Spring Beekeeping Workshop

Spring Beekeeping Workshop
Demonstration Hive

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beautiful native beetle

The photograph accompanying this post is of the brown prionid, Orthosoma brunneum. The insect was given to me by a friend who was concerned that it may be a nasty pest beetle such as the emerald ash borer. However, the latter is a very small insect and is literally emerald green in color. This insect is about 4cm in length! and red/brown. It is an awesome-looking creature and fearsome in appearance although it is a native species of Connecticut and a beneficial insect which lives around wet, rotting wood. According to Katherine Dugas, an entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Connecticut, the larvae of this insect "feed on the rotting wood, usually fallen logs and tree stumps. As adults they will emerge to mate and then disperse to find a new feeding site for their larvae. They are one of our natives that helps with the natural composting process".

As a soil scientist and being that I'm fascinated by anything to do with the soil-food-web, I'm thrilled to have found out about this shy insect which I've never seen before, despite having worked in the woods for 30 years as a soil scientist and have poked around fallen logs and tree stumps looking for stuff.

This individual brown prionid is recovering (hopefully) from stress at the moment. It came to me in a sealed plastic container with no air holes and was obviously stressed. The current heat couldn't have been pleasant for this insect that usually lives in damp, cool soil conditions. At the suggestion of Ms. Dugas, I have moved the insect to a larger, glass, container with a wet paper towel and a small piece of banana. I see that he/she is alive and appears to be interested in the banana. I am hoping it isn't too late for this lovely beetle and it will revive enough for me to release it in my woods soon. Unfortunately, it has lost one of its posterior legs but I think it could survive without it.

For more information on this insect,or others, Ms. Dugas recommends the website: http://bugguide.net/node/view/5031.