Monday, May 30, 2016

Leatherwing Beetles

I have been seeing these beetles in our wafer ash patch and then had this beautiful picture by Becky Swearingen jump out at me on Bi-State Bugs.  In the past I had seen similar colored Pennsylvania Leatherwings, Chauliognathus pensylvanicus, but the pattern wasn't right.  This is the Margined Leatherwing beetle, Chauliognathus marginatusIt appears in late spring and will be gone by mid-summer, about the time that the Pennsylvanians first appear to inhabit their favorite plant, goldenrods.

Mating Pair - REK
Without Becky's camera or talent I had to get the lens too close, causing them to scurry away.  I chased this mating pair, finally giving up and capturing them.  After refrigeration, they slowed down so I could photograph them separately.

Leatherwing female - REK
Leatherwing male - REK

  Pennsylvania Leatherwing-Clay Nichols
The coloration is confusing as the most prominent feature, the broad black stripe down the elytra is variable, ranging from prominent and full length to a short spot on my two specimens and sometimes even completely absent.  The Margined species have a yellow head with a black "V" while the Pennsylvanians have an all black head.  The black patch of the pronotum (back of the thorax) extends full length rather than being just in the center on Pennsylvanians.

While the Pennsylvania Leatherwing is usually found on goldenrod, the preferred flowers of the adult Margined Leatherwing include wild hydrangea, New Jersey tea, and basswood.

Leatherwings nectar on flowers as well as feeding on small insects and their eggs.  As they crawl around the flowers, they accumulate lots of pollen which they transport to nearby flowers.  Following mating, they lay their eggs in the soil and ground litter where their larvae will feed until their fall pupation.

Firefly head hidden
Leatherwing head
Soldier beetles are members of the Cantharidae family.  Their hardened outer wings (elytra) are softer than most beetles, similar to their cousins, the fireflies (also misnamed beetles.)  Their heads are exposed while the firefly head is covered by the pronotum.

Pennsylvania Leatherwings, also called Goldenrod Soldier Beetles, are described further at this link.

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