|Red Milkweed Beetle - Tetraopes tetraophthalmus|
Family Cerambycidae - Longhorn Beetles
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Live adult beetles photographed in the wild at DuPage County, Illinois.
The Cerambycidae, or longhorned beetles, get their common name from their antennae. Characteristic of this family is the antennae are inserted in close proximity to the eyes, so that most have an indentation of the eye. Tetraopes carries this to the extreme, so that the antennae actually split each eye in two, hence its name.
Tetraopes is one of the few insects that can safely feed on milkweed. (Asclepias spp.) Others include the Monarch butterfly caterpillar and the milkweed leaf beetle, Labidomera clivicollis. "Plant chemical defenses can be eaten by herbivores, stored, and used in defense against predators. To be effective defensive agents, the sequestered chemicals cannot be metabolized into inactive products. Utilizing plant chemicals can be costly to herbivores because it often requires specialized handling, storage, and modification (Bowers 1992). This cost can be seen when plants that utilize plant chemicals are compared to those plants that do not in a situation where herbivores are excluded.
Caterpillar and adult monarch butterflies store cardiac glycosides from milkweed, making these organisms distasteful. After eating a monarch caterpillar or butterfly, its bird predator will vomit and will avoid eating similar individuals in the future (Huheey 1984).
This is a male specimen. Males are slightly smaller than females.
The eye is split into two parts by the antenna base
With over 20,000 species described, Cerambycidae is a large family. Many are serious pests, with the larvae boring into wood, where they can cause extensive damage to either living trees or untreated lumber, and adult beetles feed on various plants, sometimes causing grave harm. A number of species mimic ants, bees, or wasps (see Locust Borer).
Order Coleoptera: Beetles are the dominant form of life on earth: one of every five living species is a beetle. Coleoptera is the largest order in the animal kingdom, containing a third of all insect species. There are about 400,000 known species worldwide, ~30,000 of which live in North America. Beetles live in nearly every habitat, and for every kind of food, there's probably a beetle species that eats it.
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