Archive for the ‘Callipogon lemoinei’ Tag

Beetles: The Dominance of Diversity   Leave a comment


Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

Long-horned Heavyweights

Beetles and bugs are two groups of insects that can be both fascinating and frustrating at one and he same time.  There are so many of them in terms of species and they come is so many varieties of shape and color that it really does take an expert to identify them and even then they may find themselves sorely taxed to do so.

I am always happy if I can manage to identify a beetle to species level, bugs are not so hard until you get to the individual species.  I tend, therefore, to enjoy them for what they are, interesting subjects to photograph.  Once I have posted the photograph into the public domain if someone can kindly offer up a name I am always grateful.

This beetle was found by my cabin one day last week.  I did not think it would stay to have its picture take but fortunately it duly obliged.  It was a quite a striking creature at over 2 inches long with bold markings of yellow bars on the ruddy-brown wing cases.  The antennae were distinctive, being long, black and curved upwards and outwards.

Coleoptyera, Cerambycidae, Prioninae, Callipogon lemoinei. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

The Giant Brown Callipogon, (Callipogon lemoinei)

At approximately 320,000, the total number of beetle species on the planet is the equivalent of all known named species of plants.  They constitute over 30% of all known animal life.  In Panama alone, 11,410 species of beetle were found on 70 species of tree.  So you get the idea that there are a lot of different species of beetle and that is just the named species.  Beetles can be found in just about every habitat from forests, deserts and fresh water.  The beetle I was looking at belonged to the family: Cerambycidae or long-horned beetles, (due to the length of the antennae), which is one of the larger families within the order: Coleoptera.  There are 2,200 species of long-horns found in Costa Rica, (1,100 species in the U.S.A.).  I knew it belonged to the Tooth-necked Long Horn subfamily: Prioninae.  I even knew the species, the Giant Brown Callipogon, (Callipogon lemoinei).

Giant Brown Callipogon. Long-horned Beetle. Philip Davison

Look at the wood-munching mandibles of the Giant Brown Callipogon

Some long-horns do not eat in the adult stage but most do and those that do all feed on a variety of plant material.  Those powerful and savage-looking mandibles will allow them to munch their way through the toughest material plants produce.  They are the most important group of beetle pollinators and some of them can be seen visiting flowers where they consume both nectar and pollen.  The larvae feed on dead wood and are a serious pest to the timber industry by damaging recently felled lumber before it reaches the saw mill.

The Prioninae males tend to have longer antennae than the females.  They sit on leaves, antennae extended waiting to pick up a pheromone trail given off by a sexually receptive female.  The females use the heavy-duty mandibles to chew the wood of a branch which kills the distal portion into which she will then deposit her eggs.  Those people with exceptionally good ears can hear the branch being rendered dead from several meters away.

All in all I was happy not only to have found the beetle but also that I actually knew what this one was, (the odds are normally against me), and I managed to get some decent photographs.

Coleoptera. Tooth-necked Long-horned Beetle. Beetles of the world.

Giant Brown Callipogon male waiting to pick up the scent of a female

Bugged by Bees

The cashews, (Anacardium occidentale), have all but finished fruiting.  There are one or two cashew apples left hanging from the branches with their distinctive fruits suspended beneath them.  As I walked past one of the smaller cashew trees I noticed a bug sitting amongst the leaves.  While not being anywhere near as diverse in numbers as the beetles, the true bugs of the order: Hemiptera are every bit as diverse in form.

This one belonged to the suborder: heteroptera, as was evidenced by the divided wing, papery at the end and solid at the base.  This one also had a diagnostically distinctive feature in that the rear pair of legs were flattened and expanded leaving you in no doubt that it belonged to the family: Coreidae, commonly known as the squash bugs or leaf-legged bugs.  A few of the squash bugs are predatory carnivores but most of them are herbivores.  The mouthparts are modified into a long piercing proboscis which is held along the underside of the head and is used to suck sap from the vascular system of plants.

