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by Valerie

April, 2012

Ironclad Beetle

ironclad beetle

One of the most distinctive insects in our area, the ironclad beetle (Zopherus nodulosus haldemani) is often overlooked. Its striking black and white colors and relatively large size of about an inch should make it stand out, but it seems to blend in with the background instead, and the insects rarely move around very much. Obviously it has one of those "hiding in plain sight" kinds of camouflage. The beetles are most often found on tree trunks or stone walls. Sometimes, the species shows up year after year on the same dead log. The larvae probably eat either dead wood or fungus. I could never find any definitive opinion on this. The adult beetles don't bite or squirt out noxious smelling liquids and so are quite safe to handle. They will, however, often play dead if disturbed, tucking their legs in and remaining completely inert for much longer than my patience lasts. This behavior fits with their general camouflage making them look like bird droppings, which would repel many predators. As you might guess from the name, the ironclad beetle has a very tough exoskeleton. It is even stronger because the wing covers (elytra) are actually fused together; this is one beetle that cannot fly.

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