as having been previously photographed.

    I’m thinking that at the end of this year, I’ll drop back to one insect photo per week. I’ll still post twice a week, but the other slot will go to photographs of the various plants we have around the place.

  3. September 25, 2015

    Perhaps now would be a good time to get to work on that hovercar you so stridently demanded on my blog. Those things don’t fly by themselves, you know.


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