This week’s Friday Flyer is one of our favorite insects, the Harlequin beetle! Harlequin beetles are native to South and Central America and can be found in lowland rainforests and also in some slightly higher elevations as well. Its scientific name is Acrocinus longimanus (longimanus meaning long arms). Its forelegs are disproportionately long and can measure over 14-inches across in the males making them one of the largest beetles in the world. The females have shorter forelegs. Their black compound eyes are very large and wrap almost around their entire heads. They also have very long antennae which makes them part of the Cerambycid family of beetles, a diagnostic characteristic of the family. Harlequin beetles have a cryptic pattern of tans and browns and pinks that helps them blend in with their surroundings. They also have some fairly strong mandibles, and although they don’t often use their mandibles for defense, they are capable of delivering a significant bite. The adults use these mandibles to bite into trees so they can feed on the sap. Also the “hook-like” claws on the end of each leg make them hard to remove from their perch. As awkward as they look at rest with their seemingly out of place arms, they are capable flyers. They tuck their arms in close to their bodies, and fly forward with their bodies kind of “hanging” down. Their most unexpected defense mechanism is that they can make a very loud “hissing” sound almost as loud as a Cicada. And they vibrate while doing this, so that a predator that happens to capture a Harlequin beetle is startled into releasing it.
Like many beetles, the juvenile larvae feed on rotting wood and bark. This diet is not as nutritious as leaves or nectar, and as a result it takes over a year for the larvae to mature into adults. The beetle’s adult size is also directly proportional to the nutrition content of the rotting wood, and so you will find adults in all sizes. Because of its slow growth rate, Harlequin beetles are fairly seasonal and not continually present in the rainforest.
One of the most amazing aspects of adult Harlequin beetles is that they usually play host to multiple “stowaways” called pseudoscorpions. Pseudoscorpions look like regular scorpions, but measure usually less than a quarter-inch. They are closer relatives to spiders. Pseudoscorpions hide under the wing covers of Harlequin beetles and hitch a free ride wherever they go. It’s not clear if the Harlequin gets any real benefit from its freeloader passengers. We have seen this first hand in Ecuador with as many as 8 pseudoscorpions riding on a single Harlequin beetle.
We are very excited to offer these impressive Harlequin beetles in our Wonders Of Nature department. The smaller frame holds the Female and is priced at $99.00. The Male is in the larger frame and is priced at $195.00---a very low price for a Male this size. Its outstretched legspan measures almost 14-inches!!!
We hope you’ll stop in soon to see these amazing beetles and add them to your collection!