Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flower Longhorn Beetles, the Elegant Crowd

Strangalia luteicornis on buttonbush
© Beatriz Moisset
 Most beetles we are familiar with are roundish or oval-shaped hard shelled insects. Think ladybugs or Japanese beetles. Others are a little longer and cigar-shaped. An entire group of beetles distinguishes itself for its elegant streamlined figure; these are the so called flower longhorns. The name refers to their love of flowers as a hangout and to their long antennae. No, they don't have real horns, just antennae like other insects. Sometimes these organs can be longer than their entire body.

Strangalia famelica, the hungry strangalia
© Beatriz Moisset
Flower longhorns are the fashion models of the beetle world. Their slender and highly stylized outline is reminiscent of that of wasps; although they would never be mistaken by such because they have the characteristic hard shell (elytra) of all beetles covering their membranous wings. In their elegance they would make a nice fashion parade. Some carry their slenderness to the extreme of appearing anorexic. In fact one of them was given the scientific name of famelica, which means starved one in Latin. By contrast, the banded longhorn (Typocerus) and Brachyleptura appear almost obese, although they are still rather slender when compared to most beetles.

Brachyleptura rubrica covered with pollen
© Beatriz Moisset

The banded longhorn, Typocerus velutinus on milkweed
© Beatriz Moisset
Flower longhorns love flat open blossoms of the umbrella type, such as the members of the carrot family. They also like flowers of the rose and aster family as well as wild hydrangea. They feed on their pollen. Sometimes you find several different types amiably mingling together on these flowers. They are regarded as lesser pollinators of such plants. It is not surprising, when you see some of them coated with pollen.

A couple of Metacmaeops vittata on wild hydrangea
© Beatriz Moisset
Their larvae don't have such wholesome habits. They are wood borers, meaning that they feed on wood. However none has been reported as a serious pest of trees. Perhaps trees have enough defenses against them or there are enough enemies to keep their numbers from getting out of control.

Analeptura lineola on wild hydrangea, with pollen on its back
© Beatriz Moisse
Flower longhorn beetles are a beautiful addition to the biodiversity of forests, well integrated with the remaining members of the community.

For more on pollinators and other flower visitors read the e-book:
Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors

© Beatriz Moisset. 2014


  1. Are there any particular guides for identifying the flower longhorns down to species? I use BugGuide and have a few other books, but it would be nice to know what specific points to be looking for when I see the species in the field. Thanks, in advance, for any tips you're willing to give me.


  2. I use Bugguide too, most of the time.