Hemiptera. Heteroptera. Coreidae. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Unidentified Leaf-legged Bug, (Coreidae sp), found in a cashew tree

The bug was not the only imbiber of cashew juice.  On one of the fruits, the swollen meristem or cashew apple, had been damaged and the soft tissue was attracting a small group of stingless bees, (Trigona sp).  Before the introduction of the honey bee, (Apis mellifera), from Europe the main source of honey in the New World was that produced by the stingless bees.  The bees nest in cavities within hollow trees.  The nests can be recognized not only by the presence of the bees themselves but also the entrance to the hidden nest has a long resinous tube sticking out horizontally.

As benign as stingless may sound these bees are not to be trifled with.  Anyone approaching too close to the nest and being perceived as a threat is in for a nasty surprise.  They attack an aggressor in numbers and they are committed to the defense of the nest.  They fly furiously up the nose, into the ears, into the eyes and swarm into the hair all the time biting ferociously, some of them rubbing in a caustic secretion which burns.  Little wonder that their Spanish name of Carafagos translates into Spitfires.

Thankfully the ones I was looking at were more concerned with enjoying their free cashew smoothie than my presence.  Not even the flash from the camera elicited the slightest response.

Hymenoptera. Apidae. Trigona sp. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Little black Spitfires – Stingless Bees, (Trigona sp), drinking the juice of a cashew fruit

A Natural Mashup

Another one of the native Costas has come into bloom throughout the gardens and forests of the area over the past week.  The wild ginger, (Costus laevis), is native to the wet forests of Central and South America and is the commonest of the costas in the wet forests of the Osa Peninsula.

It has a smaller flowering spike with green bracts from which the deep orange and purple striped, yellow-lipped flower emerges.  The principal pollinator of Costus laevis are the females of the orchid bee, (Euglossa imperialis), which have a very long proboscis to probe deep into the flower.  Should the bloom be visited by hummingbirds then pollination is not accomplished.

Costus laevis also has extra floral nectaries which provide a food source for a large variety of ant species.  In return for a feed of nectar the ants protect the plant, probably from the attention of would be seed predators.

Costaceae. Costus laevis. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Native Wild Ginger, (Costus laevis), the bloom of which is pollinated by orchid bees

The damp conditions of the forest prevalent at this time of year allow the fungi to continually produce fruiting bodies.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the identity of most fungi must remain a mystery, not unlike most beetles.  But they can still be appreciated for their exotic shapes and color as well as their ephemeral presence.

One very short-lived mushroom is that of the Pleated Inkcap, (Parasola plicatilis).  Early in the morning just before sunrise, the small white cap makes its way up out of the soil and through the grass.  It opens into a miniature white umbrella and sheds its spores from gills on the undersurface into the air.  Within a short space of time the job is done and the cap continues to evert until all that is left is a delicate translucent umbrella that has almost been turned inside out.

Parasola plicatilis. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

The delicate and spent mushroom of the Pleated Inkcap, (Parasola plicatilis)

There is no mistaking the very distinctive form of the literally described Orange-cup Fungus, (Cookeina speciosa).  Like small flame-colored goblets set on the forest floor for a faerie revel they stand out against the dead wood on which the mycelium is growing.  Unlike the inkcap, the Orange-cup Fungus produces its spores from the surface of the cup lining.  This time of year the forest floor is decorated throughout by these compelling little structures.

Cookeina speciosa. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica

The unmistakable and literally described fruiting body of the Orange-cup Fungus, (Cookeina speciosa)

Another bright orange fungus found growing on dead wood but this time in the form of semi-circular brackets is the Beauty Fungus, (Hymenochaete luteo-badia).  The vibrant orange striped shelf is bordered by a vivid yellow edging.  The spores are produced in pores on the ventral surface.

Hymenochaete luteo-badia. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Beauty Fungus, (Hymenochaete luteo-badia)

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica

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