Delta Flower Scarab Beetles is Good at Disguises

Halloween is less than two weeks away and the preparations are ongoing for this annual event. Soon throngs of children dressed as a mob of super hero, princesses, and nightmare creatures will be ringing doorbells all over Wakulla County.

The date of these festivities originated in the year 835 when All Saints Day was moved to November 1. The evening of October 31 served as a counterbalance of the piety of the following day.

Revelers had the dark hours to trick-or-treat, then show up in church the next day appropriately reserved and likely exhausted. Given the superstitions and beliefs of Europe in the Dark Ages, there were likely lots of thrills and chills to be had.

Modern retailers have their shelves and end-caps packed with lots of merchandise for contemporary thrill seekers. Candy, costumes and mask of every imaginable for are readily available.

Wakulla County has one native insect which is currently using a mask to frighten passersby. The Delta Flower Scarab Beetle (Trigonopeltastes delta) uses the disguise for the purpose of survival, not entertainment.

This species common name refers to the triangular pattern on the center of its back. The shape resembles the Greek letter delta. This beetle is sometimes known as the “D beetle.”

The species is very active during daylight and easy to view in late summer and autumn. It is most commonly seen in and around flowers.

Delta flower scarab beetles are members of the subfamily commonly called fruit or flower chafers. The common June Bug or June Beetle is a member of this group.

There are around 4,000 species worldwide and are on every continent except Antarctica. These beetles are usually seen in their adult life stage.

This beetle begins life as a white grubs which live underground and is capable of serious damage to plants by feeding on their roots, especially turf grasses. Turf damage becomes apparent with brown patches as the grubs continue to feed and mature during the late summer and fall.

When the grub population is high and damage severe, the grass may be rolled back like a rug. The turf roots are completely gone, destroyed by the large segmented white grubs.

These beetle grubs are a food source for a variety of birds and animals seeking an easy late-season meal. Unfortunately the predators such as crows, skunks and raccoons may further damage the lawn by digging for this favored food.

As adults they spend their days on flower blossoms, especially goldenrods in Wakulla County. Their diet is mainly pollen and it is where these beetles mate, but it is a dangerous environment for these brightly colored insects.

Many birds and other animals instinctively know there are many meal choices on the attractive blooms. This beetle has a unique defense in the form of a threatening mask.

When threatened, the delta flower scarab beetle turns away from the hazard. It then raises its hind legs forward, cants its body upwards emphasizing the upper shell with the delta marking.

The harmless beetle now has the appearance of a large hornets head. Even the most aggressive predators stop to evaluate their gain versus their potential pain giving the beetle time to escape.

To more about the delta flower scarab beetle in Wakulla County call 850-926-3931 and remember to “like” us on facebook…



Posted: October 21, 2013

Category: Natural Resources, Wildlife
Tags: Beetles, Delta Flower Scarab Beetle, Goldenrods, Hornets, Insect, Les Harrison, Native, Natural Wakulla, Trigonopeltastes Delta, Wakulla, Wakulla CED, Wakulla County Extension

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