Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paracotalpa ursina

Unofficially this attractive beetle has been called the little bear beetle. Officially it is Paracotalpa ursina - which literally means the little bear Paracotalpa. And the bear is easy enough to imagine with the long setae (hair) and the plump body. The beetle belongs to the family Scarabaeidae - notice the fan-like antennae. It is a bit over half an inch long but seems bigger, especially as it climbs up grass stems and topples them over with its weight.

Jon and Michael found a population of the beetles last week in a city park here in Fresno and I went out yesterday to see them myself. There is something about a scarab in flight - with its elevated wing covers, low buzzing and erratic flight - that gets my beetle juices flowing. Museum specimens of this insect tend to be dull reddish brown. Live specimens have a much deeper red color. They're a sight to behold. Sadly, there were several along the park trail that had been smashed.

The place where the beetles were flying is not all that remarkable. It's maybe a quarter of a mile from the San Joaquin River and is just a fenced-off area with tall grass and a few other plant species. But that's often how you find interesting insects. They don't always live in the places we would consider ideal. And a grassy path in a park seems to be just fine for these brightly colored bruins.


Anonymous said...

I love this species. I ran into a mess of them one time while looking for Schizopus laetus nigricans at the type locality. It was a good consolation prize since I didn't find what I was looking for.

p.s. congratulations on your Zootaxa editorship!

Sam Wells said...

Thanks Ted, I have big shoes to fill.

Theodora said...

My daughter and I just encountered what we think is this species on Carrizo Plain. They were all over the fiddle heads. They were clumping together, climbing on top of each other. I'm trying to find out more about their behavior so that my daughter can put it in her scrap book she's making about insects. I've been scouring the internet but can't find anything other than they are related to scarabs. I don't think they roll dung balls though do they? Any help appreciated. Thanks!