SEPTEMBER 25, 2021
YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
It’s crazy to think that with so many different bugs out there in the wild, a single species could rely on another single species to survive.
What are the chances of that happening?
This week’s featured creature—the cicada parasite beetle—is one such example.
Let’s look at what makes these little bugs so Wowzerful!
Image: Malcolm Tattersall
As you might guess from the name, these tiny beetles closely follow the spawning cycles of cicadas.
They’re also known as cedar beetles, they don’t actually harm cedar trees!
In fact, most scientists agree that these beetles aren’t a pest at all!
Instead, they help to manage cicada populations and keep those noisy nuisances from overrunning their local environments.
During breeding seasons, they’ll often lay their eggs alongside cicada eggs.
Then it’s a matter of waiting…
Once the cedar beetle larvae emerge, they drop down to the soil and begin digging in search of baby cicadas, or nymphs.
When they find one, they attach themselves to it and use their new buddy as a food source.
Eventually, the cicada nymph dies. The parasite beetle larva then turns into an adult, and the cycle starts all over again!
Leftt: Malcolm Tattersall | Right: Katja Schulz
These beetles are found throughout North America—from Mexico to Canada—so there’s a good chance you can find them in your area when you hear the screeching sound of cicadas nearby.
Measuring between 11 and 25 millimetres (0.43 to 0.98 inches) long, they’re small enough to easily perch on your fingertip.
Their black, elongated bodies feature a sleek elytron—a thicker, protective forewing—on top of their thinner wings which run straight down their back.
They often feature an orange rear section under their shell.
When flying, this makes it easy to mistake the cicada parasite beetle for a lightning bug or firefly.
But they have one feature you can always look for to determine if you’ve found one or not—a pair of Wowzerful antennae!
Females sport sawtooth-style antennae with fuzzy ridges, while males have antennae that end with a fan-shaped design that resembles the way a bird’s feathers spread out on their wings.
The best place to find them is on the bark of trees after the cicada spawning season.
This is because once the larvae reach adulthood, the race is on to lay more eggs and ensure the next batch of cicada parasite beetles are waiting for the next cicada spawning!
If you see one, you can approach them without worry. They don’t bite or sting, and aren’t poisonous. In fact, they’re completely harmless—unless you’re a cicada nymph!
Adult cicada parasite beetles don’t need to eat. They get all the nutrients needed to survive as larvae while attached to the cicada nymph.
Female cicada parasite beetles can sense the tiny slits and cracks in branches where cicadas have laid their eggs. This helps them to place their own eggs where they know nymphs will appear.
Cedar beetles are part of the Coleoptera order, along with other beetles and weevils. This is the largest of all orders with roughly 400,000 different species identified today!
Very few beetles are parasitic, making the cicada parasite beetle somewhat of a rarity among its bountiful brothers and sisters!
Some cool stuff from around the web we think you and your kids will enjoy.
What Bug is That?
With listings by size, colour, type, and distinguishing features, Insect Identification is a treasure of insect info!
Fiery Metal Rainbows!
Get a crash course in chemistry with this fun and fiery demonstration from Harvard’s Natural Sciences Laboratories.
Harvard | YouTube
Art and Nature Collide
Proving anyone can be an artist and observe the world around them, Awkward Nature Sketches are a fun and accessible look at flora.
Flexible Forest Ferrets!
This video from BBC Earth explores how ferrets are born to squeeze into the tiniest spaces.
BBC Earth | YouTube
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
What would you call an insect that went undercover?
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Today’s email was written by Joshua J. with contributions by Geoff W. and Branden S.
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