The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 25, 2008


Sap-Feeding Beetle


Name. Sap-feeding beetles are members of the rather small Nitidulidae family whose members are referred to by entomologists as “nits.” This particular one is Glischrochilus

The scale above is in centimeters. The beetle is about 7mm long. (Photo by Kay Fairweather)

fasciatus, which sounds a bit imposing until translated from the Latin. Glischro means sticky and chilus means lip, brim or margin – so we have a beetle whose name is really “sticky lips” which seems appropriate for a sap feeder. The species name, fasciatus, means striped or banded and doesn’t seem so appropriate. Eight other species of Glischrochilus are found in North America and all nine have become collectively known as beer beetles or picnic beetles, because of where you might find them.

When and where found. I found this beetle on April 12 in some fresh young daylily sprouts. Daylilies are hardy plants that can survive a lot of abuse. I had dug some up last fall and put them in a bucket of water meaning to transplant them within a few days. They ended up spending the winter in the bucket and by April some of the roots had rotted and the water was a bit smelly. Perfect location for “sticky lips.” They not only feed on sap flows on trees but also on rotting fruit and decaying fungi. They are very fond of fermentation and are attracted to beer, sometimes in large numbers. You might find them in the compost and later in the year you might find them on corn or fallen fruit.

Identification. The beetle is small, just over a quarter of an inch long, but the four bright yellow-orange patches on the shiny black abdomen make it easy to spot. The larger of the orange patches each have three lobes. The antennae each have 11 segments, of which the last three form a club. The wing covers, called elytra, do not completely cover the abdomen. The last abdominal segment protrudes beyond the elytra, a characteristic that helps distinguish them from some other similarly marked black and orange beetles.

Sources. Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Eric A. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman; Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity, Stephen A. Marshall; (an excellent web site for insects and for ID assistance).

Arbor Day. Today, the last Friday in April, is Arbor Day in Massachusetts. It all started in Nebraska in 1872 when J. Sterling Morton proposed a holiday for the purpose of the community-wide planting of trees. It was very successful and was quickly adopted by other states.

Each state sets its own date for Arbor Day to accommodate climate differences and ensure a suitable time for tree planting. It is no longer a holiday but you could celebrate by planting a tree – or in the spirit of “make way for ducklings” you could pull up a Burning Bush or cut down an Oriental Bittersweet and make way for trees.

Please feel free to claim this space and write the Biodiversity Corner on any species that occurs in the wild and that you have found in Carlisle. Just send a message to∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito