Sunday, May 11, 2014

Checkered Beetle

I found this colorful insect crawling on the wall of our creek house.  From a distance it looked like a large ant in the velvet ant family.  It moved quickly but I managed to get two quick pictures before it flew off.  When I enlarged the pictures I could see that it had elytera or wing covers that met in the middle, typical of a beetle. 

This is a checkered beetle in the colorful Cleridae family.  Most of these beetles are predators of other beetles with a few feeding as scavengers.   Since they are fierce hunters with a prodigious appetite, they have been studied as a possible control for bark beetles.  The females tend to lay their eggs under the bark on beetle infested trees and their larvae eat beetle larvae and eggs.  Clerid beetles sense the pheromones produced by bark beetles to help them locate their prey.  Some adult species eat an average of 2.2 beetles a day!

E. nigripes- click to enlarge - Tom Murray
There are 36 members of the genus Enoclerus.  They are usually a colorful mix of orange, red, yellow, white and gray.  Searching I found Enoclerus nigripes which matches our species, although I can't separate it from  E. analis.  The picture by Tom Murray above shows much more detail.  They are very similar to E. analis except the legs appear darker (nigripes = black legs).
Both the adults and larvae are active predators of hardwood wood borers, and conifer bark beetles.

E. nigripes is commonly found associated with junipers and pines with dead or dying limbs.  We had just taken down a damaged Eastern red cedar (a juniper) just a few feet away.  Perhaps this one was displaced and now looking for a new place to eat.

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