Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stenomorpha lecontella

Stenomorpha lecontella is a medium-sized darkling beetle that can be locally common here in the Central Valley of California in the spring. It likes to eat the fresh soft tissues of several plant species when they are just seedlings - as you can see from this picture.

Most individuals are only half an inch long and don't move very fast. Beginning entomology students sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between darkling beetles (especially ones like Stenomorpha) and ground beetles. One very easy way to tell them apart is to watch them in their natural habitat. Darkling beetles move a lot slower and some species will stick their back end in the air when disturbed.

Kathy and I found a large population around a small pond just outside of Fresno on a nature trail. There were painted cement walls and a central display board telling of the many interesting creatures that lived in the area. There were several local species of vertebrates listed but the darkling beetles were a little misrepresented. They were called "stinky head-stander beetles". Now I've been studying beetles for quite a few years (make that decades) but that's the first time I've heard of such a creature as a head-stander beetle. I think the name Stenomorpha lecontella has a nicer ring to it.

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