Monday, July 16, 2012

Red Milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) are one of my favorites and I think they along with weevils should be featured in a Disney movie. Although it may have to be X-rated because they are forever mating.

They are in the beetle family Cerambycidae, the longhorn beetles. Actually they have long antennae and not horns. Anyway, I just read that the binomial genus (Tetraopes) and species (tetrophthalmus) names are both from the Latin for “four eyes”. Quoting Wikipedia, “As in many longhorn beetles, the antennae are situated very near the eye - in the red milkweed beetle, this adaptation has been carried to an extreme: the antennal base actually bisects the eye.” Now that fact just blew me away, since I have been looking at and photographing these cute little guys for years and never noticed. But there you have it. Look at this photo below and you can see that the round black eye is cut in half with the antenna in the middle. I just wonder what it is actually seeing out of that split eye.

They feed on milkweed as the common name suggests and get the benefits of the toxins that the milkweed provides as does Monarch butterflies.

The bright red and black colors announce to the predators that they are yucky to eat and hopefully they will be left to live another day. This advertising is called aposematic.

A couple days ago I found one that was crawling up a skinny stem and I actually had the quickness of mind to start recording it as a movie. You can see how interesting its tiny legs work as they climb up the stem and how when it gets to the end of the leaf you can see it debating whether to fly or take another route. It’s wings almost open up and then the decision is made to turn around and take another route.

 Hope you enjoy these insects as much as I do.

1 comment:

Woodswalker said...

Such a pretty bug! I'm glad you caught it in "action." Every time I try to take a photo of one, it won't hold still. That's really weird about the antennae bisecting the eyes.