What is That … Pretty Bug?

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Waddells

Talking about ‘bugs’ is where we have to admit that we do not necessarily agree on nomenclature.  Bruce, having studied environmental biology at university, aligns himself with the scientific use of taxonomic vocabulary.  Thus, he refers to the insects we see at the cottage as Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Hemiptera and other orders.  Carolyn prefers to refer to them all as bugs but may also talk about butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, bees, and others.  Those who lean towards the scientific terms might quickly tell you that only those in the order Hemiptera are true bugs.  Certainly, beetles are not bugs; they are beetles, or Coleoptera.  But since Carolyn prefers to call them all bugs and wrote the first draft of this article, the title is … what is that pretty bug … rather than, what is that pretty beetle.

One of our all time favourite bugs, if not exactly the prettiest, is the lady beetle.  (Some will call it the ladybird beetle.)  It may be the first bug we learned to identify and even play with as children.  Unfortunately, the seven-spot lady beetle we played with back in the days of yore has been out-competed by the imported (and now invasive) Japanese multi-coloured lady beetle.  Indeed, the newcomer feeds on the former native lady beetle, contributing to its demise.  In their defence they eat aphids, but they overwinter in cottages and houses to the point of being considered by some to be a pest.  Nevertheless, they are pretty, brightly-coloured bugs.

Tied for the top favourite of our childhood bugs is the firefly.  Fireflies, which fascinate all who see the flickering of their abdominal ‘lights’ after dusk as they court through the summer, are also beetles.  No wonder ancient peoples thought they were magical.  Sadly, fireflies seem to be less common than when we were children.  According to Acorn this could be because of the loss of woodland and marsh, their preferred habitat.

The jewel beetle or metallic wood boring beetle may not be well-loved in Ontario, or indeed North America, but who can deny the beauty of its jewel-toned forewings.  The emerald ash borer is one of this family, but not all wood borers dine on living trees.  Many eat dead wood or the dying branch of a living tree.  We had to take counter measures once, though, when one species chose to make its home in the wooden siding of the cottage.  Some jewel beetles in Africa are so large and beautiful, they are made into jewellery.  The individual captured in this picture was allowed to go about its merry way.

Living during the summer in our wood-sided cottage with its wooden deck and our wooden dock strains our admiration for the wood boring beetles, but nature often (almost always) provides a solution.  The larvae of the eyed click beetle feed on the grubs of the wood boring beetles.  So, in addition to the beauty (or peculiarity) of the adult eyed click beetle, we admire them for their dining choices.  In turn, the eyed click beetle may serve as dinner for birds, toads, spiders and larger beetles.

The body shape of the goldenrod soldier beetle looks somewhat like that of the firefly, but the soldier beetle’s head is more exposed.  Clearly, the goldenrod soldier beetle sitting on goldenrod is protected by its yellow camouflage.  Given the right (or wrong) location, however, toads will help keep their numbers in check.

Most notable of all the beetles at the cottage is the notable sawyer which is a long-horned beetle.  The one we show here is likely a male notable sawyer.  The male has longer antennae than the female, although a smaller body.  The other long-horned beetle we see at the cottage is the spruce sawyer which is smaller, but we prefer the sight of the notable.

All of the bugs mentioned in this article are beetles (Coleoptera), having in common a hard exoskeleton and hard forewings which create an armoured defence for the beetle while maintaining flexibility. Like all insects, beetles’ bodies are divided into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen and they generally have a pair of antennae and six legs.

In preparing this article we leaned heavily on John Acorn’s Bugs of Ontario, and www.bugguide.net.  In addition, Steve Jenkins’ children’s book The Beetle Book was helpful.